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6 Ways to Get Lean by Going Green

Eco-Friendly Choices Can Slim Your Waist and Fatten Your Wallet

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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Most people who “go green” bring reusable bags to the store, unplug electronics when they’re not in use, and recycle more. Others move to more involved changes, like trading in for a hybrid, buying carbon offsets, or installing solar panels. But even if you're not willing to overhaul your lifestyle to benefit the planet, there are some changes you should consider to improve your health, help you lose (or maintain) weight, and plump your bank account all while helping Mother Earth at the same time. Get rich and thin by going green? If you think that sounds too good to be true, read on.

1. Walk or bike instead of driving. Many of us live only a stone’s throw away from the places we frequent, like the post office, grocery store, or library, yet we head for the car when we’ve got errands to run. Instead of driving, walk or bike and you'll burn 200-300 calories per hour and breathe in air that’s a little bit fresher. According to recent calculations, if all Americans between the ages of 10 and 74 walked just 30 minutes per day instead of driving, we'd reduce our carbon emissions by 64 million tons; save 6.5 billion gallons; and collectively shed more than 3 billion pounds. While these specific numbers may be arguable, there’s no denying that less driving and more walking would benefit us all. And with gas prices averaging over $4 per gallon across America, every mile you don't drive is money in the bank.

2. Ditch the drive-thru. According to TheDailyGreen.com, every time you use a drive-thru, you burn about 18 cents worth of gas by letting your car idle. That might not seem like much, but consider the amount of times you drive-thru for morning coffee, a quick lunch, to visit an ATM or to pick up a prescription. Besides wasting money, you’re also contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming. Instead of idling your car and wasting fuel in the drive thru line, park and walk in. You’ll burn a few more calories by walking and standing in line, but you’ll also save money on gas.

3. Buy local and organic food. Did you know that the food on the average American’s plate traveled 1,500 miles to get there? One of the greenest changes we can make has everything to do with the fruits and vegetables on our plates. Buy them from a local grower at a farmers market to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Another bonus about locally-grown food is that it’s fresh, so it contains higher levels of nutrients. (The longer food has been "off the vine," the more its natural levels of vitamins and minerals diminish.) If your food is organic, the soil it comes from is usually healthier and the food itself will have lower levels of pesticide residues. Buying directly from the farmer benefits both of you financially, too— you’re eliminating the cost of the middleman.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • VAINVT
    First time I heard the word 'flexitarian', but that is what I've been for years. Some friends thought I was vegetarian because I cook so many vegetarian recipes and order vegetarian when I eat out, but I just find it more interesting and varied.
    Good, clean, simple article. Thanks, - 3/18/2014 8:18:18 AM
  • BOBNIKON
    Human beings always defy to live their lives under the conditions of nature-given. Since we acquire the brain that is so complex that we would be able to manipulate it in order to obtain the preferred way of life regardless of any nature-given conditions. We have conquered the most effective conditions to live in such a harsh climate in some particular regions on earth. Human beings can manage to inhabit anywhere around the globe. Other creatures have to adapt their DNA in order to transform their bodies to be suitable for such an environment. That can take millions of years. Why humans can settle down to live anywhere in just one generation? Because we have such a complex brain that can manipulate things around us. In order to inhabit in any region on this planet regardless the conditions of the habitats.
    Humans build the structure to dwell in from variety of materials for their comfort and existence. These materials may have come from different sources such as the trees, elements underground, sand, stones and so on.
    All these materials require energy to operate the tools or create heat to alter them to be the finished materials in the process. Ironically, We also need energy to keep our dwelling warm in winter and cool in summer as well as household appliances to be operated. They all need energy to work for our well being. An energy allows us to choose the lifestyle that we prefer. So it becomes an important part of our lives. We cannot live on comfortably at any given time without it.
    There are two methods to obtain this energy in the form of electricity. One method is to burn fossil deposits such as crude oil, coal and convert heat into electricity. Our planet has the ample supply of fossil deposits at the present time but they will be depleted. So far, nobody can predict when that will happen. The other method is called "green energy" such as windmill, solar power and water dam along with some other green energy methods such as ocean waves, geothermal and so on. Green energy is clean and good for all li... - 11/28/2013 1:38:16 PM
  • Another benefit to parking the car and going in rather than using the drive thru: you get to know your bank teller, your barista, even your fast-food counter person. These days when we're so isolated from other people, it is good to make personal contact whenever possible. - 3/13/2013 7:58:39 PM
  • I'm curious whether buying local and organic vegetables and fruits really has green benefits. While some food travels 1500 miles from farm to fork, much of that travel is using rail and truck -- both of which may be far more efficient in terms of emissions per pound of food purchased than the local farmer and his pickup truck. I wonder if this has been carefully studied.

    And the idea that buying from the farmer is economical because the transaction eliminates the middleman has not happened in my experience. Farmers' market foods tend to be kind of pricey compared to the nearby big markets in the city. - 3/13/2013 9:29:04 AM
  • Thanks for the encouraging article! Flexitarian... what a great term. We started visiting the tfarmer's market after our Saturday morning run, and the produce prices are better and they last longer thanthe store

    Another area to go green is in your skincare. Choose products without harsh chemicals, petroleum, or animal bi-products and you will be helping both the environment and your body in BIG ways

    While quality, organic products may have a higher sticker price, the value is far better than those with cheap fillers and expensive packaging.

    Healthy lifestyle - 3/12/2013 12:18:57 AM
  • we use vinegar in a spray bottle for windows, glass, TV's and counters. works better, cheaper and no more asthma attacks from windex. - 10/21/2011 11:48:12 PM
  • I believe we need to participate in civil and urban design.
    In America and Australia (where I live) car culture rules supreme. I am active and vocal in being part of the solution for people and animal friendly neighborhoods.
    Get involved in your community: when we live in unpolluted, sustainable living spaces we naturally move our bodies more & connect with our communities. - 4/22/2011 10:29:45 PM
  • To those who won't cut out meat (I saw a comment about not being able to get enough protein) - there are plenty of ways to get non-animal based protein. Want tips and suggestions - please ask me how and I'd love to help!!

    p.s. Most people eat way more protein than they actually need to. - 4/22/2011 9:06:51 PM
  • Ridign a Bicycle even at $4/gallon gas does save money unless you need to exercise anyway. Why, the food required to fuel a bicycle commute costs more than gasoline. 1 Gallon of gasoline can move an effecient car about 25 miles on a average commute. To travel 25 miles at somewhat relaxed pace on a comfortable bicycle, most humans will need around 900 kcal. That's a full meal... which will cost you at least $4 if you eat healthy.

    Make the comparison with an electric bicycle or a scooter, and things just got skewed for the worse.

    Just making a point that you don't always save as much as you think. So unless you eliminate a car form the household, or need that commute as a from of exercise, it won't save you as much money as you think. Gaoline is still a very cheap form of energy. - 4/22/2011 4:30:53 PM
  • i live in a city, i have no prior knowledge of growing fruits or veggies and using old and repurposed containers i have started my own garden this year and it is doing quite well with some dirt, compost i make in a trash can in my house by a window and water...start up cost was all of maybe $5.00 for seeds. i don't own a car and do everything by bus or walking, even grocery shopping and i have 4 kids. granted somethings are too far to walk to or the roads are unsafe (or there isn't a bus where you live, etc) but i think this list is actually very practical and totally doable by most. - 4/22/2011 4:13:38 PM
  • Even though there are good suggestions here, one must do what is practical for them. For example, I live in the rural area of my city so walking anywhere isn't really safe due to a lack of sidewalks along our two-lane roads. Growing my own food isn't practical because I don't have the knowledge, skill, or start up funds to start a garden. I don't go to fast food drive-thrus. If I do get fast food, it is usually at a Subway or the local non-chain burger joint where I can park my car and walk in. I'd like to live accroding to these suggestions and someday I will. Right now, it's not feasible. - 4/22/2011 3:30:59 PM
  • I agree that these are great suggestions but not all of them are practical for everyone. The nearest grocery store is 6 miles away. The fruits and veggies are not fresh. I could walk or bike but how would I get my groceries home and what do I do with the kids.

    I won't cut back on my meat. As it is I rarely get enough protein. Much of the meat we eat is grass fed cattle raised locally or wild meat that has been hunted.

    But, as with many things, we do what we can and what works for one doesn't mean it works for all.
    - 4/22/2011 2:13:27 PM
  • Liked the article-full of practical advice.

    I must be doing something wrong in the "grow your own food" department. With a tiny yard, I plant tomatoes in a container. The cherry tomatoes do just fine, but I'm lucky if I get two decent tomatoes per plant all summer long...off to the farmer's market I go. - 4/22/2011 10:56:33 AM
  • Everyone wins when we follow those simple recommendations! - 4/22/2011 8:56:20 AM
  • SUPERNURSEMOM
    I commute to work 5 days a week, in the morning when I get off the commuter bus, instead of taking the subway, I walk 20 minutes to work. I burn around 80 calories and save $2.50 in metrocard fare per day. - 4/5/2011 8:20:08 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Biking/Cycling: 16-19 km/h (3.75 minutes per km - 3.15 minutes per km)  |  Biking/Cycling: 20-22 km/h (3 minutes per km - 2.72 minutes per km)  |  Biking/Cycling: 23-25 km/h (2.6 minutes per km - 2.4 minutes per km)