Fitness Articles

6 Ways to Get Lean by Going Green

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

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, 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.

4. Grow your own garden. Growing your own vegetables—especially without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers— is another way to go green. From a tiny paper packet of seeds you can grow a month’s worth of tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. By growing them yourself, you’re eliminating the need for fuel and all the other waste that goes into transporting and selling them. Plus gardening burns up to 230 calories an hour. The amount of money you’ll save on your grocery bill will be tremendous, and nothing beats the taste and nutrition of food from your own garden.

5. Clean house. Chemicals in most household cleaning supplies might smell like a fresh breeze, but usually they're anything but natural. Using non-toxic cleaning supplies may protect your health by reducing the chemicals you inhale while cleaning and by preventing chemicals from polluting our waterways. You’ll also save money if you make them yourself since most cleaners use a combination of a few cheap ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and soap. Spending three hours deep cleaning your abode burns an average of 390 to 675 calories. And the same goes for your lawn.

6. Go flexitarian. Flexitarians don’t give up meat completely but do cut back a little or a lot. It’s a green thing to do because it takes a lot less energy and land to produce fruits, vegetables and grains than it does to produce meat. Eating less meat also results in less pollution. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat sector of the global economy is responsible for 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting back on your meat consumption reduces this environmental burden. Most people who reduce their meat consumption lose weight and get healthier since plant-based diets are often lower in calories and unhealthy fats. As the price of food (particularly corn, which feeds animals used for meat) and gas (which transports meat across the country and to your plate) continues to rise, so do the costs of meat. Plant-based proteins like beans and legumes are more affordable, and arguably, healthier. Even if you give up just one meat-based meal per week, you'd be making a difference for your health, your wallet and the planet. Learn more about the benefits of meatless meals.

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Member Comments

  • I really liked this article .I think it encourages us in all the right ways
  • Yesterday evening gasoline was under $2 a gallon here. I doubt it is $4 a gallon anywhere now as it was in 2008 when this was written. Maybe someone could peruse the articles on a regular basis and update them.
  • If #2 is correct then I burn more gasoline sitting at red lights. My old car gets better gas mileage than a lot of the newer cars, (found out while renting them, while car was being worked on), and it's healthier to go to the grocery store than a fast food drive through anyway.
    And I won't even get started on the CO2 of cattle in unhealthy environment. It was better for the smaller farms to exist than the huge corporate farms, but I said I wouldn't get started and I did. Oops! LOL
  • Flexitarian also promotes plants which in actually improves air quality. More plants also means more bees an helps reverse the global decline of bee populations.

    If there were a number 7--it might just be prepare your foods from scratch. The quality of your food will be better and the pollution from food processing plants greatly reduced. Do we really need a company to triple wash, slice, and package small bags of fruit/vegetables or pre-form hamburger patties/meatballs and the like for us?
  • Thanks so much for this article. Flexitarian is cool, but, for some of us, really, it's much more about vegetarian, or vegan. Proud and grateful to be a vegetarian athlete!
  • I can't think of anything that will get you in better shape than gardening and landscaping. Every muscle in your body gets a workout. Nothing is better for flabby triceps than using a wheelbarrow! I LOVE exercise that has multiple rewards. You look good, your yard looks beautiful and you get (almost free) fresh, healthy food.
    Decently written articles with valid points. My only counter measure is that fruit and veggies are sprayed and many are GMO. During the winter it is impossible to get local fruit and veggies. We do get our share all year around but I am always aware of how they are produced.
  • The Farmer's market is much more Green than just the market. You do not have to buy organic if you can talk to the farmer and understand that maybe they refuse to label organically grown food without jumping though hoops. I have found that yes it is a bit more expensive, but we as a society waste far too much food, if we compare how much of that bulk fruit we actually ate compared to a few pieces of fresh from the farm we might see the cost is closer to the same. At least in my experience. I have been a farm to fork girl for 5 years now, and I love it. If you guy seasonal, you will learn what to do with new vegetables. I just learned about cooking squash leaves and they were delicious! I never imagined eating them before. I have forced myself to learn about dandelion greens, mustard greens and kale. I even found a way to serve chard that my partner will eat. It is about letting go of your perceptions of convenience and looking into new ideas. Sure the local market has cheaper food, but after it was harvested early, artificially ripened with some gas, shipped and stored, is it really that fresh?
    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,
    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...
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.
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