[sniplet tweetright]However many great reasons there are to care about the environment, I have to admit to something. I often find myself thinking: What difference can one person make? And anyway, this seems like a lot of work, what’s in it for me?
I’m probably not the only one who has these sorts of thoughts. Have you ever felt the same?
Luckily, living a greener lifestyle does have some concrete personal benefits for you, and one person can actually make a difference. If you’re trying to lose weight (and most of us are), try these five ways of saving the planet and shedding some excess pounds at the same time.
#1 Eat Local, In-Season Produce
Buying local produce doesn’t just reduce your carbon footprint (the ingredients in the average US meal have travelled 1,200 miles) — it also improves your health and helps you lose weight.
Local, seasonal foods are packed with nutrients and taste.
Fruits and veggies are much more satisfying when they’re bursting with flavor — I’m particularly fond of strawberry season! Buying locally means your foods aren’t processed, don’t have any dubious additives, and may reach your table in as little as 24 hours after being picked. If you buy from a farmers’ market, you can ask how to best to use your ingredients.
A quick dieting tip I learned when losing weight is to fill half your plate with vegetables at dinner time. If you’ve got super-fresh local veggies just waiting to be eaten, you’ll find that this is something to look forward to!
For extra weight-loss bonuses, take local produce a step further and start growing fruit and vegetables in your own garden. Digging, weeding, and other gardening activities help you burn calories and stay fit.
#2 Have An Active Commute
Instead of driving to work every day, walk or cycle.
It might even shorten your journey time, if you would normally travel during rush-hour. It’s an easy way to fit exercise into your daily routine without having to think about it.
If you live a long way from your workplace, use public transport: the carbon emissions per person are considerably better than your car. Get off a stop or two early and walk the remainder of the way to get your exercise in.
A person weighing 155lbs, walking at an easy-moderate pace (around 3mph) for half an hour burns 123 calories. Cycling at an easy-moderate pace, around 10 mph or less, burns around 140 calories in half an hour. (Source: Calories Burned During Exercise.)
#3 Avoid Highly Processed Foods
The food products that are worst for the environment are often the ones that are worst for us too.
Highly processed foods are generally easy to spot: they come with a ton of plastic wrappings and packaging, and they have a long list of ingredients that sound like something you’d find in a laboratory rather than a kitchen. They include things like:
- Ice creams and frozen “treats”
- Potato chips and other snack products
- Frozen ready meals
- Candy bars
The environmental impact of these foods comes from the factories, air miles, and packaging involved. The impact on your waist line is due to the high fat and sugar content in many of them — and, often, the lack of whole grains that keep you full for longer.
None of us are saints: we all have some processed foods in our diets. But where you have a choice, opt for the product that’s as close to its natural state as possible: try not to buy frozen ready meals when you can get fresh ingredients and make them yourself.
Rather than buying lunch out during the week, take a packed lunch from home: instead of a processed, packaged and tasteless sandwich, you can have something you made freshly that morning (and where you know exactly what’s gone into it). Instead of pre-sliced apple segments, you can have a fresh whole apple. Better for you – and better for the earth.
#4 Go Meat-Free Twice a Week
There’s no way to avoid the fact that eating meat has a high environmental cost, with figures suggesting that a kilo of beef (about 2.2 lbs) is as damaging as a three hour car journey whilst leaving all the lights on at home. (See this New Scientist article for more information.)
Using fields to raise livestock is also a much more inefficient way of getting calories from a set amount of land than simply eating crops.
Many meats are also bad for your waistline, containing more fat and calories than vegetarian alternatives: studies have consistently shown that vegetarians tend to be thinner than meat-eaters.
However, meat isn’t totally bad. Experts believe that some meat consumption is environmentally beneficial, due to the way that grazing animals contribute to the landscape and soil quality (see this Guardian article for more).
To lose weight and live greener, try having a couple of meat-free nights each week. Try out some vegetarian recipes: you might discover some new favorites.
Are you trying to drop a few pounds?
How does this tie in with your efforts to be green? Do you have any tips to add on how saving the planet helps you lose weight?