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6 Easy Ways to Make Fitness More Sustainable
You don’t need to go to extremes to save the world: Do your small part by starting with these easy steps that will make your exercise and eating habits more sustainable.
Living a more sustainable life is a lot like having a sustainable exercise routine. The big, challenging workouts are fun and fulfilling, but those once-in-a-while, monster exercise sessions aren’t what drive results. It’s the little things you do consistently that stack up to create big changes. Do the basics every day, and over time you’ll reap major fitness gains.
The same goes for living sustainably. Doing something huge, like reducing your daily trash to zero, making meals entirely from locally sourced, organically grown food or running 70 miles instead of commuting by car sounds awesome. But if you do it for just one day and never again, you won’t create results. Small acts of sustainability that you can stick with are the ones that can change the world for the better. For example: Replacing one meat-heavy meal with a vegetarian dinner each week has the same positive environmental impact as switching from a sedan to a hybrid, according to a University of Chicago study. Surprised? Check out these other smart strategies for making your life more sustainable, starting with your fitness routine.
Finding a reusable BPA-free water bottle that you love is a simple way to make your workout Earth-friendly, but some sweat sessions need more than water. After or during a long run or ride, you need electrolytes and carbohydrates to refuel, too.
The U.S. uses 198 pounds of plastic bottles per second (let that sink in), and less than 30 percent of those bottles are recycled, according to a report by the National Association for PET Container Resources. To be more sustainable and still get your fruit punch fix, switch to an electrolyte powder. Instead of being shipped pre-mixed with water in a plastic bottle, these powders come in a multi-serving canister that’s usually made of cardboard. One canister can make 60 bottles’ worth of sports drinks, poured into your reusable bottle. There’s a sustainability bonus for your wallet, too: The powders cost a fraction of what the pre-mixed bottles do.
Wear Sustainable Shoes
As much as 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And when those items are made using petroleum, they’ll sit in the dirt basically forever.
So when you need a fresh pair of shoes, choose something sustainable: These Zig Dynamica shoes offer bold styling and all-day comfort from next-level cushioning, and the upper is made from recycled or reused materials so it reduces your overall footprint. Another option: plant-based performance running shoes. They’re crafted from an upper made primarily of eucalyptus, castor beans and natural rubber, making them as light on their carbon footprint as they feel on your feet.
We live in amazing times, thanks to scientific breakthroughs and global logistics that allow stores to provide pretty much any food you want, any time of year. But in order to have strawberries and oranges year-round, those foods have to travel a long way to your plate, and that uses fuel and gives off greenhouse gases.
Switching to a diet comprised of foods produced near your home is the carbon equivalent of taking a whole month off from driving each year, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University and the Environmental Protection Agency. And eating local sustains your hometown economy in addition to the environment.
Make It Meatless
According to Johns Hopkins University, if everyone on Earth switched one meat meal per week for a meatless one, the carbon footprint impact would be the same as taking 273 million cars off the road. The good news is that lots of people are already on board: Twenty-three percent of Americans reported eating less meat in 2020 than they consumed in 2019, according to a survey by Gallup. To go meatless without sacrificing protein, swap a beef burger for a plant-based one, order your salad with black beans instead of chicken or try one of these vegan breakfast options.
Travel by Foot
Cars keep getting more efficient, but they’ll never catch up with the awesome power of your body: Chow down on a bowl of oatmeal, lace up your running shoes, and you can go for hours without refueling.
You may not be able to trade in your commute for a human-powered alternative every day. But you can give your car a rest once per month and explore the area near your home in a whole new way. Choose an excursion, like a trip to a local restaurant, a visit to a nearby friend or shopping at the farmer’s market, and plan to get there and back with the most sustainable tool you’ve got: your body.
Recycle Old Fitness Items
Wearing the latest watch or arm-strap can push your workout performance (and, let’s be honest, your style) to new heights, arming you with the technology to track your recovery levels, log your mileage, and even monitor your metabolism.
But keeping up with the latest tech means the old stuff piles up. In fact, 50 million tons of old electronics are tossed each year, according to a report by the World Economic Forum. Those used phones, TVs and yes, fitness watches, don’t just pile up plastic in landfills: They include rare and precious metals and other materials—as many as 57 chemical elements in each item, some of which are harmful to the environment.
The better way: Many big box electronics stores where you’ll be going to shop for a new gadget offer drop-off recycling for phones, computers and old electronic watches. Or you can find a place to properly recycle your dusty step-tracker at the EPA website.
Together, these smart strategies add up to some real change in the world. You don’t have to upend everything. Small adjustments can lead to big drops in your carbon footprint and help make your life more sustainable until you’re ready to build that off-the-grid tiny house.