Given the growing impact of global climate change, it’s no surprise that more and more people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint in ways big and small, from using metal straws to carrying around their own water bottles. It makes us curious. What about your exercise? Is it possible to protect the body while better protecting the planet?
The answer is yes. That’s why, in advance of Earth Day, we’re offering some ways to do just that.
1 Make your commute work for you
It turns out that cars produce one-third of the air pollution in the U.S., and reducing the average new car mileage by 5,000 miles per year saves over a ton of CO2, which is about 15% of your average carbon footprint. Since the average commute is about 15 miles each way, eliminating the commute altogether would effectively offset that ton of CO2.
While a 15-mile bike commute twice a day isn’t for everyone (especially in the hot months), you can combine your ride with public transit – many bus and rail systems allow you to store your bike while you ride. Aim for once a week, or embrace it (especially now that most workplaces allow you to dress more casually) and remind yourself that you’re saving time and carbon in the process.
2 Walk, run or bike to the gym.
We won’t repeat the above statistics about driving, but it’s worth noting that according to the Wall Street Journal, the average person lives about 4 miles from the gym they go to. That means everything above applies here, but with two key differences.1. your impact will be slightly less than cutting your commute; and 2. riding (or running or walking) 4 miles is easier to achieve than doing the same 15 miles. Those looking to make their workouts more environmentally friendly can start here.
3 Or, skip the gym.
That treadmill or exercise bike? It runs on electricity. Like all gym equipment, it requires energy to manufacture and transport. Your gym must also keep the lights on, no matter how many (or how few) people are there. All of this consumes energy. Working out at home or in a park is a great way to reduce your energy consumption, especially if you swap out the equipment-based exercises for bodyweight exercises. (Likewise, the manufacturing and transportation of these devices requires energy.) The added bonus: you’ll reconnect with nature and feel good about preserving nature itself.
4 Reduce or reuse
Bring a reusable water bottle. Use as few towels as possible. And, if you can manage it, wash your workout gear as little as possible. (By that we mean, wait until you can wash the full load.) Tumble drying is a major power drainer, so getting an energy-efficient dryer or hanging dry your clothes will make a big difference.
5 Take a short shower
Whether you’re at home or at the gym, improving your shower efficiency can reduce water use. (Here’s a reminder that only 3% of the planet’s water is low enough in salt for human consumption, and 2/3 of that water is unusable because it’s in a glacial or polar ice region. According to Mother Jones magazine, if we could all cut one minute from our showers, we could save 20.9 billion pounds of CO2 a year).
Much like bringing your own reusable water bottle to the gym, you can also reduce your plastic use by bringing your own beauty products from home.
6 Eat less meat.
Protein is a must before and after a workout. But producing meat is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions – and experts estimate that switching to a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. How much of a reduction? Estimates will vary. Eggs or protein-rich plants (including eggplant) offer an alternative that’s as healthy for you as it is for the environment.