The mainstream media is full of stories about how our lifestyles are getting unhealthier and how this is having an impact on the environment. From increased meat production to our fondness for plastic-wrapped convenience food; the modern way of living is not only potentially damaging to our waistlines but to our planet too.
However, don’t despair! Here are seven simple challenges that you can work into your daily routines to help you live not only a greener life, but a healthier life too.
7 greener living challenges for a healthier lifestyle
1. 10,000 steps per day
You’ve probably heard the saying that we should all do 10,000 steps per day. But how does this actually contribute towards living a greener life? Well… it all depends on how you use your steps! Consider parking further away from work, walking short distances instead of driving or getting off the subway a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way home. Swapping transport for good old-fashioned walking will help cut down your carbon emissions and reduce the amount of pollution that you cause in your everyday life. Plus, it’s GREAT for your health.
At first glance, 10,000 steps may seem like quite a lot – it amounts to around 3.5 miles per day. However, those steps sure do add up quickly. A 30-minute dog walk can rack up around 2,500-3,000 steps alone. Add in walking the kids to school, walking to work, grocery shopping and even your general wandering around the house and you’ll be well on your way.
If you want to take up the 10K challenge, consider purchasing a pedometer to add up your steps. They start at a few dollars for a basic model, but higher-end products such as Fitbits may be worth the investment as they also track your heartrate and calories burned.
The video below by BuzzFeed shows the results of several people who took on the 10,000 steps per day challenge. Each person agreed to walk 10,000 steps per day for thirty days. For each day they didn’t make their target they had to donate up to $10 to charity.
2. The 5-minute walk rule
This is similar to the 10,000 steps per day challenge but requires slightly less effort! The idea is to reduce your car journeys by a slight amount and over time this will add up to hours, or even DAYS of saved driving time.
All you have to do is park a five-minute walk away from your intended destination rather than driving right up to the building. That might mean choosing the furthest parking space in the lot from the lobby or getting off the bus one stop earlier. Walking the rest of the way will not only make a happier atmosphere but it’s a great little fitness boost for you AND it will save you money on your gas in the long run.
3. Meat Free Mondays
We’ve covered the environmental impacts of meat production in a previous article. Animal agriculture makes up about 50% of the world’s total emissions.
To help do your bit for the environment and reduce the CO2 emissions that you contribute to through your purchase of meat, consider trying out Meat Free Mondays. It’s as simple as it sounds: every Monday, live the vegetarian lifestyle and cut out meat from your diet.
Here’s a short video that explains all of the benefits of Meat Free Mondays:
It’s easier than you might think to cook meat free meals. Here are a few recipe collections to get you started:
4. Increase your recycling
If you’re not already a recycler, consider upping your contributions and recycling as much of your trash as possible. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, batteries, printer cartridges – there are SO many different materials that can be recycled.
Here’s a guide to what you can and can’t recycle:
Not sure if something is recyclable? Have a quick search on Google or ask your neighbors or friends if they know the answer. If you’re really stuck, take a photo of the item in question and share it on social media – someone’s bound to know the answer!
5. Go gadgetless!
The average energy usage across the world works out an approximately 72.4million BTUs per person. Compare this to the average American who uses 335.9 million BTUs of energy per year and you’ll understand the need for this particular greener living challenge.
Lots of this energy consumption takes place inside the home. Some of it is necessary, for example the electricity that powers your refrigerator, but much of it is used for entertainment purposes such as powering a television or games console.
Rather than relying on technology to entertain you and your family, try having a gadgetless afternoon. Turn off all of the electronics that you aren’t using – remembering to turn off the wall switches rather than just putting it all on standby. Entertain yourselves by playing board games, telling stories, playing in the garden, going for walk or enjoying other activities that don’t require any form of electronically powered devices
Even if you only stay away from the tech for an hour or two, you’ll be helping the environment and having quality family time too.
You could try making it a regular occurrence – maybe the first Saturday evening of every month –choosing different family members every time to organize the activities.
6. Stop smoking
Researchers estimate that a whopping 250billion cigarettes are smoked every year in the US alone. Every year, around 1.7billion pounds of cigarette butts accumulate in lakes, oceans and beaches around the world. Used cigarette butts often still contain the same harmful chemicals as the unsmoked cigarettes, some of which are carcinogenic.
That’s an awful lot of litter and our poor little planet simply won’t be able to put up with that amount of trash forever. Not to mention of course the damaging effects that smoking could potentially have on you and those around you.
Now, we get it. Quitting smoking is hard. Really, really hard. But it IS possible – and we believe in you! Begin your greener living challenge by starting small – perhaps with one or two less cigarettes per day than usual. Gradually decrease the amount that you smoke and you’ll have three wonderful benefits to show off for your efforts: decreased pollution and trash, less chemicals entering your body AND more money at the end of the month as you won’t be spending so much on smoking!
7. Sober Saturdays
Alcohol production across the world is having a lasting impact on our beautiful blue planet. The amount of land mass needed to grow the crops that are eventually turned into alcoholic beverages is vast. There is also the energy needed to power the machinery and manage the fermentation process, as well as the production of bottles and cans to store the final product in.
The world demands alcohol, so the production process will keep on growing. To help combat this, consider implementing a Sober Saturday in your household. Just one day a week without your glass of wine at dinner or a couple of cans whilst watching the game will help to reduce the amount of trash that you throw away (or, ideally, recycle!), save you money AND help the planet too. Plus, think of all those extra calories you’ll save!
Are you currently taking part in any greener living challenges that are helping you to live a healthier life? If so, what are you doing? Share your story in the comments below.