Did those holiday pounds pile on? Making green choices could see that popular New Year's Resolution to loose weight come true.
In fact, if you set your sights on one main New Year's goal -- making savvy green choices -- you could see everything else fall into place: You'll eat better, exercise more, lose weight, save money, and make new friends.Yup, that's right. All that with one goal. Here's how.
1. Drive Less
You don't need to join an expensive, energy-hogging gym to add more cardio to your routine: Just use your car less.
If you can walk or commute to work, you'll add a boost of exercise to your daily life without having to schedule it in. If not, try walking to run errands, replace your weekend brunch in the city with an afternoon hike, and hop on your bike for trips shorter than two miles.
Even if you don't consider yourself an athlete, low-impact walking or easy riding will help you make activity part of your routine while making a big impact in the carbon footprint of your transportation.
2. Join a Community Supported Agriculture Program and Discover Super Foods
Having fresh, nutrient-rich produce delivered to your house on a weekly basis will inspire you to find new recipes and learn to love foods you'd never have chosen at the supermarket kohlrabi, anyone?).
If you prefer to pick up your foods at your farmers market, take the opportunity to ask the farmers for suggestions on preparing the veggies -- light on the butter, oil, cheese, breading, and cream sauces, of course.
3. Eat Vegetarian Meals
Still having trouble getting the hang of your recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables? Make them the centerpiece of your meals instead of a side. Replace meat with lower-calorie veggies, beans, or soy alternatives to trim your waistline -- and your budget -- while putting a dent in the emissions produced by factory farms.
When you do want the occasional small portion of meat, aim to get it from a local farm to cut the carbon associated with shipping it (and to make sure you know the animals were humanely raised).
4. Don't Drink Your Calories
All the vegetables in the world won't do much for your weight if you're drinking hundreds of extra calories each day via sugary juice, soda, or flavored coffees. And when those drinks are commercially processed and end up in your refrigerator in individually-packaged bottles, you're increasing your carbon footprint and your waste output along with your calorie intake.
Instead, get a reusable water bottle and keep it filled with filtered tap water (add some lemons or limes for extra flavor); invest in a machine that lets you refill glass bottle with homemade seltzer; and take your own insulated coffee mug with a Fair Trade blend you brewed at home.
5. Volunteer, and Get Outside
Signing up for a volunteer organization isn't the easiest or fastest way to drop pounds, but when you choose a cause that requires plenty of outdoor activity -- planting trees, picking up trash, maintaining trails -- you'll be helping protect your environment while getting some moderate activity, too.
And even better, you'll meet other people that are passionate about the same causes that you are -- increasing your chances of finding a workout buddy or helping you stay motivated when the couch and that "Mad Men" marathon is calling your name.
6. Plan a Container Garden
If joining a CSA isn't in the budget this year, then start small with some at-home container gardens. While you'll save money on greens and even on larger vegetables -- you can grow everything from tomatoes to citrus fruits in containers -- you'll also eat a local, seasonal diet (it doesn't get much more local than your balcony).
Even if you only have space to grow fresh herbs, try tossing them with everything from pasta to eggs and mixing them into cookies and soups for an added burst of flavor that keeps you satisfied without heavy sauces.
7. Take Your Workout Outside
Whether you're into yoga or running, taking your workouts outdoors mean you don't have to rely on treadmills, heated rooms, and the other electricity-guzzlers at your gyms -- but even more importantly, spending more time outdoors will give you that much more motivation when it comes to sticking with your environmental changes.
Develop a love for Mother Nature and you'll spend more time trying to protect her -- just as you'll start looking forward to the fresh air and positive energy of your weekend workouts.