10 Easy and Green Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

No gym membership required.

Making exercise an integral part of your daily life is a New Year’s resolution that is good for you and the planet.

I doubt anyone would disagree that moving about and being active is good for your health and wellbeing. Yet, as soon as you mention the word exercise, some people (like me) begin thinking up excuses for why we cannot join a gym, sign up for a yoga class, or get up an hour earlier each workday to run before work.

If you love going to the gym, look forward to yoga class, and find running at dawn exhilarating, you have my respect and best wishes. In that case, consider reading Green Twist on 10 Healthy Eating New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Resolution for 2017 – Hit the Reset Button.

However, if you cringed at the word exercise and are one of those people who enjoy the challenge of choosing a New Year’s resolution and keeping it, this might be just the post for you.

Making a resolution to walk or bike to and from school or work is an excellent carbon-free way to get exercise, even if you do it just part of the time. Nevertheless, you may not be able to or willing to make that kind of a commitment this year. Fortunately, other easy options are available that will help you get more exercise.

For me, and perhaps for you, the key to moving around and being more active is to make it part of my normal day, not something extra to do.

10 Easy and Environmentally Friendly Exercise New Year’s Resolutions

The ten thought starters below are intended to assist you with determining an easy and green exercise New Year’s resolution.

Ten-Minute Tidy Up

Spending ten minutes each day picking up stuff and putting it where it belongs has two benefits. It gets you moving and it is a painless way to tidy up your home. If there is not much to pick up, consider wiping off the kitchen counter or even cleaning a toilet. Once you get in the habit of doing this, you might be surprised at how clean and tidy you can make your home in just ten minutes a day.

This is a good activity to involve kids in, too. When our kids were young, we did a daily ten-minute toy pick up. This not only kept our house more organized it helped our kids learn to be responsible for their toys. Even toddlers can help if you give them a hand.

Walk and Talk

If you normally sit while talking on the phone, consider walking around while doing it (if you can do it safely).

Bring Your Own Lunch

Consider the multiple advantages of bringing your own lunch to work (in reusable containers). You will know what is in your food, you will not waste time driving to a restaurant and waiting for your food to arrive at your car window or table, and you will likely save tens of thousands of dollars during your working life.

Women Walking in a ParkYou will now have time for walking to run an errand, to a park, or around the office or grounds where you work. Better yet, walk to a park or another outdoor space soaking up some vitamin D along the way and then eat your lunch. Help your coworkers get on the move by asking them to join you.

Meet for a Walk

Instead of meeting a friend for coffee at a coffee shop, mix it up and meet for a walk. Bring coffee with you in a reusable travel mug to sip while you chat and walk.

Run Errands on Foot

Chances are that there is at least one place you frequent that is within easy walking distance of your home or place of work like a restaurant, pharmacy, grocery store, post office, or library. Select one place to begin walking to or make a commitment to walk to run an errand at least once a week.

Park in the North Forty

Full Parking LotThe term north forty often refers to a remote patch of land on a farm or ranch but I think it translates well to parking. An easy way you can add more walking to your day is to park in the far corner of a parking lot or parking garage or down the street from your destination.

Take a Commercial Break

There are usually at least three or four commercial breaks during an hour-long television show and a 3-hour football game has even more. These are built-in opportunities to get up and walk around for a few minutes. When you are watching ad-free media, make a point of either pausing in the middle or getting up and walking around between shows or movies.

Hold a Walking Meeting

How many hours have you spent sitting in conference rooms for short meetings with only a few people? Why not hold a walking meeting instead (if you can do it safely). Mobile devices make it easy to look up things and take notes while you are on the move.

Set a Timer

Finger with Red Ribbon Tied Around ItI got this idea from one of my sons. He is a programmer and a gamemaster who spends a fair amount of time in front of multiple screens so he sets a timer on his smartphone to remind him periodically to get up and walk around. Many experts say that getting up and stepping away is not only good for your body but stimulates your brain as well.

The timer method will work for just about any sedentary job that allows you to leave your work area briefly as well as when you are sitting at home reading a book or watching a movie.

Walk with Your Kids

If you have the time and ability to walk your kids to and from school, that is terrific. If you do not, then make a point of walking with your kids at other times to get them in the habit of walking as a means of getting about and for pleasure. You can walk to a store to get supplies for an art project at school or take a hike during the weekend.

When our kids were young, we frequently took short walks before or after dinner. It took about ten minutes to walk around our block and if we were feeling ambitious, we would take a double-block walk. On the weekends, we hiked in the hills near our neighborhood.

My 2019 New Year’s Resolution

Initially, I was thinking about choosing my son’s “set a timer” idea for my 2019 New Year’s resolution, but I have already adopted it. While writing this morning, my smartphone has already dinged quietly 6 times and I have gotten up and walked around, gone up and down the stairs, and unloaded the dishwasher.

Last year I toyed with the idea of a resolution involving sugar but I ended up opting to digitize our financial records, which I did do. Sugar is still on my mind so I decided to write at least one post about the environmental impact of sugar for my 2019 New Year’s resolution. To keep myself on track I established a few milestones.

  • By January 31 – watch the documentary Sugar Coated again (for inspiration).
  • By April 30 – complete enough research to have adequate material for at least one post.
  • By June 30 – write and publish at least one post.

Footsteps Leading to the Word GoalNow, I hope you are ready to pick one of the above easy and green exercise ideas for your New Year’s resolution or come up with your own. Your best chance for success is to choose something you actually want to do and to be specific so that you will know when you have completed your resolution.

Happy New Year!

Featured Image at Top: Two Potatoes Sitting on a Red Couch – Photo Credit iStock/CHRISsadowski

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More Ways to Cut Your Single-Use Plastic Bag Waste

How many plastic bags are hiding in your home?

If you are truly committed to reducing your single-use plastic bag waste, getting a grip on your household’s out of sight out of mind plastic bags is essential.

What I mean by out of sight out of mind plastic bags are those bags that you store in various places around your home and garage that you have every intention of reusing but forget are there.

The reason I am bringing this up is that while I was writing the previous post entitled Three Easy Ways to Cut Your Single-Use Plastic Bag Waste, I decided to conduct an informal assessment of my own household’s multi-year single-use plastic bag waste reduction effort and discovered a lot more plastic bags than I expected.

At first, I was dismayed, but I quickly decided that my spouse and I had been presented with an excellent opportunity to ratchet up our reduction efforts a notch or two.

Perhaps you have plastic bags hiding in your home, too. Consider doing your own assessment and then decide what actions you can and want to take to reduce your own single-use plastic bag waste.

I began my evaluation by sifting through our household plastic bag and packaging collection so it might help to provide some background on that first.

Plastic Bag and Packaging Collection

Our plastic bag and packaging collection has its roots in our decision to switch to reusable shopping bags back in 2010.

To deal with our now bag-less kitchen garbage can and other household wastebaskets we decided to save and reuse all kinds of plastic bags that had previously held food items like bread, bagels, and tortillas, as well as cereal box liners and takeout bags. We also collected bags that had encased clothing, vinyl sheet bags, and any bag that came in a shipping box.

Single-Use Plastic Bag Collection
The box holds small bags and the crate holds larger bags for us reuse. The round tin stores packaging like toilet paper wrapping or torn plastic bags that we periodically drop off at our grocery market for recycling. Family members put bags in the canister with the “Put Bags Here” sign for later sorting.

When the single-use plastic bag ban came to our town in 2012, it did not affect us because we had already converted to reusable bags.

To help readers facing plastic bag bans in their own towns, I shared our experiences in You Can Live Without Single-Use Plastic Bags – Here’s How and I wrote Kitchen Trash Bags — Green Alternatives about dealing with yucky kitchen garbage.

We also began reusing plastic produce bags and zip-top bags and my spouse made a handy plastic bag drying rack.

Single-Use Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Assessment

For years, we did not bring home disposable grocery shopping bags, did not buy kitchen trash bags, and rarely purchased a box of zip-top bags or plastic cling wrap. Our system seemed to be working. Yet, I was wondering if we really were doing as well as we thought we were in reducing our single-use plastic bag waste and could we do better.

Once I had emptied our plastic bag and packaging collection onto the dining room table, things quickly got out of hand. I found myself scouring the house and garage looking for plastic bags that might not have made it to the laundry room and asking family members if they had any plastic bags tucked away anywhere.

After piling all the plastic bags that I could find on the dining room table, I sorted them into categories and counted them.

Pile of Single-Use Plastic Bags and Packaging on Dining Room Table
I found more single-use plastic bags in our house and garage than I expected.

Of course, the list below is only a snapshot of the plastic bags we had on hand when I did the assessment.

1 – Trash bag (not used)
1 – Seed bag (at 2″ x 4″ this was the smallest bag)
1 – Full-size mattress moving bag (at 54″ x 48″ this was the largest bag)
1 – Extra large bag that had contained a 3D printer
2 – Large rectangular sheets of plastic
5 – 5-pound coffee bean bags
6 – Shipping items (envelope, bubble wrap bag, air packs)
8 – Large bags (big enough for a comforter)
10 – Warranty manual bags (with manuals still in them)
10 – Hotel laundry bags
11 – Food bags that had held things like hamburger buns and spinach
15 – Sheet bags (we reuse to organize clothes and shoes in our luggage)
18 – Produce bags (including zip-top, we reuse these at the market)
19 – Wrappings from things like toilet paper and paper towels
20 – Bags from items bought online like clothes and kayak gear
22 – Shopping bags (mostly for takeout food)
106 – Various size bags that previously held stuff for my spouse’s job
256 – Grand Total

Wow, that is a lot of plastic bags and packaging. Imagine how many plastic bags would have been passing through our house on the way to the dump if we had not been actively trying to reduce plastic bag waste.

Conclusions

First, I had to acknowledge that I had been naive to think we could ever reuse all the single-use plastic bags and packaging coming into our home, even after a massive reduction.

Second, our society definitely has a single-use plastic bag problem. Why does a t-shirt need to be put in a plastic bag before putting it in a plastic shipping envelope or a cardboard box? Who invented freezer burn and do we really need special plastic freezer bags? Why is the default position at most stores to put your purchase in a disposable plastic or paper bag regardless of if it is only one greeting card or a prescription bottle?

Third, I pondered why we were still holding onto the larger bags after more than a decade. Surely, we could have found a use for them or cut them up for other purposes. It was almost as if we were afraid we would never get a large bag again so we needed to hold onto them (for what?).

Lastly, I realized that our highest volume of bags relates to my spouse’s job as a lighting designer who builds prototypes in our garage workshop.  The hardware store in our small town is well stocked but it does not carry all the supplies, materials, and equipment my spouse needs for work. It would be difficult if not impossible to stop the flow of these bags into our garage.

Next, my spouse and I discussed what we could and should do to decrease our single-use plastic bag waste further.

Plastic Bag Reduction Challenge Round Two

Reusing a bag more than once does not wipe out its environmental footprint but it does decrease it and reduces the need for new bags.

To solve the out of sight out of mind problem, we decided to store all plastic bags and packaging in easy to access places in our kitchen and adjoining laundry room. I think any centralized place would work as long as your family members know where it is.

My spouse and I divided the hotel laundry bags and put them in our suitcases so that we will stop collecting new bags. When these bags wear out, we can switch to pillowcases or bags we already have on hand.

I put one of the big plastic sheets in each of our cars so it would already be there when we need to transport something dirty or wet.

To force us to reuse bags I cleared out our small supply of new plastic bags and packaging from a kitchen drawer and put them in the back of a cupboard in the laundry room. This included a box of sandwich bags, a box of freezer bags, and a roll of cling wrap. I filled the drawer with clean bags that had already held food or with other bags that I had washed out with soapy water and dried on my plastic bag dryer.

These are small incremental steps but imagine the positive impact you, me, and everyone else could have if we all cut our single-use plastic bag waste.

Now it is your turn to do your own single-use plastic bag waste reduction challenge.

Featured Image at Top: Earth Globe Inside a Single-Use Plastic Bag – Photo Credit iStock/Irina Krolevetc.

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