Fitter you, planet via Earth control

How big is your footprint? What is the impact you make upon the earth? What if your New Year's resolutions could help you reduce waste, while trimming your waist(line)?

Published  December 31, 2007 by Tucson Citizen
By ANDRA VALDEZ GERDES
 
How big is your footprint? What is the impact you make upon the earth?
What if your New Year's resolutions could help you reduce waste, while trimming your waist(line)?
 
For example, riding your bike to work one or two days a week, is not only good for your heart, it's cuts vehicle exhaust dumped into the air. Buying produce from local farmers not only reduces the shipping impact, it also ensures you're eating fresh, essential food.
 
Many in the Old Pueblo already are taking small steps that can lead to big change. It's part of a growing movement that takes fitness to a green level.
 
Take Ari Shapiro, 41. As a local business owner who promotes healthful nutrition via his smoothie business – Xoom Juice – he walks the walk, so to speak, by riding his bike to work and to run errands. He also gave up eating beef, chicken and pork after reading "Fast Food Nation," he said, because "I just realized how much energy goes into creating that food chain."
 
"I own three stores in Tucson, and I put maybe 80 miles per month on my car," Shapiro said. "If you consciously try to make less of an environmental impact, you are also impacting your health in a very beneficial way. Cycling, walking, eating less-processed foods – everything you do that has a good effect on the globe, will have a better, if not equal, effect on your own world."
 
It's easy, he said.
"Just find ways to consume less and (use) better products," Shapiro recommends. At Xoom Juice, he is making eco-friendly changes to his business as well, offering incentives to employees who bike to work, promoting the use of reusable smoothie mugs, and creating less waste during the food production process.
 
Raj Helweg took the eco-friendly fitness plunge last month when he started bicycling to work at Tucson International Airport, where the emergency helicopter he pilots is based. The 37-year-old said he has since lost 10 pounds, reduced his stress levels and sleeps better.
 
"We just retrofitted our home with solar power, we use rainwater harvesting in the house, and I felt like I needed to take it to the next level as far as transportation goes," Helweg said. "Besides that, I was getting fat and lazy, and decided I needed to start riding to work."
 
The biggest motivator, he said, was visiting the New American Dream Web site, newdream.org, and seeing in numbers the impact that small changes make when thousands participate. For example, 9,930 people responded to its challenge to carve out one car-free day a week, cutting an estimated 1.4 million pounds of carbon in one month.
"That's what motivated me to start thinking about it, and get my bike together," Helweg said. "One day I just didn't have any more excuses."
 
The site's Carbon Conscious Consumer section encourages adopting a new habit each month, such as taking your own bags to the grocery store, washing in cold water and putting a stop to junk mail you receive.
 
An upside to living here is the city's apparently health-oriented lifestyle. Tucson was ranked No. 1 in healthy environments for women in the December issue of Self magazine. In February, Cooking Light magazine listed Tucson 10th among the 20 healthiest cities in the U.S.
 
One Tucsonan whose eco-friendly lifestyle keeps her healthy and fit is Patricia Morrison.
 
"I bicycle to work, so I don't have to worry about how I'm going to get my exercise," said Morrison, who doesn't even own a vehicle.
 
The 28-year-old is a member of Sustainable Tucson, a network of organizations focused on accelerating the city's transition to sustainability.
 
"Everybody is thinking about what they can do these days to make a difference – and it really does make a difference," she said.
 
"Some people might say, I can't bike to work, it's too far. I tell them, 'Great, don't bike to work, bike everywhere else or take an alternative form of transportation.' "
 
She also makes green choices in maintaining the health of her home (with toxic-free cleaning products) and body (with fresh organic produce).
 
"All you have to do is look at these giant retail stores that are scrambling to get more organic produce to see that your choices really do matter," said Morrison, who gets her produce through Community Supported Agriculture.
 
For Helweg, eco-friendly changes were something he needed to do for himself and the environment.
 
"I'm not a motivated person, and if I can do it on a regular basis, anyone can. Once you start, once you jump into the pool, it's not that bad at all."
 

ONE CHANGE PER MONTH Here are 12 ways to reduce your individual carbon footprint on the planet. Adopt a new habit each month and, by this time in 2009, you will have made a difference.

1. Ride a bike instead of driving
The skinny: Reduce pollution by getting out of your car and pedaling or walking a half-hour per day. Tucson is a great place for it, considering we have about 475 miles of bike lanes, plus buses outfitted with bike racks. If all Americans ages 10 to 74 walked just half an hour a day instead of riding in or driving a vehicle, they would lose 13 pounds per year, and cut the annual U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide by 64 million tons (the same amount New Mexico produces).
Take action: Make a plan to have one car-free day each week and instead bike to work. For less than the cost of a gallon of gas, you can take your bike into the nearest shop for a tuneup. If you plan to bike to work, first be sure to do a test run on your day off. Some people drive in on Monday and leave a week's worth of clothes and toiletries. If biking to work seems too hard, then bike to do errands (video store, post office). Replace 30 minutes of driving per week with alternative means of commuting. Increase to 30 minutes, three times per week; and then increase to 30 minutes per day.
 
2. Eat local fresh foods
The skinny: When people eat local fresh produce and other foods, they are not only putting better nutrients into their bodies, they are supporting local E-friendly agriculture and economy.
 
Take action: The Tucson area has more than a dozen farmers markets open weekly that feature a variety fresh local and regional produce and other food. Another great resource is Community Supported Agriculture, where you can pick up a box of regional produce weekly. Set a goal to buy 1 pound of local food per week, and then step it up. You may not be able to go completely organic right away, so here are the worst offenders that you should replace first: peaches, strawberries, apples, spinach, nectarines, celery, pears, cherries, potatoes, bell peppers.
 
3. Drink more water – from a reusable bottle
The skinny: We all know that we should drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day, but many Americans have gone overboard with our bottled-water waste. Water keeps us hydrated, boosts metabolism and helps ward off hunger. However, you will help the earth and your pocketbook more if you tote a reusable bottle.
Take action: Instead of buying bottled water, invest in a filter and take water from home using a nontoxic reusable bottle available at sporting good stores. Stainless steel is the best choice, but a plastic works as well.
 
4. Eat less red meat
The skinny: It takes more energy and land to produce meat than required for fruits, vegetables and grains, according to a report by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The meat sector of the global economy is responsible for 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Much of that is indirect, because of fertilizer needed to grow massive amounts of feed for livestock, energy use in the whole growing process, methane released from fertilizer and animal manure, and transportation of the cattle and meat products. The average American man eats 1.6 times as much meat as the government recommends, and some studies have shown eating a lot of read meat is linked to a higher risk for colon cancer, reports The Associated Press.
 
Take action: Incorporate more chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables and whole grains into your diet. Start by replacing one red meat dinner per week and then more often.
 
5. Drink more tea
The skinny: We've heard about the health benefits of tea, especially green tea because it's filled with antioxidants and can be easier on the tummy than coffee is. Some studies also suggest it can help you to lose weight. Drinking tea instead of soda will eliminate a host of aluminum cans, and you can compost the tea bags or used tea leaves. Hot tea with lemon is a terrific warm treat during winter.
 
Take action: Replace soda and coffee with tea. Visit a farmers market or the Seven Cups Tea House in Tucson to buy tea leaves, or start with the tea section at the grocery store. Replace one drink per day, and increase from there.
 
6. Plant a garden with your compost
The skinny: Gardening activities can burn as much as 370 calories per hour. It's also therapeutic to get your hands into the earth. Growing your own vegetables and herbs can also improve your diet. Herbs can take the place of high-sodium seasonings and fatty sauces, and you'll be more inclined to eat vegetables you've grown yourself. Afterward, you can recycle any waste in your compost, as well as any other food waste your family produces and keep it from going into the garbage.
Take action: If gardening is not your thing, get some tips from local groups such as the Tucson Organic Gardeners or the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
 
7. Plant a tree
The skinny: More trees mean more oxygen and less CO2 in the air. Trees reduce energy costs, cool urban areas, reduce ambient noise and improve air quality. And gardening burns tons of calories (see No. 6).
 
Take action: Plant a native tree or one that bears fruit. Take a workshop on Xeriscaping (native landscaping) offered by Tucson Botanical Gardens or the Pima Country Cooperative Extension or local college. Contact Trees for Tucson, a program of Tucson Clean and Beautiful.
 
8. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
The skinny: The Environmental Protection Agency states that studies have found levels of several volatile organic compounds average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. One reason is the number of harmful chemicals that go into cleaning products. Many are linked to asthma, respiratory problems and diminished indoor air quality. Toxic chemicals that go down the drain can also get into our drinking water.
 
Take action: Start using products that are truly nontoxic. Most are concentrated, which means you'll save money, and help the environment from packaging that is not recyclable and greenhouse gas emissions caused by shipping. You can also make your own cleaners using such household ingredients as lemons or lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar.
 
9. Stop smoking
The skinny: We know that smoking is hazardous to health and causes a host of illnesses, from lung cancer to emphysema. Cigarette butts are also bad for the environment and wildlife. They are not biodegradable and the acetate filters take many years to decompose. Butts have been found in the stomachs of birds and fish. And though butts seem small, with several trillion littered every year, the toxic chemicals add up!
 
Take action: Stop smoking. Get free assistance from the Arizona Smoker's Helpline, 800-556-6222
 
10. Go to sleep earlier
The skinny: Most Americans are sleep-deprived, getting a mere four to six hours of sleep a night. Studies have also shown that people who get less sleep, weigh more. Hitting the sack earlier can increase energy and concentration. It can also help you save on the electric bill by not running electronics into the night.
 
Take action: Shut down the house. Turn off or unplug all appliances and extra lights. Contact Tucson Electric Power for tips on reducing your energy usage. Energy hogs include: electric and microwave ovens; computers; clothes and hair dryers; air conditioners; four-slot toasters; and lights left on in unoccupied rooms.
 
11. Take a hike
 
The skinny: When you get outdoors and into nature, you have more appreciation for the planet and all things in it, making it hard to be wasteful. It's also good for your health to get fresh air and outdoor exercise. Hiking burns 250 to 400 calories per hour and will work muscles not targeted on the treadmill.
 
Take action: Contact the local and state parks departments for nature hikes. Join a local hiking group such as the Sierra, Southern Arizona Hiking or Ramblers (UA) Hiking clubs.
 
12. Slow down and simplify
The skinny: Haste makes waste. When we are overcommitted and rushed, it's easier to make unhealthy choices. Thus, simplifying your life will give you time to plan out healthful meals and make time for yourself.
 
Take action: Run errands only one day a week. Rise early and ride the bus. Make a list of your values and priorities, and then trim the fat from your day and life. Think back to simpler times when you needed and used less, and try to re-create that.