I’m a big believer in physical activity. The happiest years of my life have been when I’ve been dedicated to some sort of fitness. For a few years it was running, later it was cycling. These days it’s a combination of several sports. No matter the sport or activity, there’s no denying the benefits of staying fit. Intuitively, I feel that exercise and a minimal, zero waste lifestyle go hand in hand, but lately I’ve been asking myself just how they are linked. I’ve come up with a few theories about how health and fitness can influence a zero waste lifestyle, and vice versa.
HOW DOES EXERCISE HELP YOU TO GO ZERO WASTE?
1. It gets you outdoors.
Exercise often means that we are leaving the confines of our homes, and getting out into the sun, whether it’s to go for a jog, a bike ride, a hike, a swim, or an outdoor yoga class. When we get out into the fresh air, we’re more likely to take a look around at our neighborhoods and parks, at the green grass, tall trees, waterways, and wildlife, and our appreciation for the glories of nature naturally grows. What could be better motivation to protect our beautiful planet?
2. It gives you energy.
Even if you’re exercising indoors or in a gym, exercise can still help motivate your zero waste efforts. The generous dose of endorphins and feel good brain chemicals that we get when we exercise gives us energy for the rest of our busy days. If we feel energized instead of tired and run down, we are more likely to find the willpower to give that extra bit of planning and elbow grease that going zero waste sometimes requires. Our minds are alert enough to remember to bring our reusable bags to the market for our grocery run, and we have the stamina to cook our meals and pack our leftovers for the week. Instead of collapsing in front of the TV at the end of the day, we have the energy to hang our laundry on the clothes line, and to properly care for our belongings to ensure they last a long time.
3. It gives you feelings of fulfillment.
Have you ever finished a run and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment? It’s a good feeling isn’t it? When we are physically fit, we have a greater sense of confidence, and often have less need for the temporary rush that comes from buying things. We get plenty of rush from the feeling of using our bodies. Exercise can often fill the void in our lives that necessitates participation in the endless cycle of consumerism. And when you spend time exercising, you’ll naturally have less time to surf Amazon for things you don’t really need.
HOW DOES GOING ZERO WASTE KEEP YOU FIT AND HEALTHY?
4. Minimizing your impact means you’ll naturally be more active.
If you’re committed to reducing your carbon emissions, you’re likely going to use your car less, which means you’ll be walking or cycling more. Walking and cycling instead of driving, even short distances, will increase your fitness. Growing your own vegetable garden? Gardening burns more calories than driving to the supermarket. Plus you’ll be getting a dose of vitamin D from spending time in the sun, which will increase your feelings of happiness and well-being, as will the satisfaction of being self-sufficient.
5. Going zero waste and minimalist requires awareness.
As soon as you make the decision to minimize your impact on the planet, you turn on a part of your brain that may have been dormant for a while. You start tuning in to the ways in which you can cut back on your environmental impact. This awareness naturally leads to a tendency away from mindless activities, like watching TV or scrolling Facebook for hours on end. In my own experience, deciding to simplify my lifestyle helped me to focus on my relationships. I swapped TV and internet time for things like cooking dinner with friends and walking through the park with my husband. Less time in front of screens means more attention to the people around us, which leads to greater health and happiness.
6. Giving up packaged foods is an automatic health boost.
It’s really difficult to find junk food that doesn’t come in a plastic package, so if you set a goal to buy all your food package free, you are naturally going to gravitate towards fruits and vegetables, which will automatically give your health an enormous boost. If you're avoiding single-use packaging, you’ll probably try to avoid take-out food, another health boost. Cooking your own food means you know exactly what’s going into it, and are more likely to make healthy choices. Cooking and washing dishes also burn more calories than ordering in while watching TV.
As soon as you start making changes in your daily routine toward a zero waste, minimal lifestyle, I guarantee you’ll start to see health benefits. And if you start exercising, you can bet you’ll be even more motivated to work towards a zero-waste lifestyle. It’s a beautiful, self-perpetuating cycle that can be very freeing.
Have you found this to be true? How has exercise positively impacted your life? How has going zero waste made you more aware? I’d love to hear your feedback!