Environmental Sustainability in Health and Fitness
When we think of environmental sustainability, it can often feel detached from our health and fitness. In reality, it’s very much intertwined into the practises that we do, be that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, or the water bottle we drink from.
I’ve put together some simple tips to be more sustainable within your health and fitness practices.
The food you eat…
Reduce your meat consumption – whilst many people insist that they need to eat meat for protein, this actually isn’t the case. On average, we currently eat 10 servings of meat per week, this needs to be reduced down to 4 in order to live more sustainably in terms of diet (Roos et al., 2015). Reducing our meat consumption is one of the easiest ways to make a big impact. Below I've placed some suggestions of some meat free sources of protein that you could try.
TIP: Why not try Meat free Mondays? They're a great way to get started into reducing your meat consumption and reducing your overall environmental impact.
Eat your leftovers – it’s all too easy to just throw away excess food that you’ve cooked. In 2019, 17% of all food available went into rubbish bins (UN, 2019).
“Reducing food waste would help to cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature and save money at a time of global recession”, UNEP Chief.
TIP: Find creative ways to eat your food. If you only have a little bit of food left, put it in some Tupperware and refrigerate it. Pair it with some food you already have and make a new creation.
(P.S. there are no rules of food combinations, just have a good time and reduce your food waste).
Grow your own - If you're feeling extra adventurous or fancy yourself a bit of a green finger, why not try to grow your own vegetables! This is an extra great bonus because the stuff you grow is free! Check out this BBC article for some easy vegetables to grow for beginners.
The clothes you wear…
Swap fast fashion for sustainable options – it’s no secret that fast fashion retailers are big polluters (the second biggest polluter after petroleum (UN, 2019)), so reducing your consumption of fast fashion will always be a winner.
TIP 1: Buy from sustainable brands e.g. Tentree, WeAreZouma (launching April 2021), and Patagonia.
TIP 2: Check out the app ‘Good on you’ where you can search clothing brands to see how sustainable/ ethical they are.
Buy second hand – buying second-hand is a great way to reduce direct consumption of fast fashion. Globally we produce 12 million tonnes of textile waste per year (95% of that could be reused or recycled) (The Reworked Collective, 2021). Buying second hand is also a lot more accessible and affordable for most people, compared with buying from sustainable brands.
TIP 1: Use apps like Depop and Vinted and check out your local charity shops
TIP 2: Act in reverse (pulling an Uno Reverse on fast fashion, if you will). Buy your clothes from Depop? Try sell any clothes that you don’t wear on Depop as well. One easy rule to stop your clothes from building up is every time you buy a ‘new’ (or new to you) item you have to sell/ donate an item that is already in your wardrobe.
Our day to day actions...
Aim to use a reusable water bottle – swap out your plastic water bottles for a reusable one instead. This will help to cut down on your plastic waste.
Check the bin before your throw away – wherever you are throughout your day, check to see if the product you’re using can be recycled. At the gym? Check you’re throwing away recyclable rubbish into a recycling bin. No recycling bins? Query with your gym where it is and if they don’t have one, ask them why not.
Reduce car travel – opting to walk or cycle to work (when you’re not working from home) is a great way to reduce air pollution as well as being great for your health. Bonus points if you walk to the gym and back (that can count as your warm up and cool down if it’s far enough).
Use public transport or car share – sometimes we have to travel by a vehicle. If you do, opt for public transport (as and when it is safe to do so) or try car sharing with one of your colleagues/ friends.
Overall, making even one small change will start to reduce your overall impact on the environment. Start small and build it up into a habit. Sustainability and health and fitness are not mutually exclusive. Let’s start to bring our sustainable habits into all aspects of our lives to really make a positive difference.
Roos et al., 2015, Limiting livestock production to pasture and by-products in a search for sustainable diets, Food Policy (58)
The Reworked Collective, 2021, https://www.reworked-collective.com/
UNEP, 2019, UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161, accessed 17/3/21
UNEP, 2021, Wasting food just feeds climate change, new UN Environment report warns, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086402 accessed 17/3/21