We have all heard the obvious: cycling, walking or running to work helps reduce your carbon footprint. We all know these methods of green exercise and they are great when we can fit them into our routines. However, there are other ways to work off those extra calories while staying green.
There are many volunteer work groups in the Palos-area that work in the great outdoors. They include the Palos Restoration Project, Orland Grassland, the Cook County Forest Preserves and even our very own Lake Katherine Nature Center.
These all provide opportunities for volunteers to work hard to remove invasive species, such as cutting down buckthorn, trail repair or seed collecting. In doing so, you can help contribute to our community, the natural environment and your own physical well-being.
People feel a need to get outside and be active, and that desire can also make you healthier. Just one hour of volunteer work of the cutting, sawing, raking and hauling variety can burn up to 300 calories. If you are on a volunteer work day and you are working three hours or more, that’s 900 calories. Not bad for a morning’s work helping the community and the environment.
Even gardening at home burns approximately the same amount of calories (300 an hour) but also reduces our impact on the world. Growing your own food reduces shipping, processing and packaging. You also have the added benefit of knowing exactly where your food has come from.
If this is not an option, consider joining a community garden. Palos Park is considering developing one. Also, some of the most avid gardeners are in great shape. The combination of lifting, bending, pulling and tugging on a regular basis, tends to keep gardeners pretty fit and active.
Some people also like to get out and run, walk or bike in natural areas. You should be mindful that if done irresponsibly these activities can contribute to erosion and trampling, however they can also help improve areas.
The Friends of the Cal-Sag is a good example of a group that is fundraising to improve trails, in order to make areas more accessible to cyclists. People who exercise in natural areas often want to help preserve those areas.
Think about leaving only footsteps and nothing else when you visit these areas. Take out what you bring in, this also helps reduce the demands on the land stewards who work or volunteer on these sites.
So as spring has finally arrived, it is time to embrace our local natural areas, maybe working as a volunteer, or going for a walk or run. However you embrace your green exercise, just remember to get out there and enjoy our local wild spots.
Here are a number of local spots you can enjoy in the Palos-area, they are all free and I won’t even mention the obvious.
Editor's Note: Gareth is alluding to the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens, of which he is the operations manager. Being humble he doesn't want to self-promote. However, I encourage you to click here to learn more about the nature center's grounds.