Lean and green


Elenie Loizou, Emma Maloney, 8, and Sefie Loizou, 9, help out during April 20’s Kingston Clean Sweep Day. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)
Elenie Loizou, Emma Maloney, 8, and Sefie Loizou, 9, help out during April 20’s Kingston Clean Sweep Day. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

It’s a good thing when you can do an activity that works toward two worthy goals at once. Eco-fitness is one of these. You can work out while helping save the planet, improving your own physical health and the environment simultaneously. We may be more ecologically aware on or around Earth Day than at other times of year, so springtime, when there’s a thrill to getting back outdoors in the warmth and sun, may be the best time to consider the many ways to merge helping your body and helping the planet.

Combining a good brisk spring stroll with the stretch-and-limber exercise of picking up trash is a no-brainer. We know housework is good exercise; just extend it outdoors and make your aesthetic experiences more pleasant.

Why people toss beer cans and fast-food wrappers out of their cars into the woods or on my lawn bewilders me. At the very least such behavior messes up the scenery, just the tip of the iceberg of what it does to the earth at large. It was instilled in our little minds when I was a child in Vermont in the 1970s not to trash nature — the famous TV spot with the saddened Native American tearful at the sight of littering attempted to bring that message nationwide. We’d spend every Earth Day out picking up roadside garbage and wouldn’t dream of throwing trash on the ground. Cleaning the neighborhood seemed something as normal and necessary as brushing our teeth.

“An average two-mile stretch of highway can contain roughly 32,000 pieces of litter,” says the state Department of Transportation. It is estimated that it takes 70 years for a plastic jug to decompose, 200 to 500 years for an aluminum can, and a million years for a glass bottle. That’s wickedly long karma. Not only is that stuff ugly but harmful to plants and wildlife, and picking it up well worthwhile for physical and planetary fitness both. The DOT adopt-a-highway and sponsor-a-highway programs provide collection bags and gear to volunteers who collect trash from community byways. See www.nysdot.gov for ways to sign up.

You can get off the main road and into parks and trails for a good workout while helping our spinning globe in many ways. Not only can you help maintain and clear trails for the enjoyment of happy hikers, but you also can help the ecology at large with activities like clearing invasive plant species. At I Love My Park Day on Saturday, May 4 you can help the park system at informal events all over the Hudson Valley, sponsored by Parks & Trails New York, the state office of parks and (naturally) Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Registration is already full for some of the more popular spots like Bannerman Island, but there are 70 participating parks statewide that include our local Fahnestock state park, the Harlem Valley rail-trail, Hudson Highlands state park, the Staatsburgh (Mills Mansion) state historic site, the Walkway Over the Hudson and more. To sign up for “I Love My Park” Day in any of the participating parks, go to http://ptny.org/ilovemypark/register.shtml.

The Mid-Hudson Adirondack Mountain Club (see midhudsonadk.org/) is participating in Minnewaska state park’s event, with a range of activities from removing invasive plants to helping transport materials to re-build a bridge planned. The MH-ADK club welcomes newbies participate in a couple of hikes and activities before membership is recommended.

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