By Christa Adams
It’s crunch time — and not just for the planet. So, whether you’re hoping to get ahead of the upcoming calorie-packed holiday season — or returning after a long pandemic-induced absence — the latest gym trend should come as welcome news. A new workout regimen? Wearable tech? No, on both counts. Instead? Hello, green gyms.
After all, it's only natural people want to do better as the world wakes up to climate change, and the clear correlation between human activity, natural disasters, and all-time-high temperatures. And while switching to bamboo toothbrushes and reusable cups are great starting points, businesses are surprisingly taking it a step further. These self-proclaimed eco-friendly gyms are making their way into the market and encouraging other gyms to reconsider their sustainability plans. So, what is an eco-friendly gym, and are they actually “green?” Let’s take a look:
What is a green gym?
While a gym is different from a skincare brand or eco-friendly laundry detergent strips in that they don’t exactly offer a physical product that can be made sustainably, what they can do is equip and operate their facilities in an environmentally friendly manner. So, what is a green gym exactly?
At first glance, green gyms may operate and appear roughly the same as a non-eco gym, but several factors make these workout spots greener than the rest. These gyms find ways to reduce energy consumption and water usage while focusing on products safe for both human and planet health.
These sustainable gyms may use more energy-efficient lighting, monitor their air conditioning levels more consciously, use natural cleaning supplies, and steer clear of non-recyclable or non-compostable materials.
For example, U.S. and Canada-based gym chain Life Time has continuously updated its sustainability plan. The gym updated its locker room amenities to remove almost all its single-use plastic. Across its more than 150 locations, Life Time has also reduced its electricity use by 35% among other initiatives. While these are small steps in the right direction, Life Time has also released its latest five-year plan committed to further lowering water usage, using locally sourced ingredients in its onsite meals, and diminishing its plastic footprint.
Other smaller gyms have also stepped up to do better. For example, the Green Microgym Belmont in Portland, Oregon, and Green Fitness Studio in Brooklyn, were both built to be environmentally responsible. The Portland gym boasts LED lighting throughout its facility along with solar panels and a ban on selling plastic water bottles on the premises.
The Green Microgym Belmont also focuses its approach on machines that don’t suck up energy. Their website states, “You don’t need a ton of energy-sucking machines to get a good workout. We are machines. You power your workout.” This green gym lets its members power the machines, where burned calories convert into watts.
What green gyms can offer their members
Every eco-friendly or green gym is different and utilizes a unique sustainability plan. Here are a few things to know about green gyms and some of their offerings.
Reduced water consumption
Gyms can require a significant amount of water if swimming pools, saunas, showers, and HVAC are being powered. Eco-friendly gyms will consider their water consumption and work to reduce their impact through things like motion sensor faucets, showers that operate on a timer, and low-flow toilets — to name a few.
Eliminating plastic equipment is step one in having an eco-friendlier gym. However, many gyms are taking things a step forward. Instead of grid-run machines, there is now human-powered exercise equipment. SportsArt, a sustainable gym technology company, offers a range of energy-producing or limiting equipment.
For example, the company invented the ECO-DRIVE™ treadmill motor, which is engineered to use 32% less power than standard treadmill motors, while lowering electricity bills and consumption. More impressively, SportsArt’s latest eco-friendly innovation is the revolutionary ECO-POWR™ line. This line offers cardio fitness products with a built-in inverter that channels wattage from human exercise and converts them to AC power, feeding it back into the power grid as usable energy.
Natural cleaning products
Of course, it’s not all just equipment and consumption. Even the seemingly smaller things are taken into consideration when considering what a green gym is. These gyms swap out typical toxic, chemical-based cleaning products for natural and eco-friendly alternatives. This goes from eliminating paper towels all the way to the specific cleaning sprays used.
Eco-friendly gyms try to keep their energy bills low. It’s not only great for the company but the environment, too. As such, solar panels, motion-sensor lighting, and LED bulbs may be introduced. LED lights use 75% less energy than incandescent and can last up to 25 times longer.
Are green gyms ‘green’?
Greenwashing is a term that has popped up in recent years. This defines a false or misleading action or set of claims made by a company/organization about its positive impact on the environment. With that in mind, read up on a proclaimed ‘green’ gym or ‘sustainable’ gym before signing up. You can use this guide to eco-friendly gyms to ask the right questions and ensure the gym is worth your money.
Green gyms are certainly the way forward, and it’s exciting to see them popping up on the market and encouraging other gyms to follow suit. Nonetheless, always keep an eye out for greenwashing — just in case.