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Written by Miranda Huey   
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Friday, 21 November 2008

Gyms Get Sustainable!

Green gyms are popping up all over the world. It's no surprise that yet another kind of building is “going green”. How are green gyms any different? A unique and key feature of green gyms is that they can actually use the energy generated from people exercising and use that to power their facilities.

The problem most health clubs in the United States have right now is that, compared to other countries, they waste excessive amounts of both energy and water.1 Treadmills alone use around 1500 watts, the same amount of energy to power 15 incandescent bulbs.2 Most stationary bikes are extremely inefficient and dissipate about 90% of the energy used as heat. Most exercise machines, television sets, fans, and stereos are left on all day.3 Towels get used only once before they're washed and dried.4 Green gyms, on the other hand, make an effort to conserve energy and water, while ensuring that the energy they do use is sustainable and renewable. For some gyms, it's a way to save on their utility bill. For others, it's a way to attract eco-minded customers. Plus, for customers, it's a way to get fit while simultaneously doing something good for the environment. There's no better incentive than knowing that the more you exercise, the more you help the environment.

Eco-friendly gyms have been popping up worldwide. Hong Kong's California Fitness gym was the first gym with the idea to power the gym's lighting using only the human power of exercise. Within the United States, the Green Microgym was inspired by the Hong Kong gym and decided to become the first human-powered gym in the Nation. Located in Portland, Oregon, this gym is almost entirely self-sufficient. To achieve this, it utilizes both solar power and human-powered exercise equipment. Spin bikes are connected to a generator which charges a battery, which then gets used to power the gym's televisions, stereos, and lights. But there are many things which make this gym a couple shades greener than the original idea. The gym also has treadmills with energy-efficient motors, energy-efficient fans, refurbished and used equipment, bamboo mountain bikes, on demand water heaters, and environmentally friendly cleaning products.5

As if that weren't enough, in a village in Spain, a retired gym teacher decided to build a green gym in the village to help attract tourism. What's so special about this green gym? Truly, it contains all the same equipment you'd expect in a normal gym, including ellipticals, bicycles, and cross-training gym equipment. But there are two major differences. First, the entire gym is outdoors, in the middle of a grassy field. Second, all the exercise equipment is made of recycled materials, mostly lumber and other random things found in a junkyard.6 It may just look like a convoluted wooden playground, but its degree of sustainability may make it the greenest gym in the world.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, green gyms operate a little differently than they do in the US. The Green Gym is a volunteering project which hopes to get people from their local area not just to exercise, but do practical environmental or gardening work7 such as clearing streams or helping to build a community garden. They usually consist of a 3-4 hour session, starting out with some warm-up exercises. Then, while putting the volunteers to work, a group leader teaches them some of the skills and techniques on how to take care of the local environment.8 The real perk is that exercise sessions are free.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a green gym close to home. If you like the idea of green exercise, but want to be able to stay in the comfort of your own home, why not have a green home gym? After all, you would already be saving the environment from any transportation energy that you would use to get to a gym. You can buy this manual treadmill, which uses no electricity, for only $150 USD: Or, if you own a bicycle, you can buy your own stationary bike power generator for about $379:

Green gyms may be a relatively new idea, but they seem to be a big success so far. Hopefully, a green gym will soon be coming to a city near you!

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Last Updated ( Friday, 19 October 2012 )


Green Facts

  • Refrigerators built in 1975 used 4 times more energy than current models.

  • 77% of people who commute to work by car drive alone.

  • Recycling 1 million laptop computers can save the amount of energy used by 3,657 homes in the U.S. over the course of a year.

  • You will save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 10,000 miles you drive if you always keep your car’s tires fully inflated.

  • Nudge your thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter to prevent 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

  • Glass can be recycled over and over again without ever wearing down.

  • Less than 1% of electricity in the United States is generated from solar power.

  • An aluminum can that is thrown away instead of recycled will still be a can 500 years from now!

  • Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees.

  • Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute.

  • For every 38,000 bills consumers pay online instead of by mail, 5,058 pounds of greenhouse gases are avoided and two tons of trees are preserved.

  • You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), over the life of the bulb.

  • Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become extinct.

  • In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you'll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

  • Recycling for one year at Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

  • You’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles that you recycle.

  • Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and drying your clothes on a clothesline six months out of the year would save another 700 pounds.

  • One recycled aluminum can will save enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours.

  • 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from burning fossil fuels.

  • A tree that provides a home with shade from the sun can reduce the energy required to run the air conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.

  • A laptop consumes five times less electricity than a desktop computer.

  • A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70%.

  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.

  • Current sea ice levels are at least 47% lower than they were in 1979.

  • Americans throw away more than 120 million cell phones each year, which contribute 60,000 tons of waste to landfills annually.

  • Due to tiger poaching, habitat destruction, and other human-tiger conflicts, tigers now number around 3,200—a decrease in population by about 70% from 100 years ago.

  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.

  • It takes 6,000,000 trees to make 1 year's worth of tissues for the world.

  • A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.

  • Shaving 10 miles off of your weekly driving pattern can eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

  • Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.

  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch.

  • In California homes, about 10% of energy usage is related to TVs, DVRs, cable and satellite boxes, and DVD players.

  • Recycling 100 million cell phones can save enough energy to power 18,500 homes in the U.S. for a year.

  • American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year.

  • Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth can save as much as 10 gallons a day per person.

  • If every U.S. household turned the thermostat down by 10 degrees for seven hours each night during the cold months, and seven hours each weekday, it would prevent nearly gas emissions.

  • Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every 3 months

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people die prematurely worldwide every year due to air pollution.