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Keep It Green

by Kristen Horler on Sep 01, 2007

How to implement environmentally friendly practices in your work.

Environmental awareness and ecological responsibility are at the forefront of today's news. Fitness industry professionals can follow the examples of the rapidly growing number of green spas, green buildings and companies practicing sustainable business programs. You may be surprised to learn that it does not necessarily cost more to"keep it green!"

Discover how you can make a difference by implementing ideas ranging from simple recycling programs to higher-impact strategies for energy efficiency.

Understanding the Four Principles
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promotes 4 principles:
1. Reduce.
2. Reuse.
3. Recycle.
4. Respond.

Principle #1: Reduce
Despite making progress in recycling, the United States is still generating too much waste. According to the EPA, each individual discards about 4 pounds of material daily. This waste burdens both the environment and our economy. Waste prevention (reducing and reusing) is the ideal solution. What can you do?

Fitness Facilities. Provide rechargeable batteries to group fitness instructors so that fewer batteries are purchased and disposed of. Visit to find out where to recycle rechargeable batteries.

Personal Trainers. Give a refillable water bottle to each new client to reduce the prevalence of single-use water bottles. Adding your logo will provide additional marketing for your business. By factoring an extra $3-$5 into your personal training packages for this service, you'll generate a new revenue stream to boost your bottom line. Also offer your branded water bottles for sale at special events. Purchase low-cost water bottles from a number of branding companies, such as

Principle #2: Reuse
The EPA reports that 40% of waste is produced by businesses. Consider reusing before recycling. Reusing lowers the cost of recycling by delaying or avoiding the disposal of an item, thereby helping to reduce the volume of waste produced. Reusing, also known as source reduction, conserves resources and decreases pollution—which includes reducing the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. What can you do?

Fitness Facilities. Conduct a waste audit to determine what and how much waste your business generates. Since a coffee shop will generate different waste than a health club, it is important to know which materials make up your waste before you develop a plan to reduce it. Visit for information on how to start your audit.

Personal Trainers. Instead of packing your lunch in a single-use sandwich bag (which can last up to 1,000 years in a landfill!), purchase reusable sandwich containers.

The greenest choices, ranked in order of most (to least) eco-friendly are ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and plastic containers labeled #1, #2, #4 or #5. For additional information, including where to purchase containers, see

Principle #3: Recycle
There is still much more that can be done on the recycling front. Commit to recycling as much as possible and purchasing products that contain recycled content. What can you do?

Fitness Facilities. Implement a battery-recycling program, a plastic- and glass-recycling program and a newspaper/ magazine-recycling program, making them all easily accessible to both members and staff. Provide bins for plastic and paper recycling throughout the club, and organize battery and cell phone recycling at the front desk.Visit to find out how to dispose of these items properly.

Personal Trainers. Extend the life of nonbiodegradable fitness equipment and yoga mats by buying, selling or donating these products. Places to sell them include and

Principle #4: Respond
You can help by educating yourself as well as your staff, members, clients and friends about ways to"keep it green. What can you do?

Fitness Facilities. Include an environmental tip in your newsletters to members. Promote monthly eco-friendly events, such as used-battery collections. Organize a regional contest to see which club can recycle the most weight in batteries.

Personal Trainers. Select environmentally friendly birthday or holiday gifts for clients to show them you care about their physical health and the health of our planet. Find gifts made of recycled materials at Magazine subscriptions also make thoughtful client gifts. Environmentally conscious magazines include The Green Guide (www.the and Plenty (www.plenty

Positive Changes in Materials
On a larger scale, what can you do if you are building a new health club or renovating a fitness studio? You can work with an environmentally friendly construction company and start from the ground up, or make small changes to your current space. Visit to find a professional accredited by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

For example, installing a programmable thermostat is inexpensive and simple. It allows you to adjust the air temperature during business hours and to save energy and money by automatically scheduling a higher or lower temperature after hours. Install one in your home, as well, to save energy when you are at work.

As for paint or flooring, here is what Steve Ellis, co-owner of MyGreen Buildings LLC in Sarasota, Florida, recommends: "Use paint that is zero VOC [has no volatile organic compounds], such as Sherwin-Williams¨, to prevent any off- gassing." (Offgassing, or outgassing, refers to the release of gases during the life of a material. A lot of the gases released are toxic to many people as well as the environment. Heat and sunlight can increase the offgassing rate.) Ellis also suggests installing "flooring materials that are manufactured from a sustainable product (such as cork) or a fast-growing product (such as bamboo)." He adds that weather stripping, window film and compact fluorescent lighting are among the ways to improve air quality and energy efficiency indoors.

You can also ask equipment manufacturers if they use recycled or environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures. For example, Balanced Body uses sustainable, harvested lumber (with no tropical deforestation) for its reformers, and GAIAM offers yoga mats made of nontoxic, natural materials like jute and natural rubber.

Environmentally Friendly Health Clubs
With all these ideas on how to make a difference, what are some actual fitness centers already doing? Take a look at how a variety of facilities have taken measures to positively impact our planet.

24 Hour Fitness. California Fitness, a division of 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide, has opened a state-of-the-art facility in Beijing that has environmentally friendly features—including an air purification system— to provide optimum conditions for its members. Additionally, through a partnership with a company called Motorwave, the club has been outfitted with a "Powered by You" section that uses human energy to create electricity. All cardio machines, excluding treadmills, have technology that repurposes excess electricity from the machines to run fluorescent lighting in the club. Currently, most cardio machines use only 10% of the electricity created by machines in use, while 90% is dissipated in the form of heat. California Fitness says that one of its Hong Kong locations was the first health club in the world to use this type of technology.

California Family Fitness Centers. How would you like to trim more than $10,000 per year off your energy bill? When California Family Fitness Centers, a rapidly growing company based in Carmichael, California, decided to strengthen the energy efficiency of two of its facilities, it quickly learned that exercising sound energy conservation measures helped the company's financial health. In both facilities, existing lights were replaced with high-efficiency fluorescent lighting, and the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems were retired in favor of energy- efficient HVAC packages.

University of Maine. The University of Maine's new Recreation and Fitness Center has been designed as an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly fitness facility. The $25 million center is being constructed by Pizzagalli Corp. of Belfast, Maine, and is expected to receive LEED's silver certification for energy efficiency. To become LEED-certified, a building must meet a certain number of requirements regarding sustainability; water and energy efficiency; indoor environmental quality, innovation and design; and use of local and renewable resources.

Washtenaw Community College. This year, Michigan residents will enjoy a new health and fitness facility at this Ann Arbor community college. The building is designed to be highly energy efficient, with features such as a reflective white roof to reduce heating and cooling costs; special water recycling and drainage systems; and lights that come on only when there's not enough daylight. The center is intended to be self-supporting, using no taxpayer money.

YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, New York. Slashing energy costs has allowed this organization to devote more funds to its mission of service. The YWCA's comprehensive energy efficiency plan involved installing a new 25-ton water-cooled, dual compressor screw chiller; putting variable air volume controls on the facility's nine major air-handling systems; adding two oil-fired pool heaters that run independently of the facility's main boilers; and making a host of other energy-efficient retrofits. These changes promised the YWCA an annual cash savings of $66,799, guaranteed for the next 10 years by Johnson Controls Inc., manufacturer of the energy-saving devices.

Using the examples of these facilities as motivators, think about what you can do— whether you're a solo training business or a large, multiclub chain—to put environmentally friendly concepts into action.

SIDEBAR: Top 10 Items to Recycle
1. aluminum
2. PET plastic bottles
3. newspaper
4. corrugated cardboard
5. steel cans
6. HDPE plastic bottles
7. glass containers
8. magazines
9. mixed paper
10. computers
Source: National Recycling Coalition.


Kristen Horler is founder and chief executive officer of Baby Boot Camp. In 2006, she opened KŠrna Fitness, a core training studio that focuses on low-energy, low-impact, eco-friendly practices through a recycling program and the use of sustainable flooring, zero-VOC paints, natural light and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact Horler at

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About the Author

Kristen Horler

Kristen Horler IDEA Author/Presenter

Kristen Horler, MS is founder of Baby Boot Camp, offering fitness franchises that target new moms. Kristen completed her Master of Science degree in Sports & Fitness Nutrition at Northeastern University in December 2015. Prior to becoming a fitness professional, she earned her B.A. degree in Physical Anthropology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an A.O.S. degree from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Kristen was named 2012 IDEA Program Director of the Year Finalist. Today, Kristen makes her home in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and two children where she continues to develop the Baby Boot Camp franchise program. Learn more at