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Many gyms have fleets of machines, workout equipment, and gear. Believe it or not, gym equipment can be environmentally friendly and actually lower operational costs. From biodegradable cork mats to treadmills that convert human power into electricity, here are some options for eco-friendly gym equipment on the market today.

Cardio Machines

Cardio machines such as treadmills and recumbent bikes are one of the most popular pieces of gym equipment. Oftentimes, gym goers don’t have this option at home and come to the gym specifically for these machines. Through constant use and often left plugged in 24/7, these machines can be big energy consumers for gyms. If you are in the market to buy cardio machines, then there are a few energy efficient options.

SportsArt is a green fitness company with a cardio line that captures human exertion and turns it into usable electricity. Their ECO-POWR technology is built into a variety of machines – treadmills, cross trainers, ellipticals, among others. While these machines come at a high price – in the thousands – the potential for major cost savings on your energy bill can outweigh the initial investment in the long run.

Power Generating Attachment for Cardio Equipment

If you are looking to reduce your energy use but don’t have the budget to replace all your cardio machines with greener models, then another great alternative is to use an energy generating attachment. Like the ECO-POWR machines mentioned previously, these devices also harness human work and feed it back into the grid as usable energy. A great example is the Upcycle Ecocharger sold by The Green Microgym, an eco gym that has achieved 85% less electricity use and a carbon footprint one-tenth that of a conventional gym (per square foot). The Upcycle Ecocharge is a DIY-installed generator that fits on the rear tire of most bikes and uses a grid-tied inverter to translate pedal power into energy that can charge phones, power lights, or feed the grid. The faster the user pedals, the more power generated. This device in particular is sold for $1,100, a fraction of the cost of an entirely new machine.

Weight-Adjustable Dumbbells

Beyond the machines, there are eco-friendly options for non-electronic gym equipment too. Weight-adjustable dumbbell sets not only save you money and space in your gym but ultimately aid in resource conservation by eliminating the need to manufacture multiple dumbbells of varying weights. Here is a simple set of adjustable dumbbells found on Amazon. There are also adjustable sets that turn dumbbells into a barbell thus providing workout diversity while optimizing space and resource efficiency. Your members can also enjoy not having to wait to use certain dumbbells and can adjust to the weight they need. Adjustable dumbbell sets can be found online for around $150 – $200.

You can also find bumper plates made from crumb rubber recycled from used car and truck tires.

Mats and Flooring

Because of the constant wear and tear on mats and flooring, the most important things to consider are what materials the product is made of and its long-term durability. The IRON COMPANY sells rubber gym flooring rolls and mats made from reclaimed crumb rubber and even offers whole floor installations. However, it may be more cost effective and environmentally friendly to invest in interlocking rubber tiles as these allow you to replace a single tile rather than the entire floor if needed.

Something as simple as a yoga mat can actually be made from harmful chemicals and materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates, a type of semi-volatile organic compound (SVOC). These components have been proven to disrupt both ecological and human health and even worse, PVC cannot be recycled back into useful material.

If your gym offers pilates and yoga classes, then you can think about investing in yoga mats made from a variety of non-toxic and sustainable materials such as cork, certified organic cotton, hemp, and even recycled content like wetsuits. Mats made from natural rubber is another great alternative but keep in mind that it is still manufactured with chemical additives. So, while not chemical-free, natural rubber is better than synthetic rubber.

Further, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) is another material gaining popularity in workout gear as it is PVC and phthalate free and deemed 100% recyclable and biodegradable. However, it is hard to determine the true recyclability of synthetic blends. So, as a best practice, make sure that the brands you are buying from have a take-back or recycling program in place to ensure proper disposal.

Summary

Investing in eco-friendly gym equipment is a powerful step towards greening your gym. If your budget is minimal or if you’re not yet ready to do a major re-haul, then start small. Consider one new piece of eco-friendly equipment to test drive and see how your members respond. And for those just beginning to green their gyms, check out our Sustainability Guide for Gyms and Fitness Centers as an overview.

Key points to remember:

  • Look for sustainable and non-toxic materials like cork, cotton, and hemp.
  • Green technology is paving the way for workout machines that generate power from human exertion. This can be a great option for lowering your energy bills and overall carbon footprint.
  • Investing in sustainable and ethical products is a good look for your business and differentiates you from the competition.
  • Being a truly green gym attracts customers and employees who care about the environment and human health.

About the Author

Monika Metro

GBB Green Ambassador

Monika Metro is a content writer for Green Business Bureau with a passion for conservation, ecology, climate change, and giving back to her community. She has recently graduated from Virginia Wesleyan University with a BS in Biology and Environmental Studies. She will soon continue her studies in the Climate Change Science and Policy Graduate Program at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Outside of academics, Monika loves to travel, play soccer, hike, and is an avid yogi.

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