We have the privilege of being nature’s custodians but we have been a massive letdown. The planet is ailing and it’s up to us to restore its health. Every little choice we make impacts the environment, even the way we work out.
And when our work outs are based on sustainable practices, it’s not just us who are getting fitter; the planet recovers with us.
Here are 15 ways that can help you establish a solid eco-friendly fitness routine.
1. Take advantage of the outdoors
Gyms have swankier, not better amenities than nature.
There’s a plethora of activities you can undertake outdoors, like cycle, climb, jog, or walk, or you can join a local sports league. You can also visit grown-up playgrounds. Some city parks have outdoor workout zones with gym equipment.
Additionally, get a fitness tracker to keep track of how many calories you burn. Companies like RecycleHealth offer unused activity trackers that have been refurbished, at discounted prices.
The outdoors does not hit you with an expensive membership or power-consuming equipment; all you need are shoes. Granted you won’t have personal trainers whipping you into shape but sunlight and fresh air are gentler alternatives.
Besides, they make you feel more alive and are scientifically proven to increase energy.
The word is a mashup of the Swedish term plocka upp (pick up) and jogging. And that is exactly what you do in plogging; you pick up and dispose of waste whilst jogging.
The rest of the world can join in too.
Jogging aficionados will claim that the stop-start nature of plogging beats the very purpose of jogging. Not if you are creative with it though. For instance, every time you pick up trash, do a few squats. The benefits are doubled that way. It has been proven that combining the two actually burns more calories than jogging does on its own.
To get started, all you need is a bag to put in the litter, a glove, and your running clothes. Easy peasy.
3. Work out at home
By working out at home, you are saving on the travel footprint. Also, workouts like weight training and Pilates require just a mat, some space and an instructional video. This helps you keep the use of power-consuming equipment to a minimum.
Nowadays, you have the option to work up a sweat and generate electrical power at the same time.
A stationary bike hooked to a generator can produce power to run your household appliances. Gyms are also cleaning up their act and some feature not only bikes but other equipment that can power the space where customers work out.
4. Opt for environmentally friendly gyms
Sometimes circumstances are such that you have no control over a home workout routine. Maybe there is lack of space. Late shifts perhaps? There are valid reasons why it does not work for you.
In such cases, you can try for eco-friendly gyms, which are solar-powered, incorporate energy-efficient lighting, use recyclable supplies, and have eco-friendly gym equipment that are durable and can last for years.
Biofit, a UK company, actually designs their eco-friendly gyms around Europe to look like forests – floors, ceilings, the works. Smaller gyms across America are already doing their bit. Brooklyn’s Green Fitness Studio has recycled rubber flooring and Portland’s Green Microgym has banned plastic bottles and features solar panels and LED lighting.
You can contribute too
Help to turn off the equipment before leaving the gym or sweat it out on fitness bikes to give power back to the grid. Suggest a policy where television screens are not on when the machines are off.
You can also look for programs that can recycle your pre-workout snack wrappers.
Talk to your gym mates and propose an alternate outdoor workout routine every once in a while, like a hike perhaps. Sometimes you find people are on the same page as you but just need a little push.
And use a single towel instead of paper wipes and carry a reusable bottle, which is our next point.
5. Use reusable bottles
Here’s a stat for you: In America, over 60 million plastic water bottles are destined for the landfill every day!
The solution to this is rather simple; just opt for reusable bottles. Glass water bottles, though no doubt fragile, are still a good option because they can be recycled. Aluminum and stainless steel bottles are terrific alternatives as well, as long as they are BPA-free.
For straws, pick those that are made from reusable metal or recyclable plastic. And choose bottles with a wide mouth that are easier to clean.
As for water to fill those bottles, tap water is the greenest option. Bottled water is not only 560 times costlier but production requires up to 2000 times the energy. If you are unsure about the purity of the tap water you are getting at home, invest in a filtering system.
6. Use eco-friendly yoga mats
Eco-friendly exercise mats and yoga mats are typically made from materials like natural rubber or cork. Other good materials are sustainable jute and latex-free thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).
And under no circumstance should you buy cheap mats. They are typically made from polyvinyl chloride which is a toxic plastic.
7. Use eco-friendly clothing
The textile industry is not exactly the paragon of excellence when it comes to sustainability.
However, there has been an increase in the number of companies that are making eco-friendly workout clothes. Organic cotton is more frequently used for clothes and natural rubber soles for shoes. Wool, linen, and even bamboo are other good choices for sustainable gear.
However, some of them do come with a caveat. A crop like cotton takes a lot of water to produce and bamboo fabric is a result of a rigorous process. Perhaps the best option is to buy gear made from recycled materials.
Some notable companies that practice ethical fashion include REI, Patagonia, and Nau. Australian company Elle Evans Swimwear actually makes customized swimwear from recycled ocean waste and London-based Sundried fashions yarn from coffee grounds and bottles.
If you are unsure of the place you are buying from, there are apps out there that can help you decide. For example, Good On You shopping app gives companies a rating that is based on people, planet and animals. There’s also the Buycott smartphone app that suggests to customers if a company’s principles aligns with theirs.
8. Cut down on fitness apparel
Buy quality. Buy for longevity. Even if you have to pay more. Such garments have a far greater shelf life and benefit you financially in the long run.
It’s not easy to suppress the human tendency to want more. And fast fashion brands don’t make it easy for us, churning out an endless supply of attractive and cheap workout clothes.
The problem is that most of these garments are made from polyester which is not the greatest fabric for the environment.
What we can do with the quality we purchase is to take care of the apparel so we can keep them off the landfill for as long as possible.
Or we can simply upcycle or recycle them when they can no longer be worn.
9. Change the routine
Setting aside time for a gym session can be difficult sometimes. Incorporate some cardio related activity during what are normally sedentary parts of your life.
Spot jog during times where normally you would sit; for example, in commercial breaks during football games.
Sign up for that free zumba or line dancing class.
Offer to help a friend when they move.
Try speed walking. It’s an Olympic sport. You may not win a medal but this activity will tone your muscles and help you burn more calories.
There are other things you can do…
How about hand washing your car every once in a while than taking it to car wash? Give yourself a workout and save some gas.
If you love a swim, you might consider using saline pools, which are more natural and with much less chlorine content.
10. Go for green cleaning
Wash your dirty workout garments with eco-friendly detergent. Buy all-natural, non-VOC supplies, soaps and other cleaning products. Or you can simply make your own.
For your yoga mat, indulge in a little DIY. Mix two parts water with one part white vinegar and add few drops of essential oil and spritz your mat. For more comprehensive cleaning, use natural soap. Castile soap mixed with water is a good option.
11. Commute mindfully
I can’t blame you for getting caught up in the maddening pace of the present-day world. Finding time to do the simplest tasks is difficult, let alone segregating some for your workout.
One fun way to get around this is to use cardio-centric activities as commute, like walking or cycling to work or the market. Also, you might want to ditch the car and walk or take your bicycle to the gym. Consider it a pre-workout warm up. Of course this requires you to take up membership closer to your residence.
If the gym in not nearby then try carpooling. Besides helping limit carbon footprint, traveling with like-minded people can also motivate you to not skip classes.
12. Prepare post-workout meals at home
Working up a good sweat can leave you hungry immediately after. Saying no to that ridiculously good smoothie on the way back can be can hard.
But if you are fully in the sustainability game you cannot say yes. Not to the smoothie but the plastic containers and straws they accompany. Instead, you can prepare the meal at home and carry it in a non-plastic tumbler.
You are saving money this way and also taking a load of the landfill.
13. Eat your greens to live green
While on smoothies, you can find organically produced protein powder at supplement stores to whip some up. They are healthy and a more sustainable alternative for a post-workout meal. Hemp powder is one terrific option that checks most boxes. Not only is it filled with protein and offers a fine nutty flavor, but the hemp plant also does not require much water to grow.
If you are not a smoothie kind of person, just take some organic fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of options, such as organic dried fruits, bananas (great for muscle cramps), grapes, nuts, yogurt, and more. These are also great for your gut health. If you take probiotics check out this article to learn more about them.
Another good alternative is an energy bar made with nuts, fruit, fiber, and protein. These are not only eco-friendly but have all the nutrients to help you recover and get ready for the next time you work out; no need for commercial energy bars and sports drinks.
14. Endorse eco-friendly sporting events
Sporting events that claim to be eco-friendly may not always be so, especially the big advertised ones. The travel footprint of the participants, goodie bags, plastic bottles, all of these add to a very eco-unfriendly event.
Endorse those that are serious about sustainability. For example, the Boston, Portland and New York City marathons do their utmost to protect the environment. If you are undecided about an organization, visit the event website just to be sure where it stands.
Apps like Charity Miles reward the charity of your choice for every mile you bike, run, or walk.
Additionally, you can participate in charity runs that support environmental issues. Such charities also have programs where you can clean a park or beach or plant trees, which is a fair workout besides being good for the planet.
15. Recycle your old shoes
Buying trainers fashioned from recycled materials is a good green option. And if you have shoes that have seen their best days, no need to pack them off to the landfill. Instead drop them off at a Nike store for its Reuse-A-Shoe program.
Here, the soles of the worn out shoes are processed and the material (called Nike Grind) used to build new tracks, basketball and tennis courts! Over 28 million pairs of shoes have been through the program, which equates to a mind-boggling 632 million square feet of playing surfaces.
Also, some charities like Planet Aid take shoe donations and pass them on to the needy and homeless all over the world.
Millennials are perhaps more aware of the environment than the generations that preceded them. They are more willing to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle that translates to their workout routines as well.
Gym owners are aware of this opportunity to attract customers who are willing to pay that bit extra for places that promote sustainability.
If the relationship blooms, it’s a win-win for both parties and the planet they inhabit.
Do these tips align with your way of thinking? Do you go to a green gym? What are your thoughts on eco-friendly fitness?