For some people, the words "working out" conjure a vision of obtaining energy and peace. For others they trigger a nightmare. The eco-conscious can sometimes be found among the latter group unless the proper steps are taken toward a more environmentally friendly exercise plan. Turn your workout into a green dream by following these easy tips.
1) Get outdoors. Even for avid exercisers, the treadmill is often more like the dreadmill. It can be pretty dull running or walking (or climbing, biking or elliptical-ing) in the same place, staring at the same scenery of yoga mats and weight benches each time you work out. And the electricity used is even greater than the boredom you feel. Replacing a 30-minute treadmill workout with a conventional walk, run or bike ride can save .75 kilowatt hours of electricity, or more than a pound of carbon. If you feel your area is unsafe for outdoor exercise, use the gym's indoor track, pool or fitness classes that don't require machines. You'll stimulate your brain more, and that first footstep off the treadmill will be that much lighter on your carbon emissions.
2) Drink from a reusable water bottle. Buying bottled water is a convenient way to throw your money away while trashing and polluting the planet. More than 2.5 million tons of CO2 were created in the United States in 2006 from the bottling process, and more than 22 billion of those bottles ended up in landfills. And for the price of one bottle of Evian, you could use 1,000 gallons of tap water. If you're not comfortable with tap water (which, in many places, is actually more heavily regulated and contains fewer chemicals than bottled), invest in a Brita or Pür water filter. Bottom line: Get a reusable vessel (many of which can be found for less than $10), fill it with tap water and include it in your necessary workout accessories.
3) Wear clothes you already have. Don't be a diva. For the guys out there, this shouldn't be too hard. For the ladies, sometimes it's tough to resist the temptation to cute it up at the gym. And you still can. But there's no reason to buy an entire wardrobe just for working out. Certain things are non-negotiable. A good pair of shoes protects your bones and joints and for ladies a good sports bra is invaluable. But as far as everything else you're wearing, "recycling" applies here. Many of us have a decent-sized collection of T-shirts (from high school, college, work, sports teams, radio giveaways, family reunions, concerts, camp, vacations, etc.) accumulating somewhere in our closets or dressers. Celebrate those occasions/places once again by wearing those items while you exercise. The production of clothing creates a massive impact (PDF) on carbon emissions, so help reduce yours by not buying a bunch of unnecessary items. If you simply can't resist the urge to spend …
4) Wear organic workout clothes. Organic clothing is available in several materials, including an essential exercise-gear fabric: cotton. Conventional cotton is marketed as clean, fresh and natural, but few of us realize that it's actually produced using chemical fertilizers and pesticides (a third of a pound for just one T-shirt). Organic clothing is made with all-natural, nonsynthetic materials. It comes from plants that haven't been genetically modified or treated with unnatural pesticides. Organic farming uses half the energy that conventional farming does and it minimizes our exposure to disease-causing toxins. Organic clothing comes in all different styles, including exercise wear, and is now easier than ever to find in stores.
5) Install a water-saving showerhead. Post-workout showers are probably some of the more time-consuming ones because of all that great, smelly sweat we work up while we're exercising. To save some water while you destench yourself, install a water-saving showerhead. Low-flow showerheads can cut the volume of water used down to 1.5 gallons per minute, saving about 7,800 gallons per year for the typical household. They can cost as little as $30 and save you hundreds more in water bills.