Health and Fitness Clubs Go Green

Retrofitting the Gym: Good for the Planet and the Bottom Line

Written by Green Chip Stocks
Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:17PM

Health clubs and national fitness chains are among the facilities seeing benefits from retrofitting.

Not only do adopting green practices boost corporate social responsibility points for these businesses; retrofitting is a sound way to improve efficiency and net profit for many gyms.

And while many companies have struggled through the past several years in a weak economy in which many consumers have had to cut “extras” from their budgets — including a monthly membership to a fitness center — business continues to boom for health clubs.

In a culture driven by an obsession with being fit and thin, people do place fitness at the top of their list of priorities.

We live in a world in which many people spend seven to eight hours at a desk, in front of a computer. These people seek an hour or more in the morning or after work to release stress and hop on an Elliptical machine… or perhaps they seek the community feeling many clubs offer, or the mental health benefits that come from breaking a sweat and melting the stress of today’s market and the competition of the work force.

Whatever the reason, fitness clubs are still raking in profits from people who find value in their membership.

These factors, paired with the hot topic of heath care and people making physical health a priority in their daily lives, contributed to total revenues in the health and fitness club industry’s rise of 2% last year — to $19.5 billion.

Attendance at health clubs by members reached an all-time high in 2009, to an average of 102 days. Many of these members are becoming more and more aware of their carbon footprint and want a place they frequent for more than one-third of the year to take steps to reduce that footprint.

California-based Club One and Frog’s Fitness clubs have undergone renovations recently.spin class

The company has installed rubber flooring made out of used car tires and roof-top solar thermal water panels in all 19 locations; bio-degradable cleaning products are used on all equipment and locker rooms

In Green Chip’s home state of Maryland, the construction of the newest Equinox club facility in Bethesda was geared toward receiving LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Equinox is a nationwide chain of luxury fitness centers.

An Equinox manager commented that it is a major focus to have all new club facilities LEED certified, and they are being built with the environment in mind.

Go Green Fitness is a boutique club in Orange, Connecticut, which just opened in December.

Go Green is unique in that the fitness center is powered by energy produced from spinning classes taken by the club’s members. The facility has 25 spin bikes, each of which has a generator that creates watts which are then sent to a converter box within the local electric grid.

Owner Robert Kravitz’s green efforts don’t stop with his energy-generating spin classes… the Go Green Fitness facility is equipped with triple-paned thermal windows, wrapped heating and cooling ducts, and refracted lighting.

At the end of spin class, after enough energy has been generated and sent to the local electrical grid to be used to heat, cool, and light the gym, the spin bikes are cleaned with a soybean-based lubricant.

According to Kravitz:

I'm navigating a new business in the worst economy. I want to be competitive… [so] I paid attention to all the details. There's a lot to the green. It's absolutely a big selling point. People like being part of something new.

I myself am a spinner, and I attend a class 2-3 times a week. That being said, I would not consider myself in need of motivation… but I could easily be swayed to get myself to the gym on a day I simply didn’t want to go if I was inspired by a bigger purpose.

Go Green Fitness has given members this purpose... and encourages a sense of accomplishment through teamwork.

At the end of each spin session, the instructor at Go Green Fitness announces the total watts produced during the class. Members are constantly trying to improve their wattage from the previous session.

This is an empowering and meaningful twist to their workout, and it motivates people to work harder than they might otherwise.

Says Kravitz, "On Saturday we went over our previous high and did 1122 watts… We announced it and everyone applauded."