Green Your Workout
Even Your Sweat Sessions Take Their Toll on the Environment

Working out requires a lot of energy – and not just because of the endurance it takes to power through the highest setting on the elliptical machine or crank out another rep with the free weights.

While you’re thinking about the impact of a workout on your body, it’s worth considering how your fitness routine affects the environment – and how a few eco-friendly changes can minimize your impact.

If you’re ready to green your workout, here are a few tips to get started.

Recycle Your Sneakers

When the treads are bare and your toe is poking through the mesh, it’s time for a new pair of sneakers. (As a general rule, most sneakers will last about 500 miles). But think twice before tossing your shoes in the trash.

Nike collects used sneakers through its Reuse-a-Shoe program. Shoes can be dropped off at running stores and participating athletic retailers. The soles are ground up into a product called Nike Grind that is used as a surface for tracks, sport courts, and playgrounds. To date, more than 28 million pairs of shoes have been recycled through the program – enough to create 632 million square feet of new playing surfaces (enough to cover an area the size of Manhattan).

Go Outside

Skip the gym where the air-conditioning is running full blast, the techno music is pumping, and there are touchscreens on the cardio machines.

Trading one treadmill workout for a run outdoors saves about 1,500 watts of power, the equivalent to 15 incandescent bulbs. Outdoors, you can burn calories without harming the environment. Bonus: You’ll soak up vitamin D, which builds bone strength, eases depression, and improves immune function. (Remember to wear sunscreen!)

Calorie Counting - Green Workout

Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle

Americans purchase more than 51 billion bottles of water per year and almost 80 percent are NOT recycled.

Even if you diligently recycle your water bottles, it still takes a lot of resources to manufacture each plastic bottle. More than 1.5 million barrels of oil – enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year – are used to manufacture the number of water bottles Americans consume on a yearly basis.

Reusable water bottles are much more eco-friendly than disposable plastic bottles. Buy a stainless steel, glass, or BPA-free bottle and reuse it over and over again – just be sure to wash it thoroughly between workouts.

Where Do Plastic Water Bottles Go - Green Workout

Dress the Part

Your favorite workout wear might be harming the planet. It takes almost one-third of a pound of chemicals to manufacture a single cotton T-shirt.

Organic cotton, which is grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, is one of the most popular eco-friendly fabrics. Shorts, T-shirts, socks, and other workout gear made from organic cotton are available at big-box stores and boutique fitness retailers.

Organic cotton is not the only green option for your workouts. Retailers also offer clothing made from bamboo, soy, hemp, and coconut shells. Many of these options are moisture-wicking and offer UV protection. It’s even possible to find running shoes made with recycled rubber soles.

Read the labels or ask sales associates for more information about the fabrics and materials used in workout clothing. Also ask about companies that recycle worn clothing. Patagonia, for example, collects worn cotton and fleece garments and turns them into new clothes instead of sending them to the landfill.

Eco-Friendly Fitness Tips - Green Workout

Choose Green Gear

Instead of shopping for brand-new gear, consider secondhand equipment made from recycled products, which have less of an impact on the environment.

Some sporting goods stores sell secondhand gear. Craigslist and eBay are also great places to scour listings for unwanted treadmills, canoes, free weights, and other equipment.

When you’re ready to part with your ThighMaster or elliptical machine, donate them to a nonprofit like Goodwill or sell them at a garage sale instead of sending them to the landfill.

If you want to purchase new gear that was manufactured with the environment in mind, look for equipment made from recycled materials. It’s possible to find everything from yoga mats to kayaks that contain a high percentage of recycled or rapidly renewable resources.

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