Sustainability doesn’t have to stop with the workout itself. It’s possible to make eco-friendly choices when it comes to fitness attire, accessories and equipment. In addition to being environmentally conscious, going green with your fitness gear could also save time and money.
The popularity of athletic wear has risen in recent years, with many people making it part of their everyday wardrobe rather than saving it for the gym. As a result, there’s no shortage of brands offering athletic attire.
Consider choosing workout wear made from sustainable materials. There are several companies that incorporate natural and recycled fabrics and abstain from toxic chemicals in the production process.
San Francisco-based Athleta, and Arizona’s Yoga Democracy, are two such companies. Athleta uses sustainable fibers in at least 60 percent of its material and offers inclusive sizing up to 3X. Yoga Democracy employs recycled fabrics whenever possible, and all items are made in the U.S. which greatly reduces the organization’s carbon footprint.
It’s also important to seek out brands committed to ethical and fair-trade business practices. Atlanta’s Alternative Apparel is both Fair Labor Certified and Green Business Certified. Perennially popular companies like REI and Patagonia have instituted fair-trade practices and also give back to local communities through charitable donations.
Athleta and Patagonia are both B Corporations, meaning they adhere to “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.” In short, they consider the environment, as well as the health of their workers and the consumer, when making business decisions.
No matter what type of exercise routine you choose, a water bottle is a must-have. Plastic water bottles not only clog up landfills, but they also contain BPA, a chemical linked to heart disease and diabetes and, according to some reports, may interfere with fertility. Many companies make reusable, toxin-free water bottles out of stainless steel or glass that you can take when on the go.
For yoga practitioners, a natural rubber or jute mat is preferable from a sustainability standpoint. Many yoga mats are made of materials that contain phthalates which can be harmful to your health as well as the environment. By contrast, natural rubber is a sustainable and renewable resource while jute fiber is completely biodegradable with antimicrobial properties.
Sustainable practices don’t stop with attire and accessories. They can extend to equipment as well. Start-up companies Green Revolution and ReRev are on a mission to turn exercise equipment such as treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers into electricity generators.
With the addition of some hardware, these machines can be retrofitted to produce electricity when in use. Although the electricity generated from a single machine isn’t significant if this technology continues to be adopted by gyms across the country the energy savings would be sizable.
Many gyms are incorporating generator-equipped machines and other eco-friendly practices such as solar panels. The Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon says it derives 36 percent of its own electricity, primarily through solar panels. Terra Hale gym in London powers the lights and speakers through the energy generated in its spin classes and also features recycled materials throughout each of their locations.
If you chose to go to a gym rather than workout at home or outdoors, look for eco-minded gyms like those mentioned above.
Making eco-conscious buying choices is great, but one can also help the environment by recycling worn athletic gear. Nike has its own recycling program, Reuse-a-Shoe, that takes old sneakers and turns them into new materials like football turfs and basketball courts. Organizations like One World Running accept worn running shoes and distribute them to runners in need around the world.
Sports equipment can also be donated. Companies such as Sport Gift and Fitness 4 Charity accept gently used baseball bats, bikes, balls and other gear and distribute them to children and adults in impoverished areas.
And if you have old Patagonia attire or equipment, don’t throw it away. The company will recycle or repurpose any Patagonia-manufactured product that has reached the end of its useful life. All you need to do is drop off the product at your local Patagonia store or mail it in to give it a second life.