Self-Sustaining Socially-Sustainable Gyms

Self-Sustaining Socially-Sustainable Gyms

Is there such a thing as a self-sustaining socially-sustainable gym? Basically, this would be a gym that generates its own power so it minimises its use of external electricity, and of course it minimises its overall carbon footprint as a “green” gym. But more than that, it contributes to the social sustainability of the community.

I had heard someone on the train talking about needing to eat so that he could then work off those calories later that same evening at the gym. As I thought about it, it seemed like there was a lot of waste going on there. He was going to eat, but not because he was hungry, but only so he’d have the calories to burn off in a workout. So he was working on improving his health and physique, but could this be done while further benefitting others too?

I started thinking about the law of conservation of energy, that is, energy cannot be created or destroyed in a closed system, but can change form. So in the spirit of sustainability, shouldn’t we be looking at working out as a matter of moving/transforming energy in a more sustainable way? Many movements or transformations of energy can be of practical importance. Fuels can be converted into heat and light, but we may need to reconsider what “fuel” is. As in the example above, when one eats, the “fuel” is the food that is consumed, which could be converted into usable electricity.

“Green gyms” which power themselves are not unusual. These are gyms which power their own facilities from the exercise equipment used by its patrons on site. http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Green-Building/Gyms-Get-Sustainable.html. The article notes Hong Kong’s California Fitness gym in 2008 as the first gym to use human exercise power to power the gym’s lighting (see http://inhabitat.com/human-powered-gyms-in-hong-kong/), as well as the Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon as the first human-powered gym in the USA that is almost entirely self-sufficient. (http://www.thegreenmicrogym.com/) and the Greenasium in San Diego (http://www.thinkgreenliveclean.com/2010/09/the-greenasium-san-diegos-first-sustainable-gym/). California Fitness is one of the first gyms to utilise treadmills to generate electricity. To better understand the significance of human electricity, the innovators state “One person has the ability of producing 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace, which means that to prevent 12 liters of CO2 from being released into the air, a person needs to produce the same amount of electricity by exercising on the specially setup machine for one hour. If a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year. So exercise can improve not only your health but contributes to a greener environment.” http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/travel-and-leisure/930-human-powered-gyms-one-workout-at-a-time.html. But such electricity-generation is not limited to treadmills, energy could be generated from rowing machines, elliptical machines, bikes, weights, and potentially other equipment and means. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-05-19/news/bs-ed-innovative-gyms-20100519_1_gyms-electricity-innovations. There has even been a reported Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam which turns dancing into reusable energy. http://inhabitat.com/sustainable-dance-club/. Yet are these “green gyms” maximally contributing to the sustainability of the community?

Another type of “green gyms” are activities which focus “exercise” efforts on practical outdoor activities, such as “planting trees, sowing meadows, and establishing wildlife ponds.” http://www.tcv.org.uk/greengym. Unlike the “health club” approach where electricity is generated but only used for zeroing out electricity usage and neutralizing their carbon footprint, these “outdoor” efforts are focused on making positive contributions to making the environment into something more sustainable. Further, the regular commercial gym would still offer much more enhanced services than this green gym and would still collect monthly/annual fees for using their facilities to exercise.

So what about an exercise facility that more directly benefits charities and homeless facilities? These exercise facilities could be run by and located adjacent to, or part of, the buildings that house the charities and homeless services. The exercise facility would either be free or require a minimal donation to join (which could go to the charity to be used to maintain the gym), and all the exercise equipment and programs would be engineered to generating electricity for the adjoining charity and/or homeless facility. Just some fuel for thought.

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