The Environmental Impact You Can Make in Your Health Club by Going Green

In my previous column, “How to Think Green for Your Fitness Facility,” I explored a number of changes, both design and operational, that can be adopted to “green” your facility. When this article was published in September 2007, the United States was experiencing a huge boom in environmental design, partially spearheaded by the documentary “The Inconvenient Truth.” Global warming became synonymous with the green movement. Since then, recent events have fueled the debate as to whether or not global warming exists. However, looking beyond this controversy, eco-friendly design provides many other benefits to club operators.

Businesses that adopt eco-friendly practices can make a huge difference—just look at the statistics. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) estimates that buildings in the U.S. consume 14 percent of the potable water (water safe for consumption), 72 percent of the electricity and 40 percent of raw materials, while also generating 30 percent of the waste output. The agency also estimates that adopting environmentally friendly practices can lower operating costs 8 percent to 9 percent and increase the building value up to 7.5 percent.

Here are some eco-friendly practices to consider:

1. Water conservation. Water conservation positively affects the environment by both decreasing water use and decreasing the amount of wastewater produced. According to the USGBC, 340 billion gallons of water per day are withdrawn for our use from sources such as reservoirs, rivers and streams. (This amount does not include the additional water withdrawn from underground aquifers.) Of this, 65 percent is discharged back to these sources after treatment. This constant water cycle requires energy through both the delivery of water and for wastewater treatment. The more water we use, the higher the workload on municipalities, resulting in increased maintenance costs for these facilities, which is passed on to the consumer via increased rates. Decreasing water usage preserves our natural supplies and controls usage costs by decreasing the loads placed on water municipalities, while also delaying their need for expansion from growing water usage demands.

2. Energy consumption. Energy usage affects our environment in a number of ways. Fuel sources found naturally are not limitless, and each day that we extract them, we deplete our sources. The process of converting these fuel sources to energy through extraction, transportation, refining and distribution requires large amounts of energy in itself. And combustion of these resources creates by-products that are harmful to the environment. For example, CO2 increases global climate change, sulfur dioxide forms acid rain, and nitrogen oxide reacts to form smog. Other conventional energy sources also pose environmental threats.

There are dangers associated with nuclear energy to consider, as well as the disruption of the natural environment with hydroelectric electricity. By conserving energy, we preserve our natural resources and protect the environment from the destructive processes and by-products associated with conventional energy production and use.

3. Natural resource protection and recycling. Much like energy production from fossil fuels, the use of other natural resources, such as lumber, involves extraction, processing and transportation—all of which can negatively affect our environment. Normal extraction can lead to both natural habitat destruction and the depletion of resources. Processing these resources into end-use products requires large amounts of energy and often leads to the release of pollutants into the air and water. Energy demands are compounded further when you consider the transportation from the processing plant to the final destination. To protect the environment and negate these affects, we can turn to more renewable forms of extraction and more environmentally friendly processing.

We also must consider what happens to products once they are at the end of their original use lifecycle and recycle them when possible. In the case of building remodels, the USGBC estimates that construction waste makes up 40 percent of the solid waste created in the country. This waste gets diverted to landfills, which can contaminate the environment and increase the need for additional landfills. But it’s possible to divert much of this construction waste from landfills and use recycled building materials.

With all this in mind, it is easy to see that, whether or not you agree with global warming, a host of reasons remain for going green. It’s important to look at the big picture of social responsibility above and beyond the controversy surrounding global warming.

Kurt Broadhag, MS, CSCS, LEED AP, is a fitness professional with more than 15 years of experience in personal training and gym design. He is president of both K Allan Consulting, a firm specializing in health club design and management, and 23D Gym Design, which develops both two- and three-dimensional fitness center layouts. Broadhag can be reached at (310) 601-7768 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Suggested Articles:

Health clubs should consider focusing on the lucrative market of women’s comprehensive fitness, including nutrition, hormone balance and gut health.

You must prioritize members’ connections to your club to ride the rebound after temporary club closures.

Many fitness center operators chase after the same young and healthy members, but an untapped market of breast cancer patients and survivors of all ag