Going Green at the Gym

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From eco-conscious lighting to thermal energy, Life Time is redesigning its gyms with the planet in mind.

Health clubs require lots of energy to operate exercise machines, heated swimming pools, laundry facilities, etc. To cut costs and reduce their environmental impact, major players in the fitness industry are exploring options for creating greener gym environments.

Firms such as SportsArt Fitness and ReRev make elliptical machines and stationary cycles that turn workouts into watts, generating electricity as you exercise. Other companies manufacture mats, barbells, and other equipment from recycled products.

Life Time, based in Chanhassen, Minn., recently announced a more ambitious environmental agenda. The company is planning to use solar, geothermal, and other alternative-energy sources to power the majority of its 125-plus clubs in the United States and Canada.

“We are in the business of healthy lifestyles, and we believe that a healthy planet with green gyms is part of that mission,” says Ali G. Touchaei, PhD, Life Time’s director of green engineering R&D.

The company is implementing several environmental initiatives, including these:

Eco-Conscious Lighting

By the end of 2017, Life Time aims to retrofit all its facilities with LED lighting, which uses 20 to 30 percent of the electricity of conventional lighting. Original LED fixtures were engineered by Life Time’s director of energy management and sustainability, and will be marketed commercially.

Solar Power

By 2020, most Life Time clubs will be using solar in their energy mix. The Westchester, N.Y., club leads the way with its solar photovoltaic power system; a second club with solar is coming online in Mt. Laurel, N.J. The company is also examining solar carports in parking lots to dramatically increase solar generation.

Thermal Energy

A pilot project at Life Time’s Folsom, Calif., club is testing solar to heat water for its showers, locker rooms, café, spa, and child-care center, aiming to cut natural-gas use by at least 20 percent. The Lakeville, Minn., facility uses geothermal power from 180 wells for heating and cooling its indoor tennis facility.

Smart Water Programs

The St. Louis Park, Minn., club is planning to test an advanced water-management plan that would treat wastewater onsite and recycle warm water for laundry — with an eye to reusing 90 percent. The Framingham, Mass., facility has a special combined heat and power system that generates electricity, as well as thermal heating in the club.

Future Plans

Instead of just burning energy, your workout could soon be generating it: Life Time is looking at other options, perhaps including energy-generating elliptical machines, treadmills, and stationary cycles. “We’re focusing on proven technologies that will have the greatest impact on energy conservation and sustainability,” says Touchaei. “We want to show the way for the fitness industry by having the best green practices.”

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