How to Make Your Workout More Sustainable
What’s good for your body is good for the environment—usually. Practice these sustainability tips during your next sweat session for win-win results.
Working out is a game-changer in determining whether your day is totally awesome or a bit of a downer. Exercise makes you feel stronger, tougher and good about yourself. But while you’re reaping mind and body benefits from that killer sweat session, you probably don’t think about whether you’re putting the environment at risk.
You should, though. Because certain things often associated with exercise, from single-use water bottles to lengthy post-workout showers, can raise your carbon footprint more than you realize. The good news: Making small changes in your fitness habits can benefit the environment. You can begin by turning errands into exercise, wearing eco-friendly workout gear and practicing random acts of recycling during your next run (more on that, below).
Just remember—sustainability isn’t about running 70 miles across state borders instead of road-tripping in your car (although this woman did, and she’s one tough MF). It’s about the little things that add up day after day as you go about your workout routine. Start with these smart, sustainable moves.
Wear the Right Gear
Shopping for new workout shoes? Look for items made from sustainable materials. For instance, this plant-based performance running shoe is made using castor beans, eucalyptus, algae and natural rubber. Another option is to go with these cotton-based kicks, which offer comfort, support and style along with a 100-percent cotton upper and bio-based sole. By limiting products made from petroleum-based plastics, you reduce carbon footprint while still having a kickass shoe for training.
Whatever shoes you choose, carry them home without the plastic bag from the store, and recycle the shoebox instead of putting it in the trash. And, your love for the earth doesn’t have to stop at shoes. If you’ve been on a sweeping search for sustainable workout clothes that also won’t break the bank, search no more. You can keep your earth-friendly cool with moisture-wicking shorts or a top that provides full temperature management for an at-home workout. Small gestures and efforts can make a big difference if everyone in the world follows suit.
Time Your Shower
Yes, it feels good to stand under the stream of hot water after working your butt off at the gym. But the average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute—or 75 gallons during your typical 15-minute sudsfest. No one’s asking you to wash up in the sink, but shaving even two minutes off your shower time saves the planet 10 gallons of H2O, not an insignificant amount. Another option: Soak in the tub. It’s better for sore muscles and saves literally tens of gallons of water.
If you’ve never heard of plogging, you’re not alone. Most people have zero idea what this eco-friendly workout is. Basically, plogging is a mashup of jogging and collecting trash—you’ll go for run and scoop up random garbage you come across as you go. The growing trend start in Sweden and is spreading around the world as more and more outdoor enthusiasts look for ways to protect their everyday playground.
Ditch the Plastic Bottle
Once upon a time, you were very cool if you showed up at the gym with a clear plastic water bottle (bonus points if it featured a fancy brand name). Now, you just look ignorant. Re-usable water bottles are the way to go—ones you can fill up yourself at home, a park fountain or the water cooler at your gym. Choose a water bottle that’s big enough to last your workout and made with BPA-free materials—better for your health and the environment.
Practice Sustainable Snacking
Fueling is a key part of any exerciser’s life. From pre-HIIT class protein bars to energy gels for your weekend long run (not to mention, post-workout recovery shakes and pre-race carbo-loading), food is essential to succeed as an athlete. But the packaging that your food comes is often less than ideal.
Most on-the-go foods come individually wrapped in plastic—great for stuffing in your gym bag but pretty crappy for the environment. When possible, purchase snacks in advance in family-size portions, then dole out your individual helping at home into a reusable jar or recyclable paper. For instance, scoop a cup of yogurt from the quart-size container in your home refrigerator into a non-breakable glass jar and stash it in your fridge at the office. Or make homemade granola bars on a bake sheet at home, then wrap a piece in recyclable paper and keep it in your gym bag.
Individually, none of these changes seem that significant—and that’s important, actually, because the less disruptive sustainable fitness decisions are to your regular life, the more likely you are to accept them. It’s the cumulative effect of these choices that adds up to helping keep you—and the planet—healthier for the long run.