At the Green Microgym in Portland, Ore., members can have an electrifying workout — literally. The equipment at Green Microgym is fitted with compact generators that allow eco-conscious fitness buffs to power flat-screen TVs and ceiling fans while they exercise.
The gym’s owner, Adam Boesel, opened the facility in 2008. Boesel was inspired by other businesses in Portland that emphasized sustainability and lower environmental impact. In addition to the cardio-powered generators, Green Microgym utilizes solar panels, recycled toilet paper and flooring made from renewable materials. Signs reminding members to turn off lights, fans and TVs are featured prominently inside.
There are currently two startup companies that retrofit exercise equipment to generate electricity, and each company estimates that they’ve installed their generators on 1,000 machines. By contrast, there are between 8 and 10 million exercise machines in commercial gyms throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, the technology to “green” these machines is cost-prohibitive for most owners.
The equipment at Green Microgym only supplements the gym’s electricity usage; it doesn’t power everything or cut substantially from the utility bills. Kurt Broadhag, a health club consultant and sustainability advocate, explains that “the payback period for electricity-generating exercise equipment is about 15 years -– two to three times the machines’ life span.”
For Boesel, the payback period doesn’t matter. He is satisfied that Green Microgym is raising awareness about energy efficiency and setting a positive example. Lots of cardio equipment measures exercise output in watts, and many users love the thought that those watts could be more than a number on a digital display. Hopefully, the idea will catch on and more gyms will implement the technology.
“I was really attracted to the idea that it would be green,” said Amy McCullough, who works out at Green Microgym. “I could go in and generate electricity. How cool is that?”
Photo credit: Jennifer C.