Greening Your Workout, By Heidi Stevenson

sustainability, physical fitness, holistic well-being in the U.P.

We all know that physical activity is good for us, but once we consider all of the things that go along with including that physical activity in our lives, it can become challenging to make sure we’re being good to our planet at the same time. Start by going back to the basics: reduce, reuse, recycle.  Here are a few ways these concepts can help us all “green” our workouts.


  • Any time you can ride a bike or walk to a destination, fitness-related or no, do so! You’re not only reducing your carbon footprint, you’re increasing your activity.
  • When you do need to use your home utilities as part of your fitness routine, drive to a fitness facility, even fly to a marathon location, calculate your carbon footprint and buy offset credits through one of the several different programs that will invest your money In environmental conservation and alternative energy programs.
  • Purchase Pilates and yoga mats, mat bags, yoga blocks, and yoga straps made from natural materials like responsibly harvested rubber, cork, and hemp.
  • Look for clothing and gym bags made of natural and organic materials like cotton, soy, and bamboo.
  • Purchase footwear from companies that use vegan materials.
  • When purchasing all of these things, buy local. When that is impossible, look for websites that offer zero impact programs, (the option of paying a small fee to offset the impact of producing and shipping your items).
  • Everyone needs to fuel to move their bodies, so buy locally produced food if possible, too. In addition, eat organically; it makes much less of a negative environmental impact. Remember that vegetarian and options also do this; vegan is even better.


  • Use stainless steel water bottles, which are just as lightweight and easy to clean as plastic ones and are much safer for the planet—and you.
  • Reuse your gym towel a few times; it saves water and energy.


  • If you use an iPod, use Apple’s iPod recycling program.
  • Purchase fitness mats made from recycled materials; find programs that will recycle your old mat.
  • Recycle your footwear through one of the several different programs that will provide your shoes to those in need if they are gently worn, or turn them into something new if they are past that stage.

There are many resources available that enable you to be kind to your body and our planet at the same time. Remember, when you support companies that provide these products and services, you’re also supporting environmentally responsible business practices, providing these companies with the resources to continue.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle in any way you can as a part of your fitness routine. I hope I’ve provided you with a start here, and inspiration to go further!

At the time of this writing, Heidi Stevenson was a certified group fitness instructor, teaching yoga, Pilates, and aquatics for the HPER Department and Recreational Sports program at Northern Michigan University. She taught a wide variety of group fitness classes in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the prior 13 years.

Adapted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2009. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.