Lean, Mean and Green

6 ways to make your fitness more planet-friendly

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Lean, Mean and Green
Illustration: Kara Pyle

I started weight training as a way to spend time with my professional bodybuilder older brother. He ate enough tuna, steak and pasta to feed a starving village before we jumped into his gas-guzzling sports car to go workout in an air-conditioned gym and pour back countless sports drinks. I challenged him to find ways to green up our workouts and he agreed, so long as it did not disrupt his rigorous training regime.

This list was inspired by those workouts with my big bro. So while you are working on your own health and fitness, remember the health of your community, too.

1. Drink tap water in a refillable bottle

Avoid expensive and energy intensive bottled water. If you were to fill one quarter of a plastic water bottle with oil, that’s roughly the amount needed to make the bottle. Empty bottles clog our waterways and oceans. According to York University, Toronto uses an estimated 100 million plastic bottles a year and only 35 per cent get recycled. If you’re into energy drinks, buy the powdered form and mix it into your water.

2. Eat local

Save money and package waste by making your own energy bars and protein shakes. Grow your own food and prioritize fresh, local, in-season fruits and vegetables over food transported from afar. Further reduce your environmental footprint and diversify your protein source by replacing beef with tofu or lentils once in a while.

3. Leave your car at home

Save gas money, reduce emissions and get your cardio by running or biking to the gym. Carpooling with someone else can help you or them be more motivated to get to the gym. Taking public transit and a good book can help clear your mind so you are more present during your workout.

4. Green up your wardrobe

Make your sports wardrobe last longer by washing clothes in cold water and hang drying them. Clothes made from bamboo are generally more breathable, absorbent and less water intensive than cotton. Nike and Patagonia both have excellent programs to recycle your old gear into new products. And The North Face is expanding its clothing and footwear recycling program into Canada soon.

5. Ask your gym to go green

Make sure you’re not breathing toxic fumes during your workout by asking your gym to use natural cleaning products and low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints. While you’re at it, ask them to consider more windows for natural lighting and energy efficient equipment to save power.

6. Ask your favourite sports events to go green

Ask organizers of events you compete in to consider setting environmental targets such as percentage of waste diverted from the landfill. If you’re not competing, why not volunteer and initiate your own environmental program?


Leor Rotchild is President & Co-Founder of Do It Green (DIG), a company that helps create zero waste events. He is based in Calgary.

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