How to Go Green: Workouts

running outside photo

Photo credit: Tyler Stableford/Getty Images

At this point, all those holiday cookies, cocktail parties, and lavish lunches are a distant memory--and the reality is that you're (at least) five pounds heavier than you were when you last stepped on the scale. With that post-holiday realization usually comes the equally depressing one that the wedding/vacation/other big event you thought was months away is now only a matter of weeks. It's all enough to make anyone jump right on the treadmill. But before you commit to a workout plan that depends on massive electricity usage, automotive transportation, and a slew of new gear, wait: There's a greener way.

For most of recorded history, people got their workouts the old-fashioned way: by getting outside. Of course, a lot of them were harvesting crops and tending fields, but you too can take your routine outdoors, add a modern twist, and still kill two birds with one stone. Walk to the supermarket, ride your bike to work, take up hiking or gardening--all of these ideas will have you fit and toned without the investment of a gym. If you are a gym rat, look for one that has eco-friendly qualities. And when you're looking at other exercise equipment--like sneakers, weights, and water bottles--choose green alternatives to traditional products. Who knows? You might even find exercising fun again--or, at least enjoyable enough that you can finally stick with your New Year's resolution. Read on to get started.

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Top Green Workout Tips

  1. Stay home
    There's a reason Jane Fonda made a fortune from those exercise videos: working out at home is easy and convenient. Plenty of routines--like weight training, yoga, or Pilates--require nothing more than a mat and some room to lunge or squat, so it's possible to put together a cardio and strength training combination that you can do while watching Friends before dinner.

  2. Get outside
    More intense cardio-like running, biking, or jumping rope-works better with a little more space, but why waste the energy required to run a treadmill or stationery bike when the whole world is waiting for you? Lacing up a pair of running shoes and going for a jog is the simplest do-anywhere workout; all you need are the shoes. If you're not a runner, you still have options: hit your local hiking trails, take your two-wheeler out for a spin, or just add a daily walk to your lunch hour.

  3. Capture your energy
    Don't let all your hard work on the stationery bike go to waste; hook it up to a generator or battery and save it to power household appliances from iPods to televisions and laptops--as Ed does to make toast in the morning on Living with Ed. These kits are simple to install and give you an extra motivational push to make sure you don't skip your daily workout.

  4. Join a gym
    Gyms use a lot of power, water, energy, and resources to give you an experience that you can get on your own for less. But we know that sometimes there are factors that make it nearly impossible to start your own program--winter blizzards, cramped apartments, and late hours all make working out at home much trickier than hitting the gym on your lunch hour. And we'll admit, using the machines already manufactured at the gym is better than buying your own (especially if you're the type to drift away from a workout routine after just a few months). But try to green your gym experience as much as you can: don't use two towels when one (or zero!) will do, bring a reusable water bottle, and set the treadmill to a higher incline so it uses less energy.

  5. Team up
    Working out with other people is one of the most effective ways to stick with your plan; keeping each other accountable helps you both get fit faster. Finding a jogging partner or a tennis opponent makes it easier to schedule your workouts (and harder to skip them); even better, sign up for a group race or join a larger team to play soccer, softball, volleyball, or any other sport you love. Bonus: The team will likely have a lot of the equipment already, so you can skip buying your own or share.

  6. Get energized

    Fuel your body with fresh, organic food, and skip the processed aisles at the store. Go for organic energy bars that don't include ingredients like sugar or artificial colors and flavors, and that are made from fruit, nuts, fiber, protein, and natural (not trans) fats. Before you exercise, fuel yourself with a snack that's high in carbs and low in fat--like pretzels--and drink lots of water. After your session, snack on a combination of carbs and protein to replenish your energy supplies.

  7. Change your routine
    Finding the time to fit in a dedicated exercise session every day isn't always easy, but replacing sedentary parts of your daily life with activity lets you cross both to-dos off your list at once. Try walking or riding your bike to work (even in the winter) or walking to the supermarket or post office and you'll save gas while getting a workout.

  8. Gear up green
    If you're going to make working out a regular part of your life, you might need some gear--even go-anywhere workouts (like yoga) are easier with a mat, and a biking routine is impossible without a bike. But you don't have to buy all new products: Check the web or your local sporting goods store (or your closet) for deals on used bikes, weights, and other equipment. Eco-friendly yoga mats, which are made of non-PVC materials, are easy to find, and you might be surprised at how good your workout can be two water-filled jugs, a dining room chair, and an old crate.

  9. Dress appropriately
    Serious athletes wear all those fancy fabrics for a reason: They help sweat evaporate before it sets on your skin, they keep you cool, and the shoes are cushioned according to your sport. But there are eco-alternatives, too: sneakers made with recycled rubber soles (just be sure to recycle them when you're done), tops and pants that combine soy and organic cotton blends, and coconut shells transformed into breathable fabrics. Look for companies with sustainable business practices, like Patagonia, REI, and Nau, and hit the Planet Green Shop when it's time to gear up.

  10. Inspire change
    If you've decided that joining the gym is the best way to go (at least for the winter) you can still encourage your local health club to make some green changes: restrict the use of towels, invest in energy-efficient machines, offer recycling bins for water bottles (or, even better, stop selling them altogether), set up the televisions to shut off when the machines aren't in use. Some gyms are even harnessing human power to supply energy and reduce bills. Every little bit helps. Then talk to your workout partner about switching indoor workouts for weekend hikes or bike rides; you'll be able to switch up your routine and get a better workout while making everyone a little greener.

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Green Workouts: By The Numbers

  • 1500 watts: Power consumed by an average treadmill.

  • .75 kilowatt-hours: Energy used during 30 minutes on that treadmill.

  • 6 hours: Length of time you could light your Christmas tree with .75 kilowatt-hours.

  • 2 pounds: Amount of CO2 a treadmill gives off during a 30 minute workout.

  • 350 watts: Continuous power generated by the Team Dynamo and Spin Bikes at Portland's Green Microgym.

  • 40: Percentage of energy used at Green Microgym that is created by members.

  • 450 calories: Amount of energy burned during a typical 45-minute bike ride.
  • Sources: TreeHugger, Green Microgym, CBS.

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Green Workouts: Getting Techie

Real recycled paper: post-consumer recycled
"What we consider to be recycled paper is paper that is generally and honestly taken from the waste stream--meaning somebody, a consumer, used it for its initial intended purpose. They then put it in a recycling bin where it got collected with other paper to be bundled and baled so it could be sent to a paper mill where it got made into paper once again. Old fibers that were used in the process of making paper went through their intended purpose and then got made into paper again. That, in the true sense, is recycling." (Source: Tom Kemper, CEO & Founder, Dolphin Blue and beloved Green Guide Girls'™ Collective Wisdom Team™ member, from The Green Guide Girls: Guide to Book Publishing)

Post-consumer recycled paper (PCR), like those referred to, above, comes from the post-consumer waste (PCW) stream such as the office paper you recycle. The PCW or PCR letters are clues to help you recognize that these papers use fewer trees than non-recycled papers. When you see "100% PCW" or "100% PCR" describing the paper you are proposing to use for your book, you will know that no new trees were cut down to make the paper. No virgin fibers were used to produce the paper.

Regarding pre-consumer recycled papers, be on the "look out". "There has always been a misunderstanding because there are many providers of recycled products in the paper industry. There is a lot of loosely thrown about terminology that says paper is recycled or it contains recycled material." However, in the paper mills, rolls of paper break during the manufacturing process, and "the paper is again deposited into the pulping vat under the mill floor where it is re-pulped to become paper again. It is really not recycled. It is using the resource being used initially to create the paper. It is not recovered from the waste stream. It is really not recycled even though it gets labeled 'recycled'. This mis-labeling is misleading and the recycled paper is of no environmental value." (Source: Tom Kemper, CEO & Founder, Dolphin Blue and beloved Green Guide Girls'™ Collective Wisdom Team™ member, from The Green Guide Girls: Guide to Book Publishing)

Covers for "The Paperback Writer"
Most of the publishing industry uses the standard of a maximum of 10% post-consumer recycled content for the covers of soft-bound books. The Green Guide Girls™ along with some of the leaders in the "green" book publishing world, Tom Rohlfing at Pinnacle Press, Inc. and Deborah Bruner at New Leaf Paper, discovered and figured out a way to make covers for paperback books 100% post-consumer recycled. Take a look at the cover of The Green Guide Girls: Guide to Book Publishing to see an example of this.

Carbon sequestration
Sequestering carbon is the process by which trees capture carbon dioxide from the air. Trees actually uptake carbon from the air (like "inhaling through their leaves") in order to photosynthesize and create oxygen for us to breathe. Plant a Tree USA™ affectionately refers to trees as "mean green carbon-reducing machines"™ due to their sequestering uptake of carbon pollution from the air. The sequestration of carbon is why the green book publishing industry makes every effort to protect our forests. Forests have a huge role in not just beauty and habitat; forests cleanse our air and trees are great "carbon storage centers."

The FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, is an environmentally credible forest products certification and labeling program, "developed and defined by the conservation community," says Tyson Miller, Director of The Green Press Initiative.

The Forest Stewardship Council certification logo identifies paper whose virgin fiber comes from responsibly managed forests. FSC sets the highest standards for defining "responsible forest management," namely, forestry that is environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable. While the FSC focused on sustainable virgin fiber sources for most of its history, it recently began certifying papers with high post-consumer recycled content. The FSC requires certification from everyone in the supply chain--from logger to printer. One environmentally weak link in the chain and it's not FSC certified. (Source: New Leaf Paper)

Ancient Forest Friendly (AFF)™ is a designation to get excited about, as it represents the most comprehensive standards for environmental responsibility in the paper industry. To earn the AFF designation, a paper must be manufactured with a high percentage of post-consumer waste and not contain any virgin fiber from old-growth, ancient or endangered forests. Any virgin fiber in the paper must be both FSC certified and assessed to not originate from endangered forests. Bleaching methods must be "chlorine free," meaning without the use of chlorine or chlorine compounds. To find out how you can use Ancient Forest Friendly™ paper and the logo, visit (Source: New Leaf Paper)

Paper can be made using wind, solar power, water power or other renewable energy sources
Renewable energy is power that is made available using resources which can be replenished, such as wind, sun (solar-powered), water (hydro-powered) and even from the decomposition of waste. These resources are "greener" than fossil fuels, as their use creates less pollution.

There are certifications for paper that will tell you if it was made using renewable energy. These include Green-e® Certified Renewable Energy which is the nation's leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy products in the U.S., and Biogas certification verifies that energy is sourced from the decomposition of waste, converting a waste stream and potent greenhouse gas into an energy source. (Source: New Leaf Paper)

Think de-ink
De-inking is the process of removing "applied inks, finishes, glues, and other contaminants from wastepaper in order to extract the cellulose fiber" (New Leaf Paper website). This is a necessary and extensive process that occurs during the production of recycled paper.

Even one drop of ink makes you think about the VOCs
Vegetable and soy based inks emit lower VOCs which decrease air pollution. Also known as VOCs, volatile organic compounds are chemicals which are harmful to humans and the earth. They contribute to air and water pollution when they escape into the air through evaporation. Vegetable and soy based inks are environmentally friendlier alternatives to petroleum-based inks. It is also easier for the de-inking part of the paper recycling process when vegetable and soy based inks are used.

The eco-audit: avoid eco-analysis paralysis
What is an eco-audit, you ask? Think about it like this: according to Wikipedia, an audit is an evaluation of an organization, system, process, project or product, performed by competent, independent and objective persons. An Eco-Audit is an environmental evaluation of how you produce your book.

You can see how many trees you saved, how much water and electricity you didn't have to use, how much solid waste you kept out of the landfills, and how many dangerous greenhouse gases you didn't produce ~ all because you made your book green!

Deborah Bruner, Director of Book Publishing Papers at New Leaf Paper says: "The environmental benefits stated in the Eco Audit," provided by New Leaf Paper, "are calculated based on research by Environmental Defense and members of the Paper Task Force, who studied the environmental impacts of the paper industry. They performed life-cycle analyses of post-consumer waste vs. virgin fiber, which revealed the tangible environmental benefits of using post-consumer recycled content instead of virgin content."

E=mc2: Eco = Manufacturing X Collaborative Consciousness™
Everyone can be an eco-Einstein with these formulas and calculators. You can estimate environmental impacts, using the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator.

Another calculator can be found at, which was created by Plant a Tree USA™ using scientific research provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Transportation) Here you can calculate how many trees to plant to offset your carbon pollution by the travel and energy you use when creating and marketing your book.

Chlorine is a chemical used in the bleaching, or whitening, of papers, and to say chlorine is a "dangerous" chemical is the understatement of the century. Dioxins are the byproducts released during the manufacturing of chlorine-bleached papers. According to Deborah Bruner of New Leaf Paper, "for a long time paper mills were the number one source of dioxin pollution in waterways in the U.S." and as a note, "Dioxin is considered the most dangerous carcinogen to mankind." The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found dioxin to be 300,000 times more potent as a carcinogen than DDT. Dr. Peter M. Zeischegg MS, DC, DACNB, Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist, reports that dioxins "have even been linked to endometriosis, immune system impairment, diabetes, neurotoxicity, birth defects, decreased fertility, and reproductive dysfunction in both women and men." The certification process of chlorine-free papers requires that companies use ways to whiten paper without using chlorine. Look for the following certifications on the paper for your book. Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) -- reserved for recycled content paper. PCF papers have not been re-bleached with chlorine containing compounds. Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) -- reserved for virgin fiber papers. TCF papers do not use pulp produced with chlorine or compounds containing chlorine as bleaching agents. (Sources: Chlorine-Free Products Association, and Dr. Peter M. Zeischegg)

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Where to Get Green Workout Supplies

Workout Clothes and Shoes
New Balance
Planet Shoes
Brooks Running
Barefoot Yoga mats and accessories
Green Yoga Association mats
Keen bags
REI water bottles
Method body care
Teko socks
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Green Workouts: From the Archives

Find more ways to combine a workout with your daily activities, whether it's running errands, getting to work, or helping the planet.

Read more about green gyms--and appliances like washing machines--and blenders that harness workout energy--in Portland, Hong Kong, England and Connecticut.

If your primary exercise goal is weight loss, check out these 15 ways to get the weight off, and our easy, 15-minute workouts. If you're a beginner, decide whether you'd get more out of workouts in the morning or evening, and start with these no-brainer ideas to change your lifestyle.

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Further Reading on Green Workouts

Develop an at-home exercise plan with ideas from How Stuff Works; the site can show you how to work your whole body or target certain areas, like abs or arms, chest, and shoulders.

Find out how the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) Green Gym program combines fitness plans with environmentally-friendly projects, and how The Green Microgym in Portland generates its own electricity via member workouts. The Green Microgym also has some good green tips to make your fitness routine a bit greener.

Even celebs like Halle Berry are getting in on the act. So hot right now. There's even an entire site, called Green Fitness World, dedicated to green fitness and workouts.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Intel have created two new cell phone applications they call UbiFit and UbiGreen, to automatically track workouts and green transportation.

How to Go Green: Workouts
At this point, all those holiday cookies, cocktail parties, and lavish lunches are a distant memory--and the reality is that you're (at least) five pounds heavier than you were when you last stepped on the

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