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How the Fitness Industry Can Tap into Sustainability, Green Power

Written by EMS

One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when entering the exercise equipment market is the consumers’ loyalty for existing brands. Demand is driven by consumer income and demographic trends. The profitability of individual companies depends on unique product designs and effective marketing. Large companies have some advantages in brand recognition, but small companies can compete effectively by building unique products. Companies have to spend more on research and development and marketing than legacy companies in order to survive and be successful.

No matter how large or how profitable, businesses today do not stand alone. Businesses are inextricably linked with the societies in which they operate. Regulations, resulting from corporate scandals, the rising influence of non-governmental organizations, environmental concerns and the fact that nearly one-third of the world’s top 100 economic entities are corporations, not countries, have prompted the emergence of sustainability in business.

Top Drivers for Sustainability

  1. Cost and efficiency opportunities
  1. Brand and competitive differentiation, customer requirements
  2. Pressure from employees, shareholders, public
  3. Government, regulatory pressures
  4. Innovation and growth opportunities

Methods for Organizing Sustainability

Set Goals

  • Include all stakeholder requirements and sustainability in your goal setting process

Organize to achieve them

  • Drive sustainability initiatives into financial and operating plans

Measure performance overtime

  • Monitor and analyze sustainability metrics and adjust goals and initiatives to ensure achievement of short-term and long-term goals
  • Report progress on sustainability initiatives to internal and external stakeholders1

The market for green products is exploding, from energy-efficient lighting to recyclable flooring.  Thus, trademarks and symbols for green product certifications and labels are pervasive from: product packaging, manufacturers’ websites, print advertising, and trade show booths.  Familiar names include: Greenguard, Green Seal, Energy Star, Environmentally Preferable Products and Services, and Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES). Without these programs, specifiers would be left to sift through piles of product information filled with invalidated claims from manufacturers to determine which products are right for the job. Green certifications, otherwise known as eco-labels, verify that a product meets specific standard via a third-party validation.  Green certifications or labels are voluntary; therefore they are showcases for manufacturers genuinely interested in being taken seriously by facility executives who want to purchase products with verified green claims. Green product certifications and labels complement the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system as tools for facilitating a market shift to more environmentally responsible buildings. The difference lies in that LEED looks at the whole-building envelope while the green product certifications and labels look at the specific characteristics of the individual products LEED is the most recognizable rating system for whole-building green design, whereas green certifications each have their own criteria.

However, LEED and eco-labeling share the same goals to validate specific environmental criteria.  It’s important for facility executives to separate greenwash from verified environmental claims by assessing key criteria such as: low VOC emissions, energy efficiency, or high percentage recycled content, for example. Green certification and labeling bodies use vastly different standards, which range from: life cycle analysis, single-attribute certifications, multiple attribute certifications, processes and performance standards. Facility executives, especially in areas of multi-family housing and hospitality, should differentiate the spectrum of certifications by evaluating the transparency of the standard (easy to understand), its foundation in environmental science, and the standard’s ability to select only the upper echelon of products in a certain product category to achieve certification.  The hospitality industry has increasingly recognized the importance of being green for their bottom line. The Green Hotel Association (Green Hotels Association) are environmentally friendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, save energy, and reduce solid waste while saving money.  Green Hotels provides a Catalog of Environmental Products for the Lodging Industry and a 157-page Membership Conservation Guidelines & Ideas.

A logical step for commercial real estate markets seems to be trending towards the greening of facilities, notably in the hospitality industry. Hotel Fitness centers, for instance, have become models for sustainable design and operations. The two sectors share a common thread of achieving optimal health, both personal and environmental. Strategic planning, design and operations, can help fitness centers be at the forefront of the eminent shift to the incorporation of green practices within the fitness industry. Currently, there are only a handful of green fitness centers and there unfortunately is no standard for green gyms and equipment outside of LEED certification. Green gym design includes not only the incorporation of environmentally friendly products but also creating an environmental that fosters the promotion of healthy living.

Fitness centers have unique challenges in respect to sustainable design and operations. Fitness centers use energy, deplete resources and generated heat via exercise only to be lost in the surrounding environment as wasted energy. Fitness gyms in select case studies have adopted power-producing exercise machines by harnessing human energy. Equipment selection is a key criterion for the design phase. The main impedance to the wide-spread implementation of energy harvesting devices is regarding economy of scale – can an energy harvesting system harvest enough energy to offset the initial cost, and is the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) comparable to current energy generation methods? It is vital to consider the predicted energy savings of the gym as well as the economic effect of a potential influx of customers at commercial fitness centers.  In order to evaluate the effectives of a human-driven energy harvesting system, the workings of a gym lacking this technology must first be understood. To determine whether or not energy harvesting technology is beneficial, it is necessary to know the difference between a gym that harvests human energy and one that does not. The following questions can be used to model the benefits:

  • What are the facility’s annual energy costs, and how do these costs vary throughout the year?
  • How much energy is likely to be harvested with the proposed technology?
  • How much money could energy harvesting save the facility over a given time period?
  • What would the initial cost be to implement energy harvesting technology?
  • Does a correlation exist between energy usage and gym attendance?
  • Do enough people currently visit the facility to make the implementation of energy harvesting worthwhile?

Information from this methodology can be used as a case study for demonstrating the pros and cons of implementing energy harvesting into design.

 

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EMS

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