As we desperately search for alternative energy resources, one market has managed to capitalize on perhaps the most available and efficient source of energy around—humans.
Sustainable gyms have already appeared in Hong Kong, Australia and Oregon—and are spreading to Europe and other parts of the world. Using generators connected to exercise bikes and treadmills, the gyms are able to power themselves by harnessing energy from their members’ workouts.
The First Sustainable Gym
The idea for sustainable gyms was conceived by Italian inventor Lucien Gambarota. He partnered with entrepreneur Doug Woodring and Hong Kong-based company California Fitness (now known as the Motorwave Group) to open the world’s first such gym in 2008. California Fitness's president at the time, Steve Clinefelter, explained the concept’s advantages by giving the example of a treadmill modified to generate electricity:
“One person has the ability of producing 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace, which means that to prevent 12 liters of CO2 from being released into the air, a person needs to produce the same amount of electricity by exercising on the specially setup machine for one hour. If a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year. So exercise can improve not only your health but contributes to a greener environment.”
The company initially set up 13 machines in its main club with plans to expand into other Hong Kong locations before going international.
Other Sustainable Gyms
Also opening in 2008 was fitness instructor Adam Boesel’s The Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon. Boesel’s goal is complete sustainability, but in the meantime, his gym has been able to reduce its carbon emissions by 60%.
In Australia, retired professional boxer Danny Moran introduced the generator-connected cycling machines at Surry Hills Boxing Gym. He encourages membership by reminding locals of Australia’s status as the second-fattest nation in the world and as the biggest carbon emitter per capita. By joining his gym, people combat obesity and block carbon emissions. How’s that for a great combination punch?
How It Works
The machines contain generators activated by the movement of the pedals or treadmill. The energy the generators create can be stored in batteries, which can be hooked up to converters to power various features of the gym. Human Dynamo, the company behind the machines at The Green Microgym, has also developed models that can be directly plugged into the grid. Thus, the gyms electric usage is reduced in proportion to how much activity there is on those machines. And in areas where utility companies buy back excess power, the gym can actually earn money back from the utility.
Buy (or Build) Your Own
If you hate the gym, but like the idea of energy-producing exercise machines, you might consider purchasing your own. Then again, you might decide to pass on this option when you see the machines’ off-putting price tags. Human Dynamo charges $1950 for each of its generator-connected bikes. Moreover, the package doesn’t include a 12-volt battery and 120-volt AC inverter necessary to modify the bike’s energy output to power small appliances around the home. A more economical option is to buy a pedal power bicycle generator dynamo kit. They are easy to put together and list for under $500.
If you prefer running over cycling, see Woodway’s energy-conserving treadmills. Their completely sustainable model, the EcoMill, contains a battery charged by the treadmill’s movement.
Other Uses of Human Power
While self-powered gyms are at an early stage of development and few currently exist, the invention of energy-generating machines powered by humans has enormous potential. There are, for instance, already sustainable dance clubs and pedal-bike contraptions that can blend you a drink or do your laundry.
Even if a sustainable gym or dance club doesn’t exist near you, and you aren’t yet ready to invest in a human-powered appliance, let these machines inspire you to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health in other ways. For instance, you can save the world’s energy by using your own—through biking or walking to work, and taking the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator. Your body and the Earth will thank you, and so will future generations.
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