In The News: Green Systems a Fitting Solution

February 02, 2013, 06:12AM

By: Cherryh Butler

Helping members to get fit while saving the planet is the mission of Scottsdale, Arizona’s Eric Guilleminault. He opened the doors last June to Off The Grid Fitness, the first eco-friendly gym in the state. The facility’s efforts include recycling, reducing energy and water usage, using environmentally friendly products throughout the gym, and fostering green initiatives in the community.

One of the most unusual ways Off The Grid promotes green practices, however, is with its fitness equipment. The company provides only self-powered or energy-creating treadmills and elliptical machines for its members to use. The gym, for example, has three ellipticals from SportsArt Fitness, a manufacturer of cardio and strength products that recently added energy-creating ellipticals and stationary bikes to its line of self-powered treadmills.

The new machines, part of SportsArt Fitness’ Green System products, attach to inverters that harness human-generated power from exercisers and then feed electricity back into the power grid as useable energy. One inverter is capable of linking 10 Green System products and produces up to 2,000 watt-hours of power.

“This means that the energy of the person on the cardio machine is actually producing positive energy being used to light streets, listen to the radio or charge their laptop,” Guilleminault says. “Every time someone works out, they are actually helping provide power to the gym or even someone else in your city.”

Although treadmills from SportsArt Fitness use 32% less power than traditional treadmills, it doesn’t mean their quality is lower, says Ken Carpenter, the company’s marketing and communications director.

“Many of our ellipticals are self-generating and some even create power and perform just as well or better than any commercial cardio product, yet they provide unique innovations that make people think about the impact their actions have on the environment,” he says.

Although Guilleminault found that the machines are a little more expensive than standard ellipticals, he says it’s worth the price. His members love knowing they’re helping to save the planet while exercising. And, the machines are saving on electric costs. His passion for going green also sets him apart from other gyms when it comes to marketing and serving niche populations.

“Yeah, I’m only one small gym saving a little bit of energy, but just imagine how much energy we could save if gyms all over the country started using the equipment,” Guilleminault points out. “It would be amazing. As long as the quality of products isn’t lower, why wouldn’t anyone love these machines.”

The machines not only display the calories each user burns, but also show how many watts of power they’ve put back on the grid, a number that many members use as a way of competing with one another. “It’s just a really cool thing to see what you are actually contributing,” Guilleminault says.

Also included is a points accumulation system for energy created by each user. Exercisers can then redeem points for discounts at the club. And those points can lead to contests and competitions with other members. The system is fully integrated with social media, includes accessible personal workout data via the user’s email address as the ID, and includes iPhone applications.

SportsArt Fitness’ green machines have only been on the market for a short time but are selling very well, Carpenter says. “We have a lot of interest from universities, and that seems to be a big area for growth with this product line. They are early adopters of technology and oftentimes lead facilities to better solutions.”

Many universities are even able to purchase the eco-friendly fitness machines using their sustainability budgets, even if they don’t currently have a budget for new fitness equipment. “It offers the opportunity to teach students about energy and provide them with a state-of-the-art fitness machine,” Carpenter notes.

The company’s plan for growth is to reach out to other business owners like Guilleminault, who have a sustainability mission or simply want to give their users the opportunity to put their energy to good use. They are also targeting clubs, universities, hotels and corporate fitness centers that want to make an investment in green technology.

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