No industry is removed from the zeitgeist. Trends rooted in activism and social consciousness can have far reaching effects on businesses whether they like it or not. Ask a clothier about his fur sales, for instance.
Rarely is there a seamless way to combine a social or political cause with a business plan that doesn’t create divisions. Taking a stand can be exemplary but also exclusionary. Personal beliefs aside, why would a business owner take the chance?
For Jose Avina, founder of Sacramento Eco Fitness, the choice was easy. Avina’s club opened in last December with an emphasis on “eco-power” clean energy technology. These machines, which are otherwise standard high-quality gym equipment, don’t use energy from an existing power grid—they create energy when used by club members, which in turn powers the electricity in the club.
According to Avina, this sustainable energy concept is appealing to multiple demographics, especially millennials—an age group that the health club industry has had some difficulty attracting.
“The response has been phenomenal,” he says. “Our mission is to be able to produce enough electricity to offset our costs and the businesses around us. So that in itself is a huge motivation for individuals.”
Avina’s membership plans run from $80 a month and above, but from what’s he seen in his few months of operation, cost is no obstacle.
“We’ve asked new members where they come from and where they worked out before,” he says. “A lot of individuals are opting out of their cheaper gyms in large chains just because they want to lower their CO2 footprint. They’re willing to pay more! They know their day-to-day actions can affect the environment. To them, it’s not just another membership.”
A Concept That Markets Itself Globally
Right now Sacramento Eco Fitness is ahead of the curve and drawing worldwide attention in the process. Avina’s club has been the subject of international attention, via television, radio, and print and digital media reports, having been profiled in Forbes magazine and other major outlets.
“I get calls from overseas to get more information about the gym,” he says. “I’ve gotten a lot of local coverage, too. I’ve only had to spend $150 on marketing.”
Avina admits that California, a state that has adopted some of the most stringent environmental protections, is an ideal location for an eco-power gym, but a club operator still has to insure that members are incentivized beyond the core concept.
You still have to deliver a great workout experience.
“You’ll have the same workout with our machines as any other equipment,” he says. “Ordinarily people compete for calories burned. We can do that, but now we’re able to calculate and show them how many watts they produce as they burn calories.”
Whether you’re inclined to be eco-conscious or not, using eco-power equipment serves the bottom line in energy savings, and depending on the area, club owners can also benefit from tax incentives for running a sustainable business.