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Sustainability as a Future-proofing Tool for Gyms

Sustainability encourages businesses—including gyms—to frame decisions in terms of environmental, social, and human impact for the long term, as opposed to short-term revenue gains.

As a concept, sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social (also referred to as the three P's: profits, planet, and people).

There are several ways to meet sustainability objectives: cutting emissions, lowering energy usage, sourcing products from fair-trade organizations, ensuring that physical waste is disposed of properly, and working within as small a carbon footprint as possible are just a few.

A Shift in Sustainability

Strategy and finance Sports Art Elite Eco Powr Line people column

While the notion of sustainability as a critical need in serving the planet has been gaining momentum for several years, the core pillars concept became widespread as a result of the 2005 World Summit, during which they became institutionalized.

During the past decade, sustainability as a corporate objective has been rapidly rising in the U.S. and globally.

Steve Ashkin, president of green consultant, the Ashkin Group, notes that “we’re in the middle of a ‘sustainability shift.’”

The data supports his contention. Consider that 10 years ago some 20% of S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports, compared with about 90% today. A decade ago, only about 40% of U.S. adults believed protecting the environment was a top priority. Today, that number is closer to 60%. In addition, recycling and composting in the U.S. has gone from just over 75 million tons in 2010 to nearly 100 million tons today.

Among the key data is the impact of sustainability on power generation. In 2019, power generation in the U.S. from renewable energy sources surpassed power produced from coal. In fact, power generated by renewable energy sources increased 26 times from 2009 to 2019, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion tons in 2019 alone.

Perhaps the most powerful driver? People simply want to do business with sustainable companies.

But, notes multidiscipline organization GPA Consulting, there are several other benefits to business for operating sustainably. They include, but aren’t limited to: brand enhancement and increased competitive advantage; increased productivity and reduced costs; improved financial and investment opportunity; and minimized carbon risk and improved energy efficiency.

Beyond the advantages to sustainability are the requirements. Companies will be mandated, by both state and federal regulation, to reduce carbon emissions by between 50% to 80% by 2050.

Ahead of the Curve

Strategy and finance Sports Art Elite Eco Powr Line front people column

Equipment manufacturer SportsArt has been an industry leader in sustainability practices since being founded by Paul Kuo in 1977. In 2007, the company took a big step forward with the introduction of its ECO-DRIVE treadmill motor, which was designed to use 32% less energy than standard versions. The machine led the company’s evolution as a provider of human-powered equipment designed to produce energy, rather than consume it.

“Sustainability is in SportsArt’s DNA,” says Ruben Mejia, executive vice president of SportsArt America. “Since the company’s inception over 40 years ago, there has always been a focus on ensuring that the impact of our business on the environment was as minimal as possible. Over time, we have infused our commitment to environmental stewardship into our manufacturing facilities and our products.”

Technology, he says, has allowed SportsArt to continually optimize its factory’s operations to reduce the carbon footprint of its overall business operations.

“Our factory was built to sustainable standards and we pride ourselves on staying a step ahead of changing regulations,” he says. “We strive to use our production standards and operating efficiencies to set an example within the manufacturing industry.”

The manufacturing facilities, which are part of what SportsArt refers to as its “Green Impact Campus,” boast an array of eco-friendly facets, such as solar panels on the roofs of the buildings, which power approximately 50% of its operations; specially tinted windows that provide natural lighting throughout the factory without letting heat in; an air conditioning system that only begins cooling when the temperature exceeds 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit; an innovative, sandwich-like exterior that naturally cools the buildings; and a 7,500-metric-ton rainwater collection system that harvests water that is then reused throughout the campus.

Sustainability is as apparent in SportArt's products as they are in its physical plant.

“Our factory was built to sustainable standards and we pride ourselves on staying a step ahead of changing regulations.”

Ruben Mejia, Executive Vice President

SportsArt America - Mukilteo, WA

“SportsArt builds 95% of our products, and the components that make up those products, in our ISO-14001 factory, which means they are built in a green environment using solar power,” Mejia says. “Additionally, our production process incorporates many innovations that reduce the impact of each individual product on the environment.” (ISO-14001 is a manufacturing standard that sets out the criteria for a certified environmental management system.)

SportsArt equipment is also produced using recycled plastic wherever applicable; the packaging process minimizes the space needed for shipping, reducing the transportation impact; and any paper products in its packaging materials are composed of 70% post-consumer recycled paper.

Leading a Green Evolution in Fitness

“Over time, we have infused our commitment to environmental stewardship into our products, starting with our innovative ECO-DRIVE motors and eventually into the creation of our ECO-POWR technology, which turns human energy exerted through workouts into clean renewable electricity,” says Mejia. “We are now on our third iteration of the ECO-POWR technology and have developed equipment that is as simple as ‘plug and play,’ with all the eco-friendly technology built into the products.”

In 2018, SportsArt debuted its latest version of Status ECO-POWR line of equipment, which combined sustainable technology with a modern design. The line, featuring treadmill, cross-trainer, elliptical machines and upright, recumbent, and indoor cycles, was the most extensive expression of its sustainability philosophy. The watts generated through member exercise are converted to AC power and, through micro-converter technology, sent back to facilities’ power grids to offset energy consumption.

Next up for SportsArt is its Elite line.

Mejia doesn’t want to give too much up right now, but says that the line, “Incorporates our ECO-POWR technology and sustainable philosophy into a fresh design. Our goal with the line is to make our energy-producing equipment a reality for more facilities, across different markets.”

To learn more about SportsArt and the Elite line, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to IHRSA.org.