Green Gym Draws Members, Keeps Costs Low

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“There is really no reason why you shouldn’t try to reduce your footprint once you realize that it is not a hindrance to your business and will not cost you anything,” says Tom Bishop, owner of Powerhouse Gym. Photo: Flickr/Beaster725

At first glance, the Powerhouse Gym in Grand Junction, Colo. is like most others, but take a closer look and you will see that something is different.

It’s pretty hard to miss the solar-paneled roof, and you will also notice parched patrons tossing their plastic water bottles into bins bearing the familiar chasing arrows rather than the standard “trash” sticker. And take a whiff. Is that chemicals you don’t smell?

So this may not sound like every gym on the block anymore, but these eco-friendly amenities have become customary to Powerhouse Gym’s 950 members since the fitness center decided to go green two years ago.

“We decided we needed to find a niche,” says Tom Bishop, who has been general manager of the 24-hour fitness center for four years. “One of the first things we thought of, and probably the least expensive thing, was to become a green gym.”

The harsh chemicals and standard paper products were the first things to go. “Getting started was very easy,” Bishop recalls. “I just sat down with someone from the cleaning company that sells me all of my supplies and discussed other options.”

Bishop has since traded all of his cleaning supplies for biodegradable and eco-friendly cleansers and purchases recycled paper products.

“When my rep told me some of these products would actually save me money, it was music to my ears,” Bishop says.

Many of the eco-friendly cleaning supplies and paper products Bishop purchased actually cost less than standard supplies, which he says completely off-set those that were slightly more expensive.

“I would suggest this change to any business, but especially gyms,” Bishop says. “Gyms typically use way more cleaning equipment than other businesses. We’re always cleaning here.”

Bishop also purchased a high-efficiency washer and dryer set for all those sweaty towels, which reduces waste and his water bill.

A year later, Bishop decided there was more he could do to green his gym and started a recycling program.

He placed bins throughout the 12,000 square-foot facility for members to pitch their plastics in, but those water bottles have one more stop on the way to the recycling center.

Once a week, representatives from Mesa Developmental Services (MDS) pick up the gym’s recyclables and bring them to the local recycling center. The Mesa County nonprofit uses the rebate cash to help sponsor the Colorado Special Olympics.

“It’s so fantastic that we can help out the environment and our community at the same time,” Bishop says. “We help allow people with disabilities to participate in athletic activities and live the same health-conscious lifestyle we try to live.”

The latest movement Bishop has made to go green was the installation of the gym’s roof-top solar array last October, which he said was largely paid for by tax-breaks and incentives.

“I think we ended up paying 10 or 15 percent of the overall cost to set the solar system up,” Bishop says. “The rest was paid for by federal, state and community grants, but the bulk of the money came from federal funds that are available to anyone who does business in the United States.”

“Now that it’s set up the solar panels virtually, depending on the month and the amount of sunshine we get, pay for all the power we utilize in this facility,” Bishop says. “It will pay for itself by November of this year.”

Powerhouse is also able provide additional energy back into the grid for several months out of the year, which means some extra cash for the business and eco-friendly energy for all.

Bishop says it has not been necessary to raise membership costs at all as a result of going green, and he has seen above-average member retention and increased new membership as a result.

“Everybody is happier,” Bishop says. “Morale is up with both members and staff, and we’re so glad we made the choice to be environmentally friendly. It feels great.”

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni