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Saving Our Future

If going green isn't on your mind, it should be. The fitness industry is in a strategic position to tackle global warming.

If going green isn't on your mind, it should be. The fitness industry is in a strategic position to tackle global warming. With the growing number of facilities across the U.S., as well as the influence we have on a great number of people, we can make a difference in the way we and others help to make our world more eco-friendly.

This past year, we at FM have made it a point to pay attention to the topic of global warming in our pages. We have published several feature stories about the importance of going green, and we ran a monthly column titled "Green-Ovations," which highlighted eco-friendly efforts at fitness facilities.

Now, with 2008 right around the corner, and the most recent reports about the growing effects of global warming, our industry needs to do its part more than ever. At a recent convention, Phillip Mills, chairman and founder of Les Mills International, spoke about global warming and our industry's role. Reiterating what we've been hearing in the press, Mills says that our world is running out of oil, water and farmable land, producing far too much waste and currently using 200 percent or more of the resources available to us. But, he says, these problems are due to our population's ignorance of how to change - ignorance on a personal level and on an industry level.

On an individual level, Mills explained that there are five simple things we can do to help to reverse global warming: 1) We can "green" our mode of transportation by reducing our use of cars, 2) we can green our homes by using energy-saving lighting and watering systems, 3) we can green our businesses, 4) we can green our minds and 5) we can green our bodies.

Greening our bodies is, perhaps, one of the most important ways we can make change. According to Mills, 75 percent of the money spent on healthcare is due to inactivity. Over the next decade, healthcare costs are expected to rise from $2.1 trillion to $4.1 trillion. Yet, it would only cost $1.2 billion to deal with global warming right now - half what the current cost of healthcare is. That's a pretty astonishing statistic, considering those healthcare costs could be substantially reduced if individuals were to exercise every day and eat nutritiously - in essence, green their bodies.

How can our industry help? Mills says that "the biggest adult sport today is going to the gym." That is undoubtedly true since, as individuals get older, they don't typically get into shape the way they did as kids. Most of those who do get exercise work out in a fitness facility. So, says Mills, what our industry can do is green our businesses:

  1. We need to green our facilities by doing such things as reducing water usage, using solar heating, installing low-energy lighting, etc. - all of which have a 20- to 50-percent return on investment.
  2. We need to become advocates for green. Setting an example is one way. But, we can also do things such as recommending books on the environment for members to read.
  3. We need to get better at running our businesses. "Traditionally," says Mills, "we've been a pretty boring sport." He's right. To get individuals more motivated to work out in our facilities, we need to make working out fun for them.
  4. We need to create a cause and a sense of mission around going green. We can make a difference, but we have to play an active role and push the agenda. "Give your team a mission to work with passion and commitment," says Mills.
In this last issue of 2007, we look back on the trends from the year to provide you with a strong foundation to build better fitness-services businesses in 2008. I hope that part of all of your plans for next year will include strategies to help you, your facilities and your members go green.
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