Conserve Energy (and Money) With a Green Workout

Tread more lightly on the Earth with these eco-friendly, green workout tips.

By trying to make your bodies more healthy, you and your family—inadvertently, of course!— may be making our planet less healthy by creating excessive emissions or other waste. Try these green workout ideas to reduce that carbon footprint. You may find you save money too.

Go outside to go green.

Woman running outside with jogging stroller
Steve Ogle / Getty Images

Treadmills can be a godsend for home-bound parents or those dealing with extreme climates, but they are also a big energy drain. When you can, always try to take your walk or run (or bike ride, or other workout) outside. Money-saving bonus: You'll save wear and tear on your 'mill, and reduce energy costs as well. You might be able to use your savings to purchase a jogging stroller so your little ones can accompany you on your runs.

Use household items to make toys for active play.

Homemade fitness equipment - detergent jug scoop
Erica Greis

Raid your cupboards and recycling bin to make your own kids' toys. It's easy—kids can help—and fun. You'll also send the message that reusing stuff is cool! Money-saving bonus: Skip buying toys and make them yourselves. Remember how you feel on Christmas morning when your kids ignore the toys and play with the boxes?

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Use refillable water bottles.

For workouts and everyday hydration, provide refillable water bottles (compare prices) for everyone in your family. Buying fewer plastic bottles not only keeps empties from piling up in landfills. It also means less energy to produce the plastic in the first place, and transport it to your grocery. Money-saving bonus: You'll recoup your investment in those reusable bottles quickly when you stop buying water at the supermarket or on the go.

Leave your car at home.

Instead of driving to the gym, keep your car in the garage and walk, bicycle, or run instead. Replace or extend some of your workouts by using your legs for transportation. The same goes for your kids as they travel to school or sports practices. Is there a way they can walk or roller-skate where they need to go, or ride a scooter or bike? Money-saving bonus: You'll fill your gas tank less often.

Give your laundry a green workout.

When you're at the gym, bring your own towel for wiping down your machines or your hands. Then take it home, air it dry, and reuse. Laundry machines use a significant amount of energy. When you do wash towels, workout clothes, or sports uniforms (let's face it, those usually need frequent sudsing!), use cold water and line dry. Money-saving bonus: You'll lower your energy bills, plus extend the life of your clothing.

Buy used sports equipment.

Especially if you or your child is trying out a new sport for the first time, start out with borrowed, used, or refurbished equipment. Check classified ads, garage sales, retailers such as Play It Again Sports, or specialty shops that stock both new and used goods such as skis or golf clubs. The exception to this rule: safety equipment. Helmets, pads, and other gear should be in good condition and the right size for the athlete using them. Money-saving bonus: Used equipment usually costs significantly less than new, and you get a chance to try out gear and learn what you like and don't like.

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Create a carpool.

There's no reason for every player's parent to drive him to every practice. Check the roster for teammates who live nearby and set up a carpool. The same goes for dance lessons, Scouts, and so on. You'll save yourself a little gas—and a lot of hours cooling your heels on the sidelines. Do try to attend all of your child's games if you can, to show your support and pride.

You can also extend the carpool plan to your own exercise routine. If you and a friend take a yoga class together or tend to hit the gym at the same time, share the ride as well as the workout. This will also give you that extra nudge you need on days you feel like playing hooky.

Recycle your gear to help others get a green workout.

Don't throw those cruddy old running shoes in the trash! Did you know you can recycle them? Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program takes athletic shoes (any brand; no metal or cleats, please) and turns them into running tracks, playground surfaces, cushioning pads, and more.

The same goes for your yoga mat, kids' sporting equipment (from baseballs to jump ropes to socks and whistles), even your swim goggles and other eyewear. About's Personal Organizing site has more ways to donate and recycle sporting goods (and just about everything else). Money-saving bonus: Some organizations offer discounts off purchases of new materials, or you can take a tax deduction for your donation.

Make running and racing more green.

Especially when participating in large events like races, runners can have an unhealthy impact on the environment. These nine suggestions will help you get your runner's high in a more environmentally friendly way.

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Join a green gym.

If you're lucky enough to have one in your city, try joining a green gym. These fitness centers modify cardio equipment so that the energy exercisers generate is returned to the facility to power lights, ceiling fans, and televisions. For an example, check out the Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon. Money-saving bonus: Some of these gyms pass along the savings from reduced energy bills in the form of lower membership fees.

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