Five eco-friendly fitness tips for increasing activity and reducing environmental impact

April 15, 2021

​Earth Day, celebrated April 20-22 this year, reinforces the importance of adopting habits to help reduce our environmental impact. Here are some tips to help save the planet that you can work into your fitness routine.

Earth Day turns 51 this year. During 2020, many of us found our fitness and eco-conscious routines upended due to the pandemic, with our focus on a healthy environment understandably diverted. But as a growing number of people get the COVID-19 vaccine amid spring weather that affords us more outdoor exercise options, there's no better time to recommit to both habits.

Check out these five tips for working out and helping to save the planet.

Combine exercise with errands or pleasure. Walking or biking outdoors has both physical and mental health benefits. And when you walk or bike to the store for a few items or to visit with a friend instead of driving, you're automatically lowering your carbon footprint and saving money. If you can find local gyms, yoga classes, or outdoor boot camps within walking or biking distance, you can get fit on your way to getting fit. Any time you can forgo a car trip in favor of human-powered travel, it's a double-win for you and the environment.

Shop for sustainable fitness wear. Did you know that some synthetic clothing materials such as polyester shed microfiber plastics into the environment and pollute our waters? Research companies that are committed to ethical labor practices while producing athletic wear from natural or recycled materials such as bamboo, hemp, or Tencel (fiber made from responsibly sourced wood pulp). Or support your local community and eliminate shipping by buying fitness wear from small shops near you.

Buy recycled athletic clothing and recycle your own. In-person and online consignment shops are great places to find athletic wear that's new with tags (usually cheaper than original store price) or used in good condition. You can turn to those same sources to recycle your own workout clothes when you're ready to replace them if they're in decent shape — or reach out to your friends and organize a clothes swap. There are also many ways to recycle used athletic shoes, from in-store take-back programs to donation fundraisers.

Replace single-use plastic water bottles with reusable ones. Until the pandemic hit, people were choosing reusable over disposable items like straws and water bottles in greater numbers. With many public and private water fountains shut down because of COVID-19, the environment has had to take a temporary back seat for health reasons. But you can still fill your own large water bottle made from stainless steel or recycled materials at home before you head outside or to the gym for a workout.

Look for refurbished or used at-home equipment. You can often find refurbished or used treadmills, stationary bikes, home gyms, dumbbells, and other fitness equipment in good condition through local online buying-and-selling websites and groups.

Need more motivation?

When you participate in Call to Health,* you can find challenges to help increase your physical activity as well as ones that encourage care for the environment, such as the new Volunteer to Help Out the Environment challenge. Simply log on to the Call to Health website to participate.

*Employees and spouses with medical coverage through the Board of Pensions are eligible to participate. Call to Health is not available to employees or spouses enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.

Sources: United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council