6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Working Out

Paul L. Underwood
by Paul L. Underwood
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6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Working Out

Given the growing impact of global climate change, it’s no surprise more and more people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint in ways big and small, from using metal straws to carrying your own water bottle everywhere. Which got us wondering: What about your workout? Is it possible to do right by your body while also doing better by the planet?

The answer is yes. That’s why, ahead of Earth Day, we’re offering a few ways to do exactly that.



It turns out vehicles produce 1/3 of all American air pollution and reducing the mileage of the average new car by 5,000 miles per year would save more than a ton of CO2, which is roughly 15% of your average carbon footprint. Because the average commute is roughly 15 miles each way, eliminating your commute altogether would effectively cancel out that ton of CO2.

And while two 15-mile bike commutes per day aren’t for everybody (especially in the hot months), you can combine that ride with public transportation — many buses and rail systems let you store your bike while you ride. Aim to do it once a week, or embrace it (especially now that most workplaces allow you to dress more casually), and remind yourself of the time—and carbon—you’re saving in the process.



We won’t repeat the aforementioned statistics on driving, but it’s worth noting that, according to the Wall Street Journal, the average person lives roughly 4 miles from their go-to gym. That means everything above applies here, with two key differences: 1. Your impact will be slightly less than cutting out your commute; 2. Riding (or running or walking) 4 miles is a lot more attainable than doing the same for 15 miles. Those looking to make their workouts more eco-friendly could do worse than starting here.



That treadmill or exercise bike? It runs on electricity. As with all workout equipment, it took energy to manufacture and transport. Your gym also has to keep the lights on, no matter how many (or how few) people are there. All of this consumes energy. Working out at home or at the park is a great way to cut down on energy consumption, especially if you swap equipment-based exercises for bodyweight ones. (Again, that equipment takes energy to manufacture and transport.) Bonus: You’ll reconnect with, and feel great about protecting, nature itself.



Bring a reusable water bottle. Use as few towels as possible. And, if you can handle it, wash your workout gear sparingly. (By which we mean wait until you can wash it with a full load.) Tumble drying is a major electricity suck, so getting an energy-efficient dryer or hang-drying your clothes can have an outsized impact.



Whether you’re at home or at the gym, being more efficient in the shower can cut down on water usage. (This is where we remind you only 3% of the water on earth is low enough in salt for human consumption and 2/3 of that water is unusable because it’s in a glacier or an icy polar region. According to Mother Jones, we would save 20.9 billion pounds of CO2 a year if we all shaved one minute off our showers.)

As with bringing your own reusable water bottle to the gym, you can also cut down on plastic by bringing your own grooming supplies from home.



Before and after a workout, protein is a must. But producing meat is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions — experts estimate switching to a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. By how much? Estimates vary. Eggs or protein-rich plants (including eggplant) provide an alternative that’s as healthy for you as it is for the environment.

Reduce your environmental impact by making small, sustainable changes in the kitchen. Try our 14-day Go Green: Eco-Friendly Eating plan under “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app.

About the Author

Paul L. Underwood
Paul L. Underwood

Paul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He tweets here, he Instagrams there and he posts the occasional deep thought at plunderwood.com. He’s probably working on a run mix as you read this.


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