Fitness Articles

Green Fitness Gear

Tread Lightly with Gear that's Good for the Earth

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Exercise is essential to keeping your body healthy. But you don’t want to leave a trail of empty plastic water bottles, torn polyester running shorts, and dead batteries in your wake. Help improve the health of the earth while you’re improving your own health by choosing environmentally-friendly fitness gear. Here are some tips to get you started.

Shoes. These days it’s pretty easy to find environmentally-friendly shoes. Most footwear manufacturers have stopped using the environmental burden known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in their products. To further reduce the environmental impact of your sneakers, look for shoes made with recycled rubber outsoles. And choose shoes from companies like Montrail, which have taken a back-to-basics approach to the packaging of their footwear. All you’ll find inside the unbleached recycled cardboard box is the shoes.

Socks. Socks are a different story. Most socks are made from a combination of bleached, conventionally-grown cotton and synthetic fibers sourced from non-renewable resources. There are alternatives, but you’ll probably have to order them online. A company called Teko sells socks made from eco-friendly materials like wool, organic cotton, and fibers made from corn.

Clothing. After you outfit your feet, you’ll need to outfit the rest of your body. As demand has grown for green clothing options, selection has expanded, making it relatively easy to find full lines of eco-friendly workout clothes. Organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, recycled and even soy fibers are weaving their way into the workout clothing world. Companies like Patagonia, Lululemon and Gaiam carry a great selection of clothes made with these fibers, which are usually grown and harvested in a sustainable manner.

Reusable water bottles. When you’re working out, water is critical, but the plastic bottles that contain it aren’t good for anybody. Production and disposal of these bottles generates a lot of waste—in California alone, nearly 3 million empty water bottles wind up in the trash every day. These problems could easily be avoided by switching to reusable water bottles made from higher quality materials. There are a few that stand above the rest. Nalgene bottles are made from polycarbonate, which can stand up to rough handling. Sigg bottles are made from aluminum with a water-based interior coating. Independent testing showed that these are non-leaching, taste-neutral, and have a lower chance for bacteria buildup than plastic bottles. Klean Kanteen bottles are stainless steel and also toxin-free and non-leaching. All make good alternatives to disposable plastic bottles, and will save you money in the long-run too.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • They make bamboo socks and they are so comfortable and tend to smell less! - 10/17/2014 7:06:22 PM
  • I use green when I can, a lot of advertising in this article. Edna - 4/25/2013 12:08:36 PM
  • Like EarthNut below, I choose green clothing by shopping at second-hand stores. I tell myself that everything is "one of a kind"! ;-D

    Other folks' failed New Year's resolutions can fuel my next Spark streak! - 4/22/2012 4:24:24 PM
  • I try to be green where I can be: I use reusable bags when grocery shopping, a reusable water bottle, I recycle, etc. It bothers me that a lot of companies like Lululemon don't carry sizes that I can wear. Part of me says, "You'll be able to start wearing them eventually and that will be a great accomplishment!" The other part wants nothing to do with them because I don't want to support a company who doesn't acknowledge that a person of a larger size can want/need fitness gear, too. I'm not sure if I'll be willing to pay more to shop at such a company when the time comes. - 4/22/2012 11:25:23 AM
  • Watch the fibers... sometimes the processing it takes to make things like bamboo fibers is more harmful to the planet than simple things like cotton or wool. - 5/23/2011 3:32:44 PM
  • Seriously? Reusable bags are TOO green? And I suppose driving two blocks to buy two bags of groceries is a good idea. After all, it supports the economy, too, to have to put gas in the car every week. Allow me to shake my head at an attitude like that.

    Fortunately, I think that price differences between eco-friendly and conventional (stupid convention, if you ask me, btw) stuff of all kind will begin to dissolve once eco-friendly becomes the norm. I already see this in Germany where the grocer's bill from the regular supermarket is really no less than from the bio (organic) store. Eventually, fitness products and clothing will go the same way, and that's definitely a good thing. - 5/23/2011 7:48:52 AM
  • The greenest gear is from the thrift shop (or garage sales, but those are more touch-and-go) - and it's a LOT cheaper too! You're reusing, supporting a local charity, and getting a great deal. So many used clothes are like new, just last season's models or something that was never worn. - 6/10/2010 1:14:40 AM
  • The reusuable water bottle and rechargeable batteries are totally great....but I draw the line at all the rest, in that I think we are getting too crazy in this society, with reusable bags, and every thing being green. DRIVES me nuts!

    I RECYCLE...I will continue to do so, all my mail, grocery receipts etc. etc. but I just cannot do any more at this point. I just want to remain sane!!!! - 9/25/2009 12:30:30 AM
  • We went the extra step to buy power cords for our Stationary Bike and our Elliptical. It's not perfect, but it is better than going through a set of batteries every few days.

    If you can't get past using batteries and your rechargeables have quit working, they too can be recycled, but you have to find someone willing to take them. - 9/20/2009 9:27:58 AM
  • Cool sites, if only I had $20 to spend on a pair of socks, $60 per tank top and nearly $100 per pair of pants (even more significant for the many of us on this site who are shrinking sizes). $100 on one pair of pants I hope to not fit in a few months? Wish I had that kind of money.

    As far as water bottles go, I recommend the new wave enviro stainless steel bottles (I like the large 1 liter bottle for less refilling, but also got a smaller .6 liter bottle that is similar in shape to the aluminum bottles that are very popular, and I like that one as well, though I use it for when I am out without a bag big enough to accommodate the others. And the clip on it allows me to hand it from my small purse rather than having to fit it in the purse..

    Oh, and they are cheaper than Klean Kanteen bottles. - 8/23/2009 5:14:57 PM
  • My idea of shopping GREEN: is called a RUMMAGE SALE in my areal.
    I also have a $2 reusable water bottle and another that I got free.
    I will use my beach towel for a yoga mat before I spend the prices advertised on the links.
    I checked out the web links and wouldn't shop at any of them. - 4/18/2009 1:36:32 PM
  • SIRIRADHA
    Very good article, but I'm going to have to slim down some more before I can shop for earth-friendly clothes! One of the sites has women's 12 as the largest size, and another only goes up to 16. - 4/18/2009 11:01:28 AM
  • I was thinking before I read this, i am not very 'green' at all. Then I discovered, things I have done for personal preference and ease are Green.

    3 Yrs ago, Santa brought me 2 Nalgene 32ox water bottles - use religiously
    5 Yrs ago, I discoved SmartWool stocks - aside from the cost, LOVE 'EM
    2 Yrs ago, Yoga mat: I bought a rubber one - again for comfort and ease for no green thoughts involved.
    4yeas ago - bought a Eureka tent - for car camping. We are thinking of getting a new one, but naturally thought of givings/selling ours to Wilderness Exchange not throwing it out.
    2.5 years ago - discovered Wilderness Exchange - where new and used equipment go to live a new life. My husband got some great 'GoLite' clothing for almost nothing. Saved us tons of money, more items not in a landfill, and they looked like they had never been worn.
    Utensils for camping: Lexan or Titanium - no disposable plastics.
    It was a revelation to both of us that we were actually being pretty green about things. Now that we are more aware - we will do even better.
    - 4/18/2009 7:15:34 AM
  • I was unaware of this BPA issue. I reuse a big blue plastic bottle everyday from Eddie Bauer (it was a freebie). Maybe I should reconsider... - 4/18/2009 1:11:29 AM
  • My old bottle is now holding nut and bolts in my garage/shed and I purchased 3 new BPA free bottles for the family! - 9/24/2008 12:41:26 AM
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