Art of Living Climate & Energy Ohio University

Working out for the Greener Good

By Jenn Halliday, CG Lifestyles and People

The average person walking into the Ping Recreation Center at Ohio University is in awe of both its massive size and impressive machinery. With a closer look, one will notice the hundreds of fluorescent lights, numerous water fountains and dozens of exercise machines that consume millions of watts of energy. However, the staff at Ping Center has been making several efforts to turn this overwhelming consumption of energy around. “We decided to collaborate with the Office of Sustainability to make Ping Center more sustainable,” said Andrew West, graduate assistant for operations at Ping Center.

Ping Center (photo thanks to  http://www.ohio.edu/recreation/ping/)
Ping Center (photo thanks to http://www.ohio.edu/recreation/ping/)

All of the machines at Ping Center are powered by the person using them, meaning that they are completely off until someone working out provides the energy to turn on the screen. It only takes about 25 percent of the energy a person produces while working out on these machines to power them.

The other 75 percent goes into the ceramic heater of the machine and is, therefore, wasted.

In January 2009, the staff at Ping Center started researching a machine known as an inverter, which uses energy that a person produces while working out on machines such as cross trainers, ellipticals and stair steppers. The inverter, purchased by Ping Center in July 2009, takes the remaining 75 percent of the energy produced and uses it to power the lights, temperature and other infrastructure of Ping Center. “In about a half hour work-out, a person creates 50 watts of energy. This is enough to power a laptop for one hour,” West said.

There are a few ways to help with this generation of energy. Be sure to use the 20 machines which are hooked up to this inverter­­ — the ellipticals, cross trainers, and stair steppers on the second floor of Ping Center that overlook the entrance. Raising the resistance setting on these machines during workouts also creates more energy. Most people using these machines leave the resistance setting on “1,” which creates only 100 watts per hour. However, by raising the resistance up a notch to “2” or above, a person can create 230-240 watts per hour. At night, Ping’s busiest time, they produce about 300 watts an hour. The staff is hoping to produce 2,500,000 watts of power this year. They are currently at 500 kilowatts, one fifth of their projected goal.

The inverter is not the only thing Ping Center has done to increase sustainability, however. “This is just one of our efforts; it is part of a much larger project,” West said.

Ping Center staff has also cut down their use of paper by using more electronic documents and holding waste audits. However, none of these things are their most successful effort. Instead, it is their effective use of recycling. Most gyms and exercise facilities waste money and equipment by purchasing new machines every three to four years. Ping Center, on the other hand, recycles parts of machines and has working machinery as old as 11 years, which saves $1,000 per year.

Ping Center has been making great strides to becoming a greener and more sustainable facility, but West said it’s not just about the money and energy that is saved, “it’s about learning.”