Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Tony Calhoun witnessed the tragic oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969. At the time, it was the largest oil spill in U.S. waters and today, still ranks third. Over 10 days an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil flooded into the channel, leaving a devastating impact on marine life and the environment as a whole.
“The country’s environmental movement was largely spawned in response to that tragic event,” said Calhoun, the owner of AC4 Fitness, which has locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta, California. “We were given a wake-up call, and it all started right here in my hometown.”
The event not only had a lasting impact on the country, but on Calhoun as well. Years later, when he opened the first AC4 Fitness location in Santa Barbara, the concept of caring for your body and protecting the environment seemed to go hand-in-hand.
“That certainly shaped my awareness of the need for good stewardship of the environment,” explained Calhoun. “As a result of that perspective, taking care of the environment, while taking care of yourself, just seemed like a smart and natural thing to do. [It’s] good stewardship of what you’ve been given — whether it be your body or the land, sea and air.”
AC4 Fitness strives to provide affordable, comfortable and convenient workout options for members, all while remaining environmentally responsible. Calhoun has implemented numerous sustainable initiatives throughout the clubs, one of the most interesting being the use of cardio equipment that produces electricity.
“We use an ECOMill Treadmill [from Woodway],” added Calhoun. “The kinetic energy that exercise produces is captured, or harvested, and converted into useable building power by an Inverter. The whole system is produced by a company named ReRev, based in Florida.”
The club has also made it a priority to go paperless. When new members enroll, the process is handled through the website and a PDF copy of each membership agreement is emailed to members. Calhoun explained there is no need to print anything — all necessary information is on the club website, including brochures and schedules.
Other sustainable initiatives include the use of “green” cleaners, lockers made from 100 percent recycled plastic and drinking water provided by the local Santa Barbara Water Company.
The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas is also going green. “As our awareness grew of sustainability and our business impact on the environment, we saw a great opportunity to limit our carbon footprint, while reducing our operating costs and increasing our overall profitability,” said Cher Harris, the assistant general manager at The Houstonian Club.
The club replaced older boilers with more energy-efficient ones, began using rechargeable batteries in equipment and purchased compostable or recyclable consumer items. In addition, it converted to LED lighting, which produces virtually no heat and is mercury-free, making them safer than halogen, CFL and incandescent light bulbs.
Both Harris and Calhoun agree: The biggest challenge when implementing environmentally friendly practices is the cost. “Our two main challenges have been economic and social in nature,” explained Harris. “Becoming a sustainable business is not an inexpensive proposition. Our company has spent a considerable amount of money on the different environmental initiatives we have undertaken. However, we believe it is the right thing to do for the environment and it will benefit our business in the long-term.”
While it might be an investment of both time and resources, developing environmentally sustainable habits within your club helps educate members on the importance of being green. Harris explained hopefully they will carry this knowledge with them wherever they go.
“We have implemented these strategies to showcase technologies, materials and business practices that can be utilized to advance good stewardship in the business realm — to be an example,” added Calhoun. “While it can be difficult, it’s just the smart thing and the right thing to do. And doing so is its own reward. Plus, getting a little attention for these efforts once in a while certainly doesn’t hurt.”
It may be difficult to do everything at once, so start small and take it one step at a time. “Look for people in your club who will be advocates for sustainability and form a committee who will help you carry out your green initiatives,” said Harris. “Don’t be afraid to start small and tackle one initiative at a time. Every step toward a more sustainable business today is a step closer to a better environment tomorrow.”