Athletics pushes green fitness

In an effort to dovetail physical fitness with sustainable practices, Yale Athletics and the Office of Sustainability are rolling out a marketing campaign to promote environmental consciousness while working out.

The Athletics Department launched Bulldog Sustainability on Jan. 15 to publicize its ongoing efforts to reduce energy, water and paper use at all athletics facilities and events, said Bryant Blount, the department’s development and outreach assistant. The department hopes to make the campaign a sustainable model for other programs nationwide, he added.

Yale Athletics’ sustainability efforts date back to the fall of 2008, when an anonymous donor provided funding to make the department more sustainable. Since then, efforts have largely focused on restructuring and streamlining energy, water and paper use within the department through measures ranging from investing in water-saving shower heads and eliminating disposable cups at sports practices to installing iPod chargers powered by exercise bikes and elliptical trainers, said Matthew Bloem GRD ’11, a research assistant employed by the Office of Sustainability to promote the campaign. Bulldog Sustainability, whose logo was unveiled at the Yale-Brown men’s basketball game Jan. 15, represents a broadening of that effort, he added.

“As we’ve entered our second year, what we’ve done is tried to sort of brand it, and that’s what people are seeing now,” he said.

For most students, the most visible part of the program is the signs that recently appeared in Payne Whitney Gym and its locker rooms. The “Briefly Nude Challenge” encourages gym users to take shorter showers, while the “Shake It Off Challenge” reminds hand-washers that after “20 good shakes,” they only need one paper towel to dry their hands. Blount said the department hopes that these and other tips will change the gym habits of the Yale community, Blount said.

Research assistant Alice Henly ’10, a varsity rower, is working to spread Bulldog Sustainability’s model beyond Yale’s campus. The University is working with the NCAA to create an online database of sustainability practices, which other athletics programs could use as a model for their own sustainable initiatives, Henly said. The Environmental Protection Agency has also expressed interest in the campaign, she added.

“This initiative is trying to be the first of its kind in terms of its comprehensive nature,” Henly said.

Reactions of gym users to the campaign have been overwhelmingly positive, Payne Whitney fitness center supervisor Elias Georges said.

“I had one person out of 300 that said ‘too many signs,’ but that’s negligible, almost moot,” he said.

Four of six gym users interviewed said they were enthusiastic about the program, though some were skeptical about the effectiveness of signs on users’ daily practices. Kyle Sherman MUS ’11 said he was optimistic that the campaign’s message would reach people.

“It’s always good to have in the back of your mind,” Sherman said. “I would say it makes a little bit of an impact and when it’s up all over the place, all the time, you can only ignore it so much.”

Yale’s iPod-charging exercise equipment was featured last semester in an NBC Connecticut TV segment entitled “Going Green — Pedal Power.”

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