Want to Change the World?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead

reen is the new black. OK, maybe that's going a bit far, but going green has become the new thing, and it seems like it's going to stick around. From green building initiatives in major cities to families trying to reduce their carbon footprint, many people are at least attempting to become more environmentally conscious. Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize for their groundbreaking work on global warming, but you don't have to aspire to a Peace Prize to make a difference. As Mead said, with thoughtfulness and commitment, you can change your small corner of the world first.

"Sustainability is the number-one issue for businesses today—for our business or for any business," said Phillip Mills in his keynote speech at the Club Industry Show in Chicago last month. A pioneer in the international fitness industry, Mills is owner of the Les Mills club chain in New Zealand and director of Les Mills International. He focused on big trends in fitness, like relationship-building and exertainment—and the importance of going green.

As Mills said, we're running out of oil, water, farmable land and fish as we create more and more waste and global warming looms. Right now, 20 percent of the world is using 80 percent of the world's resources, but the developing world, including India and China, is developing the ability to put an even greater strain on our already strained resources.

That's the global view, now let's make it local. In fact, Mills has brought things down to an even smaller scale in "Fighting Globesity," a book he co-authored with his wife Jackie, which charges that overconsumption on a large scale mirrors the smaller-scale personal overconsumption and inactivity that are contributing to the global obesity epidemic. In his speech, he suggested steps we can all take, such as greening our modes of transportation, greening our homes, greening our businesses and greening our minds. "Greening our bodies is one of the biggest ways we can have an impact," Mills explained.

Bringing things back up to the level of the audience for his speech—fitness club owners and operators—Mills adapted his message to outline some ways fitness clubs can hop on the green bandwagon to increase membership and retention, while changing the world—one body at a time.

Green Your Facilities: You can lower your operating costs, and make a difference, through lower energy and water use, using such tools as graywater recycling for toilets and gardens, solar water heating, low-energy LED lights and more. Mills added that through work at his own clubs, he is planning to produce a blueprint for a green club, which he expects to be available in March 2008.

Become an Advocate for Green: You can change people's perception of your business, Mills said, by shifting your gym from the expected ego-focus to a community focus. Businesses that go green also grow their markets.

Get Better at Running Your Business: "Traditionally, we've been pretty boring," Mills said. He suggested ways to create more entertaining, experiential environments—community relations, group fitness, personal training and use of Web-enabled communication methods.

Create a Sense of Mission: As Tom Peters said, you want to "create a cause, not a business." Give your team a mission around green, and your team will be inspired to new heights of performance.

We add to Mills' suggestions in this month's fitness-focused feature, found on page 12, which takes a look at some ways you can make your club more inviting to those less experienced exercisers.

This month's edition of the Rec Report e-newsletter will take a look at some smart design ideas for fitness facilities, including a focus on green building issues. We'll also consider ways to make your club more inviting for all types of exercisers, so you can contribute to the fight against "globesity." You'll find the e-newsletter in your inbox. If you miss it there, head over to www.recmanagement.com to take a look.

Of course, greening your facilities is just one way to change the world. This month, we take a look at some other ways to make big changes through small steps: enlisting to serve on the front lines of the war against recreational water illnesses (see page 10); preserving treasured landscapes as cultural resources (see page 22), fighting for shade to protect park patrons from skin cancer and overheating (see page 42), and enlisting the community to build a playground accessible to kids of all abilities (see page 39).

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start changing your world!


Emily Tipping


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