This week our featured sustainable business is 'The Great Outdoor Gym Company'.
A Great Idea
A 'Green Energy Gym' is a British concept invented by The Great Outdoor Gym Company. It is a free to use outdoor gym that converts calories into watts. Special technology within the fitness equipment harnesses human energy and stores it for lighting, mobile phone charging or grid tie.
In 2012, Hull City Council was the first council in the world to pioneer this concept, introducing a gym in Shaw Park. A second gym was later opened in Barbara Robson Park in January 2014 and the third is planned for West Park.
The outdoor gym in Shaw Park is known as the 'Green Heart', and incredibly it glows in the dark, allowing more visibility for users at night. Shaw Park Gym was rated the second best outdoor gym in the world, after California’s Muscle Beach, by the fastest growing travel and lifestyle social networking community website in the world, with 22 million members
The concept has attracted worldwide attention including CNN and the world’s leading travel community website WAYN. The concept has attracted other councils including visitors from Hungary, Mexico, Portugal and Denmark looking to replicate the idea in their own countries.
Billy Hughes, Personal Trainer:
“There are 14 bits of kit here that can give you a really full work out. You can come each week: time it, measure it, record it. You can stick your headphones in and enjoy the outdoors. And when the weather gets good, it’ll get even better. I really do rate the equipment. It’s a full body workout – there’s a million and one routines I could do here to get people going straight away. 100%, I know I’ll be using it with my park training.”
A Great Education
Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow became the pilot partner for the first ever outdoor gym to charge mobile phones. The surplus energy from the outdoor gym is fed back into the college, making this a world's first for students generating their own college's power.This technology is known as TGO flow, and if the fitness equipment were being used all day long, they could generate up to 2.4kwh.
The college are on a mission to become the first carbon neutral college in Britain – so their TGO Green Energy Gym was a welcome addition. The college has already installed over 216 solar panels, in addition to many other green projects.
The Walthamstow outdoor gym has a spinning bike, recumbent bike, hand bike and a cross trainer.
Fact: The fitness equipment is designed and made 100% in Britain.
TGO's Creative Director Georgie Delaney, said: “TGO's mission is to create the greenest outdoor gym facilities in the world: our products are home grown, designed and made in Britain; 85% of materials we use are recycled and recyclable; we plant one tree for every piece of equipment we install – and now our cardio charge equipment generates electricity to charge phones and other devices. The TGO flow system at Sir George Monoux College puts the surplus energy to great use – helping to power the college building.”
Ling Ge, a research scientist at London's Imperial College, said “It's a really beautiful concept and it uses existing technology in a novel way. I think it's an excellent way to educate people about the concept of sustainability and changing people's behaviour without putting the 's' word in your face.”
We spoke to The Great Outdoor Gym Company to ask a few questions.
When was The Great Outdoor Gym Company formed, and how have you seen it grow?
The Great Outdoor Gym Company (TGO)is a family company that brought the concept of outdoor gyms to the UK and now manufacture their products 100% in the UK exporting to over 20 countries. They are now the worldwide pioneers of green energy gyms - outdoor gyms that harness human energy and turn that energy into usable electricity.
Two of the four founders, (husband and wife) Georgie and Matt previously worked for Sport England where there was a huge drive to get the nation more active. It was here they discovered what the Chinese government were doing -installing millions of square feet of outdoor gym equipment to provide free facilities for people to use in parks and public spaces. Inspired by the Chinese model, the couple decided that such free and widely available facilities were a great way to get people active here in the UK.
So convinced were they that this was a great idea, that Georgie left her job with Sport England to start the wheels of their new company turning which launched in January 2007. Georgie’s background was industrial design and she set about designing a new range of outdoor gyms that met playground standards, inclusive standards and indoor gym standards. Councils warmed to the idea straight away and so the company began to grow.
A key partnership at the beginning was with sports firm Adidas, a sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. TGO designed, for Adidas, a 15-station outdoor gym, including cardiovascular, toning and strengthening equipment, it also boasts a double-sided climbing wall, basketball court, tennis wall, football goal and freestyle area for aerobics, dance, martial arts, and yoga – all in the shape of the 2012 logo. From 2008-2012, TGO worked with Adidas to deliver the nation-wide “adiZone” programme – multi-purpose outdoor fitness facilities in the shape of the 2012 logo. Nearly 70 were set up across the country. All these gyms were launched by famous athletes from Jess Ennis to the All blacks. Phillips Idowu called the facility “tremendous,” adding: “When I was growing up I would have loved to have something free like this nearby.”
In 2009 TGO made the decision to start manufacturing in the UK. At the same time TGO’s design team set about designing the new range. It was at this stage that TGO came up with its green energy gyms that generate electricity when you use them. "We realised that we have this abundance of human energy all around us, with people trying to keep fit. We designed the TGO Green Energy gyms to try and harness some of this energy, generating the energy through exercise and recycling that energy for mobile phone charging, lighting or local buildings.” Georgie Delaney said.
How many outdoor gyms are there now, and are any installations under way?
We currently have over 460 gyms from The Olympic Park, London to The Gold Coast, Australia. We currently have installations happening in Oxford for the Council and an increasing number of schools currently in Bury and South West London.
How important do you think it is for people to use sustainable and renewable energy sources?
There is a big drive to live more sustainably. People are keen to do it. Our gyms give people a tangible way of being greener. All you have to do is commit to regular exercise which will help the planet and the individual.
What sort of daily energy output does the average park have, and what could that power?
Each piece produces between 40-80W (depending on how fast the pace is). Maximum output of 100Ws. Which can be used to charge mobile phones/tablets (Cardio Charge), local lighting (Glow gym) or put the energy generated back into a nearby building or grid (Flow gym).
The mobile phone charging is an incentive to keep people working out as it only uses up 5-10 Watts so the surplus energy can be fed into our Energy Display Unit (EDU) to power either the lighting or a building.
Your machines are made from 85% recycled materials, could you tell us more about this?
Our machines are made predominantly from steel which our steel supplier states is made from 85% recycled materials. We are always looking for new recycled materials to use and are currently looking for a new recycled plastic to use on our seats (if anyone has any suggestions please firstname.lastname@example.org). We really like how G-Star Raw are making Pharell denim Jeans from recycled plastic waste from the ocean. We love this idea!
Could the Gym model be replicated on a larger scale, ie a fitness club powering it's own premises?
Yes it could be replicated on a larger scale but we would want to continue to keep the gyms outdoors so that there is no need to power the building and unnecessary features like air-con, water and music. As our gyms don’t need powering and we have the natures air-con so we can use 100% of energy generated for other things.
What does the future hold for TGOGC?
The UK is the flagship for piloting our new ideas but we plan on sharing the concept overseas - creating the greenest gyms in the world. Getting people active about saving the planet is our mission.
“TGO’s goal over the next 20 years is to provide barrier free gym facilities to millions of people particularly in the Western world where obesity is prevalent. TGO’s green energy gyms will be a core part of TGO’s gym installations, helping to re-address the imbalance of energy consumption versus renewable energy production. TGO aims to plant a forest to offset the manufacturing too and is currently working in partnership with the NHS Forest to do so ”
Georgie Delaney, Creative Director of the Great Outdoor Gym Company.