Some studio owners have made being ecologically responsible a crusade, exploring and implementing new, innovative ways to create truly eco-friendly businesses. “We didn’t initially set out to build a ‘green’ studio; our goal was to create a healthy indoor environment for Pilates,” says C.J. Meffie, the co-owner of Atlas Pilates in Seattle with his wife Teresa Shupe. (Shupe is a Romana Kryzanowska–trained Pilates teacher, while Meffie runs the business.) “But it turned out Pilates-friendly goals were very much aligned with environmentally friendly ones.” It also helped them stick to their tight budget. “I don’t think one needs to be an expert in green building or spend a lot of capital to avoid polluting the indoor air with easily avoided toxins or permitting energy or water to be wasted,” he adds. “Awareness is inexpensive and goes a long way.” So in 2013, they moved from an 800-square- foot live-work unit to their current 2,500-square- foot studio.
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“It was a raw space in a new LEED Silver certified building,” he says. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; it sets standards for water and energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.) “It’s safe to say that the owner of a LEED building is already going to understand the benefits [of being environmentally conscious], and is likely to be more understanding of the studio’s concerns.” For Dianna DiLapo, a STOTT Pilates®–trained instructor and owner of Pilates Plus in Stevensville, Ontario, Canada, going green was more about the long-term cost effectiveness. Her studio is above her newly built garage next to her new home, “This is the last home we intend on building, and we wanted to do it correctly from the beginning to save money for the duration,” she says. “Also, I spend many hours of my day here, so I like to feel like I am breathing good air and LED lights are so much easier on the eyes.” And building an eco-friendly space doesn’t have to be a complicated, time-consuming project. “It was relatively easy, not as costly as you most would assume and very cost-effective in the long term,” Marcie Evans, owner of Serenity Yoga and Pilates Studio in Iowa City, IA, says of her studio, which was built to her specifications in a new building. But buyer beware: Not everything that claims to be “green” actually holds up. “You need to learn how to be a smarter shopper,” says Jared Kaplan, owner of Studio 26 in New York, who did a gut.
He renovation of his studio’s space in a mixed-use building. “Just because a package says something is green does not make it true.” He points out that intention must be supplemented with information and education. When planning his studio, “I did a lot of research, plus an interior designer and an architect helped. I recommend educating yourself on materials—a great place to start is to pick up the books Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press, 2002) and The Upcycle Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance (North Point Press, 2013). Both were written by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and are amazing books. We keep copies in our reception area to inspire busy New Yorkers to lead healthier, better- designed lives.” “I am pretty sure Joseph Pilates would have approved of Pilates studios’ environmental efforts,” says Evans. “It’s just a great thing to do, and makes you feel better about your footprint on the earth,” says Evans. “While going green isn’t necessarily intrinsic to the philosophy of Pilates, I do see the value of making things practical and cost-effective so we can grow, teach and maintain a healthy and happy studio,” says Chelsea Streifeneder, owner of Body Be Well Pilates in Red Hook and Catskill, NY. “I pretty much ‘live’ in my studio, and wanted my team and clients to feel ‘at home.’”
“My advice for other studio owners: Go for it!” adds Evans. “It’s not as expensive as you would think, and it can be done over several years.” Here, owners’ eco solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges.
MAXIMIZE NATURAL LIGHT
Taking advantage of daylight is one of the easiest ways studio owners can cut down on energy use. In addition, “there is a lot of evidence to support Joe Pilates’ belief in the fitness benefits of sunshine,” says Meffie. “Studies show that it positively affects mood, the ability to focus, memory and overall health. Our floor-to- ceiling windows span the width of the premises. They filter UV radiation, provide good insulation and reduce operating costs.” When it’s not feasible to add windows (which in sunny climes can add to air-conditioning costs), curtains and blinds can help you optimize the natural light. CHOOSE LED LIGHTS. “The most cost-effective thing owners can do is to switch to LED lighting,” says Evans. DiLapo and Kaplan also have LED lights, which typically use 25 to 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 25 times longer. After consulting with Seattle City Light’s free Lighting Design Lab, “we came up with a mix of very efficient T8 fluorescents with silent electronic ballasts in the workout space and LED.
Lighting in the common areas,” says Meffie. “We use lamps with a color temperature of 5,000 kelvin, which is considered a neutral light. We also installed occupancy sensors to prevent waste, and digital controls that dynamically balance the room lighting with the daylight coming through the windows.”
CUT DOWN ON HEATING COSTS
“We have high-efficiency heat/air and a programmable thermostat,” says Evans. Her mechanical contractor, Alex Frey of Bowker Mechanical in Cedar Rapids, IA, “was invaluable” in helping her find environmentally friendly and cost-effective energy solutions.
INVEST IN ENERGY STAR–CERTIFIED APPLIANCES
DiLapo bought Energy Star–certified air conditioner, ceiling fan and personal fans (each of her Reformers is outfitted with its own Energy Star fan, to cut down on the necessity of turning on the AC). Energy Star appliances use less energy than traditional appliances. Though the initial purchase price may be greater, you’ll save on electric bills in the long run.
LOOK FOR ECO-FRIENDLY FLOORING
“Flooring can be particularly nasty and toxic, so we’re very happy with our clean bamboo,” says Kaplan. Bamboo, a grass that grows much more quickly than hardwoods, is a sustainable resource. In the gym, he used natural rubber—“no smelly, off- gassing recycled rubber here!”
DiLapo chose E1 Goodfellow laminate flooring. (E1 refers to formaldehyde emission standards, and E1 is on the low end of the scale, she explains.) “I liked the look, texture and feel of vinyl plank flooring, but found it had a slight chemical odor to it; I didn’t want clients to have to deal with that during matwork. The E1 Goodfellow flooring looked the same, is highly durable even with all the traffic, cleans well and since it floats it has a soft feel under foot.” (Plus it doesn’t need to be glued down, so no fumes.)
Upcycling, a trendy name for what your grandmother called reusing, is an often undervalued strategy, but it can have a bigger impact than buying new products, no matter how green they may be. “There is so much waste, and I believe we should reuse as much as possible—as well as use as many local products as we can,” says Streifeneder. When Mette Angel, owner of the year-old Core Control Pilates in Silkeborg, Denmark, opened her studio, she tried to use sustainable materials whenever possible. “All my furniture—reception desks, office desk, chairs and table, carpets, lamps and mirrors—is secondhand,” she says. “Some I bought from a company whose mission is to be environmentally, socially and economically responsible. The rest I got in secondhand shops that support various causes.”
DiLapo salvaged some mirrored closet doors from her parents’ house that was being torn down and used them in her studio. “So it was at no cost for us, plus we saved them from going to the landfill.” Streifeneder also upcycled a lot of items for her studios. “We reclaimed a church pew for my bench in the entryway and used a piece of marble that was sitting around in my boyfriend’s father’s barn for my bathroom countertop; we put it on top of a TV stand to create the sink in one bathroom. Glenn Reichelt, the husband of a client who is a fabulous contractor, put it together. My talented friend Chris Wambach, who’s a custom woodworker, also helped me out. What you think might not work might actually work and save you a ton of money. Shop around and ask questions,” she advises.
THINK ABOUT SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
In many places, driving is the only viable option for clients, owners and employees. But when considering a location, you may want to keep in mind other possibilities. Meffie chose his studio’s location in Seattle in part because it offered numerous alternatives to driving. “There are four bus stops on our block, including one that is served by 10 different routes. Our location has a Walk Score of 98 (out of 100), which is considered a ‘walker’s paradise’ and a Bike Score of 82. We have bike racks and also allow bikes to be brought indoors.” Street parking is also readily available.
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