Sustainability is the new buzzword now. Even in the fitness business, more people are talking about it. Perhaps that’s because it’s becoming easier to be green—and earn green because of it.

As recently as five years ago, business owners may have suffered minor pangs of guilt about wanting to become greener, but doing so would cost them time and money. Often, using recycled materials was more expensive than using traditional materials. For too many facility owners, that meant that being sustainable would have to wait. Well, the excuses for not running your business in a sustainable manner decrease each day. Being green isn’t just about saving the planet, because now it can save you money.

Longfellow Clubs in Natick, MA, is a good example. Last month we ran a news item about the Natick, MA-based company’s move to get its electricity from a 75-kilowatt cogeneration plant. That move will save Laury Hammel, the club’s owner, about $7,000 a year on his energy costs.

Unfortunately, doing the right thing happens most often when people see the financial benefits of doing so. So the more the industry hears about savings like that of the Longfellow Clubs, the more likely more club owners will turn to the green side of business. Club owners can create greener facilities by using solar water heat, purchasing water-saving toilets and shower heads, and using energy-efficient lighting.

But have you ever thought that by promoting good nutrition and exercise and by following suit in your own life, you are helping with the sustainability effort? That was the thought expressed by Phillip Mills of Les Mills International in his keynote address at last month’s Club Industry show. He suggested that club owners and their staff become advocates for green by marketing themselves as responsible stewards of the earth’s resources and places where people can participate in the sustainability movement. That also extends into running clubs better and educating members better about health and fitness so they come back, exercise, eat less, waste less and live a healthier lifestyle. Last of all, it means creating a powerful sense of cause and mission to be environmentally sound and responsible, a message that resonates well with members and potential members.

That doesn’t mean that your responsibility stops at just being an advocate of health and fitness. You still need to install those energy-efficient light bulbs, use recycled materials in your next renovation and place recycle bins at your doors for all those newspapers and water bottles that your members have been throwing in your trash. However, you can take comfort in knowing that the industry you serve has been helping in at least a small way with the sustainability effort by promoting healthier living. And I would bet most of us were doing it without giving a thought to the green movement. Think how much more we can do now that we know how vital our part of the business world is in ensuring the sustainability of the planet.