Green has shifted from a buzzword to a major movement in recent years, and the trend has spread to the health club industry, particularly when it comes to design. With a variety of environmentally friendly flooring options now available, sustainable design can be incorporated in fitness facilities from the ground up.

Eco-friendly products offer more than just a chance to help the environment. They can help a facility’s bottom line, too. Unlike many other green options, such as energy-efficient HVAC or lighting units, flooring qualifies for few state or federal incentives, such as tax breaks, grants or loan credits. However, because recycled flooring is often an easy and affordable way to make a facility more sustainable, it is still a viable option for many clubs.

“In free weight and cardio areas, tiles and rolls that are manufactured of reground rubber are typically less expensive than something made of virgin rubber and, depending on their composition, can be more resilient,” says Steve Chase, general manager of Fitness Flooring, Indianapolis.

Bamboo and wood are good sustainable options for group fitness and court floors. Bamboo prices are comparable to traditional wood flooring, Chase says, but bamboo is a more rapidly renewable resource because it takes about five years to grow back to its original height, compared to the 40 to 130 years for a hardwood tree.

Many environmentally friendly flooring options can help earn a building LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program uses a points system to evaluate how green a building is, and award certification levels accordingly. Flooring made from a recycled, reused, regional or rapidly renewable material and flooring that emits low levels of certain chemicals could earn up to eight points—a good start toward the 40 points needed for the most basic level of LEED certification.

Sustainability has been taken even further with programs that recycle manufacturing waste and flooring. Dinoflex, Salmon Arm, British Columbia, recycles consumer building waste from construction projects as well as waste from the manufacturing of indoor flooring with its ReGrind program, regrinding almost 3,500 pounds of reusable material each day. Ecore International, Lancaster, PA, recently introduced its Redeux program, which allows customers to send in old rubber or cork flooring to be recycled and made into new floors. Since the company already uses 80 million pounds of recycled rubber each year to make its floors, the reclamation program “re-recycles” the material, making it eligible for an extra LEED point.

“It tells a great story for clubs to be able to promote their recycling efforts within their community,” says Jocelyn Dillman, Ecore’s product manager. “There is a great opportunity for the club to garner local PR around the topic.”

The flooring must be shipped to the recycling facility at the owner’s expense, but Dillman points out that it costs money to transport old flooring to a landfill and that many states charge a fee to dispose of materials there. Flooring must be made by Ecore to be considered for the program, although it does not have to be replaced with the company’s product. Dozens of applications have been received since the program was announced in April.

The floors are good for more than a publicity boost. Made through a process that uses minimal water, limits waste and avoids heat, Ecore’s Everlast with Nike Grind floors meet indoor air quality standards, have low volatile organic compound emissions and are free of polyvinyl chloride.

Julie King, director of marketing for PLAE, an Atlanta-based sports flooring company that offers several eco-friendly options, says using sustainable materials in health clubs is a logical choice.

“Like any business owners, consumers are expecting more green initiatives, particularly in places like health clubs where people are trying to improve their health,” King says.

And as the popularity of sustainable design grows, club owners who weren’t initially attracted to eco-friendly floors might find themselves forced to consider it.

“I think ultimately people feel good about supporting green, and as more clubs embrace this, the pressure is on others to follow suit as well,” she says.