I used to listen to a Los Angeles radio station. During the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, the announcers tried to out-do each other with wild schemes for alternative energy. My favorite was putting punching bags on every street corner, connecting them to generators, and letting the city run off of its hostility.
That idea no longer seems so far-fetched. I have seen two recent news items about producing electricity from human power. They don’t use punching bags. They use gym equipment.
People generating electricity at the gym
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on green gyms. My gym, like many others, has banks of televisions, air conditioning, and vending machines that dispense water, sodas, etc. in plastic bottles. It uses a lot of energy.
The small but growing number of green gyms have equipment made of recycled materials. They require clients to bring their own, refillable water bottles from home (to be filled with free, filtered water that the gym makes available).
More to the point for this article, they have literally hooked up all of their exercise bikes, ellipticals, and even treadmills to a generator and inverter that helps to power the rest of the gym.
Kinetic Cycling of Brentwood, California, has five-electricity generating exercise bikes. When they’re all in use, they generate 600 watts of electricity per hour.
That may not seem like much. But coupled with energy saving practices such as lighting with LEDs, it takes a noticeable chunk out of Kinetic Cycling’s electric bills. It offsets the cost of buying that much electricity. It also reduces the gym’s portion of the environmental impact of commercially-generated electricity.
The article names five different green gyms in the Los Angeles area, most of them much larger and varied than Kinetic Cycling. Here’s a link to another one in Portland, Oregon. Think of the impact of human-generated electricity if the concept of green gyms goes nationwide and amounts to as little as 10% of all gyms!
Prisoners generating electricity
Did you hear the one about the convict who tried to escape from prison on an exercise bike? A judge in Brazil, inspired by new stories of American green gyms, devised a way for prisoners to reduce their sentences with a stationary bike.
Participating inmates spend eight hours a day on one of four bikes charging a battery. By the end of the day, the battery has enough power to provide overnight electricity for 10 streetlights in city of Santa Rita do Sapucai (pop. ca. 35,000). For every three days of such work, the prisoners have their sentence reduced by one day.
Imagine how hard they must pedal to generate that much electricity! And imagine staying at it from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with two breaks! But it certainly beats spending all day locked up, only able to see the sun for two hours a day.
Besides getting out of jail earlier, participating inmates get other benefits. One lost 9 pounds in two months. Plus they get the benefits of being part of a team doing something useful and productive. Among other things, it will build a healthier self-concept than they’ve ever had and greatly reduce the likelihood of returning to prison.
Photo credit: The Greenasium (San Diego)