Founding her Pilates studio, Ease Pilates in Cambridge, England, on sustainable principles was very important to Jane Mansley. With a background as a conservation biologist, Jane has seen how many businesses promote themselves as sustainable and green while often missing the mark on following true eco-friendly fundamentals.
Not only was it important for Jane to build a sustainable Pilates business and instil the environmental-friendly practices she is so passionate about in her business, but to also help educate other fitness business owners on how they too can provide their members with an eco-friendly experience in their own gyms and studios.
Jane walked us through the principles she follows in her studio and laid out simple steps that owners can begin following today to implement greener practices in their businesses. By using TeamUp for your booking system, you're already a step ahead! Keep reading to hear her story and excellent advice.
Why I started a sustainable Pilates business
I've been a freelance fitness professional for over 10 years now, specialising in Pilates for the last seven years. In March, I opened up my own studio, which has a room for group reformer classes and a separate space for one to ones using a variety of large Pilates equipment.
Like a lot of fitness professionals, I previously had a day job, which was working as a conservation biologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the conservation wing of the United Nations Environment Program. I was very passionate about conversation, but Pilates is now, even more, my passion!
It was an unexpected turn from conservation to Pilates. I wanted something that would be in the same theme, sustainable, but also sustainable for me in my career.
I started off as a fitness instructor teaching high impact aerobics but I didn't think that would sustain my fitness career, so I started teaching Pilates. I thought Pilates would give me longevity, but when I started teaching Pilates I realised how powerful it was and the transformation it has on people. How accessible it is, how it brings people into fitness who aren't fitness people. I just fell in love with it. The career has really suited me and my skills. As a biologist, I'm interested in the human body, but it's also socially much more interesting than what I was doing before, which was mostly dealing with policies. Turns out I'm more of a people person!
Sustainable practices implemented at Ease Pilates
An accessible location
The principal thing I wanted was somewhere that people could access where their only method of transportation didn't have to be driving. I wanted an accessible location. I had been offered beautiful studios in the countryside with lovely views and they were cheaper and really tempting. But I decided to open my studio in the city so that people could easily get to it.
Product use out of necessity
Fitness can be very gimmicky and I didn't want my studio to be. I am only trying to buy things or get my customers to buy things from me when they're necessary. I used to provide props before the pandemic when I was mainly teaching matwork Pilates and I would move them from venue to venue on my bicycle with a trailer. During the pandemic, I stopped providing people with props for hygiene reasons and would always be looking around the house thinking about what could be used instead of people going out and buying things. Instead of weights, you could use tins or instead of resistance bands you could use tights. I'd always say, reduce, reuse, recycle. I always start with reduce. If people wanted to buy things we recommend products made from recycled materials.
No greenwashing and waste of good products
There is a lot of greenwashing in the fitness industry. I once saw a blog by somebody who runs what they called “eco retreats”. First of all, they were located in the Far East and he was marketing to people in Europe, so the only way to get there would be to fly so there's already a high carbon footprint.
Second, he was encouraging people to throw away their plastic mats and replace them with cork and rubber. Now here is the thing with plastic: if you have it, use it. It's meant to last a while and if you already have it there is no point in creating more waste by throwing it out only to purchase more products. People on his retreat would think it was sustainable with the beautiful cork and rubber natural products, but it came at the expense of throwing out products before they needed to be.
Instead, make good use of what you got and then the next time you have to purchase, that's when you should think about buying something more natural and environmentally friendly.
Use quality Pilates equipment
I invested in good quality reformers that are going to last as long as my career. The first reformer I bought was second hand and about 20 years old! They just keep going as long as you service them. Pretty much every part of them can be replaced. Our Pilates equipment comes from a British company by the name of Align Pilates UK, with replaceable components and is built to last a lifetime. Great products are an investment, but they will last.
Refillable cleaning products
I'm very conscious that especially during Covid there's been lots of plastic waste, especially because people are using wipes and one-use cleaning products. I knew there had to be a better way, so I found a local company called Green Blue You that sells refillable cleaning products instead of disposing of cleaning wipes or single-use plastic bottles.
Everyone's got these beautiful little glass spray bottles to clean with. It smells nice, and it’s a great, non-toxic product. Then at the end of class, they toss the used cloth into the washing basket, so nothing gets thrown away and when the bottles are empty, Green Blue You comes to refill the bottles.
Paper-free booking system
I operate paper-free by using TeamUp to manage my bookings and business admin. The traditional system of paper enrollment forms is such a waste. With TeamUp, I can create a simple client enrollment form. What I have done is take all of them from the large paper enrollment form and add them onto TeamUp so now every customer can fill them out online.
It's much easier to use with TeamUp and it works much better than doing it on paper because it's so fast and well organised.
Eco-friendly practices all fitness businesses can follow
Here are some eco-friendly practices all fitness businesses can follow and implement today:
- Review everything you buy: think about the priorities being reduced, reused, and recycled in that order.
- Ask yourself, do you really need to buy that?
- Consider the gifts you are buying your clients and if they are really wanted.
- If the products you are using are single-use, try to find out if there is a way of getting more use out of the same item, or if you can find reusable alternatives.
- If you do have to throw things away, think about what happens at the end of the life cycle. Ensure what you purchase is recyclable or compostable.
How fitness consumers can tell if a gym or studio is environmentally-friendly
Typically a fitness consumer might not know what I or another business puts into their business to make it environmentally friendly, but here are some things they can look out for:
- Is it in their advertising?
- The sustainability principles and practices are shared on the business’s website, social media, and marketing
- Many businesses will write a manifesto or business plan, and it should be included in there.
- They have blog posts that discuss sustainability and how they contribute to being eco-friendly
Eco-friendly businesses should remember why they went green in the first place
Being environmentally friendly, in my opinion, must not be a sacrifice. Only a certain type of person will tolerate compromise in order to be environmentally friendly.
Environmentally friendly choices must be either the same or better. For example, I couldn't stop using heating or air conditioning in the studio, because it would turn people away or they will tolerate it for a bit and then give up and go somewhere else. You'll only be able to run an environmentally sustainable business if it's financially sustainable!
TeamUp is a great example because as well as saving paper and postage, it's a better service for the client. It's a win-win!
How fitness industry leaders can improve sustainability across the industry
The act of writing a policy forces you to think about where environmental improvements can be made. We do a lot of things on autopilot, and when you're sitting down and taking the time to review your purchasing strategies, who you're buying from, what you're buying and what happens to your waste products, it makes a difference.
Thank you very much for sharing Jane! To learn more about Ease Pilates and follow Jane's sustainability journey, check out their page on Instagram.
TeamUp's commitment to sustainability
At TeamUp, we are committed to providing gyms and studios with the most sustainable method of running their business. To support your sustainability practices and principles in your business, please feel free to download this graphic to share on your website and social media, here.Thanks for reading!