Best Hacks For An Ethical & Sustainable Fitness Routine

Best Hacks For An Ethical & Sustainable Fitness Routine

As far as I’m concerned, everyone has their fight to fight, right? I’ve been doing my bit as much as I can for the causes closest to my heart but behind the scenes, I still try to contribute to other causes as best as I can – like looking after the environment. I won’t lie though; my efforts have mostly been driven by ‘fashion’ and convenience with a nuance of the environmental factors behind it.

I recently followed along on a Facebook live by Charlotte of A Zero Waste Life, about Zero Waste Exercise which I found pretty fascinating to be honest. Charlotte highlighted lots of small ways we could make positive changes to our fitness routines to make them more ethical and sustainable. I’ve included a few of the things Charlotte mentioned in this post, along with some of my own ideas and ways I’ve come across that can help.

What is the concept of zero waste?

According to Wikipedia, Zero Waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. Currently, only 9% of plastic is actually recycled.

In all honestly, I thought my efforts to recycle as much as I could was something but recycling is literally a last resort. I recently learnt that any black plastic cannot be recycled because it cannot be detected by the machinery involved. I hope we all know by now that things like single use coffee cups which seem to be made from paper actually have a plastic coating inside which makes them non recyclable as the two materials cannot be separated in the process.

So for starters, say no to the tens of plastic water bottles and coffee cups you get offered as freebies and invest in a good quality one that you can reuse over and over again. I have a couple of keep cups and I’m thinking of getting one of these as I’ve been told they fit on the bike which would be perfect for colder weather.

Eco-Friendly Running

Even if saving the planet is not high on your personal agenda, it can’t go unnoticed that a lot of brands have started to take notice of the changes that need to be made.

Eco-Friendly Running
Photo Credit: Ben Read Photography

I was invited along to a beach clean event back in 2018 on the south coast with Adidas and Wiggle to celebrate the launch of their new Parley running shoe which are made from upcycled plastic trash collected from remote islands, beaches and coastlines. This was the first time I openly spoke about the whole reducing plastic issue on any of my channels to be honest, and it did motivate me to think more about what products I buy and how much waste I create.

Ways to reduce waste when running:

  • choose local races to reduce travel
  • choose races abroad that you can get the train to rather than fly
  • say no to freebies at running events
  • you don’t need to buy new things to start your zero waste journey – use what you already have
  • buy second hand
  • if you buy new, buy better so it lasts longer
  • take snacks / fuel for during and after the event to save buying products in non recyclable packaging

In 2019, TENZING launched their ‘Tenzing Clean Air Run Club’ in London that tackles health, fitness and London’s air pollution with the use of technology. Runners breathe much more heavily than pedestrians and therefore flood their lungs with pollutants. This run club uses the Tenzing Clean Air Tracker (developed with Kings College London) to analyse ‘Clean Air Routes’, ensuring that runners avoid the most polluted areas and streets in the city.

In 2019, TENZING launched a ‘Clean Air Run Club’ in London that tackles health, fitness and London’s air pollution with the use of technology.

In the case of races and events, Charlotte mentioned in her video that some now allow you to opt out of receiving the goodies at the end so look out for that. If that option isn’t available just say no so you don’t have more waste to deal with. Event organisers will need to dispose of everything correctly and donate any unused food items.

In regards to kit, I happened to be on the Adidas website not so long ago and noticed that they have a scheme where you can trade your unworn or completely worn out adidas gear (for items you purchased directly from adidas UK) for credit and they pass on the kit for “new use”. This stat below came from their website…

Keeping clothes in use for an extra 9 months can reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%

Source: WRAP, 2012

Make Your Fitness Routine Green

Last Summer on my first yoga and surf retreat we were treated to a goody bag of local handmade products. It included lots of ace products like bamboo cotton buds, a shampoo bar and a cotton shopping bag. We also spent some of our time during the weekend joining a local beach clean event. It made me think about the small changes I could make in my day to day routine and fitness routine.

Ways to reduce waste when exercising:

  • buy equipment second hand
  • check out charity shops for unused equipment esp around mid to end of January
  • if you buy new, buy better so it lasts longer
  • sell your unwanted fit kit (easier when it’s better quality)
  • buy nutrition / supplements etc in bulk rather than single serve

I try not to hoard lots of running kit and shoes that I don’t need so I very rarely have to throw anything away. I often list my unwanted (and well kept) kit over on Facebook Marketplace, Depop or Ebay. There’s a post on the blog with all my best tips for selling your fit kit on Depop.

If you do buy new though, as Charlotte also suggested, save up and buy the best quality that you can. Look after your kit to keep it in the best condition and then sell it on if or when it becomes surplus to requirements – good quality kit will sell the best too!

Where do you exercise?!

This was an area that I hadn’t really considered much – or more that I never consciously thought about it. It mainly comes now to your carbon footprint. Here’s a decent definition from dictionary.com – the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.

So we can think about this in terms of travelling when exercising. Do you drive to the gym?! I’ve been that person and I do often drive to parkrun to allow myself some extra time in bed. That is definately a habit I am looking to eradicate soon!

Photo Credit: Anna Rach Photography

Options for where to workout:

  • outdoor workouts
  • home workouts
  • pick a gym / studio closer to home so you can walk, run or cycle there
  • build exercise into your day to day tasks i.e your daily commute, supermarket trips

You might need to get inspired to take your workout outdoors especially when the weather is on the colder side but the benefits go far beyond the physical.

When it comes to home workouts, well, you’re in the right place! I have a ton of workouts on the blog you can try at home, including the one’s listed below. You can also check out on demand fitness apps like Fiit, Auro or Nike Training Club. One of my personal goals for 2020 is to nail my indoor training set up on the bike so I can take advantage of home workouts more.


Hopefully this post has left you with one new idea for how you can play your part? No one expects you to go from where you are today to zero waste instantly.

Every little bit counts!




  1. January 25, 2020 / 19:35

    This is so interesting, I’ve never thought about sustainability in realtion to fitnesss.
    I think any ways which help your journey towards zero waste are brilliant.

    • Elle
      January 26, 2020 / 19:15

      Thanks Ruby! Writing this post was certainly food for thought for me too! …And I totally agree – all the small actions add up.

  2. January 17, 2020 / 18:26

    Zero Waste Exercise is a really interesting concept and you offer some really practical suggestions for making my fitness routine more ethical and sustainable. Thanks for sharing your ideas – it is something we should all be considering more and you’ve definitely given me food for thought about my own fitness regime!

    • Elle
      January 18, 2020 / 11:49

      Getting everyone thinking about the little contributions they can make was my goal so glad to hear it’s sparked some thought for you!

  3. January 16, 2020 / 17:12

    Last year I decided no new workout clothes that were unnecessary. So I stopped buying ProCompression socks (I have 18 pair…) and InkNBurn (Love, but have enough and is expensive). The majority of what I have is fine for use so I don’t see why I should buy new. As for the gym – I do cycle sometimes, sometimes I take a bus and walk and I only go with the car when there are more of us going. Bottles are the same – but I still have too many of them. I think I could still improve. Now I have a lot of food for thought!

    • Elle
      January 18, 2020 / 11:51

      OMG don’t get me started with bottles! haha! Sounds like you’re heading in the right direction! Think I need to find other people to drive to parkrun until I get a bit fitter and can ride there again. I also did a “no news clothes” thing last year for holidays and special occasions as I had items in my wardrobe still with tags on! I’ll try and keep that up for 2019 too I think!

  4. January 15, 2020 / 12:21

    I hadn’t thought about making exercise green but I like your suggestions. As it happens, I either exercise on my bike these days or in our garage so don’t travel to keep fit but foregoing freebies and water bottles are great ideas.

    • Elle
      January 18, 2020 / 11:52

      I can’t wait to one day have a house and turn my garage or spare bedroom into the ultimate home gym haha. The freebies and water bottles is one area I will be working on for 2020 too!

  5. January 14, 2020 / 15:41

    I don’t belong to a gym, but I do work out at home. I have to say I like clothes, but I do buy good quality that lasts forever — and donate what I no longer use.

    I think zero waste is a wonderful idea, but i’m Still pretty far away from it. I do use a water bottle but I will grab the ones handed out after a race. Much food for thought in this post!

    • Elle
      January 18, 2020 / 11:53

      You’re not alone! I am sooo very far away from zero waste. As I learn more, I realise how hard it is… I thought I was doing well with recycling but then I find out that half the stuff can’t actually be recycled. BUT every little bit counts and we all have to start somewhere and do the best we can!

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