While the University of Colorado community is mindful about the importance of clean energy on campus, it is often difficult to take tangible steps to reduce one's energy footprint — especially for students.

But now, at CU's Recreation Center, elliptical users can send renewably generated electricity back into the grid simply by working out.

CU's recent expansion and renovation of the Rec Center on campus garnered it a LEED Platinum certification — meaning it operates 70 percent more efficiently than the facility it replaced in 2014. From water-conserving installations to energy-saving technology, sustainability has been integral to the building's design.

But, being sustainable is more than just innovative infrastructure. The Rec Center is also on a social-engagement mission as it is working to better educate the CU community. One way of seeing this mission through is by the workout center's new Green Ellipticals, which are located in the cardio space near the front entrance. Partially funded by a grant from CU's Environmental Center, the ellipticals harness user-generated power and direct it back into the electrical grid. As a user works out on the elliptical machine, kinetic energy is captured and converted into electrical energy.

The machines are surprisingly efficient. On average, 75 percent of the energy produced is fed back into the grid, while the rest helps power the machines and monitors. It is estimated that within five years, these ellipticals could generate enough energy to power 11 homes for a year.


This means that each time someone works out a Green Elliptical, they are actively creating clean, renewable energy that helps to lower the university's carbon footprint.

When using an elliptical, the user can also view how much energy his or her workout produces — and just how much energy goes into creating electricity. For CU, one of the positives of installing these machines is that users will walk away a little more appreciation for the amount of energy consumed in everyday lives.

And, aside from the fact that each elliptical averages 900 hours of use per semester, in a survey of 525 members, 25 percent said that ellipticals were their preferred piece of equipment to use. So these little-known machines not only create a great workout, but they help make renewable energy and teach users something in the process. It's sustainability at its finest.

The CU Environmental Center's 'Down to Earth' runs every other week in the Colorado Daily.