Fifteen machines in the cardio exercise room in the Fitness Center are helping to offset Tennessee Tech University’s carbon footprint, to keep people healthy, and to reduce the university’s energy bill, all at once.
The machines convert the energy generated by users into electricity and are part of a larger, ongoing effort to make the campus more sustainable.
“This is a great example of what I believe we should be about at any university, but especially at Tennessee Tech,” TTU president Phil Oldham said. “Sustainability is more than a fad or a catchword. It’s something to live by and we need to be exemplifying that in everything we do.”
The amount of money saved on the university’s energy bill will vary based on use. Ten machines running at full speed for an hour can generate enough power to run a laptop for 40 hours or a dishwasher for two hours, according to data from SportsArt, which makes the machines and their operating systems.
The machines were paid for in part through a fee for environmentally friendly initiatives on campus. Students approved the fee several years ago, and the fund has paid for motion sensors on lights, water bottle refilling stations, a bike share program and campus-wide recycling, among other initiatives.
For more than a decade, effort has gone into making the Fitness Center as environmentally sustainable as possible. In addition to motion sensors in several parts of the building and water bottle refilling stations, the floors in the building are made of recycled tires and all cleaning products used in the building are green. The university is also considering installing solar panels to heat the pool.
The Fitness Center has approximately 12,000 members. During peak times during the semester, there are about 3,000 users a day.
“This is going worldwide, and we are proud to be playing a part in this,” said David Mullinax, Fitness Center director. “We’re going to make this go a long way in paying for itself and in the education of our students. We are teaching them ways to save energy and make energy.”