Q: I love all kinds of sports and physical activity. I know not all of them are easy on the environment. Is there any way I can lighten my footsteps?
A: Funny, a lot of athletes are well aware of how the environment impacts them - smog, for instance, can make biking a bummer. But not everyone thinks about how their favourite sport can actually harm the great outdoors.
The result is that many sports stores look at you sideways when you ask them for products made with eco-friendly materials. Few enthusiasts question what ecological ramifications their fave hockey arena, pool or ski hill has on the earth, despite all the chemical use, energy consumption and habitat destruction that may be involved. Even yoga bunnies have no idea that most of the mats they tote to class are made from the worst plastic on the planet - PVC.
Yes, most of those mats are "100 per cent closed-cell," meaning no chemicals escape the plastic surface. But keep in mind that PVC production is never a good thing. Lululemon on Queen or Bloor carries cotton mats for $19. You can order biodegradable, 100 per cent natural rubber mats and chemical-free cotton mats from www. yoga.com. Hush on Queen makes yoga clothes with a super-soft fabric made of recycled wood chips, starting at $79.
If gliding on water is your thing, Mountain Equipment sells Walden kayaks , made from post-consumer recycled shampoo and pop bottles (or any #2 plastic, really), starting at $445.
What about golf? Most eco heads roll their eyes at this one, knowing that courses are drenched in pesticides and fungicides, use up way too much water and are the epitome of habitat destruction for the sake of sport. But more progressive courses certified by the GreenLinks Eco-Rating Program are reining in that bad behaviour. Some, like Kedron Dells near Oshawa, spray only as "required" rather than every 10 days, water only at night to prevent wasteful evaporation and cut their grass less often, amongst other things.
Though not perfect, such clubs are a little better than most. Cardinal Golf Club near Uxbridge, Hornby Glen Golf Course near Oshawa and Parkview near Markham are other Toronto-area golf courses that signed onto this program. FYI, there's no need to buy brand new balls every time when you can buy recycled ones (check out www. reteegolfcanada.com).
And though bikes do have the greenest rep as a way of getting around town, they're coated with toxic spray paints loaded with ozone killing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Devinci Bikes joined the federal government's Enviroclub program, designed to help small and medium-sized manufacturers become more eco-friendly. Thanks to new painting systems, solvent use is down 80 per cent, and Devinci uses over a third less paint, cutting VOC emissions dramatically. Their bikes can be found at Cyclepath on Yonge (starting at $500) and Wheels of Bloor (starting at $800).
Looking for a more organic ride when you're carving your way down a hill or tearing up the sidewalk? All Arbor snowboards and skateboards are made with sustainably harvested wood and environmentally friendly veneer, and part of the proceeds go to restoring the Hawaiian koa forests (available at Boardsports on Yonge, skateboards from $199 and snowboards from $509).
There's no official recycling system in place for old sports equipment, but you can drop your dusty stationary bike or weight set off at Play It Again Sports on Gerrard East, Yonge or other locations in exchange for cold hard cash. Or just browse the store for second-hand gear before you invest in brand new goods.
Whatever your activity of choice, take care not to go off trails (why trample dear Gaia unnecessarily?) or leave junk behind. And press your local court, arena or ski hill to look into more earth-friendly options. For examples of sites taking the greener route, check out the United Nations Environment Programme on Sports and the Environment (www. unep.org/cpi/sport_env/sport_challenge/sports/). The org even works with the Olympics to keep eco considerations at the fore.
Want more info on being an organic, veggie-loving, earth-hugging athlete? See www.organicathlete.org.
Got a question?
Send your green consumer queries to email@example.com