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Nelson Fitness Center begins trial run for sustainable cardio equipment

Student initiative seeks to promote environmental activism, education on campus

<p>Elina Pipa ’25, the student behind the initiative, estimates that the equipment could offset around 2% of the total energy use in the Nelson Fitness Center every year.</p><p></p>

Elina Pipa ’25, the student behind the initiative, estimates that the equipment could offset around 2% of the total energy use in the Nelson Fitness Center every year.

The Nelson Fitness Center recently introduced six cardio machines that convert human activity into electricity, according to a Nov. 7 University press release

The two treadmills, two stair climbers and two rowing machines, all of which are currently available for student use, will be tested for six weeks as the Athletics Department determines their durability and collects student feedback, according to the release.

For Elina Pipa ’25, this initiative is the result of over a year of hard work, research and collaboration with Brown faculty and staff.

Last fall, Pipa was enrolled in ENVS 0465: “Climate Solutions - A multidisciplinary perspective.” For the course’s final project, students were required to prepare a policy brief that discussed a climate solution of their choice.

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“I try to approach my studies through a sustainability and environmental lens, and (look at) how (problems) can be solved through policy and international cooperation or markets,” Pipa said in an interview with The Herald.

While conducting research for her project, Pipa stumbled upon a company called SportsArt. The company’s products include a line of “ECO-POWR” cardio equipment that converts human energy into electricity. Sports Art has previously partnered with Penn State Altoona and Ohio State University to introduce this equipment in their on-campus athletics facilities, according to the company’s website.

To gauge students’ interest in new, more environmentally friendly equipment, Pipa interviewed 100 students about their use of the University’s athletic facilities and included the results in her policy brief.

All of the respondents either supported the new equipment or were indifferent to its potential implementation, according to the release.

After creating her policy brief geared toward the Nelson Fitness Center, Pipa connected with her professor Stephen Porder, associate provost for sustainability and professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology and environment and society, to push the initiative forward.

“Brown students have always been, and continue to be, engaged in scholarship, advocacy and policymaking around environment and sustainability,” Porder wrote in an email to The Herald, adding that “everyone was very excited about (Pipa’s) idea.”

In addition to speaking with administrators at the University of Michigan, University of South Florida and Penn, Pipa met with Vice President for Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun PhD’92 and Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation Ray Grant throughout the spring of 2023 to discuss the details of the project. 

“It was exciting to have an initiative that combined sustainability (and) athletics at Brown,” she said. “In the era that we live (in), there’s a lot of advocacy around sustainability and mental and physical health, (and) I was excited to work on this project because it combines the two.” 

According to Pipa’s research, the new equipment in the Nelson could offset around 2% of the facility’s total energy use per year.

“I hope (the equipment) is a visible reminder of the immense energy needs (of) modern society, and stimulates a discussion of how we can rapidly transition off of fossil fuel-based energy sources towards more sustainable sources,” Porder wrote.

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Moving forward, Pipa is hopeful that the new machines will help members of the Brown community better conceptualize energy use and inspire new conversations surrounding sustainability.

“I think it’s really hard to understand what ‘a ton’ of CO2 means or (what) ‘X’ watt-hours of electricity means, but when you actually participate in that, you can quantify it a bit better,” she said, adding that she hopes this initiative “inspires students to be more creative about … different approaches to climate solutions.” 

“It’s so cool to see a student’s idea come to life,” Fitness and Wellness Manager Amy Dean said in the press release. “The Nelson Center has been creating a better, more welcoming and sustainable environment for students, and this project really falls in line with that vision.”

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Aniyah Nelson

Aniyah Nelson is a University News editor overseeing the undergraduate student life beat. She is a junior from Cleveland, Ohio concentrating in political science and sociology. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and watching bloopers from The Office.



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