Lynn Hartung

Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Lynn Hartung

Name: Lynn Hartung

Location: Waterford, Michigan

Contribution: Volunteer with the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter, creator of a petition to persuade national gym chains to recycle plastic bottles


What motivated you to tackle plastic-bottle recycling at gyms? At my Planet Fitness, I noticed people were tossing tons of plastic bottles. I kept asking the gym to recycle. At one point they got this tiny wastebasket for plastic bottles. It was a joke. Then one day I took three bottles off the top of the big trash can in the ladies' locker room, brought them to the front desk, and said, "Put this in your recycle bin." And they said, "We don't recycle anymore." That popped my cork. 

I went back in the locker room, dug through the trash can, and found 28 plastic bottles--at 1 o'clock in the afternoon! I figured that by the end of the day there would be 150 to 200 bottles being sent to the landfill, from this one gym. 

What happened next? I started calling and emailing Planet Fitness headquarters. Finally, the member services manager contacted the regional manager and said, "Do something. She's driving us crazy." But they did a half-assed job. Now there are two bins, but their trash hauler is the only one in town that doesn't normally recycle for businesses; they often forget to come. And a lot of people don't even know the bins are there. 

Did you enlist the help of other members? I talked to about 40 people before management told me I could only talk to my friends, not to strangers. Most people were receptive. Some got mad when they realized how much plastic was going in the trash. 

Do the managers think you're a crank? No, they're very nice. Some people on staff agree with me. They just can't do anything without the approval of headquarters. 

When did you decide to take your campaign national with a petition to gym chains? When I found out that all 53 of the corporate-owned Planet Fitness gyms recycle, but only 4 of the 36 franchised ones in Michigan do. I did the math. Over a million plastic bottles are going to Michigan landfills each year, just from Planet Fitness. But it's a national issue. I called gyms in 10 states, and only 4 of them said they recycle. 

What do you want gyms to do? Put out two to four big bins and ask members as they check in to recycle. In my area, the cost of a second dumpster is only $75 per month.  

What can gym-goers do? Ask your gym if it recycles. If it's part of a national chain, call its headquarters and request recycling. Sign the petition. Most environmental issues are big. This is an easy one to fix.  


Photo by Marvin Shaouni

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