The Green Machine :

a new way to exercise... and help the environment.

Although our neighbours across the Channel tend to do things their own way, one must admit that their ecological conscience is well developed. They love and protect little birds, do not abandon their dogs and cats at the side of the motorway when they go on holiday, and the majority is more likely to disapprove of hunting and shooting, also a good sign. They also make the effort to recycle their rubbish more efficiently than we do - and it must be admitted that this is not difficult.

Now they are modernising the idea of “Green Gym”, an activity which would do well to catch on here, both in schools and at home. Now it has been proved that bad eating habits and junk food cause chronic overweight, as well, often, as too much television, video games, and internet, the idea of “Green Gym” can only be an advantage.

Founded in 1998 by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, which combined medical and local communities, the goal was simply to maintain the numerous parks and green public areas in Britain.

The organisation called for volunteers, and encouraged them to participate in gardening, and physical excercise, equivalent to sports, called “ecological gym”. Each week, for a few hours, various activities were proposed, starting with warming up exercises. The participants then started to rake, plant, prune, and transport garden rubbish in wheelbarrows, after which, at the end of each session, everyone did stretching and relaxing exercises.

On the other side of the Channel 10 000 people, aged from 20 to 80, have already decided to join in and have a go. In France several similar proposals have been made by local and ecological associations, but these lack the necessary organisation, and are set up, often only annually, mainly to collect rubbish which has been dumped along our riversides, in the countryside and in and near the sea. This is of course much better than nothing, however.

The anglo-saxon system, which takes place weekly, has the advantage, apart from creating social bonds between those who dig, or those who prune, all perspiring together for the same good cause - developing everyones’muscles, and almost without spending any money or having to dress up… Nothing at all like paying to go to a sophisticated, luxurious and expensive gym complex, there to walk on a treadmill, pedalling on exercise bikes, or using complicated computerised machines, while calculating how many calories one can hope to lose !

Parents who used to send their children out to mow the lawn, sweep up the dead leaves or cut up firewood, were, without knowing it, like Monsieur Jourdain, putting into practice “ecological gym”!

Why not follow the example of our neighbours across the Channel - surely there are some volunteers here who - instead of going to the gym - could clear up the rubbish around our appartment blocks, pick up the cigarette ends, keep an eye on the cleanliness of nearby public gardens, gather up the rubbish which washes up on our beaches. These actions would be for the good of all - so while awaiting the idea of “ecological gym”, why don’t we start by cleaning up our neighbourhood, outside our front doors, and above all, collecting and disposing of the dog dirt which still litters our pavements.

Alain Dartigues (translation - thanks to Joanna Bremond - of our article published November the 5 th)