Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Environmentally Conscious: More than Just Fitness

Signature Fitness entrance   (photo: Brianna Farulla)

By Brianna Farulla   

The gray, concrete warehouse sets itself apart from neighboring facilities in its industrial Essex County location. Vibrant multi-colored flags and illuminated signs on the 50,000 square foot building make it nearly impossible to miss.

Signature Fitness of Belleville, NJ strives to be more than just a gym. Aside from providing members with the typical necessities for a workout, it offers holistic products and an eco-friendly environment.

Owner Alex Sicignano, 56, of Nutley, encouraged this type of positive setting upon founding his business 32 years ago. With hard work and dedication, that’s what it has managed to become.

“My dad has always been concerned about the well-being of others,” said Manager Alexia Sicignano, 20, of Nutley. “Ever since I could remember, he’s tried to educate people on how to take care of themselves. What better way to do so than having a business that does exactly that?”

Gym layout         (photo: Brianna Farulla)

Signature Fitness takes pride in the type of setting that it promotes. There are recycling bins in various corners, hypoallergenic carpeting and billboards advertising the IQ air purifiers that are throughout the fitness facility. Management made the decision to go paperless just months ago, as well.

Even the cleaning fluid that they use is safe. “This stuff can be sprayed in your eye or inhaled and you won’t get a reaction,” said Alexia. “It’s 100 percent organic.”

Signature also sells a variety of food alternatives that are healthier than what nearby gyms have to offer. The marble countertops and glass shelves located within its juice bar section are stocked with vegan protein cookies and organic protein powders. The packaging that contains keywords such as “vegan,” “all natural” and “non-GMO” are hard to miss.

“The protein cookies are definitely our best seller,” said Nicole Ferriera, 22, of North Arlington. “Within the past five years that I’ve worked here, the amount of natural products that we sell has definitely increased. We just recently started selling 100 percent beef protein that digests naturally and is made with nothing artificial.”

Maximum Human Performance, the company that manufactures this new type of protein, informs customers of the benefits on its website. It reads, “Beef is one of nature’s best protein sources and is highly regarded by both the scientific community and athletes for its muscle building attributes . . . IsoPrime 100 percent beef is derived from USDA inspected beef that is non-GMO, rBST free and hormone free.”

Not only do the members of Signature have everything at their disposal needed for a healthy lifestyle, but management also makes sure that their staff is treated just as well.

Healthy Choices for the Staff

The majority of Signature employees are conscious of how they go about their daily lives. However, Alex goes out of his way to provide them with incentives.

“We believe that the happiness of our staff is just as important as that of our members,” said Alexia. “My dad loves giving people things that are beneficial to them. He finds joy in that.”

Each employee was recently assigned a personal trainer who provided them with training sessions and meal plans free of charge for eight weeks. The experience made most of them choose to eat clean and do meal prep, if they previously didn’t.

Meal prepping prevents food from being left over or potentially wasted. The amount of daily carbohydrate, protein and vegetable intake is measured, which provides just enough nutrients to quench a person’s hunger. Therefore, it’s rare to leave anything behind.

“I put one day aside to measure out and cook my food for the entire week,” said Personal Trainer Celerino Orpilla, 38, of Nutley. “People in this country are so used to having large portions, which leads them to take food for granted. You’ll never see me doing that.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost or wasted. They note that rotting food creates methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.

“I encourage my clients to meal prep as well,” said Orpilla. “It prevents them from overeating or putting perfectly good food to waste. I don’t know which is worst.”

The meal prepping phenomena continues outside of Signature as its popularity arises. Companies that prepare and deliver balanced meals to people are becoming extremely common lately.

Fuel, a local business that some Signature members order from, has become swarmed. On their website homepage it says, “Due to extreme high demand of orders that are coming in, please allow five business days to be processed before we cook, prep and ship out the order until further notice.”

Along with being healthy and eco-friendly comes patience. It takes dedication to live such a lifestyle.

Juice bar     (photo: Brianna Farulla)

A Local Favorite

The multiple parking lots that belong to Signature are filled to capacity. The entrance becomes similar to a revolving door as the primetime hour of 5 p.m. approaches. Nearly every seat is  occupied at the juice bar. The sound of blenders becomes overpowering as each protein shake is being made.

Members walk over to the glass display case and point out which flavored vegan protein cookie that they want an employee to retrieve for them. Others inquire about the price of tubs of all-natural beef protein.

As time goes on, the team at Signature will brainstorm to create more innovative ways to add to its current amazing environment. For now, members seem pleased with what they’re paying for.

A Planet Fitness opened around the block from Signature just a few months ago. A membership there is half the price. Many people assumed that it’d be a threat to the gym that has been standing on Cortlandt Avenue for 32 years.

“Honestly, a lot of our members left to try out Planet Fitness in the beginning, but we knew they’d be back,” said Alexia. “A couple of weeks later the majority of them returned. They said they’ll never find a gym like Signature.”

Brianna Farulla is a senior at Ramapo College, majoring in Communication Arts: Journalism.

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