Running on GREEN.

19 Jul

Every April, many people get on board with the “go green” initiative in celebration of Earth Day. I have run several Earth Day races (5k distance – half marathon) in celebration of this event, but I have often wondered how truly “green” the event is…you know, other than printing a picture of the planet on the race bib.

Obviously, I am not speaking for all runners out there, but statistics show that most of us who run, or even do any sport outside, appreciate the great outdoors enough to know that it is important that we do our part in keeping our environment clean. In general, most of us have, at some point, bought a free-trade organic-certified something or other from Whole Foods, tossed an aluminum can in a recycling bin, chosen a non-woven/cloth bag over a plastic one, or made an effort to use a refillable water bottle over a plastic one.

But when it comes to races and large events, do we maintain that same mentality?

The other day I was listening to a podcast about the efforts the Hartford Marathon has made in order to make their event more eco-friendly. I was really impressed with some of the things that they were doing. I also had no idea how many ways there were to cut back or adapt things to lessen the impact on our environment.

Here are just a few things that the Hartford Marathon, Boston Marathon, Houston Marathon, and other events are doing to reduce their carbon footprint and be kinder to Mother Earth:

PRE-RACE
•   Paperless registration (no printed forms whatsoever)
•   Maximize online marketing for the event and minimize printed materials; use word-of-mouth “grass roots”    marketing
•   Enlist sponsors that support sustainability initiatives and green practices
•   Encourage carpooling to the event
•   Offer incentives like special port-a-potties and massage tables for those who bike to the race/event
•   Choose a race site that is easily accessible for public/mass transportation
•   Select hotels that are eco-friendly for out-of-town participants

RUNNERS PACKETS
•   Print bibs on “seed paper”; this paper actually contains seeds and the whole bib can be planted after the event
•   Use recyclable Tyvek bibs; Tyvek can be recycled to make things like park benches, playground equipment, etc.
•   Use canvas or non-woven reusable bags instead of plastic bags for packet materials

ON-SITE
•   Have recycling bins everywhere
•   Enlisting volunteers to help sort trash to divert as much as possible from our landfills
•   Use as much solar-powered electricity as possible
•   Use CFL lighting technology instead of fluorescent or incandescent lighting
•   Select a port-a-potty company that uses earth-friendly, non-toxic chemicals
•   Use buses that run on bio-diesel fuels to transport runners to the start line

ON THE ROUTE
•   Use compostable paper cups
•   Have trash bins readily accessible for energy gel packets and other trash
•   Use electric scooters to lead runners instead of traditional motorcycles

Alternative Medal. I won a tree!


AT THE FINISH LINE/POST-EVENT
•   Hand out water bottles made with plant-based plastics or low-plastic designs
•   Use finishers’ medals made with recycled metal
•   Encourage participants and spectators to bring refillable water bottles
•   Donate leftover shirts to a homeless shelter
•   Collect discarded shirts, hats, gloves, etc. from race participants and donate to a homeless shelter
•   Collect shoes for shoe recycling programs such as Soles 4 Souls or Nike ReUse a Shoe
•   Use plates and eating utensils made from plant-based plastics; use napkins made from recycled paper
 

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.

Did you know that there is even a group that officially certifies an event as “green?” The group is called The Council for Responsible Sport. After looking over their website, I have realized there is A LOT that goes into making an event green and a stamp of approval from them shows that an event really has gone the extra mile to become eco-friendly.

One of the most important thing that I think races can do to encourage the “go green” movement is to EDUCATE participants and spectators. Tell people how to help. A lot of people really do want to help make a difference and do what they can, but they just don’t know how. Race organizers can engage people to feel like every little bit helps and to carry over this earth-friendly mindset into their own homes after the race.

Have you ever been to a race that was advertised as “earth friendly” or “green”? What did they do to show you they were making an effort? What are some other ways you have thought of or noticed that race organizers could be “greener?”

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6 Responses to “Running on GREEN.”

  1. Brenton July 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    I like what Cesar Torres did at the Q50 Bogue Chitto race. There were no paper cups for water/sports drink, so everyone had to carry their own bottle to refill. And instead of a rinky dink plastic medal for finishing, everyone got a flowering plant. Mine is happily growing in the flower bed next to my back patio.

  2. Jess @JessCantCook July 19, 2011 at 11:41 AM #

    This is really interesting! I have not run a race that was “green” (that I was aware of anyway) but I would definitely choose one over another in the future.

  3. josephine July 19, 2011 at 1:45 PM #

    didn’t know ‘green’ existed, very interesting… going to keep my eyes out for them/suggest to local races ;)

    • katieRUNSthis July 19, 2011 at 1:47 PM #

      Yes! And suggesting these things to your local event organizers is a GREAT way to get involved. Make them aware that there are small things they can do that can make a BIG impact!

  4. Scott Higgins July 25, 2011 at 5:17 PM #

    Great article Jamie. The Happys5000 has been a certified “Green” race by Runners World for the last 2 years. We are also working on our designation with The Council for Responsible Sport (the only delay is $ – they charge a lot to certify your race). Everytime we “council” new races we try to get them to initiate some of these practices – hopefully Baton Rouge can become a launch pad for idea’s in the racing community.

    • katieRUNSthis July 25, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

      Scott, I don’t know who this Jamie character that you think wrote this blog it, but I’ll be sure to let him/her know you liked his/her article. :) I think it is HIGHLY commendable that you are making the effort at putting on “green” events. We should all do our part. It is a shame that the accreditation comes along with such hefty fees. If the City of Baton Rouge would benefit from the notoriety of hosting such events, is it a possibility (even a remote one) to have them help subsidize some of the cost? Or is it possible to get large companies in town who support green initiatives to help sponsor the certification? Just a thought. Either way, keep working hard to keep things green! Runners appreciate it!

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