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.
• 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
• 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
• 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
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
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?”