If you’ve ever participated in a race, you probably already know that these events are [typically] very wasteful. Aid stations hand out water and Gatorade in paper or [egad!] plastic cups which get used for all of five seconds before being thrown onto the ground to be trampled by the rest of the runners. Then there are all the energy packets [gels, chews, beans, honey sticks, etc] all in individual wrappers which are also thrown on the ground mid-run. And don’t get me started on all the post-race foods like bananas, apples, protein bars, and water bottles that all create some sort of waste. All of this stuff ends up piled high in tons of trash cans throughout the race course and at the finish line.
I have been participating in running and multi-sport events of all different sizes – from small town 5Ks to the Chicago Marathon this past weekend – for the past seven years and, honestly, I never even considered the waste until this summer. So, I was very excited to find that the Chicago Marathon had so many awesome green initiatives.
“The 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been named an Evergreen Inspire event by the Council for Responsible Sport…”
Some of my favorite sustainability initiatives were:
1. The race shirt was made of 100% recycled polyester which has fewer environmental impacts.
2. Most aid stations collected organic waste [paper cups and banana peels] to be composted and the soil donated to the Chicago Park District.
3. Recycled Heatsheets will be made into benches which will be donated to the Chicago Park District.
4. Designated Green team volunteers helped to direct waste into separate containers for compost, recycle or landfill at several Zero Waste Stations.
5. The race participant guide encouraged runners to bring their own reusable water bottles and provided refilling stations.
And everyone already knows how much I love the #SheddtheStraw initiative by Shedd Aquarium. I love seeing Chicago work together to become a more sustainable city.
Of course, a lot of these initiatives are only effective if the runners and spectators actually utilize them and changing [or re-training] an entire race culture will not happen overnight.
BUT, I can make a difference. I made sure to sort my waste appropriately at the designated Zero Waste Stations. I recycled my Heatsheet. I stayed on the designated paths to preserve the foliage in Grant Park. I recycled my gear check bag appropriately when I got home [store drop-off].
I realized that I can do more, though – starting with requesting green initiatives at all my races and encouraging fellow runners to support a more sustainable racing environment.
One of the things I love most about running is how simple it is. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment or gym or dress code or anything other than a pair of legs and a stretch of earth. Running also connects us to nature by getting us outside to enjoy fresh air and appreciate the beauty around us. We don’t want to ruin that, right?
So if and when you happen to participate in a racing event – it never hurts to encourage race directors to provide sustainable options…and at the very least, look for the recycle bin. 👍🏻
Happy [Zero Waste] Running!