Go green while you go for gold

Runners at a marathon
CC BY-SA 2.0 Anna & Michal

With summer fast approaching, millions of people are eagerly preparing themselves for marathons, endurance competitions, and similar “extreme sport” events across the world. From Tough Mudder to the Ironman Triathlon, these massive competitions test the stamina and agility of people around the world every year. With attendance at these events in the thousands, sometimes millions, their impact on the environment can be difficult to ignore. In our quest to improve our fitness and better our health, how do we ensure that we’re doing them same for the environment?

One way is to rethink the active attire that we invest in, and how our choices as consumers can affect the environment. By investing our “cash vote” into companies that care about sustainability and the health of our planet, we are helping to make the sport a greener, healthier activity.

One such company is athletic clothing apparel producer Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). REI’s goal is to become completely climate-neutral by the year 2020. REI details all of their sustainability plans right on their website for anyone to browse. Some of the highlights include complying with strict new packaging specifications, equipping store locations with solar power technology, and even working under the bluesign standard, which manages the environmental impact of the fabrics industry. Patagonia also employs the bluesign standard. Patagonia even started the Common Threads Initiative, which urges consumers to buy clothes that will last a long time, are able to be repaired, and when all other options are exhausted, can be recycled.

Another way to help the environment is to get involved in sustainable and environmentally responsible marathons or triathlons. One of the most eco-friendly marathons in the United States is the Austin Marathon in Texas. The marathon has achieved a 90 percent waste diversion rate and attempts to increase the use of renewable energy every year. The marathon committee also tries to minimize its water footprint by limiting water use and reducing the amount of pollutants and water run-off from the event. All food products provided for the event are organic and from locally sourced businesses, while all packaging is required to be compostable or recyclable whenever possible.

Another event trying to green itself is the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts. Making this an eco-friendly event requires the efforts of not only the race coordinators, but also the participants and spectators. When the race ends, all marathoners and spectators are expected to pick up their own belongings and garbage. City and state officials provide bins for recycling and trash throughout the race, and participants are urged to reduce carbon emissions by using buses provided by the event staff.

Performance products and endurance snack packaging are also beginning to see a sustainable overhaul. My company, TerraCycle, has teamed up with some of these product manufacturers to facilitate the recycling of post-consumer packaging waste generated by their products. Some of the companies that we currently work with include Clif Bar, LÄRABAR, and most recently, performance and nutrition product producer GU Energy Labs. By partnering with performance product companies like these, packaging waste that typically accumulates at race events and competitions can be recycled instead of being sent to landfill.

Whether you are hitting the pavement, the dirt or the water, be sure to prioritize our planet’s health as much as your own. Running, biking, and swimming are already some of the greenest sporting activities we can do to better our health, and if we try hard enough, we can help make them waste-free as well.

Go green while you go for gold
With summer just a couple weeks away, thousands of us have new fitness goals and a commitment to improve our health. How do we ensure we are doing the same for the planet?