By Leah Hardesty, GreenPepper
Days after I finished my last triathlon, I thought about the massiveness of such an event and how it impacts the environment. I can’t even count on one hand how many bottles or cups of water I sipped from and threw away (most people toss on the ground; I consciously tossed in the trash when I could). And I never once saw a recycle bin, which seems logical at the very least with the amount of paper and plastic being used. I also couldn’t help but wonder how much energy it took to produce my precious little finisher’s medal, or the giant flood lights they had lit at the finish line (this was an Ironman; most people finish after dark).
With an average of 20,000 runners at a marathon and 2,500 athletes at a triathlon, these events are huge. They’re also huge carbon suckers. Thousands of water bottles, cups, food wrappers and scraps are often left behind after 40,000 feet trampled through; leaving a sizable contribution to landfills. And that’s just the trash. Let’s not forget about the energy consumption to put on such an event, the race bibs worn by athletes, the travel from athletes afar, the goodie bags full of fliers…the list goes on.
After a little research, I learned that some race organizations have taken environmental stewardship seriously, and are working to make these events more sustainable. Back in 2007, The Council for Responsible Sport (ReSport) was created, which provides an independent, comprehensive certification for sustainable athletic events. ReSport helps event directors incorporate environmental responsibility into their events. They have established a set of standards in six primary areas: waste, climate, equipment and materials, community and outreach, health promotion and innovation.
Since the inception of ReSport, countless marathons and triathlons across the U.S. have qualified under these standards as a “green sporting event.” Marathons in Austin, Portland and Los Angeles, and triathlons in San Francisco, Boulder and Philadelphia, to name a few, are on the list. If you are an environmentally-conscious athlete, you can do your part by supporting these races. For more tips on how you can be a green athlete, check out this Runner’s World article or visit pro triathlete Chris Lieto’s Green Athlete blog.
And if you’re not a runner or triathlete, think about how your sport, whether it’s tennis or lacrosse or fencing, could reduce its carbon footprint. I mean, it makes sense, right? Those who enjoy the outdoors should pay respect to the outdoors. Take action now and turn what you love doing most into a way of showing love for the environment.