Run Green! How to Be a More Earth-Friendly Runner

English: More Christmas trees
Be a green runner and save some of these! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time of year, with the holidays just around the corner, my thoughts tend to focus on green. And no, I don’t mean the lovely evergreen that inspired “O Tannenbaum” – I mean making eco-friendly choices.  The holidays have me thinking green because of the increased focus on commercialism and “stuff”, as well as the tendency to look ahead and make plans for the coming year.

So with that in mind, why not only live green, but run green too? Here are some ways you can be a more Earth-friendly runner.

What You Wear – Reduce your impact by holding off on new gear until you really need it. When you purchase new gear, consider buying gently used from Goodwill or Ebay (reuse) or from companies with green practices and reclaimed materials, like Brooks, Patagonia or Greenlayer (recycle).  And all those old shoes taking up space in your closet? Donate them. Runner’s World has a pretty comprehensive list of organizations that will accept used running shoes, but I suggest looking for local options first. No carbon emissions from shipping and you help your community!

How You Get There – Consider carpooling to group runs and races. Or even better, run or ride your bike to the meeting spot! You may also want to “run local”… as in just run in your neighborhood or part of town instead of driving somewhere. Who knows? You may discover a hidden gem of a running route that you’ve always overlooked.

Where You Race – Race locally. If you do travel, think about how you’ll get there and ways to cut down on carbon emissions. Instead of driving solo, consider carpooling or using mass transit. Vote with your dollars by supporting green races; The Council for Responsible Sport recognizes races that have adopted sustainable practices and are committed to minimizing their carbon footprint. These events are doing more than just recycling plastic water bottles. to give just a couple of examples, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon donates recycled medal ribbons to a local non-profit for repurposing in crafts and the Big Sur International Marathon uses solar panels to power the finish line area.

Cut Back on Clutter – If you don’t really want it, it’s clutter. Learn how to say no to things instead of taking them automatically – this especially applies at expos! Many race booths have free keychains and beer cozies, or you may be bombarded with samples of energy foods that don’t even interest you – and let’s not forget all those random brochures and coupons. You may go through the expo on automatic pilot, taking freebies out of habit and pitching them later. If it doesn’t hold value to you or to someone you know, don’t take it!

homemade granola
Mmm, homemade granola! (Photo credit: thepinkpeppercorn)

Make It Yourself – With a little planning, you can reduce waste in any number of ways by doing things yourself. Bring your own hydration for races. Make your own sports drinks from powder, instead of buying the bottled stuff. Make your own energy bars, granola and other running fuel you’d normally buy, cutting down on packaging waste…. And the list goes on and on!

Do you strive to be a green runner? What tips do you have? What are some eco-conscious races or running-related companies that you’d recommend?


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Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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    1. I appreciate your content, but you should change your example photo of the pile of shoes. That is a photo of all the shoes from people that were murdered at Auschwitz and it is not appropriate to use for this article.


  1. I’m glad you brought up running locally. The half and marathon training group I loosely participate in has short distance weekday runs and long runs on the weekend. I constantly beat myself up for not making a stronger effort to run with my peers and often cite the inconvenience of the drive.(40 minutes roundtrip for a 3 miler seems like a waste to me) I’m glad to see that I can now credit the planet as an additional reason.

    I’ve been considering mixing up Hammer Gel concentrate and carrying a gel flask, but still have quite a stash of packets left. That would leave a recyclable bottle, and no more sticky wrappers in my pocket.

    I’m totally with you on the expo junk. I don’t need it and hopefully decreased demand will eventually inspire cutbacks in the manufacturing of it!

    1. Jackie, is there someone you could ride with to the group runs? Or even pick up part way? This is something I struggle with, too. One of my Saturday groups is about the same distance, and it’s hard to justify such a long trip (time+gas) if I’m not running very far!

      Many races are moving to virtual goody bags. That seems like a step in the right direction!