Running Green: Reducing My Footprint

So, I’m a big ol’ nerd about the environment. I’ve written before about ways to be a more Earth-friendly runner. “Zero waste” is popular out there, but for many of us it can seem unattainable. I mean, I compost, buy most of my clothes secondhand and shop at the farmers’ market, isn’t that enough?

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of the big goals and then get afraid to set any goals at all, both in running and in life. What’s amazing about being a runner is that we know how to set little goals that help mark our progress toward big goals. 

Soon I was discussing minimizing my waste from races with fellow Saltines, and thinking about all the little goals I could set. Pretty soon I was back to dreaming big again. I’m going to aim to be zero waste with my running from June to December 2019.

Let’s back up, shall we? What is zero waste?

The definitions vary depending on who you talk to, but my favorite comes from Kathryn Kellogg of the Going Zero Waste blog: “We aim to send nothing to a landfill. We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot.” It’s really about rethinking how we do everything, because consumerism and convenience are so built into our everyday lives.

How will this work?Woman poses with empty mason jar

The #ecohipster trend is working to fit your trash from one year in a jar, so I’m going to try that; I will be collecting all my running trash in a glass jar. It will serve as a way to track my actions.

Next, I am setting a few ground rules for myself.

  1. I love the secondhand life, but will draw the line at used socks or sports bras.
  2. I won’t do anything that compromises my health/nutrition. I know there are DIY running gels, but I have witnessed people bonking from them hard. With marathon training starting and already being a bit of a heat baby, I’m sticking with the commercially made stuff.
  3. Don’t pawn my trash off on other people to technically not create waste.
  4. I’m not putting anything overly disgusting in the jar. It’s a visual diary and learning tool, not a science experiment. (I’ll still tell you about the gross stuff, though.)

So, here we go!

As of this writing, I have a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon planned for the remainder of the year… plus all the training that goes with those! I’ll check in every so often to show you the jar and let you know what’s in it and what I’ve learned from my trials and errors.

Any suggestions as I get started?

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. Interesting Idea! I guess what I wonder about most is how you are going to fit worn-out running shoes into that jar…😂 I don’t run long enough distances that I need to fuel along the way, so honestly I think shoes/clothes are the only things that my running trashes, ever. Am curious to find out what it will be for you!

    1. For shoes, my local running store has a collection bin for shoes for a local shelter for people experiencing homelessness. I take them there unless they are in bad shape. I plan to look for recycling options for pairs of shoes that are worse off! I think it will be little things that add up. A race bib is the only item in there so far.

      1. I now couldn’t resist searching for “how to recycle your running shoes”, but it turns out that Nike has a “Reuse a Shoe” program where they will accept your old shoes at their stores! They get ground up to make more Nike products (your shoes don’t have to be Nikes, just sports shoes). Huh, wonder if any other companies do that….

  2. Neat idea! The place in our area that collects shoes does recycle ones that aren’t in good enough shape to be reused. Are you already buying gels in bulk bottles and pouring into a reusable container?

  3. I’m trying to go back to school to study environmental policy analysis… talk about a big ol’ environment nerd!!! What I really hate is buying running clothes/shoes online and having it arrive in an excessive amount of packaging. Nike is TERRIBLE about this. I don’t think my new sports bra needs to be protected with bubble wrap! I did order some stuff from Tracksmith once (my wallet cried for weeks) and it came in a cardboard envelope with no tags or plastic, which was lovely. I’m weary of most homemade gels because they seem to be mostly bananas/sweet potatoes/coconut oil/dates/other stuff that would probably take longer to digest than a store bought gel, but I did luckily stumble across this article telling how to make homemade Gen UCan and I am planning on trying it out for the later stages of my marathon training as a cheaper alternative. Gotta get myself some of those reusable gel pouches first though! I am really hoping that it works!

    1. Thanks for sharing the link! I agree – packaging can be crazy excessive. Some UPS stores will accept bubble wrap, air pockets, etc. for reuse. So while it’s not entirely preventable, especially in the era of online shopping, at least it can be reused!