Running Green Update: The Jar So Far

A few months ago, I posted about reducing my running footprint and my resolution to minimize my waste for the second half of 2019. I started tracking my landfill waste from running back on June 1 and keeping it in a jar. How’s it going? 

Mason jar filled with running-related trashWhat’s in the jar so far?

  • Three race bibs
  • Three Sword drink mix wrappers. I usually buy much larger containers of this to cut down on packaging waste, but my favorite flavor was sold out everywhere in the big size.
  • Packaging (tags and little plastic part) from my new Flip Belt
  • Backing and plastic film from a patriotic temporary tattoo that I wore in my 4th of July race
  • A napkin from when I just couldn’t resist a donut after a supported training run*

*I made the choice to include this since it was physically at the run, as opposed to a pit stop I made afterwards.

What trash isn’t shown here?

  • A plastic cup from a post-10K beer

What’s not in the jar?

  • A pair of shoes. Right around the time I wrote my initial post, I had a pair that was nearing the end of its useful life. They are pretty beat up all around, so I knew they weren’t good candidates for donation. Thankfully, Kay’s comment on that post sent me down a rabbit hole of Internet research and led me to all kinds of newfound knowledge about shoe recycling. While I don’t have a Nike or The North Face store in town, I will drop these kicks off on my next out of town trip that takes me near one.
  • Gel wrappers. I save them to recycle through TerraCycle – post coming soon on that topic!
  • All the pre-race stuff I refused: flyers for upcoming races, car wash coupons, tiny samples of this and that.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Just ask. I bought a new-to-me pair of running shorts on Ebay and messaged the seller to ask that they use minimal packaging, so they came in just a manila envelope – no paper, plastic or extra doodads. (I saved the envelope to reuse.)
  2. Plan ahead. Maybe it’s because it’s summer and I’m in the depths of marathon training, but hydration and fuel have been the largest challenges for me. The name of my game is overthinking, which has come in handy for this little experiment. I’m lucky enough that most of my long runs are supported (yay!), but since they involve gallons of water and paper cups, I still need to carry something for my water.  I carried handheld water bottles for the first two races in this experiment (a 5K and 10K). For long runs, I tried a few different things before finding a good solution for my needs. First I borrowed a Vapur collapsible water bottle from a trail running friend. It was just okay. It worked well for filling up at our long run aid stations and drinking there, but it was awkward to run with the full bottle in my pocket. (I would totally use this as a solution for hiking or other active endeavors, though.) Then I dug out an old iFitness belt that I had hanging around. It only took a couple runs to recall why it wasn’t for me. Luckily enough, the day I had decided that it wasn’t working for me, a friend mentioned she needed a way to carry water in her upcoming triathlon. Boom – instant repurposing/paying it forward! Finally, at the recommendation of a running buddy, I purchased a Flip Belt, which has been a perfect fit for my needs! I’ve used it in training on runs up to 12 miles and in a 4 mile race this past weekend.
  3. Bring your own. Whether it’s bringing a reusable bag to packet pick-up, or packing post-race snacks and safety pins for your bib, try to anticipate what you might need and prep for it. My running club had a post-race breakfast potluck after a long run (a tradition I highly recommend, by the way!), so I stuck a travel coffee mug in the car.

Most people I talk to about this challenge make a comment about running not creating that much waste, but it’s been harder than I thought! There are so many little things that can add up that you don’t necessarily think about. There are also a couple times where I realized I would be creating waste but still proceeded. The drink mix was definitely a shortfall, but I knew that flavor agreed with my stomach and was scared to go out on a limb. Likewise, I made a conscious decision to wear the temporary tattoo, knowing that it would create trash. So in 2.5 months, I’m not at zero waste, but that’s okay. It’s still been a good exercise to think through things and reduce waste. 

Any ideas on how to further reduce waste? I’ll check back in a few months!

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 looked into that one since the Y has a donation box. They ask that the shoes still have “reasonable tread” on them, which these bad boys definitely don’t! The upper has a hole where the big toes hits, so they’re def better candidates for recycling vs. reuse.