As runners, we consume a lot of everything. We experience “runger” as our miles pick up, so our grocery list becomes longer. We drive to group runs on weekends, using more gas in our vehicles and we fly to destination races. We go through shoes like candy. We do a lot of laundry. We shower more — maybe, I’m not speaking for everyone. At races we ditch Dixie Cups by the thousand. We runners use a lot of stuff. In general, when we run we need extra clothes, food, water, gear, and transportation.
If you’re at all environmentally inclined like I am, the use of all this extraneous stuff might leave you wondering how you can reduce the impact your running has on the planet. How can we become greener runners? Read on!
Reduce Our Carbon Running Shoe-prints
Our carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere due to the results of your actions and lifestyle choices. Sometimes, especially in America where public transportation is not the best, it is difficult to reduce our carbon footprint. Luckily we are runners. Muahahaha.
That’s right. We can reduce our carbon footprint by run commuting or literally running errands! How many times could we skip a trip in the car and trade it for a run to the bank or even an ice cream date with friends. Once we become comfortable with being our sweaty selves in public, it’s easy to run wherever.
The way we purchase our food affects our carbon footprint as well. Do you know where your food comes from? A farm in your state or Chile? If we buy local, seasonal foods, it travels less, reducing carbon emissions due to transportation. It’s logical. Plus, we can save money by buying local sometimes too! Google the harvest calendar for your locale, like this one for Ohio, to find out what’s in season where you live. I feel your pain, fellow avocado lovers, and admit this one is hard for me to give up too. Maybe some day.
Air travel is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions too. We can limit our destination races that involve flying or turn business trips or pre-planned vacations into run-cations (like Pumpkin and Parsley!)
Don’t Be Trashy About Plastic
Our plastic footprint is the amount of plastic waste we produce. The first thing we can do to be a greener runner in this area is to recycle the plastic we do use. That’s the number one, Captain Obvious, easiest tip to follow when we’re trying to become more environmentally friendly. Mother Earth cannot digest plastic! When we throw plastic in the trash can, we are contributing to her slow death. Dramatic, but true. Not convinced? Here are some facts about plastic pollution that might change your mind.
An easy way for anyone to reduce plastic consumption is to limit buying processed foods in plastic. I know we can all be guilty of taking the convenient route with food, but come on. Do we really need to buy the pre-sliced apples wrapped in plastic? It’s only the rarest of occasion that we can’t be bothered to cut our own apple or just eat it — no knife necessary!
Another thing we can do is to take our own bags on our weekly grocery run and buy in bulk with our own containers if we can. I buy dry goods at a local market with my own jars for cents, literally cents. I buy coconut flakes, lentils, chickpeas, and cranberries for under two euros per kilogram, and I produce zero waste by taking my own containers.
We must research! Our wallet and planet will thank us. Plus all the jars in our cabinets will look pretty! Speaking of pretty, find a sweet re-usable water bottle and stick to it. Knowing the reality of buying plastic bottled water for each workout will make you want to cry.
Let’s Get Dirty!
Gear is definitely where we runners splurge, and making it last is one way to cut down on consumption. But what do we do when we’re finished with our shoes and clothes? An easy option is to give them away to family and friends. I recently saw Canadian Olympian Tasha Wodak post on Instagram advertising that she was giving away a ton of her stuff. She named the sizes and said, “If this fits you, come take it!” Gotta love those environmentally friendly Canadians. Another option is checking with our local running stores to see if they have a donation program that benefits local athletes in need.
We can also buy less by actually wearing our race shirts. Yes, even the ugly ill-fitting ones if we really want to be hardcore about it. We can also wear all the free hats, socks, and headlamps we win too. You win some, you lose some, but you should definitely try to reduce the size of that closet. Less gear = less waste!
Save water. Get dirty. Literally. We can wash our hair less and use our running clothes more than once before we wash them if we can. Ew gross, but not everything needs to be washed after each run.
Here’s something cool. We can run low-waste or no-frills races. Pimento sent me a link to the Council for Responsible Sport, which certifies races that are more environmentally responsible because they recycle, compost trash, or use renewable energy.
As for no-frills races, I mean races that don’t bother with medals and other swag, like the Broke Man’s Race Series in Central Ohio. The Broke Man’s homepage states, “We provide a positive, affordable and community oriented racing environment that’s low cost, low frills, but fully supported. We aim to bridge the gap between the road race atmosphere and the trail race atmosphere. Sustainability, affordability, community support, non-intimidation and tons of fun.” Ummm, sign me up!
Do you have any tips for running greener?