Waste dumped along the race course, a huge amount of plastic cups used within just a few hours, carbon emissions from travel to race location…if you’re not careful your endurance event has the potential to have a pretty negative impact on the environment. This is ironic because most endurance event organisers and participants are in the sport because of their love for the outdoors. Fortunately, there are many easy-to-implement initiatives that you can put in place to help you run a more eco-friendly race.

These will not only benefit the planet but they will also improve your brand image among environmentally conscious participants. Plus, most of them can be put in place at no additional cost to you. Triple win :).

Here is a list of 10 suggested actions to help you minimise the environmental footprint of your sporting event.

Opt for paperless communication

Digitising all of your communications is a simple way to reduce the amount of paper waste you’re generating. This includes registration forms, race manuals, volunteer information packs and sponsorship packages. As an added bonus going paperless will also reduce cost and improve your efficiency. 

Here are a few useful tools that you can use to help you manage your online communications:

  • Set up an email management system like MailChimp to automate the emails sent out to participants
  • Use Google Drive to share larger documents like for example race manuals or sponsorship packages 

Make race goodies optional

Finisher t-shirts and medals can be useful in terms of future event promotion and sponsorship activation. But in reality it’s quite likely that many participants will end up throwing them into the bin after the event. So giving athletes the choice to opt out of receiving the race goodies is an easy way to reduce waste without compromising customer satisfaction. 

To implement this, all you need to do is include a tick box on the race registration page to give participants the choice to opt in or out of receiving a finisher t-shirt and medal. 

For those participants who do chose to receive finisher tee and medal you can make these items as ‘green’ as possible. For example, you can provide finisher t-shirts made from waste plastic bottles and medals made from eco-friendly material like bamboo. 

Travel to race location: emphasize public transportation and car pooling

The large majority of emissions generated by your endurance event are likely to come from participants’ travel. One way to minimise this is by choosing a race location that is easily accessible by public transportation. Make sure you include all the relevant public transportation information on the race website. 

You can also organise a car pooling service through a car pooling software like RideAmigos. Aside from helping you create a more eco-friendly race this will also reduce race-day congestion and parking related issues. 

Offer participants the option to offset their carbon footprint

On top of encouraging participants to use public transports or car pooling to get to the race location you can also offer them the option to offset their carbon footprint during the race registration process. This is especially relevant for events that require air travel for the majority of participants. 

If you want to go one step further, you could even decide to create a carbon neutral event. This would involve first calculating the carbon footprint of your event to get an estimate of the total impact of your event on the environment in terms of carbon emissions and also to identify the main sources of emissions. The second step would be to come up with a plan to reduce the emissions generated by your event. To ensure your event has a zero net carbon footprint you can then use carbon offsetting for the remaining contributions. 

Use eco-friendly race course signs

Course signage can be a significant source of waste for races. Instead of opting for signs made out of plastic, you can opt for more environmentally friendly options like cardboard, wood or other recyclable materials. Where possible (and as long as there is no risk of participants getting off-course) cut down on the amount of signs used. You can always position more marshals along the course if required.

Get rid of plastic cups and bottles

If you are reading this you are probably already aware of the major negative long-term effects of plastic pollution. Some of these include groundwater pollution, air pollution related health problems and ocean wildlife being killed.

One simple way to reduce plastic usage during your event is to eliminate plastic cups and bottles at the aid stations and at the finish line. Instead, you can request for athletes to be responsible for bringing their own reusable cup or water bottle. Or you can even provide these for free to each participants. There are many reusable cup options on the market like for example the Zippycup or the HydraPak SpeedCup

And rather than giving out water from 1.5L water bottles at aid stations and at the finish line, opt for large reusable water jugs instead. 

Worlwide, over 500 billion plastic bottles are used every year!

Offer organic, locally-grown food at aid stations and at the finish line

Aid station and finish line foods are a great opportunity to reduce the overall carbon footprint of your event while also showcasing the local food culture. Plus, choosing to offer local produce will also foster a sense of community around your event. Get in touch with local produce distributors or even artisanal food producers (depending on the size of your event) to evaluate the available options. 

Donate a portion of your revenue to environmental nonprofits

This can be done by selecting an environmental non-profit organisation and contacting them directly. You can then support them by donating a portion of your revenue, by volunteering for them and/or by helping promote their work.

Another great option is to become a member of an organisation like 1% for the Planet. This will facilitate the process of selecting a suitable non-profit. It will also give you access to a whole range of resources to help you reduce your environmental footprint. And it will give you the opportunity to be part of a community of other environmentally conscious businesses. 

Choose eco-friendly race sponsors

Choosing sponsors who provide green products or services is another way to make your race greener. Selecting eco-friendly race sponsors will help to promote a more eco-friendly lifestyle within your event community. It will also ensure that your sponsors will help support your green initiatives.

Spread the word: educate volunteers, sponsors and participants

Once you have decided which eco-friendly actions you will implement it is important to think about communication. Make a plan for how you will tell staff members, volunteers, participants and spectators about your various eco-friendly race initiatives. Explain why you are doing it and what the potential impact of each action on the environment is. On race day, remember to brief volunteers and athletes around how they can help keep the race course clean.  

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