Have your past few summers been a bit too hot and miserable for running? Climate change is to thank for that. Scientists predict that, by 2030, the climate will be 1.5 degrees C (~3 degrees F) warmer. By the end of the 21st century, the grim prediction is a rise of 4 degree C. For runners, that means unseasonably hot summer marathons, damaged trails, and worse. While the root of the problem is in corporations, runners can still adopt eco-friendly practices. Small changes add when many people do them!
Perfection is not the goal, as it is wholly unattainable. The unfortunate reality of modern life is that none of us can live a completely carbon-neutral life. However, small actions are sustainable; by committing to consistent small actions, you can make a difference in climate change.
This is not a comprehensive list of eco-friendly practices for runners. Rather, it provides a simple place to start. You can combat climate change through your shopping habits, vehicle choices (we just purchased a hybrid!), electricity use, and other means.
Eco-Friendly Practices for Runners
Go Cupless When Racing
Paper and plastic cups generate a tremendous amount of waste at races. According to the BAA, the 2017 Boston Marathon distributed 1.4 million disposable cups – and that is just one marathon!
More and more races are going cupless – eliminating paper cups from aid stations. They provide water, but request that runners bring their own containers.
You can make any race cupless for you. Simply carry your own fluids on course. Hydration vests and handheld bottles are lightweight options for carrying your own fluids. As a bonus, you can rely on the sports drink you use during training. Of course, you may still need to grab some cups if you have a lighter vest or bottle. But any reduction in cup use matters!
Opt for Plastic-Free Products When You Can
Plastic is everywhere – which is bad, considering the damage that plastics cause to the environment. Plastic production is a greenhouse-gas intensive process. 40% of plastic use is for packaging, which means those plastics are immediately disposed. The disposal of plastics – particularly landfill and incineration – releases a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions (upwards off 5.9 million metric tons).
Any small amount of plastic reduction makes a difference, especially if you reduce plastic consumption of repeated-use goods (personal hygiene, sports nutrition, etc).
- Plastic-free deodorant
- Soap, shampoo, and conditioner bars
- Bulk serving tubs of sports drink mix (instead of single serve packets)
- Chewable toothpaste
- Reusable water bottle (Hydroflask is my favorite)
Adapt an Eco-Friendly Diet
According to a 2015 article in Frontiers in Nutrition, agriculture (particularly meat and dairy) are responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Limiting your intake of animal products can reduce this number by up to one-third.
That is not to say that every runner needs to go vegan, especially if you need dairy and beef in your diet for health reasons. However, you can make tweaks to your diet and adapt a semi-vegetarian, eco-friendly diet.
- Eat vegetarian a few meals per week (or take it up a step: eat vegetarian/vegan before dinner)
- Opt for plant-based protein powders instead of whey
- Choose pea-protein milk or oat milk instead of almond milk or cow’s milk
- Minimize food waste: buy only what you need, compost when possible
- Grow a home garden and shop at your local farmer’s market
Recycle Your Sport Nutrition
Gels, chews, and bars all come individually wrapped. Unfortunately, many companies do not provide these in bulk containers. However, TerraCycle (in partnership with GU) does offer a recycling program for sports nutrition waste! You simply print a free label and ship your used, empty sports nutrition packaging to them. You will need to rinse all wrappers before shipping.
Advocate for Policy Change
Over the past twenty years, more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions came from one hundred companies. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron are the primary culprits. We alone can only make small changes; systemic change needs to occur to make a tremendous difference in climate change.
One simple step? Write to your elected officials and advocate for policies that protect the environment. If you are not sure where to start, advocacy groups such as Protect Our Winters provide guides for how to take action.
Runner’s Round Up
Join Mile by Mile, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Coach Debbie Runs, and myself for the weekly Runner’s Round-Up link-up. Each week, join in a link-up for running posts.
- Your link must be running related. We will remove unrelated links.
- You must link back to your hosts. It’s common courtesy and a lot more fun!
- Spread the link-up love by visiting at least two other running bloggers. Leave a comment and find new blogs to read!
- Use hashtags #running and #RunnersRoundup to stay in touch and promote your content!
What eco-friendly practices do you adopt?