How to Make Your Running Greener

How to Make Your Running Greener | This Runner's Recipes

Hi, everyone! How is your week so far?

I try to avoid speaking about overly spiritual or religious things on this blog, since I know not all of my readers express the same religious beliefs as I do nor do they come to my site to read such about religion. That said, I have spent the past couple days reading Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment and the research coming out of Standford University, and I’ve thinking a lot about the little things I can do to contribute to preserving the environment. So, for today’s post, I want to offer a few tips on how to make your running greener!

How to Make Your Running Greener | This Runner's Recipes

1. Don’t Litter.

This sounds so simple and cliched, but I frequently see gel packages and food wrappers all over the ground during races and sometimes sprinkled along the side of the bike paths where I run. Even though most races will have people clean up the streets after the event, get into the habit of simply tucking your fuel packaging back into your pocket and then properly disposing of or recycling it after your run. That way, you are in the habit and won’t just mindlessly let some packaging drop alongside your path when you’re out on a long run. It’s also courteous to the volunteers at a race or the people with whom you share the trails or roads! 

2. Head Outside More.

If you do most of your runs on the treadmill, try heading outside! Not only will you get a better workout due to terrain changes and wind resistance, some vitamin D, and a mental boost, but you will also save electricity. Spending time in nature also increase your feeling of connection to the environment and is just plain fun. If you frequent the gym for cross-training activities, look for a nearby gym that has energy-efficient equipment. My apartment gym has these cool ellipticals and bikes that use your energy output to help power them. 

3. Be mindful of animals around you.

This is probably going to sound super green of me, but remember when you are out on the trails that you are not just sharing the path with people, but with other animals! Switch between looking ahead and looking right in front of your feet to make sure you don’t step on any rabbits, snakes, birds, or snails. (And yes, I purposely avoid stepping on any snails. I’ve also made friends with the rabbits and ducks on my trails because I’m a huge animal lover like that.) If you’re running somewhere with snakes, bears, or cougars, then being mindful that you are running on their territory is also important for your own safety. 

How to Make Your Running Greener | This Runner's Recipes

4. Eat seasonally.

Consuming enough fruits and vegetables is essential for fueling your body for your healthiest and best running. Try to purchase produce that’s locally grown and in season, as it requires a lot of fuel to ship produce from South America or other places to your grocery store! This is not to mention that seasonal produce is also healthier and tastes better, as it was not picked before it was ripe and just sat there for several days during shipping and handling. Granted, some foods I purchase will never be locally grown, such as bananas, but right now I’m loving local Washington apples, Washington cherries, and California avocados.

5. Run a green race.

In addition to being a flatter race for the PNW and in a beautiful city, I chose the Portland Marathon because of their “greenness.” They take small measures to minimize waste during race day, such as giving you a finisher’s jacket instead of a Mylar blanket, use bicycles for race day course management, and hand out tree saplings at the finish line (side note: anyone know where I can plant a tree in the Eastside of Seattle area? I don’t think I can plant it at my apartment complex). Other races will have runners carry water-bottles instead of using paper cups, recycle all of their trash, serve organic local foods at the pre-race dinner, or use solar generators. Green races include the Portland (OR) Marathon, the Eugene (OR) Marathon, the ING Hartford Marathon, the Akron (OH) Marathon, and the Beach to Beacon 10K (Maine), and hundreds of smaller, local races. 

6. Or run local races.

Traveling to a destination race requires driving or flying, which uses up a lot of fuel. While it definitely has its benefits, such as traveling to a new city or seeing family, consider running local races. Local races remove the need to travel (which also has the bonus of sleeping in your own bed and eating your own food the night before!) and often have greener practices since they are on a smaller scale. Added bonuses: you have a higher chance of placing in your age group, the course is less crowded, and these races are usually cheaper! My 2016 race calendar already includes several local races, including the Lake Sammamish Half and the Labor Day Half in Redmond. 

7. Shower less.

Okay, I’m kind of joking on this one. Yes, you should definitely shower if you’re sweaty and stinky. But since I run six days a week and add strength training, hiking, or Pilates as a second workout a few days a week, I don’t shower after every single workout because otherwise I’d be showering about ten times a week. Washing your face, using a bit of dry shampoo, and a clean change of clothes can go a long way. Showering uses several gallons of water and electricity to heat up the water, not to mention that too much showering can dry out your hair and skin. At the very least, keep your showers short—aim for five minutes or less. 

8. Extend the life of your running shoes.

I’m very fortunate that, since I’m not injury-prone, I can extend the life of my Brooks Pure Flows beyond the suggested 300-400 miles. I wear my newest pair for long runs, speed work, and tempo runs, when my feet can use the extra support, but I wear older running shoes for recovery runs, strength training at the gym, and walks. Old shoes can also be used for gardening, yardwork, or other activities where you want an older shoe that can get dirty. I also recycle running shoes so that my shoes can do some good and not just end up in the back of a closet or the dumpster. Many running stores have collection bins to send old running shoes to specified charities and some races will have used shoe collections. You can also send your shoes to charities such as Soles4Souls and Give Your Sole if the shoes are in wearable condition or Nike Better World Reuse-A-Shoe if the shoes are really beat-up. 

Nature gives so much to us runners: fresh air, beautiful scenery, and trails to run on, so it’s important that we give back to nature and take care of it!

How to Make Your Running Greener | This Runner's Recipes

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Questions of the Day:
Have you ever ran a green race?
How do you make your running more green?
Do you see a lot of wildlife on your runs?

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8 Responses

  1. Step on a rabbit? You’re kidding, right? They run away before I could possibly step on them!

    But seriously, I’m the type who brakes for squirrels. I almost always carry a ziploc so I’m not throwing any wrappers on the road or by the side of a path.

    1. Rabbits are really fast! Although Charlie’s almost caught up to a few! And we need more people like you who brake for squirrels and avoid littering. 🙂

  2. These are great tips! The Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race in DC is a green race. This year, instead of giving out goodie bags, they sent ‘virtual’ goodie bags to save paper and plastic. They also offered a place to donate your old running shoes. Such a cool initiative!

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