8 Tips for Reducing Your Environmental Impact Though Running

A running trail through the woods

Run your way to a lighter carbon footprint

With Earth Day fast approaching, it’s a good time to take a few moments to revisit how you try to limit your environmental footprint. While we may think that running is an innocuous activity, the decisions that we make every day when we lace up have a lasting impact on the world around us. And, no matter how much we limit our usage of natural resources, we can always do better.

So, how exactly does your running affect the environment and what can you do to make more mindful decisions when it comes to protecting the natural world around you? Here are our seven tips for reducing your environmental impact while running:

Run errands.

If you live close enough and can find a safe route (remember to always run against traffic and on a sidewalk if possible), consider literally running your errands to cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions your car produces when you drive. You’ll experience the bonus of extra miles, too!


Unless you run from your door every day, chances are you often drive to a trailhead or greenway somewhere nearby. If you’re meeting friends, make an effort to carpool as much as possible to, again, cut down on carbon emissions.

Don’t throw away old gear; donate it.

Look for a local gear recyclery in your area. As long as your running garb is in decent shape, most resale shops will take it (season permitting). Used shoes are harder to resell, but shoe recycle programs abound. Check out Soles4Souls, an organization that donates shoes to people in need all over the world.

Say no to bags and reuse your shoe boxes.

If you’re buying a piece of clothing and a few accessories with your new pair of shoes, just stuff everything into the shoe box. Of course you can always bring your own bag, but let’s be honest, they’re easy to forget. Go bagless enough and, trust us, you’ll get really good at stacking items and carrying them under your arm.

Stick to the human-made path.

While it can be fun to traipse off into the wilderness and explore off trail, it’s disruptive to the surrounding habitats. You can accidentally redirect erosion patterns and even wreak havoc on a wild critter’s home. … Think about how you would feel if a mountain lion decided to just waltz into your house.

Bring a water bottle to every race.

Why produce excess waste if you don’t need to? It’s easy to carry a handheld water bottle or pack on race day. You’ll find that aid station and water stop volunteers will be happy to fill your bottle for you. Plus, regularly carrying your own water bottle means you’ll cut down your plastic usage (don’t buy plastic bottles of water; buy a water bottle and refill it from the tap).

Leave no trace.

While we mostly think of this principle when it comes to hiking and trail running, it applies to city jaunts, too. And road runners are the worst. Just because it’s widely accepted to leave gel packets and water cups scattered about the pavement, it doesn’t mean that you should. Sure, race clean up crews come through and pick up everything they can once the event is over, but that doesn’t mean they’re able to get it all. Wind easily scoops up trash and carries it away. Keep your city and your earth clean; either pocket your empty gel packets or make a beeline for the aid station trash can. No excuses.

Be conscious of the products you purchase and the brands you support.

With so many purchasing options, it’s hard to always think about the ramifications of what we buy. We’ve done some research for you and compiled a list of running brands with environmental programs you’ll want to support.