You can search out races that are reducing waste but every runner at each event can do their part too.
Nelson, who works with Scout Mountain Ultras, encourages runners to influence the races they attend. He encourages runners to reach out to the race director and offer help.
“A lot of work goes into being a race director, and sometimes getting a little help, or just some encouragement, can go a really long way,” he says. Nelson also suggests runners can bring their own cups to lessen waste at races.
Some other ways you can reduce your footprint at races, according to Solomon and Strep:
- Carpool to the race. Grab a few friends from your running club or meet up with other races to ride together to the event
- Hop on the bus. If you have reliable public transportation, like a bus or light rail, take that to the race
- Ride your bike. Looking for an extra workout? Peddle to and from the race
- Look for recycling bins instead of trash cans. Can’t find one? Pack your recyclables and dispose of them at home
- Don’t just drop your trash on the course. It’s tempting to crumple your cup and toss it aside, assuming a race volunteer will get it later, but picking up someone else’s wet, dirty trash isn’t fun
For Race Directors
Strep says it’s ultimately up to the race director to decide how to deal with waste.
Directors can sort their trash to take control of whether it’s sent to the landfill, recycling or compost pile, Strep says. Most of these races also use mail-in recycling programs such as TerraCycle.
“From the start to the finish, including at aid stations, we have all four places to sort,” Strep says. “We also have a competition with our aid stations to see who can produce the least amount of waste that goes to the landfill.”
Solomon says another proven way to reduce trash is to place recycling bins next to every trash bin.
Waste is a big concern in our modern world, and races with thousands of people can produce a lot of it. But we can all take steps to lessen our impact. Racing is a joy that doesn’t have to harm the environment.
By Maureen Wise. Maureen caught the running bug in high school when she was the only female to run the two-mile race on her high school track team. Not that she was a fast runner then—or now—but she's been at it for 20 years and has run more 5Ks than she cares to count.