Environmentally Friendly Races: Green Up Your Racing


It’s in every athlete’s best interest to protect the environment. Athletes have the privilege of spending significant time outdoors. Ensuring that our training and racing is as environmentally friendly as possible is not just good for us; it’s good for the Earth.

Read on to learn a few tricks athletes and event organizers can use for environmentally friendly races.

Learn why ending plastic waste should be a priority for everyone.

Environmentally Friendly Races for Athletes

Athletes have an outsized impact on the environment since nature often serves as our training area. Here are some ways athletes can make their training and racing more environmentally friendly:

Check if the Race is Environmentally Friendly

Does the race mention environmental friendliness anywhere? For example, does the website mention sustainability topics like power for the event, litter cleanup and recycling, etc.? 

Check to see if the event has a third-party certification of their environmental program. As with anything, do your research and ensure that the event backs up its environmental claims. If you’re not sure, reach out to the organizers. 

Reach out to event organizers even if the event isn’t environmentally friendly. Let them know the importance of environmentally friendly races and that you and other athletes consider such things when selecting events.

Make sure you use environmentally friendly sunscreen and sustainable running shoes as well!

Environmentally Friendly Races Offer Sustainable Swag Options

Opt-out of race swag to decrease your and the event’s environmental footprint. Some events even allow participants to choose to allocate the cost of their swag to a charitable organization instead. Ask yourself: do you need another race t-shirt you probably won’t wear? 

Environmentally Friendly Food and Drink

Athletes are more aware of what they put into their bodies than most people. That’s why athletes should support events that offer environmentally friendly food and drink options. For example, environmentally friendly races should source food locally. It’s not only better for the environment, but it’s also a way of giving back to the local communities. 

Environmentally friendly races shouldn’t use plastic cups at drink stations or disposable food containers at the finish area. 

Many environmentally friendly events (especially trail races) require participants to carry their own water. This eliminates the need for disposable plastic. Environmentally friendly drink stations could be as simple as requiring participants to fill their reusable bottles or as innovative as a mass drinking fountain (when COVID safe). 

runner cooling down

Carpool to/from the Event

Gather a group of friends (like your adidas Runners community) and plan to go to the race together instead of in separate cars. Better yet, bike or take public transit to and from the race. This will also force you to actually show up to your race because you’re accountable to others!

Try picking up trash while jogging (plogging) as training for your race!

Environmentally Friendly Races for Event Organizers

Most athletes would prefer to participate in an environmentally friendly race. Consider the following practices to make your event an environmentally friendly one:

Paperless Communications

Paperless communications are the lowest hanging fruit for smaller events. Paperless communications make event management more environmentally friendly and easier to manage. Make the switch to save the environment and your bottom line.

Give Participants the Option to Opt-Out of Event Swag

Athletes expect events to give out promotional swag. What they don’t expect is environmentally unfriendly swag. Give athletes the option to opt-out of event swag altogether. Consider going the extra step and donating the cost of the swag to a local charity. Include this in your marketing materials—athletes will notice.

3 racers

Environmentally Friendly Races Prioritize Food and Drink

Athletes eat and drink a lot, and they expect races to support them in that regard. Source food from local providers that use local ingredients. This cuts down on the transportation costs of the food and gives back to the local business community. The business community will be more likely to support future events in their area. Market the local food offering to athletes as a local experience that is also environmentally friendly.

Encourage athletes to bring their water to the event. At a minimum, encourage athletes to use reusable water bottles instead of the typical disposable plastic cups. Recycle and compost as much as possible.

Power Your Race with Environmentally Friendly Options

Most events rely on gas generator power for some or all components of the event. Athletes know the smell of a diesel generator at the end of a race, and it can take them out of the experience at a key moment. 

Instead, consider green power options like solar or maybe even bike power. Cut down on the number of things that require power and keep it to the minimum when possible. 

runner taking off shoes

Reuse When Possible

Reuse event signs, race bibs and numbers, and other things that tend to be thrown away immediately after the race. Choose reusable items whenever possible to make your event more environmentally friendly. 

Remind athletes that they can recycle old running shoes!

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