There's quite a bit of talk lately about "green" running races. In fact, I was recently asked by a journalist if our sport had a history of green in our events. Trail Running would probably be considered a green sport. We are about nature, the outdoors, scenery, open spaces, flora, fauna, roots, rocks, and minimalism. So, how would you identify a green trail race? Several ways I've been thinking about recently include:
Course marking: Flour is a green choice, but has limitations on rainy days and isn't very visible on snow-covered routes. Flagging that can be removed and reused is another option. Sandwich boards with arrows to mark the trail are also a green alternative. I've even heard from race directors who put paper plates on trees to mark the way and then remove following the event.
Registration: The internet saves paper, postage, and individuals from writing checks and is much easier for the race organizers to track entries and get legible information. How often are race results null and void because the timing company can't tell what the person's name, age, or sex are from chicken scratch scrawls on an entry form?
Aid Stations: Asking runners to carry a water bottle to fill up at the aid station lessens the use of cups. Offering grapes and apples instead of bananas and oranges generates a lot less trash. Provide recycle bins at the aid stations and finish line to separate plastic, paper, and aluminum.
Chip Timing: This is a green way to time if you don't ask the participants to also wear a runner number. But, you most likely have a runner number as well for backup timing. At least the chips are recycled.
Post event feed: Consider using organic products including those grown and/or harvested in the local area.
Awards: Provide something the winner will use instead of an item that will end up in a drawer or worse, a trash can.
How can we runners be more "green?"
Transportation: Carpool to races with friends.
Safety Pins: Numbers are tough to recycle, but safety pins aren't. Keep a stash and don't rely on the event to provide safety pins for every race you enter, or buy a runner number belt.
Water Bottles: Carry and fill up at the aid stations.
T-shirts: Go through your drawers and closets and give you gently used T-shirts to charity, or have a quilt made and donate for a charity auction.
Awards: Make a wind chime from all the medals you've collected.
I'm curious to hear other people's thoughts on this subject. Send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Sunday I'm off to the Running USA conference in San Diego purported to be the largest of conferences for RUSA in the history of the organization. I'm sure a trail run or two will be part of the repertoire during the three days of meetings.
Happy trails! Nancy