Running catalyzes community and business sustainability
Avoiding the accusation of greenwashing is not easy for businesses. How do we judge whether a business is truly interested in reducing its carbon emissions and waste, or just wanting to look as if they are doing so? One way is to look at what community events a business supports.
Running is a popular sport worldwide, with millions of people taking part in marathons all over the globe. These races need sponsors and race organisers across the world are trying to make their events greener. Sponsorship can help race organizers introduce green measures to their races and in turn, helps the sponsor become aligned with enabling sustainability education and action in the community.
The Hong Kong Distance Runner’s Club’s (HKDRC) 35th Green Half Marathon and 10K run will take place on 4 November 2012. For the past two years the numbers of runners taking part, as well as the number of sponsors of the race, have both increased quite dramatically. Why is that?
The main reason is because the HKDRC has been striving to reduce the race’s carbon footprint, making it more family friendly (by adding the 10-km option) and by adding green touches, in turn attracting green conscious sponsors.
Proving those who say turning green is expensive wrong, the race has gone from strength to strength since making the conscious decision to start reducing its carbon footprint.
The HKDRC aims to make its 2012 race day as green as possible by giving out sustainable souvenirs and prizes, cutting down as much as possible on unnecessary waste (by using re-usable runner’s bibs, offering runners foldable, re-usable bottles for water), providing free bus shuttles to the start of the race, encouraging runners to use public transport rather than private cars and providing plants as prizes and organic vegetables at the end of the race for a ‘green’ post race snack!
In addition, with the help of Civic Exchange, the race organisers have composed a ‘green’ quiz that will be added to the race entry form to raise awareness about low carbon living.
There’s still some way to go of course, on-line registration would further reduce the impact of the race on waste generated. The HKDRC are not the only race organisers to implement more sustainable measures to reduce the impact of their races – many race organisers in Hong Kong and internationally (New York, London and Paris are just a few examples) have gone down the sustainable route.
What the race organisers rely on is a supply of green products and services they can offer to runners, such as organic cotton t-shirts, places to recycle their old trainers or organic energy bars.
This is a call to business to ensure these things are available, at a decent price. What is clear is that plenty of runners would like to be greener, and more and more race organisers are experiencing the benefits of making their running races greener, and it is business which could help them out, and in turn, benefit in a shaky economic climate.
Running in itself can, on the surface, seem to be a low carbon sport. After all, most people don’t drive to get to a run, runners don’t give off carbon emissions, and you don’t need elaborate ‘equipment’, unlike, for example, cycling or rowing.
However, the clothing associated with running (trainers, shorts and sports bras) have large carbon footprints. More companies would do well to offer sports gear made from organic cotton, hemp and bamboo, as well as organic energy bars, re-usable water bottles and recycling facilities for running gear.
Trainers are the main problem, in terms of a runner’s footprint. Environmental impacts, carbon output and toxic substances are hard to gauge in a product with 50 components coming from dozens of different places.
Up next are t-shirts and shorts. Twenty five percent of all pesticides are used to produce non-organic cotton. More than 8,000 chemicals are used to manufacture textiles. Pesticides contribute significantly to the worldwide drop in honeybee population and directly cause the death of more than 67 millions bird deaths annually.