On the Run: Eco-Friendly Running

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5 Tips for Earth-Friendly Running

By Clint Cherepa

Besides the rubber that wore off your shoes, chances are your last trail run was eco-friendly. Trail running provides the earth with healthy, fit, clean fuel-burning humans. Even so, there are ways to keep this sport green and lessen the effects it can have on the ecosystem.

Here are five ways to cruise down the trails with less impact.

Choose green races

Race organizers have an excellent opportunity to take the green running movement in stride and do their part for the environment.

Evergreen Trail Runs, based in Seattle, Wash., aims to acquire supplies from secondhand sources, use reusable cloth bags, partner with other events to share supplies, buy food in bulk to minimize packaging, use reusable cups, plates and cutlery, use bio-degradable cleaning products, provide recycle bins on site, partner with organic farms to provide locally harvested produce for aid stations, and offer biodegradable swag bags.

While it may not be possible to be 100 percent green all the time, there is room for other races to incorporate some of these same practices into their plans.

Reduce food packaging and waste

Fueling a runner is a constant work in progress. We feed our furnaces with a constant flow of fuel, before, during and after our runs. Finding food that is healthy, sustaining and has a low impact on the environment is possible.

Look for energy drink powder in bulk to reduce packaging and waste, and keep an eye out for organic and natural options. Local health food stores are a great place to start your search.

You can even make your own endurance drinks and fuel at home; experiment to find what you like best.

Run to the trailhead or carpool

It’s true that some of the best trailheads may be an hour or two away, but take advantage of the trails you have within running distance. Plan long runs with running to the trail in mind.

Many environmentally conscious runners consider this when choosing races. There is nothing wrong with driving across the continent to participate in a race. Still, remember the impact of traveling and how much extra it will cost you. Driving less is one way to easily, but self-consciously, lessen impact. If you do drive to the trailhead, ask some running buddies to join you, and carpool.

While you’re at it, why not arrange a trail run to pick up trash? You can schedule this once a month or week. Some runners even carry a bag with them and pick up some garbage on every run. Getting your running club or a few friends involved will accomplish even more.

Buy eco-friendly gear, and donate used gear

The production of running shoes is toxic and energy intensive. Shoe companies like Brooks and New Balance have been working in the right direction with intentional programs and efforts to use eco-friendly materials.

What about running-related gadgets and devices? Next time you want to buy a treadmill, GPS device or iPod, scan eBay. You will find that the market is swimming with used running gear. Buying used can keep this gear out of the trash, and out of landfills.

Green-minded runners are conscious of where their shoes and clothes go when they are finished with them. Give your running gear a new home and second life at thrift stores and organizations like Shoes for Africa, Reuse-a-Shoe and Recycled Runners.

Reduce, reuse and recycle water containers

Applying the “reduce, reuse, recycle” theory to our hydration alone, cuts a huge chunk out of the impact we have as runners. Disposable bottles and cups are at times a necessary evil, but convenience is often not the best decision for the earth. The convenient disposable bottle will take years to decompose. Reducing and reusing water bottles will save bags and bags of garbage over the years. If we do need to use a disposable bottle or cup, recycle it.

Let’s take responsibility for running green. These five easy steps, alone, can lessen our impact of our already-green sport on the earth and keep our trails in the pristine condition that we love. Every stride we take toward a healthy and greener environment is well worth the effort.

Clint Cherepa is the Running Columnist for OutdoorsNW. He is currently in Nicaragua, where he has been busy training for ultramarathons and working on a new venture: www.strongerrunners.com

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