Sustainable running guide - Women's Running

Sustainable running guide

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  April 22, 2022

We all want to reduce our impact on the planet, and there's plenty that we runners can do. Running coach Alex Parren shares her sustainable running guide...

You’re not alone if you’re feeling the pressure to become a more sustainable runner. The water companies tell us to take shorter showers, oil companies tell us to take shorter trips in our cars. You may think that the responsibility lies with the corporations and industries that are polluting our planet to make the changes, and you would be right.

But our individual actions really do make a difference. It’s well worth making small changes in our daily lives to help in the fight against pollution. Here are three easy ways you can become more sustainable as an athlete. They’re all easy swaps and choices that won’t massively affect your lifestyle – but will make a big difference.

How to create less waste

As a runner, the chances are you use energy gels to fuel your longer runs. Although they may be practical and convenient while running, these single-use packets are no good for the environment. Thankfully, there’s an easy swap you can make.

Instead of choosing single-use energy gels in individual packets or sachets, choose powders or tablets that mix into a water bottle. If you want to take it a step further, you can even make your own energy gels, bars and balls to completely reduce waste, save money, and become more self-sufficient.

When it comes to hydration, single-use plastic bottles are one of the biggest pollutants on earth. They contribute significantly to the global plastic pollution crisis. If you still think your individual actions won’t make a difference, think again. By using a reusable water bottle, you could save 156 plastic bottles every year from polluting the environment and causing chaos in our oceans. So if you’re still using single-use plastic bottles to hydrate on a run, now is the time to switch. Here’s our pick of the best.

How to choose sustainable running gear

If there’s one thing we absolutely love as runners (apart from the running itself, of course) it’s the buzz we get from buying fresh new running clothing. However, you might be more and more aware that one of the earth’s biggest pollutants is textile waste.

According to UNCTAD (UN Conference on Trade and Development), around half a million tons of microfibre is dumped into the ocean every year. As for carbon emissions, the fashion industry is responsible for releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere than all international flights and maritime shipping put together.

Suitably startled? Here’s how we can fix it. Instead of sticking faithfully to your favourite big brands, seek out smaller, independent, sustainable brands that are going above and beyond to make sure their clothing doesn’t harm the planet. There are plenty of activewear brands out there that are eco-friendly, from source to sale. And you’ll be doing your part to support small local business, which is always a bonus!

Looking for inspiration? Try our eco-friendly running tights round-up.

How to reduce the environmental impact of racing

If you’ve ever taken part in a race, you’ll know that it’s hard to ignore the litter of plastic bottles and gel packets discarded along the route. When looking at booking a race, try to sign up for events that are run by organisations who are committed to sustainability and making a difference to local communities. There are plenty of carbon-neutral race organisers committed to off-setting carbon emissions and making sure their races don’t do any harm to the environment.

You don’t even need to seek out small or obscure events. The Paris Marathon became the first completely carbon neutral marathon. Organisers achieved this by recycling clothing left by runners at the start line, donating unused aid station food to a food bank, planting 140,000 trees to offset carbon emissions, and switching to 100% electric vehicles on race day. Crystal Palace Triathlon in London is another event that is recognised for being completely carbon neutral.

About the author

Alex Parren is a qualified personal trainer, running coach and nutritionist.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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