How to become a more sustainable runner | Women's Running

How to become a more sustainable runner

Read Time:   |  February 23, 2021

These small changes can make a big difference...

Words by Alex Parren, run coach and writer for Sundried.

You’re not alone if you’re feeling the pressure to become more sustainable. 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, and 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 with easy swaps and choices that won’t massively affect your lifestyle but will make a big difference to protecting our planet.

Choose reusable packaging

As a runner, 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 and bars 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 and contribute significantly to the global plastic pollution crisis. If you still think your individual actions won’t make a difference, think again. According to, 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.

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, one of the earth’s biggest pollutants is textile waste. If you don’t particularly think about the environmental factors when buying your new running clothing, the UN have published some startling facts that may make you think again.

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 and that from source to sale, everything about their business is eco-friendly. There are plenty of British activewear brands out there offering high quality sustainable options, which means you’ll be doing your part to support small local business, which is always a bonus. If you’re stuck for inspiration, try British brand Sundried.

Choose carbon-neutral races and events

When we take part in races, it’s hard to ignore the litter of plastic bottles and gel packets discarded along the route along with industrial-sized bins heaving with waste. 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. At the end of 2019 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.

Hopefully now you can see how easy it is to make small but conscious changes that will amount to a big difference for the environment. Being eco-friendly and sustainable doesn’t have to be a chore and once you’ve made a few changes to become more sustainable as an athlete, you’ll soon find it easy to live a more sustainable lifestyle overall.

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