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Nick Triolo Wednesday, 04 September 2013 10:50 TWEET COMMENTS 26

Disposability is Dead - Page 2


One particularly exciting sustainability development within the endurance community is Ultraspire’s new reusable race cups. Conceived in 2012 during an Elite Immortal Athlete retreat, the goal was to kibosh single-use cups during races. Striking a chord, the cup is now being promoted at over 10 races around the country, including the heaviest of hitters: Hardrock 100, Speedgoat 50K, Lake Sonoma 50 and Miwok 100K, to name a few. You can find athletes using them all over the world, with orders sent as far away as South Africa, Japan and New Zealand.

As for repurposing? I’ve used my reusable Ultraspire cup as an iPhone anti-sweat protector, special belt-buckle holster, and, once, I even convinced a lady midflight to use it when ordering beverages on the plane. She was sold on it immediately.

This summer, I traveled to two of the world’s most prestigious 100-mile races: The Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100. Talking to dozens of folks about ultrarunning and environmental advocacy, the message was clear: nip disposability in the bud. We clock countless hours running through wilderness areas, places that teach us about their own earthly rhythms. And it is here where we learn that nothing is disposable. In my personal running practice, elemental contact is a prerequisite, to time travel through the sedimentary strata of Earth’s living museums. When I enter this space, I am reminded. I am reminded of the sacred cycles that run the show, always have and always will. I am reminded when Crow meets me for lunch at the top of a hearty mountain ascent, cackling:

“Stay alert! Drift with me along these totemic ridges and carved canyons, but go home to your village and don’t you forget. Ecological amnesia is unacceptable.”

So I listen, and I descend and I return to a modern culture with modern conveniences that rarely put the planet before the pocketbook. I try my best not to forget, but I’m certainly not perfect. None of us are. I still use gels occasionally. Yes, I own a car. But I try to use them as sparingly as possible, to work toward better solutions dancing between the reasonable and the practical. I try my best to listen, to remember, and then (most importantly) to act.

“Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”  –Alice Walker

If we still wish to cackle with Crow on the mountaintop, if we wish to have wild places left for our children and their children, then we must be bold. We must run, race and live with staunch conviction and accountability, as if Earth were more important than our PR’s.

Because honestly, She is.

Sure, a coal-fired plant opens every week to 10 days somewhere in China. Sure, approval of the XL Keystone Pipeline may just be “game-over” for the planet. Yes, fracking is an unacceptable alternative energy source and should be resisted. These are worthy fights and we should all be up in arms about them. But, there are also small battles to win, those closer to both home and hobby.

So, as we enter this “Golden Era” for endurance sport, we must stop courting convenience now. With race entrant numbers shooting steadily upward, we must look downward, to the ground, to the Earth. We must reject consumer models whose focal point is solely what’s the cheapest, the easiest or the fastest. I find this to go against the very spirit of ultrarunning, where races are often designed to avoid convenience, and instead to favor challenging terrain and aesthetic passage.

To me, minimizing disposability in endurance events is much more than waste remediation. It’s about a cultural shift. It’s about wiping the crusty goop from our slumbering eyes and beginning to see with fresh ones. It’s about seeing “single-use” as “short-sighted-use.” As athletes and as human members sharing a more-than-human planet, we are fully responsible to act. And when an opportunity, for example, to go “cupless” with racing comes along, this should be low-hanging fruit for all of us.

So, let’s start picking.


Nick Triolo is a competitive ultrarunner, writer, environmental activist and graduate student at the University of Montana in Missoula. More of his work can be found at The Jasmine Dialogues.


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