On its surface running seems like an environmentally friendly activity. Put on a pair of shoes and get out the door. But things like races, travel, food and gear add up. Talking about becoming a more sustainable runner can lead many people to feeling overwhelmed and confused.
Here are some simple, practical solutions to contribute in a positive way to our environmental future.
Make Your Own Sports Nutrition Products or Choose a Company Committed to the Environment
Finding eco-friendly gels and chews can be difficult, and when you think about how many pre-packaged nutrition products you consume on a yearly basis, the sheer number of plastic wrappers can add up quickly.
One way to reduce your fossil fuel consumption and the amount of waste you generate is to cut out those plastic wrappers wherever you can. Maple syrup and honey are good fuel options that don’t require at-home prep, but you can also make an easy gel alternative by mixing mashed sweet potatoes, salt and a drizzle of maple syrup. Mini muffins or cookies are easy and portable while also reducing your carbon footprint. To carry your made-at-home fueling options, you can purchase a reusable flask and carry it with you, or buy reusable silicone bags to place in your pack.
If you don’t want to make your own fuel at home, choose nutrition products from companies with a demonstrated commitment to environmental causes. Clif Bar and Company is part of the Ellen McArthur Foundation Global Commitment, which pledges to help create a world where plastic never becomes waste or pollution. They are committed to creating more eco-friendly packaging and driving education by using the How2Recycle label on their packaging. Other brands like GU Energy Labs are doing their part by improving their production process. They produce 95% of their energy needs from solar panels installed at their headquarters, use non-toxic cleaning products, and have reduced their water usage by 20% Is it 100% perfect? No! But it’s a start.
Buy Locally or In Season
Reducing your food miles by keeping of your food purchases local or buying in season produce helps support long term environmental health, small businesses and healthier soil. Maximizing soil health means soil absorbs more carbon, retains more water and reduces runoff from crops.
Mariah Foley, runner and agricultural manager of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Rock Bottom Ranch says, “If you can purchase directly from local farms it allows for the farmers to capture a higher profit. In turn, this goes to support environmentally sustainable farming practices that create a healthier soil profile.”
As a bonus, buying local and in season means you get to enjoy fresher and more nutritious foods due to the shorter farm-to-home time between harvest and dinner table. The longer it takes to get produce to the consumer, the less nutrition the produce retains, so minimizing that time means better health for you. A study conducted by the University of California, Davis demonstrated that vegetables can lose between 15-77 percent of their total Vitamin C content within 7 days of being harvested.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) packages and the local farmer’s markets can be great ways to start. A CSA establishes a more direct relationship between farmers and their community consumers. Members pay a fee that covers the cost of farming expenses and in return, receive in-season locally grown produce every week. To find a local CSA near you, you can search the USDA’s CSA Database or visit LocalHarvest.org.
Foley also points out, “CSAs may not be for everyone due to their set crop availability on a weekly basis. If you are a picky eater or aren’t willing to get creative in the kitchen, this can lead to increased food waste, so it might be best to stick to the flexibility of purchasing what you need at a local farmer’s market.”
Carve out a block of time each week for planning and shopping, and lay out your meals and snacks on a sheet, with a list of ingredients that you have, and that you need to cut down on overbuying at the store.
Each week, do an inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. If you have to, get creative to use up foods that may have a shorter shelf life. When brainstorming meal ideas, think of creative ways to use leftovers to repurpose them into a new meal.
If you have a lot of foods that are about to spoil, preserve them in the freezer until you get the chance to use them up. Blend up veggies and pour them into muffin tins to use in soups, sauces and stews in the future. Blanching and freezing veggies and keeping them in bags in the freezer can keep them good for weeks. Grinding up fresh herbs and freezing them ice cube trays can help make a pesto. The possibilities are endless.
Compost At Home
One of the simplest ways to have an environmental impact is to start composting. Home composting can be done even in the smallest of apartments and can help repurpose kitchen scraps and yard waste for garden soil. This keeps your scraps out of landfills, where they decompose and release methane into the atmosphere. According to the EPA, composting can help sequester carbon, reducing greenhouse gases on a large scale!
To get started composting, you can buy or create your own container or you use a simple cardboard box. Composting a mix of greens (food scraps, coffee), browns (dead leaves and branches), and a little bit of water can ensure you have the right mix of carbon, nitrogen, and moisture to encourage your compost to thrive. Give it an occasional mix, and when the material in the bottom of your pile is dark and rich in color, it is ready for use as a fertilizer in your garden.
No matter what you do to become a more environmentally conscious runner, remember that none of us has to do it all by ourselves. Choose a few small changes to start and build up. The more people do that, the bigger the positive impact on the health and future of our planet.