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A S’porean Marathon Runner’s Pledge To Sustainability

Running events are healthy activities for the general public, but, unfortunately, it does not leave a healthy repercussion for our planet. Channel NewsAsia reported in 2018 that for OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017, the total amount of waste produced adds up to a staggering 22,000 kg. The litter comes mainly from marathon-specific waste such as bottles, cups, energy gel, and banana skin.

Being a firm believer in a win-win strategy, I posit our enjoyment should not be at the expense of the planet’s survival. I started running consistently four years ago and picked up marathons—full and half—along the way. To feed my running passion, my running buddy and I aim to do at least three races every year. 

As an avid runner, I am now pledging to be a sustainable runner. Of course, these promises are not perfect, but a commitment to reduce and recycle is better than remaining at the status quo. With my six pledges, I can sincerely say “I’ve made a difference!” and hopefully, inspire my fellow runners to do the same.

1. Go Cup-less

With water points at considerately close intervals at races, we are bestowed with a very convenient option—grab a cup, take a quick sip, and discard it on the spot. I do that all the time. However, a more eco-friendly practice is to bring your bottle and refill them at the water spots. By avoiding these single-use plastic cups, we can help to reduce litter at race sites. 

There are also many carry-on options like the hydrapouch, which is a small, lightweight silicon bag for your hydration drink. Additionally, it can be conveniently fastened to our running gear. Otherwise, runner bottles are also available and are ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip during the races.

2. Recycle your shoes

On an average, seasoned runners—who clock 5km daily—need to replace their running shoes every 5 to 6 months. This means buying an average of 2 new pairs of shoes every year. Switching out your incumbent running shoes is necessary and justifiable (old shoes lose their support and have repercussions of injury), but it creates a lot of waste.

So, why not channel them to programs that help to recycle and repurpose your shoes? Check out Running Lab’s Project Love Sneaker—a sports shoe donation drive—which is running from 1 March to 30 April 2020. Partnering with SOLES4SOULS, these shoes are redistributed to microenterprise programs in developing nations to empower them to start small businesses with the eventual goal of breaking out of their poverty cycle. Donate your pre-loved running shoes and redeem a S$50 Running Lab voucher in return.

3. Be a mini waste collector

For endurance sports, athletes devote hours on the road. It is crucial to arm ourselves compactly with energy rations which we can then conveniently slip into any available storable ridges in our gears.

However, with Murphy’s mystical force at work, you might not be able to find a bin at a moment’s notice and it can be quite cumbersome to keep that energy gel wrapper with you. Instead of being a litterbug, we should cultivate a good eco habit to carry a mini trash bag with us on our runs, consolidate the rubbish accumulated at intervals during the race, and only chuck it at the end.

4. Carpool

With the flag-off time fixed at 5 am for morning races, it is unavoidable for runners to go through the rigour of waking up and getting transportation at ungodly hours. With limited public transport options, runners usually resort to private transport. But, why not try carpooling to the race site instead? Shared-ride alleviates congestion, reduces demand for private hire vehicles, and in turn minimises air pollution and carbon emission.

Here are three carpooling choices, which we highly endorse:

Grabshare (temporarily suspended from 9 February 2020 due to COVID-19) / Grabhitch: An on-demand ridesharing service where riders share the ride and the fare.

GreenRide share: An online community that connects you with riders who are looking to carpool or share a taxi.

Sharetransport: Bus pooling services that sell transport passes (one-way or two-way ticket) specifically for a race or daily rides.

5. Opt for “No-rush” shipping for online purchases

We all want to get our gears fast. However, express shipping has hidden environmental costs—a highly obscure aspect due to its distal proximity. Plus, we are brought up to always want our goods now or if that fails, as soon as possible. 

In reality, slower shipments are more eco-efficient as deliveries can be consolidated and arranged according to clustered zones on a densely packed sharing vehicle. This increased delivery efficiency saves fuel, manpower, and reduces carbon emissions.

Conversely, speed delivery—being more time-sensitive and customer-centric—often results in fewer orders per trip and dispatching an almost-empty delivery vehicle to a far-removed location. These trips are inefficient and more carbon-intensive. It is estimated that carbon emissions from a one-delivery trip is 35 times more than a fully loaded van. Apart from that, speed delivery requires more product packing, adding strain on the environment. 

Another eco-friendly practice is to opt for a convenient location pick-up service rather than a click-to-door alternative. With a specific route, it limits the additional detours needed by the courier van to reach individual customers.

6. Wash our gears in cold water

Every runner faces this particular post-workout woe—having a constant supply of smelly laundry. For obvious reasons, it is not advisable to accumulate them over a couple of days before washing the load. 

The next time you toss your athletic clothes in the washing machine, opt for the cold water washing method. Studies have shown that water heating accounts for 90% of the energy required by the cleaning device. Besides being an energy-saving method, the lower temperature makes it a gentler washing option and prevents your apparels from shrinking and fading. What a double win; energy-saving and clothes-saving!

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