Tuesday, April 20, 2010

sustainable green environmental eco-friendly racing

continuing on the theme of Earth Day (which again, is this Thursday, April 22--reference: Earth Day 2010), i wanted to make a brief comment on something we as athletes can do regarding the environment. i was prompted by an article from race organizer Jeff Henderson on the Slowtwitch forum recently:
the article is 1 of a series relating to race organizing, written by a race director and offering insights on races from his unique point of view. this particular article targets an underlying theme that he's been addressing in varying degree throughout the series: the environmental impact of sporting events, particularly public races (i.e., races which allow participation in addition to observation by the public, like triathlons, marathons, etc.).

here, he notes that the sustainability of a sporting event is partially a function of the sustainability of its venue, which means that it is in turn partially a function of the sustainability of the environment providing that venue. as a result, Henderson suggests that there is a relationship between sports races and the environment just as much as there is a relationship between larger human society and the environment, making eco-friendly racing a useful component of any drive towards more sustainable living practices.

Henderson is not alone, but reflects a growing trend. you can check out the following sample--including 2 documents outlining policies for more environmentally-conscious races:
i agree with this view, since i think the logic is sound and the goal is laudable. but i think it's important to note that this is only part of the green sports equation.

borrowing economic concepts, race organizers are essentially producers and sellers of a product--races, meaning that they essentially are the supply side of the market for that product. economics, however, always notes that a market involves both sellers and buyers, which suggests that there is a demand side of the market for races. as a result, any effort to green or make eco-friendly the market requires that initiatives for environmentally-sensitive practices apply to both sellers and buyers. that is, it is not enough that race organizers provide sustainable races, but that competitors then choose to participate in sustainable races.

my worry is that there is a lot of effort underway for races to become more green, but that all those efforts will be for naught if the public does not support them. a public that is apathetic to green races won't generate the revenues necessary for those races to be profitable. this will discourage race organizers from promoting or operating these kinds of races, thus endangering the larger efforts to mitigate our environmental impact and thereby improve our quality of life.

in which case, it's up to athletes as the consumers in the market of eco-friendly races to patronize them. we need to make the effort to find them and compete in them, and thereby encourage more race organizers to adopt sustainable models of racing.

and i don't think that we have to incur too much of a financial penalty to do so. even if eco-friendly races may charge more (and incidentally, i really doubt they do), i think the additional charges represent the cost of having venues with cleaner environments--something i think most competitors find to be a fair exchange, since venues with clean environments make for experiences that are more aesthetically pleasing, more emotionally rewarding, more healthy, more conscientious, and thus more conducive to a positive experience.

if you want to be one of the athletes involved in supporting sustainable races (like me), you can check out Athletes for a Fit Planet, which endeavors to promote and support environmentally conscious athletes and sports. their website is:

they also have a directory for eco-friendly races, which you can peruse at:

for general news, info, and commentary regarding environmentally-conscious sports and athletics, you can also check out the following blogs:

i think it's important to remember that we as individuals can contribute to larger efforts to change our collective (as in our community, our society, our species) quality of life, and in so doing not only make things better for ourselves alone but for everyone together as a whole. it provides not just a material value in terms of aesthetics or health or value, but non-material one as well in terms of mental and emotional and spiritual fulfillment--things which i think are entirely too undervalued in our world, and things which i think serve in some way to drive each of as a competitor in pursuit of our sports: a connection to the more important things in life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love that article from Slowtwitch - it really shows how a clean enviroment benefits so many areas of a communities life, including the immediate economy. Races bring in cash after all.