These days, you’re golden if you’re green. That’s certainly the case for the Cal International Marathon, a major Northern California race that takes place each December. In 2018, Cal International earned prestigious Gold Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport, the endurance industry’s longstanding monitoring body and provider of guidelines and assessment for environmental race production practices.
We spoke with Sacramento Running Association (producer of Cal International) race director Eli Asch to learn about some of the steps the race followed to achieve their certification and what sustainable goals they’re aiming for next.
1. The Council for Responsible Sport has great resources, including sample sustainability policies and guidelines to help you develop your personalized sustainable event plan. They are a great resource to start with. The Cal International Marathon used the CRS policy as a guide and then created an operations plan specific to its race parameters.
2. Local resources on recycling, waste reduction and other green event practices are often available. Your local trash, recycling or transfer company is often a good place to start if you aren’t sure where to begin. They would prefer to divert waste from the landfill rather than haul it in!
3. If you need to audit your current race practices to figure out where you can improve, consider hiring an environmental contractor or outside expert. Going green with your business is such a hot topic that it won’t be hard to find an expert.
4. To measure your progress, benchmark the waste your race produces. Your trash/transfer company should be able to assist you with this, especially if they are providing dumpsters or contracted haul away for the refuse from your event. Using a benchmark from the previous year, Cal International was able to track that they diverted 45 tons (77 percent) of event waste from the landfill in 2017. The goal is to increase that percentage each year.
5. To divert waste, you’ll want to set up alternative disposal containers for recyclables, compostables, and trash. A best practice is to have volunteers man each disposal station so that the right items go into the right container. It may seem like a lot of effort, but it’s the best way to ensure that the various containers will not be cross-contaminated.
6. For cooler weather races where runners discard clothing along the route, consider recycling the items discarded, rather than sending them to the landfill. This is a huge diversion of waste that can make a big impact on your event’s sustainability bottom line. All it takes is the work of a crew of volunteers to collect and bag the discarded items, and a charity partner willing to wash and distribute them to those in need.
7. Transportation alternatives are an important part of any environmental planning effort, but they can be hard to enforce. Cal International implemented a bus pass program with the Sacramento Regional Transit authority as well as a bicycle storage valet, but found that the bike valet was mainly taken advantage of by local volunteers. Encourage ride sharing, carpooling and even those wildly controversial scooters – in urban areas – to get runners to your event in a greener fashion.
8. Communicate your commitment to sustainable practices to your staff and volunteers, and make your green policies part of your comprehensive operations manual. Make sure everyone is well informed about how you are reducing waste and toning down the environmental impact of your event.
9. Keep in mind that by adopting these policies and procedures, you are setting yourself to be ahead of the curve. It’s likely that at some point most permitting agencies will institute green requirements, and you’ll be set up to easily comply if your event is already being operated in a sustainable manner.
10. Once you’ve got a manageable plan in place, take a closer look at how you can raise the bar. This year, the Cal International Marathon plans to eliminate bottled water in its finish line area this year in favor of recyclable paper cups, a major undertaking but one that will reduce the amount of plastic consumed by the event by 12,000 plastic bottles.