There are plenty of triathletes in the UK, and our numbers are growing. There are over 200 official triathlon clubs UK-wide. Triathlon220, the popular UK magazine, now has a circulation of 23500; and the majority of triathletes don’t buy it, preferring to use websites and triathlon forums as their information source. It’s a popular sport, and its growing fast.

The demographics of this group tend to be middle class, white, often with a family, and usually with a steady and decent household income. We typify the Pro-Am revolution: we have superior knowledge about a particular section of consumption – we make informed choices about our often large spending patterns on bikes, trainers, wetsuits, and all means of tri kit and gear. We plan holidays around foreign races, often taking family and friends with us, we have triathlon clubs, running clubs and gym memberships, all at some cost. We (try to) eat healthily and spend a considerable amount of time (typically between 5-20 hours a week) training to achieve our triathlon goals.

Let’s face it, its not a cheap sport.

With these considerably sport-specific, well-thought-out consumption patterns, there’s big potential for us to also make a positive impact on the environment, society as well as the economy. Being eco-friendly isn’t all about growing veggies and wearing vintage clothing: its about tailoring your consumption patterns so that we minimise your impact on the environment and maximise benefits to our communities.

As triathletes, we have already shown we’re capable of wielding large consumer power, by our annual spend on sports-related consumption, in a very informed manner. Why not also use this to reduce your impact on the planet, so that your kids can enjoy triathlon in some of the beautiful places we do, knowing that you did your bit to limit climate change, reduce pollution and preserve places of natural beauty? We enjoy the environment every time we get on our bikes, lace up our trainers, or struggle with the wetsuit (and potentially the neoprene cap if you’re in the UK). Even more so when we race in some of the fantastic locations available to us: Port Macquarie, Florianopolis, Weymouth, the Victoria Docks ;) Why not make sure that your kids get to enjoy it too?

There’s a lot to take in when buying a bike, shopping at the supermarket, organising that trip to the Ironman you’ve trained for all year. But we love organising stuff, right?? Every triathlete suffers from OCD to some extent the night before a major race. I’ve seen you line up and double count those race-gels… So I’m figuring that a little extra work to make sure you’ve done the right thing not only by you, but also by the environment will not be too big a hurdle. And I’m going to help you… here’s how I’m tackling some of the problems we face in being responsible athletes, one step at a time.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Travelling to races

The problem: Air tavel emits massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the cost for this to the environment is not being covered by the airlines or the passengers.

So for me, my flight UK to Napier, NZ, then to Christchurch, then from Queenstown to Sydney, and back to Napier, and then a return to London will amount to

Using to calculate my CO2 emissions, (approximating for the short haul as not all the local airports are available), my jaunt to NZ and Oz will have emitted 6.85 Tonnes of CO2. WOW. That's a lot of gas!

The answer:
- go local: race somewhere nearby, travel by public transport or rent a hybrid car! (see below or ask your usual car hire company for a Prius)
- where this isn't possible ... that international race has Hawaii slots, the UK weather is just too miserable to spend the whole day racing in etc etc then choose to offset you carbon emissions.

What You Can Do
* Purchase wind certificates. Organizations such as WindCurrent (, NativeEnergy (, and Renewable Choice Energy ( allow customers to purchase certificates, sometimes known as green tags to offset emissions caused by automobile or air travel. Some of these sites have CO2 calculators that estimate your impact in tons.
* Plant trees. Forests take CO2 out of the atmosphere and lock it away in wood, where it stays until the wood rots or burns. US-based Trees for the Future ( offers a "Cool Car Certificate" that plants 300 trees (the estimated amount of trees it will take to offset one vehicle's emissions in a lifetime) for $30. You can offset air travel through its "Trees for Travel" program ($1 will offset a round-trip domestic flight, $3 an international one).
UK Future Forests ( plants trees in more than 80 forests in the U.K., Mexico, India, and the U.S. A global flight calculator determines how many trees you need to plant to offset a flight—two trees, for example, for a New York-to-London round trip, or $30—as a part of the CarbonNeutral flight program. Note that the jury's out on temperate sequestration through afforestation: this may lead to a local warming effect which negates the CO2 absorption.
* Support other offset programs. U.K.-based Climate Care ( provides a mix of offset strategies with programs that save energy, that encourage clean energy, and that remove CO2 (sample donation: $11 to offset a New York-to-L.A. round trip).
In the US, the Better World Club (, an eco-oriented auto club, offers members who book plane tickets through its in-house travel agency free carbon offsets on two domestic and one international flight each year. Nonmembers worldwide can purchase offsets—$11 for a domestic flight and $22 for an international flight.
* Drive a hybrid car. In the US, EV Rental Cars (, offers eco-friendly cars at eight metropolitan locations including, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., through its partnership with Budget ( Enterprise Rent-a-Car ( also has a fleet of Toyota Prius models for rent in select U.S. cities.

My choice: I went with Climate Care... 80% of their offset projects are currently from sustainable energy projects, but the reforestation they do do is is Ugandan rainforest. So I get to guarantee that the reforestation is in the tropics, avoiding the sticky issue that reforestation in temperate climates can act as a heat store, so offsetting the carbon store effect of the growing forest.

The cost? Rounding to 7 tonnes of CO2 the cost is £52.50. While this may seem a lot (though on what relative scale I'm not sure), 7 tonnes of CO2 is a large amount of CO2. Quickly comparing to some average consumption figures for a UK resident:

£10 = 1.3 tonnes CO2 - Offsets 4,000 miles of driving in an average sized car (35 mpg, petrol).
£30 = 4 tonnes CO2 - Offsets 3 short haul and 1 long haul flights.
£40 = 5 tonnes CO2 - Offsets emissions from the average annual UK home energy use.
£90 = 12 tonnes CO2 - Offsets one person's portion of the annual UK emissions.

ie that long haul airtravel is seriously costly in terms of emissions relative to other activities that I could do.

Done - credit card details via WorldPay and its all done.

Hopefully in the future, airlines will offer offsets automatically when you purchase a ticket online (I think Virgin Blue started this in Australia this year for example), and eventually include it in the cost of tickets so that it is mandatory; until then, there's climate care!

Friday, 6 April 2007

Being a sustainable triathlete

So I DNF'd last weekend at IM Australia. Bummer. I had a lot of travel time and reflection this week as I took a coach down the east coast of OZ to Sydney, hopped on a flight to Aukland then into a rental car with my mom and drove the final 500 km to Napier. It got me to thinking about diversification. I've spent a lot of time and energy in the last year or so working out what I want from life. Training and triathlon is a big part of that... an outlet to keep me healthy and release my competitive urges. I've also be workingon getting my career back on track through trying to return tostudy and back to sustainable development which has always been my promary interest. But with a job in the city over the last 5 years, my personal practice of living sustainably - a small carbon footprint etc - has lost focus and wandered a bit.

So, I'm going to get back on track. I am going to work out how to reduce my ecologial impact, whilst being a triathlete to the best of my abilities and getting all I want out of life in general.

So the reason I've started this blog is to make me accountable. But its also to make me try to find solutions to athlete specific impacts. For example: is there a decent alternative to lycra (the majority of my kit has lycra in it) - ie a non-petroleum based fabric that works just as well?? What is the best way to offset the inevitable flights to races (recent evidence suggests planting tress to offset your carbon emissions from airtravel etc is best done in the tropics, not in temerate latitudes where new forest can actually act as a heat store... what's the right thing to do?)?

So I'm going to go about becoming a better athlete - one step at a time. Seeming as travel is big on my agenda at the moment, I'm going to look into carbon offsetting first...