Mass participation athletic events (marathons, triathlons, bike races, etc) often do not consider environmental impact when making event planning decisions. Generated waste may be substantial, materials are often used once and discarded, and the distances traveled by participants are increasing. At the same time, the number of participants is increasing, certain destructive practices are becoming common, and the items employed to stage events are becoming standardized in favor of profit margin.
With growing awareness of environmental responsibility in mainstream habits and mass media, these events provide the opportunity for a deliberate, high-profile realignment of views toward a planning model that takes into consideration sustainability and environmental impact. At the same time, responsible event production can build value for the event, its participants, and its host community.
A new US non-profit organisation, The Council for Responsible Sport (CRS), provides independent certification for sustainable athletic events. By defining realistic objectives and providing a framework for achieving them, CRS enables event directors to incorporate environmental responsibility into their events while informing consumers which events adhere to these standards.
CRS have produced a set of Draft Standards which assesses an event's footprint along five categories of sustainability: waste, climate, materials/equipment, community/outreach, and health promotion. These proposed standards and the comments offered will be folded into a published standard, set for release in March/April 2008.
Throughout 2008, a set of "seedling" races will guinea-pig the certification process. If seedling events reach defined levels of sustainability set forth in the standard, certifications will be awarded.
They have selected twelve events to take part in a pilot program which will establish standards and processes for a sustainability certification for athletic events - all triathlons in 2008 - representing large and small events in a variety of geographic locations, and including both first-year and established races. The following events make up the "seedling" pilot program:
CB&I Triathlon (May 3, Woodlands, TX)
Keuka Lake Triathlon (June 8, Keuka Park, NY)
Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon in Fairmount Park (June 21-22, Philadelphia, PA)
Deschutes Dash (July 19-20, Bend, OR)
Boulder Peak Triathlon (July 20, Boulder, CO)
Urban Epic (July 26, Portland, ME)
Oregon Trout City of Portland Triathlon (August 31, Portland, OR)
San Francisco Triathlon (November 9, San Francisco, CA)
USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals (September 20, Forest Grove, OR)
Peregrine Charities Triathlon (September 28, Waterloo, IA)
Land Rover Pumpkinman Triathlon (October 18, Las Vegas, NV)
Marin County Triathlon (October 26, San Rafael, CA)
This is great news - improving standards among races in the USA. Hopefully European races will follow suit... At the moment there's no hard and fast rules among the different Ironman franchises for example about sourcing more eco-friendly materials, or reducing the carbon footprint of the races. I hope they take the initiative!
Checkout CRS at www.responsiblesporting.org or if you are in the US - go support the programme by entering one of the pilot races!