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.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Council for Responsible Sport

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 or if you are in the US - go support the programme by entering one of the pilot races!