Sunday, 30 November 2008

The word is spreading!

This weekend's been a busy one - it was the City of Norwich half marathon today, and as I am a member of that club I've been helping out with the event, which I've done for the past few years. I don't get involved in the planning side, so it was a big and very nice surprise to arrive for set-up yesterday and see positive moves being made on the waste front!

Bear in mind that this is a big event. We had over 2,600 entries for the half marathon, benefitting the Big C cancer charity, and another 200 people running a 5km race for the East Anglian Children's Hospice, plus of course all their spectators. Among other things we have to provide them with water at several points around the course, and we give out goodie bags at the end. It's a big undertaking to try and make it waste free, but this year's positive steps include:
  • reusable cloth bags for the goodie bags, not plastic carriers as we have seen before
  • recycling bins around the place for plastic bottles (water is given in the goodie bag)
  • cardboard recycling bins for all the boxes (goodie bag food, t-shirts, the bags themselves, etc.)
  • leftover fruit (from goodie bags) donated to the local YMCA/YWCA
When you look at the event with a waste-aware eye, there are lots of things you notice. All the medals and t-shirts came in individual plastic bags; timing chips were held on to shoes with wire ties; the five water stations use thousands of plastic cups and 2L bottles. Putting up signs etc. uses several miles of cable ties, I'm sure! Then there are the caterer's stands selling coffee and hot dogs and so on, and refreshments for the army of 200 volunteers. But these are an expected part of big running events and the club's priority has to be to make the runners' experience as good and smooth as possible, and to appreciate its volunteers. I would like to think that we have seen the start of some real improvements, though, and the club deserves credit for making that start. We'll be looking for ways to improve too.

Some clubs are starting to make inroads on having environmentally-friendly events - Crystal Palace Triathlon this year aimed to be zero-carbon, for example - and there is a small but growing demand from competitors for their events to do better. I think this is a trend that will continue, and I will be interested to see how far it goes. Some people would be most upset to lose their finishers' medals and t-shirts!

Here are a few photos I took - sorry for the quality, they were on my phone.

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