Running Green

Make your own energy bars, give your kit a new lease of life and save money on laundry with these top eco tips to becoming a greener runner


Posted: 8 May 2009
by Alice Palmer

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Travelling on foot might well leave behind a lighter carbon footprint than other ways of getting around. But with just a few simple tweaks to your training and racing routine it’s easy to become an even greener runner.

KIT

Over 1.5 million tonnes of textiles and 100 million pairs of shoes are thrown away every year in the UK. Most of them turn up in landfill sites, so give your worn-out kit a longer lease of life.

Bank it
Over half of the textiles Brits throw away could be recycled – but we only recycle or reuse a measly 14 per cent of this. Drop your old running gear off at one of Britain’s 6,000 textile banks and you can walk away happy knowing that it’s got another useful life ahead of it. Clothes that are too tatty to be worn again are shredded before being made into new items such as dusters, padding and cloths used in factories.

Get creative
Take race T-shirts and other kit in good condition to jumble sales, charity shops or car-boot sales – or donate them to a novice runner. You could turn cotton race T-shirts into cleaning cloths, covers, fancy dress costumes, pyjamas or even a patchwork memento of your racing success.

Brand new shoe
Shoes with traditional EVA midsoles can linger in landfill for up to 1,000 years before they degrade, so make sure yours get a new lease of life. The Variety Club children’s charity has 3,000 shoe recycling sites throughout the UK, mostly in supermarket car parks and in some specialist shoe shops, such as Up & Running. Or help Nike give old trainers another sporting life as basketball courts, tennis courts, running tracks and children’s playgrounds. Find your nearest drop-off point at www.nikereuseashoe.com.

You can also send nearly new shoes direct to Africa to help new generations of athletes - find out more at www.shoe4africa.org.

Brilliant bamboo
Textile production can hog scarce resources, so opt for bamboo-fibre technical tops and socks. Bamboo shoots up quickly, and doesn’t need pesticides or nearly as much water as thirsty cotton crops. And when you’re done, bamboo fibre is biodegradable and free of nasty chemical pollutants.

Turn it down
You drag your kit through all weathers, dumping sweat and mud on its hard-working fabric. So it’s even more important that runners make their bigger laundry load work hard for the environment. Next time you load the washing machine, turn it down – washing clothes at 30ºC is good enough for all but the muddiest kit. Or try replacing chemical detergents for Ecoballs, reusable washing balls that work out at a bargain 3p per wash.

NUTRITION

Take a trip to a health food shop and stock up – it’s easy to make your own running-ready snacks with these back-to-basics recipes from former RW Nutrition Editor Anita Bean.

Easy electrolytes
To make the perfect isotonic drink, mix 500ml of fruit juice with 500ml of water and 0.5g (one eighth of a teaspoon) of salt, or 200ml of squash (organic or without artificial sweeteners and additives) with 800ml of water and 0.5g (one eighth of a teaspoon) of salt. Both these options make one litre of isotonic drink, and contain around 6g of carbohydrate per 100ml - the ideal concentration for rapid fluid absorption. Adding a little salt (sodium) encourages you to drink more during a run and helps your body to retain, rather than excrete, fluid when you stop exercising.

Snack attack
Whip up your own energy bars with this simple recipe. Each bar is virtually fat-free, easy to digest and supplies 30g of carbohydrate - enough to fuel 30-60 minutes of hard running. Combine 175g oats, 85g muesli and dried fruit together in a bowl. Warm 3tbsp of honey in a small saucepan until it becomes runny, then add it to the oat mix. Stir in 150g dried fruit (such as raisins, dates, apricots, figs, apple, pineapple), two egg whites and 175ml apple juice. Press the mixture into a lightly-oiled 18x28cm baking tin. Bake at 180ºC for 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool slightly then cut into bars.

Bee-licious
Honey is a natural, cheap and effective alternative to energy gels. One heaped teaspoon provides 13g of carbohydrate - enough to fuel 20 minutes of running. Use runny honey in plastic tubes or cut honeycomb - available from health food stores - into slices and wrap it in foil. And as a bonus on top of its high carb content, honey is also packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.

RACING

Race organisers are always looking at ways to lower their impact on the local environment - here are a couple of easy ways you can lighten your racing carbon footprint too.

Easy entry
Entering races online not only saves you time and hassle, it also helps prevent thousands of registration forms from going unused.

Road trip
When you pop your next race in the diary, have a think about how you – and hundreds or even thousands of other entrants – will get there. Save on petrol costs and carbon emissions by using public transport if possible, or by organising shared transport with friends or running club mates. If you’ve still got spaces in your car, try www.carshare.com, a directory of UK car sharing sites.

WASTE

Packaging currently makes up around 18 to 20 per cent of the average Briton’s household waste, so reduce and recycle the packaging you consume to be kinder to the environment. It could even save you money.

Powder power
Buy energy drinks in powdered form. It comes in much smaller packaging relative to the amount of drink you’ll end up with, making it more eco-friendly to transport and saving you the trouble of recycling hundreds of plastic bottles.

Plastic – not fantastic
Plastic bottles and bags made using oil can also take hundreds of years to degrade. Swap plastic bottles for a reusable one. And of course, it goes without saying that if you're using gels or bottles on a long run, take them home with you.

Litter picker
If, despite your best efforts, your favourite routes are still scattered with other people’s litter, try eco-running. It’s a new craze direct from the US, combining running and helping the environment, and don’t worry – you won’t need pricey new kit. All you need to call yourself an eco-runner is a rubbish bag (biodegradable, of course). Just take a bag on your runs and pick up all the litter you see along the way.

Light bulb moment
The average household wastes £30 a year simply by leaving appliances on standby. If a charger or power pack is warm or has a light on, it's probably using power. Save electricity – and money – by popping your GPS charger or MP3 player into a timer socket. You can make sure it’ll always have enough power to last through your next training session, without it using up needless electricity.

Or, if you’ve already turned your computer on, plug your device in there rather than a wall socket. While most wall sockets are only 30-40 per cent efficient and leak energy as your device charges, firewire and USB cables have an efficiency rating of 85 per cent. They’ll even charge faster. 


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Discuss this article

This is an odd mix of ideas.

I think it would be useful to distinguish between things which genuinely save energy (e.g. use of small amounts of electric power for gadgets), things which may be desirable to resolve other potential global issues (e.g. avoidance of landfill), things which save money (e.g. making your own energy food and drink), and things which do none of these things (e.g. using organic foods).  Otherwise "green" issues just all get bundled together, with the result that we panic over things that don't matter while ignoring things that do.  It's the kind of thinking which leads people to throw away their cars to buy new ones which are marginally more efficient, ignoring the fact that a huge proportion of a car's energy use is in its manufacture.

It's by no means obvious, for example, that recycling materials results in a net energy saving.  Not using things in the first place saves energy, but once they're made it's generally most efficient to throw them out.  You may worry about the subsequent landfill issues, but that's a different matter from energy saving.

As for making your own isotonic drinks and cereal bars, those are great ideas from a point of view of saving money, but from a carbon footprint perspective it is by no means obvious that you are more efficient at gathering these raw materials and cooking them than a food manufacturer.  Unless you grow oranges, oats, sugar cane etc. in your garden, in which case I apologise.

And why insist on using "organic" orange squash?  There may be good reasons to worry about organic food, but from a point of view of makind's footprint and energy consumption, organics needs more energy to grow and harvest and take up more land.  Why worry about bamboo compared to cotton but then use organic squash?

And finally, if running shoes need throwing away (as we're told by the more enthusiastic marketing types) after 400 miles, why are they OK for Africans?

I'll be taking my car to my race on Sunday because a) I can leave my kit in the car, b) it's far more direct and the energy consumption isn't actually greater at all and c) if it's wet I tend to catch colds after races on long public transport rides.  But I don't use a MP3 player so perhaps that's OK?

If people want to pick up trash when they're running, then good for them, but our tendency to pretend this is somehow altering the climate for the better simply because it makes us feel righteous (there's no obvious link between rubbish collection and CO2) actually isn't really helping.


Posted: 08/05/2009 at 14:57

All this eco fascism gets on my tits! The world was here long before mankind, and will be here long after mankind turns to dust. So a bit of a running shoe takes a thousand years to degrade, we'll soon run out of oil to make any more, so in a blinking of the earths eye (so to speak) all these bits of shoe will have been and gone, no one any the wiser.

Do the ecomentalists get het up over ancient societies leaving gold burial objects, that will take god knows how long to degrade, if ever?

Bring on global warming, i'd love it to be 10°C hotter here.

Right i'm off to smash up another fridge...

Can't spell!


Posted: 08/05/2009 at 16:13

Lardarse wrote (see)

Bring on global warming, i'd love it to be 10°C hotter here.

Right i'm off to smash up another fridge...


Lol!


Posted: 09/05/2009 at 11:26

Some fair points, but you have got the energy costs the wrong way round regarding organic agriculture. "Organic" agriculture uses way less energy than "conventional" agriculture.

I totally agree with the pointless way that all the different ideas are lumped together.


Posted: 09/05/2009 at 15:48

The above attitudes exemplify the reasons why we will never become a 'green' world. There's an excuse for everything, a "yes... but" and a negative attitude towards it all.  Why don't you just spend the extra time making the changes you believe in, instead of writing essays aimed at persuading people not to bother?
Posted: 09/05/2009 at 19:06

Comon everyone should do thier little bit to be greener! Thought I'd mention Brooks Running shoes are 'greener' than most other brands.

Most of thier range now feature bio degradeable midsoles (BioMoGo) and laces made from recycled material. BioMoGo can breaks down into harmless compounds within 20 years compared to standard EVA misoles which can take up to 1000 years, over time thats a lot of stinking shoes!

Dont worry about your shoe rotting prematurely ! because BioMoGo will begin to break down only when retired shoes encounter high microbial load, low oxygen, and adequate moisture found in active, enclosed landfills. These three environmental conditions cannot be found in places where shoes are worn or stored.

FInd out more here:

http://www.brooksrunning.com/Green+Room/BioMoGo+FAQs/


Posted: 10/05/2009 at 22:58

High microbial load? sounds like my feet during a long run...
Posted: 10/05/2009 at 23:46

>> Comon everyone should do thier little bit to be greener! Thought I'd mention Brooks Running shoes are 'greener' than most other brands.

You would have to be nuts to choose a running shoe based on how green it claims to be. Fit is just too important, its not like a casual shoe where it just has to look ok.

The problem with all this green marketing is that the figures are so dodgy; for example quoting energy saved during the life of a product but not the energy used during manufacture and disposal.

A prime example of greenwashing is this thing about local food - is it really greener to grow strawberries in gas-heated greenhouses in the UK rather than to fly them in from overseas? I doubt it but since the green marketing machine never reveals its calculations you can't be sure.

As for the whole idea of taking public transport back from races - had to giggle. Thats just impossible unless you live in a big city and even then can you imagine spending a couple of hours on a bus or train after a big race?


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 07:35

I'd never buy green running shoes, yuk
Posted: 11/05/2009 at 08:01

Richard_R wrote (see)

>> Comon everyone should do thier little bit to be greener! Thought I'd mention Brooks Running shoes are 'greener' than most other brands.

You would have to be nuts to choose a running shoe based on how green it claims to be. Fit is just too important, its not like a casual shoe where it just has to look ok.


I agree you should pick a shoe that fits you well as opposed to picking one that is 'green'. It just so happens the shoe that fitted best was a pair of Adrenaline GTS 9's.


Victoria ooh la la wrote (see)
High microbial load? sounds like my feet during a long run...

Ha ha yup mine too !

Posted: 11/05/2009 at 08:19

Surely fossil fuels are just recycled trees anyway?
Posted: 11/05/2009 at 08:45

"As for the whole idea of taking public transport back from races - had to giggle."

Some of us have been doing that for years (taking public transport, not giggling!). You don't have to live in a big city, although of course the more remote and rural you are the harder it gets. It's probably more practical than many people think. If you have a car, you don't tend to even think of checking out the public transport options. You might be surprised ...


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 08:52

I nearly always travel to races using public transport as I can't drive. It does limit you a bit as Sunday services first thing are a bit sparse so there are always some races I can't get to n time. Admittedly I travel from London so it probably makes it easier for me but it is possible. The only thing I really need is somewhere that does coffee for my journey back. It's not fun dealing with caffeine withdrawal on top of sore feet/knees etc.

Just to correct one point, the article talks about "nearly-new" shoes being sent to Africa so I presume they don't send ones that have done 500 miles and are falling apart? Nobody would want my old trainers!


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 09:43

Victoria ooh la la wrote (see)
The above attitudes exemplify the reasons why we will never become a 'green' world. There's an excuse for everything, a "yes... but" and a negative attitude towards it all.  Why don't you just spend the extra time making the changes you believe in, instead of writing essays aimed at persuading people not to bother?

Not sure if you're referring to me - if so you've missed my point.  I'm not persuading people not to bother, I'm trying to point out which things genuinely make a difference and which don't.

We will never be meaningfully "green" if we devote energies to things which don't matter (e.g. rubber recycling and "organic" food) in order to make us feel better about ignoring the things that do (e.g. energy use).  Hair-shirt self-sacrifice doesn't solve climate change, and in my view makes it worse by making people feel that they are exempt from taking real action because they eat expensive shrivelled carrots.


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 09:57

Lardarse wrote (see)

All this eco fascism gets on my tits! The world was here long before mankind, and will be here long after mankind turns to dust. So a bit of a running shoe takes a thousand years to degrade, we'll soon run out of oil to make any more, so in a blinking of the earths eye (so to speak) all these bits of shoe will have been and gone, no one any the wiser.


No doubt the Earth will recover after all the humans have died but isn't the idea to leave a decent world for future generations?

(When your great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren go for a run they will be knee-deep in undegraded mid-soles.)


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 10:17

I understant Tmap. Although I would like to point out that the organic food revolution isn't really a success because it is perceived to be 'green' and better for the earth, but because some people believe it is better for their bodies not to eat food which has been sprayed with chemicals. therefore it isn't a valid point for your argument. Although I do understand your argument. It's just a shame it had to be first on the list of replies when it's more important to consider being environmentally friendly than to pick apart the methods.
Posted: 11/05/2009 at 10:17

>> Although I do understand your argument. It's just a shame it had to be first on the list of replies when it's more important to consider being environmentally friendly than to pick apart the methods.

I'm sorry but I have to disagree here, its important to pick apart the methods to work out what is really environmentally friendly and whats just greenwashing used to sell products. Environment awareness is pointless if it doesn't lead to real environmental improvements - is just cynical feelgood marketing.

Take the example of organic food, its seen as a sucess because it makes organic food companies a lot of money. Nothing to do with the environment or health.


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 10:46

Actually you can't prove that about organic food, Richard.
Posted: 11/05/2009 at 10:49

Can't prove what? I'm not saying that it doesn't have health benefits but thats not why the retailers promote it and see it as a sucess.

Its a sucess because it has higher profit margins and allows retailers to differentiate themselves. Consumers like it because it allows them to feel like they have done something for the environment without actually changing their lives at all or think too hard about it. Greenwashing at its finest (and don;t get me started on the Prius).


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 11:10

I don't think that's true, Richard. And at the moment the organic industry's hit hard times because of the recession. Many organic farmers are bailing out and going back to conventional.

I buy organic whenever I can precisely because of the lower-intensity farming it entails. The meat definitely tastes better, can't say I really notice a difference in the veg. But it makes sense to me to buy and eat stuff that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals. For me it's all to do with environment and health.


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 11:15

>> I don't think that's true, Richard. And at the moment the organic industry's hit hard times because of the recession. Many organic farmers are bailing out and going back to conventional.

Exactly my point; being green is seen as a lifestyle accessory, a luxury that people abandon when it becomes inconvienient.

Sure Mrs Smith buys organic veg and carries them around in a hessian bag but she still wastes 33% of all the food she buys, drives to the shops and flies away on holiday twice a year. And when times get hard she switches from Waitrose Organic to Tesco Value.

Don;t get me wrong - I have no problem with people giving careful thought and changing their lives to improve health and reduce the environmental impact but that sort of thing is rare. Mostly you just see greenwashing used to sell the same old products (see biodegradable running shoes!) and people talking about how green they are because its currently fashionable (see reusable carrier bags) - I've got no time for that.

I think I've hijacked this thread enough so I'll butt out now


Posted: 11/05/2009 at 11:20

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