How to Plan a 5K Race with Sustainability In Mind

5k running races and walks have never been more popular. Here’s how to make them more sustainable:

  1. Promote with paperless ads. Go digital with your advertisements and you’ll save trees and money in the process.
  2. Paperless registration. Using an online registration system will save money and time. With online registration you can also easily set up donation options, surveys and automated confirmation emails.
  3. Virtual goodie bags: 7 out of 10 of America’s largest races are now giving out virtual goodie bags to their runners. Not only does this cut back on the amount of paper and bags, it efficiently and cost-effectively delivers sponsor messages to event participants.
  4. Encourage donations to sustainable cause. Donate race proceeds, set up donation options with online registration, or just collect donations at the race (for example, collecting donations for a water-related charity near the water station at the beginning/end of the race).
  5. Borrow items to reduce the need to buy or rent. Borrowing chairs/tables/tents is a great way to reduce costs, but if you do need to buy, look for reusable items. Need some help? Here is a guide to sustainable purchasing.
  6. Pick sustainable giveaways. Don’t hand out giveaways that just end up in the trash. Use giveaways that someone will want to keep and/or a service or consumable such as coupons, tickets, food, etc.
  7. Sustainable t-shirts. If your event includes t-shirts, buy sustainable shirts that have a great story such as being made from recycled plastic bottles or locally-grown cotton. These shirts have grown in popularity recently, so many companies now offer this as an option.
  8. Need a generator? Try a solar or biodiesel-powered version to reduce your energy impact.
  9. Make recycling easy. Have composting, landfill and recycling bins available and clearly marked during your event. Consider having a special team of volunteers to monitor waste disposal. For campus events, you can reserve special event bins from the Waste Reduction and Recycling Office. These bins make recycling and compost easy.
  10. Collect used shoes for donation. Most runners have more than one set of running shoes, so encourage them to be a good neighbor by partnering with an organization that will accept shoe donations.
  11. Make sustainable food choices. If possible, choose local food to support local farmers and shorten the distance that food has to travel. Buy in bulk to minimize packaging and support socially responsible practices by choosing fair trade products. And since it’s a race, healthy options are best. Who wants to run a race and then eat pastries?
  12. Just say no to styrofoam and plastic bottles. You won’t be the only race doing this. Many races across the United States are using compostable cups for water and banning styrofoam, including The Chicago Marathon and the Houston Marathon. If plastic bottles show up, make sure they are recycled.
  13. Encourage alternative transportation. To reduce traffic congestion and emissions on race day, make sure that alternative transportation is easily accessible to participants at your race location.
  14. Reward the environmentally friendly. Offer awards, incentives or recognition to event attendees or vendors for contributing to event sustainability
  15. Offer free shuttles to race. If it’s too far to walk, consider having shuttles available to transport participants to avoid traffic congestion. If near NC State’s campus, take advantage of The Wolfline.
  16. Donate discarded clothing. Anyone who’s been to a race knows that everyone leaves something. Check to see if local shelters or nonprofits will accept gently-used clothing.
  17. Donate remaining food and water. After the Chicago Marathon, more than 47,000 pounds of remaining food and water was donated. Your event may not be that large but you’re likely to have leftovers, which many local nonprofits might be willing to accept.

Many of these actions will earn points toward NC State’s Wolfpack Certified Sustainable Event program, which offers recognition at three levels for the sustainable actions incorporated into your event.

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