Over the years, the organizers of green running events have identified several key areas in which resources are needlessly wasted. The first place is race registration. In the past, organizers would send paper registration forms to all interested runners. That's a lot of snail mail for a marathon with tens of thousands of applicants. The simple solution is online registration. Today's greenest races make online registration a requirement.
Transportation is another core concern for green running events. How will people get to the starting line? How do they get back from the finish line? Is there adequate public transportation or must people rely on cars? Green running event organizers have set up special shuttle busses running on biodiesel, natural gas and other low-impact fuels to transport runners and spectators.
Moving people around is only one transportation concern. Big races also require dozens of support vehicles to transport food, water, garbage, staff members and emergency workers. To go completely green, some races have transitioned to 100 percent bicycle power, while others insist on alternative fuel vehicles.
Recycling makes a huge difference at large public gatherings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posts guidelines for organizers of large outdoor events, including tips on where to locate recycling bins and how to distinguish receptacles for each type of waste. One effective idea is to hang clear garbage bags so people can easily see the contents of each bin and to employ volunteers to man each recycling station [source: EPA].
And what about those snowdrifts of paper cups? The simplest fix is to switch to biodegradable or at least recyclable cups. Last year, the ING New York City Marathon recycled 75,890 plastic bottles handed out during the race. Other races insist that runners carry their own reusable bottles and refill them along the way. The ING Hartford Marathon came up with an ingenious solution for the finish line refueling station -- a 40-person water fountain called the water bubbler that saves an estimated 10,000 plastic water bottles each race [source: Runner's World].
Another culprit is the goody bag that each runner receives at the end of the race. Instead of handing out plastic bags full of paper brochures, plastic knick-knacks and energy bars, green running events now give reusable canvas bags stuffed with organic cotton T-shirts, materials printed with soy-based inks and reusable water bottles. Organizers also select food vendors for local, organic and sustainable practices. The Austin Marathon sets up a farmer's market at the finish line.
For more details on some of America's greenest running events, click on the next page.