Running an event doesn't have to cost the earth!

In a changing and unpredictable world the athletics and running community is central to driving positive social change says Tom Craggs

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen some big changes changing place in peoples sporting and leisure habits, some are as a direct result of the pandemic, others have simply been accelerated it. One of the key trends is an increasing demand for more financially and environmentally sustainable events. A 2019 Kantar Eurobarometer survey found that protecting the environment and tackling climate change was the number one priority for young people aged between 15-30 and this has only increased since 2020. When this is call for action is coupled with increasing costs of travel and energy it is clear that accessible and sustainable local races have a big role to play in meeting this need and driving change.

World Athletics describes a sustainable event as one which aims to minimise to the lowest possible degree the impact that it has on the environment. What are some of the ways this can be achieved?

Planning and education

Races which offer access to sustainable methods of transport to and from the race will not only reduce the environmental impact but also reduce the organisational pressures on marshal and traffic management. How can you communicate with your participants to encourage then to get to the start line on foot, bike or via public transport?

Sustainable rewards

Is there scope to replace the traditional race t-shirt or medal with other less environmental impacting gifts? Trees Not Tees is a charity that works with race organisers the chance to plan a tree rather than taking a race t-shirt -

Reducing carbon

How much power are you using to run your event? Could this be reduced through less electricity hungry event design, turning off equipment when not in use and by using more efficient generators and solar power where possible? Are there ways to offset the carbon your do use?

Reducing plastic waste

Do you need as many water stations as you currently have? If you do can you encourage runners to bring their own cups or provide reusable cups? If you provide fuel stations could this come from sources that require less packaging resulting in less discarded waste? What other disposable materials do you use – could they be reduced or eliminated?

Digital efficiencies

Can you reduced or eliminate printed event information by using more effective digital communication?

Green course set up

Could eco-friendly course marking and signage either through the use of biodegradable materials or simple washable markings reduce your plastic usage?


Who do you link with as a race? Can you work with sponsors and suppliers to communicate a clear message to a broader audience about environmental sustainability?

Waste not

How do you manage your waste and rubbish? Do you have systems in place to ensure the participations leave as little waste and rubbish behind as possible and that which is left is recycled wherever possible?

Ultimately change happens from the bottom up; the athletics and running community is about health and vitality and so we can be at the heart of driving sustainability in sport at a local level.