Day 16- Zero-waste or goody bag, what sort of runner are you?

This has been a long running (pardon the pun) rant of mine, but in this campaign I want to address the environmental issues which come with running and other sporting events. I’ve mentioned the bottle issue repeatedly on, and today I’m focusing on other race paraphernalia, such as medals and t-shirts. I previously wrote about this here.

(This is a shoebox which has actually spilt under the wight of all the medals, which are unceremoniously chucked here and stored in a shelf under my desk, where they are rarely looked at, never mind displayed).

I read this article yesterday which Orla Smyth, local athlete and owner of Kaffe O, shared on Twitter. Tens of thousands of t-shirts are given out every year at races throughout the UK and Ireland. I know, because it feels like most of them end up in my house. I created a whole storage system for my husband’s* sportswear, and the baskets which consistently over-flow are for tee-shirts.(Incidentally, he has three baskets for said t-shirts: one for short sleeves, one for long, and one for vests. Despite my efforts to clear these out on a regular basis, by offloading them to our local charity shops, they replenish themselves in no time at all.

I’m not advocating that we dispense with the notion of commemorative memoralia altogether. I have, for instance, particular affection for LSB’s Dublin Marathon tops, (of which he now has 4). Often, when I see a runner sporting one of these, I feel a surge of connection with them, because although I haven’t run it personally, as the wife of a marathon runner, I’ve certainly been  through an ordeal of my own.

However, the planet can ill-afford this unnecessary production of items which I’m convinced is something given out now simply as habit. Race organisers have many pressing considerations when organising events. It’s probably a decision taken automatically as they prepare the goody bags: Drink: tick. Packet of sweets: tick. T-shirt, tick.

What I’m suggesting then, as today’s Do One Thing, is that if you do take part recently in these events; have a root through your stash and see if you have any old sportswear that is superfluous to requirement, and think about giving them to charity. I am going to collect items donated by Belfast Running Club down to NICRAS, a charity on University Street which supports Refugees and Asylum Seekers.  Having spoken to their manager, they are grateful for donations of any type of clothing and homeware, and thus our unwanted sportswear will find a good home.

Should you wish to take this further, why not ask your own running club to reconsider its policy of including a t-shirt as part of their ‘swag bag’. If they feel it’s an important addition, why not ask if they could offer a discount on the entry fee for anyone who prefers to go without?

The good news is that this is happening already across the world, and you can read  an article all here about runners in Singapore who are taking this idea on board and running with it. (Sorry, attack of the puns here tonight).

To conclude: if your response to receiving a t-shirt or medal after a race veers towards ‘meh’; or ‘I’ll take it if you’re giving it away,’ then please let your feelings of ambivalence be known. We have the means to do this now, through tweets and e-mail, straight from our phones, in a minute or two on our commute to work. In an effort to save both money and the environment, I think it’s a worthwhile  .

*I refer to my husband as LSB on my other site, which is an acronym for ‘Long Suffering Bastard. (He tholes a lot, poor dote).