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The Boston Marathon goes green and so do other road races

By / April 20, 2009



Sunday's Boston Globe had an interesting article about the steps the organizers of the 113th Boston Marathon -- being run today -- are taking to make the race more environmentally friendly. This is a trend being seen in other US road races, too.

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More than 26,000 runners (from all 50 states and 60 countries) can create quite an environmental impact. In addition to the carbon used to get to Boston -- flying, driving, etc. -- they're bused to the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., using approximately 22,400 pounds of Co2. They will use an estimated 1,400,000 cups, more than 62,00 water bottles, and 28,00 mylar blankets (today's high in Boston is predicted to be 48).

How do you begin to green up those numbers? First, the Boston Athletic Association is using diesel fuel in the buses that transport the runners, and it bought 22,440 pounds of carbon emission credits to offset the impact of the busing. They're also using electric scooters (instead of traditional motorcycles) to lead the runners.

Poland Spring, one of the Boston Marathon sponsors, is supplying its new bottles, which it says use 30 percent less plastic than the old shape. Although bottled water gets a bad rap environmentally, it's hard to imagine a road race without it. Still, some races are banning bottles made with petroleum and others are saying no bottles at the end of the race.

The cups used for water and Gatorade are biodegradable and will be collected by volunteers for recycling.

But instead of the plastic race bags handed out here in Boston, some races are switching to canvas.

The Council for Responsible Sport sets standards for certifying races as environmentally responsible to ensure that organizers recycle everything from cardboard to aluminum to glass; that they use renewable energy sources for 50 percent of power consumed; that the race site is accessible by public or mass transportation, or organizers initiate carpooling; alternative-fuel vehicles are used by race production teams; e "local" (within 250 miles) food is served; at least one food item be third-party certified (Fair Trade, organic, Food Alliance); water consumption is reduced; and carbon is offset by credits.

You can see the whole list here. It's pretty extensive. Races that have been certified include the ING Hartford Marathon and the City of Portland Triathlon.

By those standards, Boston has a ways to go. It's just getting started. But it's interesting -- especially in the week of Earth Day -- that it and so many other races around the country are thinking about their environmental impact. What are your experiences with this? Do you think it's a good idea, or maybe going a bit far?

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