Swim, Bike, Run, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
"How do you use less when you need so many different things? Here are some tips and swaps to help you swim, bike and run a little greener and keep our beautiful playground a little cleaner."
It's no secret that triathletes and runners love gear. If you've been in the sport for a while or ever attended a race expo, you've probably accumulated quite a bit of gear. Shoes, clothing, hats, water bottles, nutrition, swim caps, inner tubes, race shirts... the list goes on. So how do you manage all that stuff when you're trying to live more eco-conscious? How do you use less when you need so many different things? Here are some tips and swaps to help you swim, bike and run a little greener and keep our beautiful playground a little cleaner.
1. Nutrition & Hydration
This is a huge category for greener alternatives because a lot of nutrition comes in single use packaging. But there are ways around that. Switch to an electrolyte drink that comes in multiple servings per container. My personal favorite is Nuun, a fizzy tab you drop into water which makes ten 16oz servings per tube. There are some great drink mix powders out there too. Just stay away from single use bottled water or sports drinks.
What if your favorite long run nutrition is a single serve sticky gel? There is this amazing company called Terracycle that recycles your used gel, block, and nutrition packaging (from any brand!) for free. Just collect it and send it in. Another great idea for multi-loop events or training rides is to pack your food and beverage in reusable containers to stash in your car and refill as necessary.
What about all those bike bottles? After a few racing seasons with multiple athletes in the same home, we realized you CAN have too many bike bottles. Pick a few favorites then see if any local athletic teams need the unused ones.
As athletes, we continuously need to replace worn out or broken down gear. This is a huge category so I'll keep it concise with my favorite tips.
Bike tubes – yes, even bike tubes can be repurposed. Check out ways to reuse old tubes HERE
Shoes – I'm a reformed running shoe hoarder. I used to rotate out shoes that still had a lot of life left in them and some of us are guilty of hanging onto boxes of barely worn shoes that just didn't work for us. You can donate your old shoes or even sell gently used ones amongst local tri or running groups.
Clothing – like shoes, you can sell gently used gear or what doesn't fit anymore. Have a friend whose teenager is interested in triathlon? Give away your old gear! Tri kits can be pricy for youngsters just trying out the sport, this is a phenomenal way to encourage a new generation of athletes.
UPF 50 Gear – This may be easily overlooked as an eco-friendly swap, but every inch of skin covered by UPF 50 clothing is skin that requires less sunscreen. Since I made the switch to long sleeved UPF 50 tops and tri kits, I have significantly reduced the amount of sunscreen I use year-round.
Raise your hand if you have a drawer or box in the basement full of race shirts you've never worn. Most of us do. If you're not going to wear it, don't take it. Most RDs will donate extra shirts to homeless shelters. Some races - especially the current virtual ones- allow you to opt out before they are sent to print. Donate the ones you have sitting at home or even cut up and use as cleaning rags.
Water cups - I think we are still a ways away from a totally cup free world of racing, but RDs are working on it. As athletes we can help by being open to alternatives, especially while participating as opposed to racing endurance events. During my entire 2019 race season which included 6 half marathons, one full marathon, and a sprint tri, I managed to use only four race-provided cups. I carried a handheld water bottle and refilled it at water stations as needed. This is really common at trail races and if every athlete used one less cup at every race, it would have a huge impact.
Plogging is a really great way to help the environment while out for a run or walk and a really great way to freshen up your local route. Take a bag with you on your next easy effort and fill it with litter as you go.
As an athlete I love being outside in nature, smelling fresh air and soaking up gorgeous scenery. In my daily life I try to live as green as possible and I'm always searching for ways to use less and omit single use wherever possible. Although it may seem overwhelming in a sport that has so much gear, there are definitely easy swaps to reuse, reduce, and recycle and keep our earth and oceans clean for future triathletes!
Written By: Kristy Wang, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Kristy on Instagram @runningkween
Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments below!
This blog was created for informational purposes only. It's content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or online.