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The Long Run to Sustainability

Updated: May 14



Like a runner pointing toward a big, long-term goal, Twin Cities In Motion is actively pursuing sustainability certification under the auspices of the Council for Responsible Sport. Get in Gear, which takes place just a few days after Earth Day later this month, will serve as an important mile split in the organization’s dedicated run toward certified sustainable running events.


“TCM has, for a long time, made efforts to do waste-diversion through recycling and composting and assures that its events have a positive impact on the community,” TCM Sr. Director of Strategic Initiatives & Race Director of Marathon Weekend Eli Asch explained.


“What's different about these new efforts is that they involve a systematic look at all aspects of Get in Gear through multiple different sustainability lenses to assure that we're holistically taking sustainability into account when planning and executing the event.”


The Council for Responsible Sport, the world's leading responsible sport certification program, evaluates events across five broad categories of action: Planning and Communications, Procurement, Resource Management, Access and Equity, and Community Legacy. Council standards were developed, reviewed and revised with input and feedback from industry representatives. 


“Get in Gear is an event that we hope to grow, and while it's still in its early years under TCM's stewardship we wanted to start while it's still smaller and bake sustainability into its DNA as it grows,” Eli noted. “Ultimately, it's our hope that what we learn at Get in Gear will be applied across our full event portfolio, making all TCM events more sustainable -- including our flagship marathon weekend!”


Setting priorities among the Council of Responsible Sport's inventory of more than 50 certification standards was a first step for TCM. Standards range across areas including sustainable and accessible site locations, procurement of locally sourcesd food and beverages, use of renewable energy sources, carbon offsetting, and outreach to underrepresented groups, for example.


“It’s challenging to pick where to start, but TCM has already been making sustainable and inclusive choices such as compostable cups on course and our Kids Run Free program,” said TCM Events Coordinator Alana Dillinger, who is tasked with turning the organization's sustainability goals into reality. “Building on what we’re already doing makes the process of getting certified a lot more approachable since we just need to document current processes instead of starting new initiatives.”


Waste diversion will be a major initiative at Get in Gear. Some measures will be noticeable for participants, others less so.


“Our operations team has been making an effort to swap out a lot of equipment to be more sustainable,” Alana noted. “We’ve replaced zip ties with reusable bungee cords, collect all of our pallet wrap to recycle with a local program which would otherwise go to the landfill, have begun printing signage without dates and without event branding so we can reuse between events and year over year, reuse old coroplast signs at our fluid stations as cup shelves instead of disposable cardboard shelves, and are continuing to try out new creative ideas to keep waste out of the landfill.”


But participants have an important role to play as well.


“This year a big improvement on day of waste diversion is having sustainability stations throughout Minnehaha Falls Regional Park,” Alana stressed. “At each station participants will find signage directing them with what waste goes into which bin (trash, recycling, or compost). In addition to signage we will have a team of volunteers, the green team, who will be at each station to answer questions and help our participants get waste where it needs to go.”


Eli notes that events like Get in Gear which draw largely local participants are events that start with a sustainable footing.


“Running local is a huge difference-maker,” he said. “For large destination running events, the largest environmental impact is the carbon footprint of participant travel. So, if you believe in running sustainably, supporting your hometown races is a great way to run sustainably. Or, if you are traveling to a big destination event, consider purchasing high-quality carbon offsets equal to the carbon footprint of your travel.”


TCM officials hope Get in Gear runners will notice and appreciate the sustainability efforts in place later this month at the event and do their part for the effort.


“One of the biggest ways we learn how to improve our sustainability efforts is through participant feedback,” Elil said, “So please share your sustainability ideas and feedback in our post-race survey!”


“We hope to train our sustainability muscles throughout the process of planning and executing the event so that we can tackle bigger sustainability challenges at Get in Gear and our other events at future editions!”



This article originally appeared in the The Connection, TCM's weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe here.




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