Going “Green” is very popular these days. Most of your favorite daytime talkshow hosts have probably done shows about how you can go green. All over the internet you can find lists of the “top 10 ways to green your house” or “how to open an eco-friendly business”. But what if you are environmently concerned and are a runner? Is there anything you can do to help ease the burden we place on the environment?
1. Shoes: Most shoes todays are made without the use of PVC (which release toxic chemicals, produces a lot of waste, etc), and most shoes are also made with synthetic leather as opposed to genuine (cow-hide) leather. Even if you are not concerned with the treatment of animals in factories, you should know that processing animal by-products produces a considerable amount of waste and requires a substantial amount of energy. Companies such as Nike, Brooks, New Balance, Montrail, Asics and many more are now manufacturing their shoes without the use of PVC and many are also releasing “vegan-friendly” shoes which have absolutely zero animal components. Many of these same companies are also creating shoes with “Green” (recycled) rubber outsoles. Montrail goes a step further when it comes to the packaging of their shoes. Not only do they send them in recycled cardboard boxes – but inside you will find no extra fluff. No paper packing in the box. No paper inserts in the shoes. No catalogs or “instruction” manuals. So far, this is the only company I have seen that takes this extra step and keeps it simple. Just the shoes! You can safely buy just about any shoe that works best for you in today’s day and age. However, if you want to go above and beyond, be on the lookout for shoes that specifically state they contain no PVC, use recycled components, or are vegan friendly.
2. Socks: There is a sock company called “Teko” that I recently discovered. They make moisture wicking socks (even wool ones) and claim to have the “best socks on the planet and the best socks for the planet”. Teko uses pure ozone in their washing process as opposed to Chlorine which most companies use.
3. Electrolytes & Carbs: If you are concerned about animal by-products in your supplements, you can choose from Edurolytes & Saltstick for your salt/ electrolytpe capsule needs. Succeed also recently added a vegetarian option to their popular S-Caps capsule (until recently the capsule skin was only made from animal products). Gels & Clif Shot blocks are a very popular electrolyte/carbohydrate option for many runners. The problem with most of these products lies in the packaging which is not very environmentally friendly. How often have you been running along and seen an empty gel package lying on the ground? Clif, who uses sustainably grown and organic ingredients, came out with an option to at least save the top of the package with their handy little “Litter Guard” which prevents the top from ending up on the group (unless of course the entire package still ends up there). If you really must use a gel product, companies like Hammer sell their gel in large bottles. You can pour some of the gel into re-usable plastic bottles on your waist belt thereby eliminating the possibly of littering (whether intentially or accidentally). After all – who wants to carry all those little sticky wrappers around on a long run or race? Another good option is Nuun. Nuun makes a vegetable-based electrolyte tablet that you drop in your water. In comes in a recyclable tube that you can easily carry without much extra weight or bulk – and it is not sticky or messy.
4. Water Bottles: Water bottles are generally made of plastic. While plastic is one of the great modern inventions, it is not very environmentally friendly and not always safe to drink from plastic water bottles. A company called Klean Kanteen has come out with a new bottle that even has a sport top. I have not yet tried them and I’m not sure how well they will catch on – but I do plan on giving them a try myself.
5. Conclusion: Finally, there was a Running Times article in 2005 that listed 4 environmentally friendly companies: Teko, Patagonia, Timberland & Nike. While I agree that Nike does many great things for the environment, I can speak of much waste first-hand (from having worked there). Maybe this is typical of all 4 companies on this list (and many large companies), but the amount of indivual plastic wrapped packaging, paper stuffing, and cardboard boxes that goes into packaging and shipping is quite excessive. Maybe all shoe & clothing companies will take a page from Montrail and begin selling their shoes with “no fluff”. After all – we only need the shoes and the box (maybe not even that). What do they think is going to happen to all that extra stuff?