Going Green: 10 Ways Triathletes Can Help Keep The Environment Clean

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Written by: Nan Kappeler

Recently I was wandering around a recent triathlon and I couldn’t help but overhear several athletes commenting on the poor quality of the water they were about to swim in.  Then I noticed several trashcans overflowing with an assortment of plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups and cardboard boxes, all which had been used during the race. Finally, the parking lot was filled to capacity with cars.

While races are held responsible for keeping the event area clean, and many events do encourage participants to carpool, we all need to be conscious and proactive in cleaning up our planet and ocean to ensure the survival of our sport. This doesn’t mean just race day, but every day.

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Chris Lieto, recently started a campaign called “The Green Athlete,” to provide resources and ideas to athletes for to become more environmentally conscious.  He has also recruited other pro athletes, including Matt Reid and Simon Whitfield to join forces and spread the word that we can all take part.

“At first Simon was reluctant to commit because he had just flown in an airplane and felt guilty,” said Lieto.  “That’s the point. We do things we shouldn’t, like flying too much, but we need to make small strides to improve the environment.  If everyone does one thing, it helps.”

Lieto admits he’s not perfect when it comes to being green, but says he is constantly learning new ways to improve his green habits. “We’re not all the best triathletes, or green athletes, but we can constantly learn and improve ourselves.”

Professional Chris Legh realized the importance of making the environment a priority after racing the Boulder 5430 triathlon.  The super green race, run by Barry Siff, had recycling bins, garbage options and even food from a local market.

“It’s the first time I saw someone taking note and made me realize there are things we can all do—not throwing energy wrappers on the road, or buying carbon credits to offset air travel,” Legh explained.

The good news is that we can all help in decreasing our carbon footprint—and we don’t have to depend on others to make changes.  Every one of us can do something small to make an impact that improves our environment.  Sometimes just being aware of everyday habits can make a difference.
Making a change doesn’t have to be as big as organizing a community clean up or heading up the local Sierra Club.  Incorporate one or more of the following simple ways into your everyday routine and it will be a step in the right direction.

1.     Decrease your plastic consumption.  Purchase a water filtration system (approximately $100).  Before you leave for a race, fill up a five-gallon jug.

2.     Carpool to an event or, even better, ride your bike.  Fewer cars decrease air pollution and minimize overflow parking.

3.    Reduce the amount of garbage you use and reuse as much as possible, especially water containers.  Avoid individually packaged items. Putting your gels in flasks is a great way to reduce waste.

4.     Pick up a piece of trash every time you go to the beach to swim or run on a local trail.

5.    Organize your grocery list and ride to the store and get in an easy or recovery bike ride.

6.    Plant a tree.

7.    Pick up after your dog. Waste goes directly into your nearby ocean, bay or river.

8.    Support an organization—There are plenty of them out there. The Surfrider Foundation, Heal The Bay, Save The Waves and the Sierra Club are examples.

9.     Minimize your use of lawn fertilizers.  Again, these chemicals go straight into local waters.

10.    Remind a friend, share and talk to build awareness to people who haven’t thought about being green or conserving.

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