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Green Triathlete: 23 Ways to Help the Planet

It’s easy being green.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Every day, it seems another harrowing report is released about the state of Mother Nature, from the millions of tons of plastic in the oceans to the one million plants and animals at risk of extinction. Such a barrage of dread can be overwhelming – many know they should take steps to be a green triathlete and reduce their impact on the environment, but how does one even start?

The answer: Being a green triathlete by consciously deciding to change our behaviors. Instead of defaulting to the most convenient behavior, we can choose to change our habits in small, yet sustainable ways. Don’t worry – it’s easy being green. We promise.

Green Gear

1. Clean up the oceans with your running shoes.

Adidas’ Parley shoes are made from plastic bags and microbeads pulled from beaches and coastal communities, intercepting the waste before it reaches the ocean.

2. Buy swimsuits made from Econyl nylon.

Like Parley, Econyl collects fishing nets and other nylon waste from oceans, then restores it to a textile that can be used to make high-quality swimsuits, like the Econyl line from Arena.

3. Repair, don’t throw away!

Before you ditch your wetsuit for having a tear, consult with a local swim or scuba shop (or, if you don’t have one near you, an online vendor like Swell Stuff) – chances are, the repair is easy (and more affordable than buying a new wetsuit!). Ditto for that seam on your bike kit or running clothes, which can be sewn up with a needle and thread.

4. Slather on the (reef-friendly) sunscreen.

Before hitting the open water, look for sunscreen formulations that are made without oxybenzone – this ingredient, present in nearly 70 percent of non-mineral sunscreens, is known to bleach and kill coral reef populations.

5. Donate what you don’t wear.

Only 20 percent of used clothing gets collected globally – meaning four times that amount heads to landfills. I:CO (short for “I Collect”) partners with global retailers like Adidas to offer incentives for donating used clothing, which is then either exported to second-hand markets or “downcycled” as insulation or upholstery stuffing.

6. Give your shoes a second life.

Mail your used running shoes to One World Running, who will clean and refurbish them before delivering them to runners in impoverished areas around the world.

7. Reduce, reuse, recycle, Terracycle.

This innovative program specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle materials, like bar wrappers and gel packets. Purchase nutrition items that are designated partners with Terracycle, like Clif Bar, then mail your wrappers for recycling whenever it’s convenient for you.

8. Wash up with eco-friendly detergents.

In addition to reduced ecotoxity in the water supply, sustainable laundry detergents like Defunkify are specially formulated to remove tough stains and odors at the molecular level, as opposed to simply masking the smell.

9. Ask for more green options.

Shoot an e-mail to your favorite brands, asking what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprint. The more customers request environmentally friendly practices, the more likely they are to change their ways.

Training Tips

10. Stay close to home.

Pick a training pool that you can easily run or ride to, instead of driving your car across town. In addition to cutting down on your vehicular emissions, you’ll get just a little bit of bonus training in your commute.

11. Pack it in, pack it out (plus one).

It’s an easy enough rule – don’t discard your spare tubes, empty gels, or spent CO2 cartridges on the side of the road. Instead, wait until you get home to discard appropriately. While you’re at it, pick up just one piece of trash that doesn’t belong to you – it makes a difference, really.

12. Or better yet, go plogging.

This Swedish craze has moved to the USA, thanks to eco-conscious athletes who see their daily runs as an easy way to clean up the trails. Carry a reusable sack every time you head out for a run, and pick up trash along the way.

13. Reinvent and repurpose your gear.

Get creative! A spent bike tube transforms quickly into a band for swimming. Ditto for empty jars of drink powder, which can be refilled with sand to make free weights to add an extra challenge to squats and V-ups.

14. Go digital.

Consider an e-book instead of a print book for training materials. In addition to saving paper, e-books are often easy to access across multiple devices, meaning you can read your swim plan on your tablet in the living room or on your phone mid-workout.

15. Skip plastic whenever possible.

If you divvy up your snacks into baggies or wrap your phone in a plastic bag to protect it from sweat during your long ride, reconsider. There are plenty of reusable silicone options to sort your nutrition and keep your gear dry, like Stasher bags.

16. Fuel organically.

Whether you purchase prepackaged nutrition or go the do-it-yourself route, opt for organic ingredients whenever possible. Surface water runoff from non-organic farms and food operations can deposit pesticides into lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

17. Water the plants with your leftover swigs.

Every drop counts! Instead of dumping your water bottles into the sink, share the extra H20 with houseplants or your garden.

Race for Mother Nature

18. Race local.

Whenever possible, support your local race scene by participating in your hometown events, instead of driving or flying to far-flung locales.

19. Heading to a destination race?

Offset your emissions. Terrapass offers a “carbon calculator” for individuals to determine how much CO2 your drive or flight to a race emits into the atmosphere, then offers an opportunity to donate money to plant trees to offset that amount.

20. Cram your cars (and busses, and trains).

Carpooling or taking a shuttle to the expo and/or race is an easy, efficient way to cut down on the amount of vehicular emissions released into the atmosphere. (Even better: You get to take the carpool lane, and many races are beginning to offer preferential parking for cars with two or more athletes).

21. Decline the goody bag.

Most are plastic bags filled with assorted paper – and most of it gets thrown away as soon as you get out of the expo. Instead, bring your own reusable bag and ask your race director to participate in an e-bag program, which sends athletes coupon codes via e-mail instead.

22. Drink from your reusable cup.

Cups at aid stations are wasteful – even paper cups are lined with plastic or wax coatings, rendering them unrecyclable at many waste management facilities. Carry your own reusable silicone cup or bottle, which easily stashes in a pocket when you’re not drinking.

23. Save your space blanket.

Those mylar blankets distributed at the finish line can keep you warm elsewhere. Stash one in your car’s glovebox for winter emergencies, stuff a few in your coat pockets when heading to a football game, and put one in your backpack before your next camping trip. You can also use your blanket as a lightweight option for staying warm before the start of your next race.

RELATED: Donate Gently-Used Gear With Outside’s Gear Up Give Back Program