Fancy zero waste running in 2018?
We tend to criticise Hong Kong for its lack of environmental protection policies and crazy consumption. However, there is one thing we should all be thankful for: about three-quarters of its territory is countryside.
No wonder trail running is so popular in Hong Kong. It is also a powerful way to reduce your carbon footprint and reconnect with nature while getting stronger and healthier. To start running you only need a pair of shoes, a T-shirt and shorts or tights.
But trail running can be also wasteful. The more I ran last year, the more challenging it was to keep up my zero waste standards. As reaching the jar is one of my key resolutions this year, I talked to a few prominent trail runners and race directors to find out their plans and activities for 2018 and link them to zero waste lifestyle.
Zero waste run-solutions
Package free and healthy nutrition
Running requires a great deal of energy. Most of it comes from protein bars, electrolytes, powders – all wrapped in non-recyclable packaging. You can get away with a couple of bananas and apples, but it doesn’t work when you run long distances or add cardio workouts.
Silke Bender and Vlad Ixel are both accomplished trail runners and professional coaches. As they spend most of their time on the trails, nutrition becomes crucial. Vlad usually takes dates, a hydration pack filled with water and dissolvable electrolyte tablets on his trail runs.
“No magic, just an easy way to avoid unnecessary packaging and waste,” he shares.
Silke adds: “To hydrate on my trail runs I bring water and coconut water. These are filled up at home into reusable hydration soft bottles, which means I don’t’ need to buy small bottles on the go, saving waste and money. Food wise I bring my homemade energy and protein balls in reusable zip bags”.
Cooking your own meals and choosing natural foods is a great tool, not only on the trails but as part of your daily snacks. You can find a great number of healthy recipes on Green Queen.
Free water apps for trail running and hiking
Hydrating yourself is a huge priority if you go on a long run or hike. Running out of water might become a real nightmare, especially in summer. Luckily, you don’t need to buy the plastic bottles anymore – take your reusable one and refill it in the nearest water fountain. How to find them? There are currently two solutions in Hong Kong. Water for Free app is a crowdsourced tool available for both Android and IOS users. They also provide drinking fountain rental services.
Another solution is the Water Initiative by HK Running launched in late 2017 to help athletes who are out running the trails or hiking to find the closest water fountain instead of having to buy another water bottle:
“We are very pleased with the feedback so far having received support from a few of Hong Kong’s top environmental awareness and plastic reduction agencies: Ocean Recovery Alliance and Plastic Free HK. We are also looking forward to developing this in the future and helping HK become less dependent on single-use plastic items”, says David Tanner, Founder at HK Running.
David is also organising Women’s Five, Hong Kong’s women-only 5 week Running and Yoga programme to help them prepare, or to build on their fitness to for the run.
Map: HK Running
Zero waste running events
Taking part in running competitions is another milestone in your run-solutions. Whether it’s a 5km competition or a full 50k ultra, making it to the finish line is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, seeing the start/finish line – and often the checkpoints – filled with plastic bottles and single-use cups kills the spirit. Add the race packs full of sponsors’ leaflets, unwanted T-shirts wrapped in plastic and you might reconsider your passion to run the race.
The Green Race (TGR) was the first one to thrive for zero waste events, providing the runners with sustainable alternatives to medals, race packs and offers from sponsors. LoopUnite! teamed up with TGR for one of their races in 2017 achieving 83% of waste reduction.
Fortunately, more and more Hong Kong races are becoming sustainable. Steven Carr is one of the founders at RaceBase, famous for The 9 Dragons Race and The Country of Origin, among other running events. Having seen the massive amount of rubbish left at those races, Steven and his team decided to prevent it as much as possible.:
“At the pre-race stage, no plastic will be used to wrap the race pack or medals. Factories have been asked to use less plastic in their packaging and this is at our cost”, reassures Steven.
RaceBase will ask participants to bring their own cups and utensils for any food during the event. To attack the waste produced during the event, RaceBase will have separate containers at all checkpoints and send it later to recycling centres, while food waste will be sent to composting.
“At the Women’s Five we try and be as less wasteful as possible, one example is the merchandise we give to everyone in race packs – some of it is usually individually wrapped in plastic, but we make sure to order them in bulk and not individually wrapped“, says David Tanner.
You can check the 2018 race calendar for Asia and start setting your milestones.
Donating your unwanted clothes
Runners tend to try out many pairs of shoes before finding the ones that fit their needs most. Add here the GPS watches, backpacks, poles and other items left behind by their newest models – and you have another big wardrobe problem. What should you do if they are still in good condition? Donate them to less privileged runners!
Gone Running is a popular online and physical shop, “for runners, by runners” as they describe themselves. They are collecting donations for the Nepalese runners and most recently they launched a new campaign, where you can donate your old working GPS watches and get a 200HKD voucher if you decide to purchase the newer model.
Likewise, Steven’s team is working with two green charities “who will collect any unwanted finishing gifts to be sent to other charities who can use these” at their races.
Beach cleanups and runs
Many of us have offered our help at least one beach cleanup in Hong Kong. Why not to merge it with trail running? Keilem Ng is a famous eco-warrior and activist. She started with “One person – 30 minutes” initiative, where she spends 30 minutes for a regular beach cleanup in Lantau, and documenting it on social media. Keilem then founded Eco Marine, a Lantau based non-profit organisation that aims to promote local marine and environmental awareness.
“At Eco Marine, beyond discouraging single-use plastic items like single-use water bottles, disposable rain jackets etc, we encourage a ‘take out policy’ where we carry away our own rubbish items as well as pick up additional rubbish items we may see on the trails. We believe every little action counts and a small change by every individual can together create great impact”, explains Keilem.
You can join The Eco Marine Adventure Cleanup #2 on Sunday and meet Mira Rai, a legendary Nepalese runner.
Trail running is only one of the millions of options to improve your fitness, health and nutrition goals simultaneously in 2018. It’s also an exciting way to go zero waste and be part of the glocal community that always inspires and supports you.
Do hope this article inspires you to lace up your shoes and hit one of the HK trails!