Tag Archives: running

Guide to zero waste running in 2018

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.

Photo credit: Green Queen
Photo credit: Silke Bender

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.

Photo Credit: Water For Free

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.

Photo credit: The Green Race

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.

Photo Credit: RaceBase

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.

Photo Credit: Keilem Ng

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!

Photo credit: Women’s five
Martin Cal and family holding the Green Race flag

Running the Green Race

Interview with Martin Cai

Martin Cai is a Race Director at The Green Race (TGR), an organisation working towards the creation of sustainable trail running events in Hong Kong. They provide finishers with sustainable options for medals, vouchers from sponsors and additional race pack items.

Vision and collaboration with other like-minded organisations is enabling them to build a loyal community of Green Race runners across Hong Kong. They are also expanding to other countries in Asia, including Japan and Singapore.

Native to Canada, Martin has been running since he was a teenager, but as with many other expats, he switched to trail running as soon as he moved to Hong Kong nearly seven years ago. Working in corporate finance with an education in Resource Management from The University of British Columbia, his passion has always been for the great outdoors. Starting up the Green Race was an opportunity to get back out to the green side of things once again.

We caught Martin on a ferry ride to Mui Wo, with the entire team and runners heading for a training run on a Sunday morning.

Q. So how did you start TGR? And why Green?

A. The more I was running, the more I was feeling guilty about the waste generated at running events. At the same time I started looking for a personal trainer and met Vlad Ixel and Etienne Rodriguez just over two years ago. Through a few attempts and learns, The Green Race was born and the rest has quickly become history!

Q. How challenging was it to convince people to join your races? A green agenda may not have been at the forefront of runners minds as much as it is today.

A. We are focusing on creating a greater benefit than all those medals and goodies’ bags. People think you need to give up so much for a green lifestyle. It’s not true. You can have almost everything and be closer to wasteless than you may think. We are working to create more value for the runners without necessarily telling them what they should or should not do to ‘save the earth’. There is a very thin line between urging people to go green and schooling them.

Q. Was it easy to find the sustainable solutions in Hong Kong? Have the running costs been an issue?

A. There is nothing that can’t be done in Hong Kong with a bit of will – where there is a market there is a way. Once we started exploring the opportunities, we felt connected to the entire community. From the outset it has been financially challenging as providing better quality can mean higher costs, be it a compostable bag or high quality T-shirt that lasts longer or is made from natural fibres. In just over two years, we have managed to become profitable and help change perceptions around how these sorts of events can be just as fun without the trail of waste. It’s great to see Hong Kong in action, but as they say, keep your friends close, and your direct competition even closer! Hong Kong business thrives with direct competition ‘setting up shop’ right up alongside you. We’re all learning from each other – and making trail running better for everyone, including Mother Nature.

Q. What are your future plans? Do you see your community growing?

A. Heading into 2018, we find ourselves within our third financial year already! I can think of no other place on the face of the Earth where time moves as quickly as it does in Hong Kong, and we still have a very long list of work items. This is a very big year for us – we feel we have invested our time, passion, and capital into creating brand and loyal following. Our definite focus is on quality. We now have a great responsibility to continue innovating and surprising with new green focused ideas that can help make life better for all of us in Hong Kong, one sustainably sourced bamboo fork at a time #noplasticforks!

We are especially grateful to Loop Unite for having partnered with Green Race to jointly create what we hope will be some of the cleanest and greenest top end trail running events in Hong Kong.

Upcoming Green Race events can be found here

Volunteer with Green Race here