No matter how you feel about the treadmill, nothing beats a good outdoor run — the wind at your back, new views at every turn. To help keep it that way, we've rounded up the best ways to celebrate Earth Day as a runner. The best part? You don't have to just do them on Friday, April 22 — you can do them all year long!
1. Go plogging
What's plogging? Well, it's an awesome running activity from the same people who brought you fartleks: the Swedes. A combination of the Swedish words "plocka upp" (pick up) and jogga (jog), it's the simple act of picking up trash during your runs and jogs.
See a gum wrapper on the ground? Stash it in your pocket until you get home. Come across a water bottle? Throw it in the nearest recycling bin. Eager to collect a big haul? Go ahead and bring a trash bag and some rubber gloves with you. Hand sanitizer wouldn't hurt, either.
To inspire others, snap a pic of your trash stash and share it on social media with the hashtag #plogging.
2. Green your running wear
Running naturally has a pretty small carbon footprint, but one way you can tread even lighter is by choosing sustainably made running shoes and clothes.
Look for running wear made from recycled, renewable, and other sustainably sourced materials as well as those with small (or better yet, zero) carbon emissions. One of our favorites is the Ghost 14, Brook's first carbon-neutral shoe.
3. Recycle your old kicks
As sad as it is to admit, running shoes don't last forever. So, when their time has come, recycle them. While recycling shoes is not quite as easy as throwing them in the green bin, it doesn't have to be hard. A lot of national companies now offer recycling services, with even more local ones helping out.
Here are some we recommend checking out:
TerraCycle: Purchase a Zero Waste Box, fill it up, and send it back to easily recycle running shoes, clothes, gear, or anything else you have crowding your closets.
One World Running: In 1986, this organization began collecting used (but still usable!) athletic shoes to distribute to runners around the world. Now, it also takes shirts, shorts, and other items.
Soles4Souls: This non-profit makes donating shoes and clothing easy. Use its online tool to find a drop-off spot near you or send up to 50 pounds of shoes (!!) free from the continental U.S. Items go to those in need throughout the United States and abroad.
4. Run local
Running a 5K, 10K, or even a marathon doesn't have to involve a huge commute via car or plane, and choosing local races can save the planet a lot of carbon emissions.
Plus, there are a lot of hidden benefits to running local: It can also save you money and stress (avoiding the logistics of traveling, not to mention elevation and time-zone changes) and allow you to participate in running events more frequently. At these races, you also have the benefit of running with and getting to know people in your local community.
To find events happening near you, check out Active.com's race directory. It also lists virtual races because, in the end, all you need for a great race is you and a can-do attitude.
5. Support eco-friendly races
We get it, sometimes you just want to travel — and run a race in the process. When the travel bug bites, consider opting into sustainable races.
Take the Ragnar Relay Series, for instance. It takes a lot of steps toward sustainability — going cupless, washing and reusing bib belts, recycling at all events (and even composting at trail ones), and installing solar panels on race trailers.
When checking out race sites, look to see if it has a "sustainability" page. They're popping up on more and more race sites and can give you a lot of information into how that race is minimizing its carbon footprint.
Protecting our planet
There are a lot of great ways to celebrate Earth Day on April 22 — and throughout the rest of the year. And many of them won't take a ton of time, energy, or money on your part.
Remember, every small step you take toward more sustainable runs — like picking up litter on your runs, buying sustainably made running shoes, and choosing local races — can make a big difference over the course of your running journey.
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.
I'm a quirky (aka nerdy) strength coach with a passion for science and sweat. I love to help people meet their body goals, but it's their mental and emotional gains that make me do a happy dance. My flirtation with running includes two half marathons and, someday, I will run 26.2.