The Oversized Footprint of Ultrarunning

A little before 7:00 am on June 19, 2010, I climbed to the top of the first major mountain in the San Juan Solstice 50 mile race. From that vantage point I could see two wilderness areas, two 14,000-foot peaks, a herd of elk and, far below, a road winding through the canyon. I felt strong and confident in my ability to complete the race, but even more overpowering was my sense of awe at the landscape. The San Juans are stunningly beautiful. They rise in unbroken four- to five-thousand foot climbs to top out in fantastic formations more than two miles above sea level. Any time spent in them makes a runner feel small, yet challenged. Like the mountains are offering themselves as a test ground. On sunny days the views extend for countless miles to distant horizons unknown and beckoning for exploration. What’s to prevent a person from simply continuing on indefinitely?

Well, we are.

Do we consider the environmental cost of running through the San Juan Mountains?

We’re literally loving our wild places to death, ultrarunners included. While the myriad issues facing the planet these days are widely known and lamented, we rarely think of the impact of the sport of ultrarunning itself. As if we’re so in tune with the landscapes we traverse that the thought of us polluting them is laughable. Yet it’s the truth. Emissions from cars and planes add CO2 to the atmosphere while thousands of pounds of waste are generated through the disposal of countless thousands of gel packs. Inefficient aid stations feature single-use paper cups for small amounts of drinks and paper bowls for only a few servings of candy or fruit. Running shoes are commonly made from synthetic rubbers derived from petroleum products that take thousands of years to fully break down in landfills. And just about all clothing and gear in the sport is stitched or assembled in Asia – in factories whose power comes from coal-fired power plants – and then distributed worldwide on high-emissions vehicles. Even if we forget about all that, the ecosystems we run through are fragile, and the massive influx of people for races naturally degrades their unique characters. Running is commonly idealized as an environmentally low-impact sport, but the reality is that we pollute far more than we know.

This issue has arisen in part because ultrarunning is now a legitimate sport. In the past when only people like Rick Trujillo were roaming the high wilds in solitude, the amount of waste in the sport was negligible. Less abundant races featured less aid and placed more responsibility on runners. Since people weren’t even sure if completing such epic adventures was even possible, the goal was simply to finish and survive. However, we’ve honed our technique to the point that runners are now able to compete at extremely high levels. The stats are enough to amply support this point: Only two people finished the first ever Wasatch 100 in 1980, with the winning time over 35 hours. Twenty-eight years later Geoff Roes ran the same race in little over half that time. The 1996 Hardrock was completed in a then-unbelievable 30 hours, yet in 2008 the new course record was set at 23:23. These numbers are certainly subjective due to changes in courses, weathers and gear, but the data show an undeniable trend toward increased performance. This entails greater traffic between aid stations and increased long-distance travel to races, among other effects. Once a fringe activity relegated only to people interested in the adventure, ultras have now become attractive to elite runners from other fields seeking profits and fame.

So what does this mean for the environment? More interest means more people. More people means more traveling, eating, pooping and littering. A consumer culture makes people buy new clothes instead of repairing old ones, or buy new shoes after the manufacturer-recommended 300-500 miles. Half a world away, Asian coal plants contribute to climate change, but that effect is usually too far removed from the mind of a runner when buying shoes to affect their decision.The problem is that the impacts are rarely visible. This kind of situation – where people are largely unaware of the impacts of their daily lives – is common in every aspect of American life. Who worries about the destruction of ocean beds by trawlers when picking out Atlantic Cod at the grocery store? Not many people. But runners use the environment far more than most, and thus we have a greater reason to save it.

The good part is that a lot of possibilities are out there for improvement. Although what we do may not have a very noticeable effect on the environment individually, every little act of preservation has the ability to add up with others to create an expansive and definitive solution. First are the small lifestyle changes that everybody should practice, not just ultrarunners. These create a mindset of eco-friendliness that guides people to make healthy decisions in every aspect of life. Next are some ideas specifically for runners to reduce their footprint. These are more specialized versions of the first category that show ways ultrarunners can continue to be well fed and hydrated while also helping the environment.

Everyday Ways to Reduce Impact

  • Insulate your house and keep the heat even. Heating often comes from in-home combustion or power plants that reduce air quality and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Better insulation reduces wintertime reliance on the thermostat and summer reliance on A/C.
  • Get rid of unnecessary appliances, and replace old ones. Extra fridges in the garage use large amounts of energy and can boost electric bills. Try consolidating everything into a single fridge. In addition, replacing old appliances with Energy Star models can save both energy and money.
  • Eat local and organic. Buying local and organic will increase health – of both you and the planet.
  • Run large appliances in the morning or evening. Peak times for appliance use is roughly 3:00-7:00 pm. Avoid using the dishwasher or doing laundry during these times and keep costs and energy demand low. Reducing peak demand reduces the need for additional power plants.
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs use a third of the energy of regular light bulbs and last longer. Use them.
  • Use “Tree-Free” paper products. Just about every paper-based product comes in post-consumer recycled form, which means that few if any trees were cut down to make the product. This is good.
  • Use fewer plastics. Think about how many sandwich bags you threw out last year. Now multiply that by 300+ million and you’ll get roughly the number thrown out by America. Reducing plastics, whether in the form of bags, disposable silverware,  or something else  lowers the demand for items steeped in polluting petroleum products.
  • Bike or run to work or wherever you go on a regular basis. Driving pollutes, while biking and running is healthy, personable and good for the environment.

UTMB is worth running, but at what cost?

Ultrarunning Solutions

  • Don’t travel as much. It’s definitely cool to go to Europe to run UTMB (I’m planning on it this year), but getting there uses an unbelievable amount of energy.  Flying can emit as much as 50% more than driving, but driving is far from being a problem-free substitute. A gallon of gasoline emits roughly 19.5 pounds of CO2, so at 25 MPG a 300 mile trip emits about 234 pounds of CO2. Now if thousands of people are making that trip, the numbers quickly add up. Try running more local races to reduce emissions.
  • Bring your own bottle and food to races. Filling up personal bottles at aid stations cuts down on the number of paper cups used, and the less food you take from aid stations, the fewer disposable bowls will be used for runners. Also, instead of using individual gel packs, buy gel in bulk and fill small containers that can be traded out via crew or drop bag.
  • Buy eco-friendly shoes. Plenty of companies are now making shoes from recycled materials or materials from renewable sources. This reduces the demand for resources and lessens the impacts of consumerism. Also, consider sending old shoes to programs like Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe and keep the cycle of sustainability going.
  • Buy domestically produced clothing and/or repair old clothing. Most companies produce their products overseas, and incur a large carbon footprint as a result of their cost cutting. That’s not to say the quality is worse, but avoiding foreign products eliminates the need to transport products thousands of miles just to get home. Companies like Melanzana in Leadville make their stuff right in the building and, though the prices are sometimes higher than imported goods, the benefits to the environment are incalculable. [Editor’s Note: Admittedly, the complicated path of components often makes determining the transportation impact of a complex product difficult. Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles do a good job providing examples.]

The world is a changing place, and trailrunning is as good a gauge as any. While our sport continues to grow at an unbelievable rate – while thousands more people every year realize that running 50 or 100 miles is not only possible but also fun – so our trails become crowded and our air degraded. Nobody hurts the environment with that purpose in mind, but our means of enjoying the wild places we love is killing them. The issues facing the environment seem insurmountable at times, but by making small changes individuals can make a difference. Long-term solutions arise as slowly as they take effect, and our society is gradually grasping the implications of our unsustainable lifestyles. Ultrarunners are in a position to be catalysts of change. We are fit, healthy and motivated to protect the places we love. We can begin by adapting our sport to sustainable practices and expand the initiative from there. Change on a large scale will be necessary for a long-term solution, but change is necessary for every good thing in life. And preservation of the places we run is certainly a worthwhile goal to change for.

Call for Comments
What environmental factors do you consider when trail running or ultrarunning? How do you mitigate your environmental impact?

Works Cited
Archer, Ann. 10 Easiest Ways to Green Your Home. MSN Real Estate. Web. 14 Jan. 2011.
Armstrong, Lindsay. The Best, Green Running Shoes and Clothing. Huffington Post, 2/21/2010. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.
Kolecki, Catherine. How Running Shoes Are Made. How Products Are Made, Vol. 1. Web. 15 Jan. 2011.

Dakota Jones: explores the wild places of the world on foot and tells us about it every few weeks. He runs for Salomon and Clif Bar.

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  • Great post. Here are my ideas:

    (1) If you use a gel pack, eat the packaging as well as the gel.

    (2) Fill plastic bottles with asparagus-scented urine instead of using gatorade.

    (3) Swim to UTMB, then walk the land bridge back.

    (4) Consider moving to neighborhoods where the Home Owner Association's policy allows for only 1 communal car per neighborhood.

    (5) Go naked or go home.

    (6) Toilet paper any house bigger than 1000 square feet.

    (7) Put solar panels on top of your running hat.

    (8) Use nuclear weapons instead of conventional weapons.

    (9) Eat squirrel meat instead of fish.

    (10) Re-use toilet water by straining with a colander.

    No seriously, I love that you speak out on these issues. My big thing this year is no more gel packs, I've been using the new tablet gels from Hammer...no more gels for this Trail Clown. Peace out!

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    • Just want to add here that I too was confused by the initial author byline (since corrected) and thought that Bryon wrote the piece. Since I know Bryon, I made up a funny top ten. But since I don't know Dakota, I hope I didn't offend by my use of silly humor. I do think it is an important topic of discussion.

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      • I can vouch for Trail Clown, his silly humor, and my original mistake in not changing the author when publishing Dakota's story.

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  • June 19, 2011 is still in the future so good luck with the run.

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    • That was an editor's typo. :-)

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  • RE: clothing: One word: goodwill. I have found several high quality used shirts, long sleeve, short sleeve, fleece, for very little dough-re-mi.

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  • Or maybe you should drop out now so you don't damage the San Juan Mountain environment any more.

    But don't ask for your money back because as the website states "All proceeds benefit the Lake City EMTs, our all-volunteer emergency medical team, most of whom will be helping at aid stations on race day!"

    Compare ultrarunning where many runners use their own bottle and pack out trash to road running where you see thousand of cups used for one drink and strewn on the ground for a mile.

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  • It's true that runners may be overlooking their consumption and impact. But there's an added bright side, too. Runners and athletes tend to be healthier overall than the average American. That translates to less consumption of healthcare goods over time. Which translates to less environmental impact. I think most people would be shocked to see how much is consumed/goes to waste in a hospital, medical office, etc.

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    • Not to mention the large number of pharmaceuticals that are flushed down the toilet or excrete unmetabolized that poison our water supplies.

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  • Trail Runners, like most individuals, will probably get defensive when first reading this article. While it's true that we pack out garbage, use bottles, are in better shape and typically produce less garbage than other athletes; to assume that there isn't room for improvement is misguided at best.

    And that (to me) is the point of the article. There is ALWAYS room for improvement.

    Forget about all the other sports out there...just focus on improving your own. I like the vibe of this and agree with it wholeheartedly. Just because somebody else is doing something far worse does not mean that you can't be doing any better.

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    • John, you hit the nail on the head. It's easy to get defensive when reading an article that suggests we could be better people. However, even great people can further improve or at least periodically reflect regarding whether they can. We surely do so with regard to our training and race... why not do the same with regard to the world around us! :-)

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  • After realizing that my garbage primarily consisted of energy bar and gel wrappers, I started making my own. There are plenty of recipes online to experiment with. If possible, buy ingredients in the bulk section of your grocery store (and bring your own bags/containers to fill).

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  • I see your point, and don't mean to make light of it, but taken to the extreme cynical point of view, an athlete contributes much more to climate change than the average person. (I vaguely even remember seeing scientific studies on exercise versus climate change.) The number of calories athletes burn requires a much higher consumption of food every day. They run through shoes at an exponentially higher rate. And so on, and so on.

    But as a whole, how many athletes do you know that litter trails...litter at all? How many athletes do you know that smoke? End up in the hospital for diabetes, heart disease, etc? Who is it that takes care of trails, nature, parks, etc.? Who advocates for them?

    I try not to be wasteful, but I don't feel inclined to change much after reading this. Broadly speaking, I believe we contribute much more positively to this world than the average folks (not just in the environmental sense). I hope that doesn't come off the wrong way. Its great to put information like this out there to get people thinking.

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  • Well, it's all relative.

    The most effective thing any person can do to limit his or her environmental impact is to refrain from having children.

    But mentioning that will make you even less popular than suggesting that people should drive smaller cars, or drive fewer miles, or travel by airplane less frequently, or to eat food that's produced locally, or what-have-you.

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    • [Comment removed by administrator: Anonymous attacks on other readers will not be tolerated. I will note that you strongly disagree with Joel. Nothing is achieved by calling another person names or attacking his or her intelligence.]

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    • I hope that there's not a prolonged battle over this comment. Joel's comment is not farfetched in terms of actual environmental cost; however, it is a step that many have no desire to consider for a multitude of reasons. If you stop and think about it, there's certainly a huge environmental impact in having one or more children (NYT article) and growing ranks of people deciding not to have children, in part due to environmental concerns (Grist article). On the other hand, biological urges as well as many familial, societal, cultural, and religious not to mention personal desires speak toward having kids.

      Unless others are willing to have a respectful discussion of this point, I encourage you to refrain from replying. I've removed but a handful of the 10,000+ comments in iRunFar's history, mostly because iRunFar's readers have been respectful of one another and I've had no need to do so. That said, I will not stand for name calling, personal attacks, flaming, or trolling.

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      • Thanks for that reply, Bryon. I don't know that it's my sentiment, per se, meaning that I'm not necessarily advocating that people should do or not do anything in particular, including have or not have children. It's just a statement of fact, the unpopularity of which I mentioned in my first comment, the aim of which was to highlight how complex the issue of an individual's environmental impact is. What is the "right" thing to do, and for whom is it right?

        There is a certain irony in someone becoming upset about that comment. That unhappiness is, I'm sure, analogous to the feeling many people have when they feel judged for the lifestyle choices they make, such as the car they drive or where they do their shopping.

        For the record, I spend a lot of time in the backcountry, and I stick to the established trails and I never litter. I do everything I can to "leave no trace." At home, I limit my meat consumption, I don't consume a lot of electricity, I drive a fuel-efficient car, I don't do much discretionary consumer spending of any kind--at any store or on any products, et cetera. I'm pretty "green" my any measure.

        But there's always a greener fish. So: where is the bottom? It's a legitimate question, and pondering both the question and its answer is not mutually exclusive with being conscious of and actively living a low environmental impact lifestyle.

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        • Joel,

          I don't think there is a bottom--human beings will always have a deleterious impact on the environment. I read once an apropos line: something to the effect that we will always--no matter how sensitive we try to be, have a negative impact on nature because of our desire to settle. I don't think the point is to have no impact, but rather to make that impact minimal, intentional (ie thoughtful--full of thinking), conscious.

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        • Joel, I didn't mean to put words in your mouth by writing "Joel's sentiment" in the second line of my response. I've revised it to simply say "Joel's comment." I hope that works better.

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        • One of the books that I read to my four kids starts out going on about the harmony and balance on earth before the evil humans entered the picture. Well ok - I added in the evil part in to give them an early start on the guilt factor that they will be bombarded with at school.

          Me - To absolve my guilt I agreed to use a pushmower on Al Gore's lawn at his third home. Of course I drive the pushmower over to his house in my 1985 p/u with with a 4 barrel Holley - you know, need to keep it out of the landfill and follow thos 3 R's.

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    • I have heard many times that the environment issue = population issue. But people are always saying those populations are centering more around cities and with proper planing the environmental impact of a person in a city is a fraction of what it is in the suburbian model.

      But this had issues of water, waste water, type of food...

      This is a very complex critical mass equation.

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  • Great article Bryon. I agree that we could all do more, but are probably more sensitive than most about environmental issues.

    One other thing most trail runners could add to their list is not making special trips just to get to a trail head. If at all possible, pick a trail that's on your way home form work or the store.

    One of the coolest things about reducing your impact, is that 9 times out of ten, it will save you money too!

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    • Chris,

      Dakota Jones did a great job writing this story.

      I couldn't agree more about reducing impact by not driving to trailheads. I spent last year road running because I couldn't run to any trailheads. Last November, I moved to Park City, Utah so I could run to numerous trailheads in less than a mile. I do occasionally drive to meet up with friends to run, but most of those are within a few miles. I can understand driving to mountains or trails for key workouts when you don't have race day terrain near your house.

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      • I did not realize that Dakota had written this article. It is always great to see young people with passion about such an important topic!

        Thankfully for me, I have several different trails I can hit on my way home from a long day in the classroom. Although it would be awesome to someday experience the mountains out west, I really love life here in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.

        I too think an occasional trip to a cool new spot, or your favorite race is definitely in order. As with most things, even conservation can be taken to extremes!

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  • Become a vegetarian!

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    • Spud, that's a great way to cut down on one's environmental impact. Even substantially reducing meat consumption is worthwhile and it avoids the need for all or nothing resolve. I can't really call myself a vegetarian anymore... but if I can't imagine I eat more than three pounds of meat in a given year and almost all of that is sustainably caught fish.

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  • I am sorry, I was out of line. However, not having children is far from the answer. Why should we safe the planet if there is no one to enjoy it? I have children, I know the effected they have on the enviroment, but my children can one day grow up and make a REAL difference, and actually help the cause, as opposed to just commenting close minded on a blog. Joels answer is to NOT do something(a very big, and very serious something) I recommend we all DO SOMETHING. The no baby idea is a lazy and easy way of dealing with things, so I am not surprised that is the suggested solution. The whole concept is a good insight into why our country and soctiey is where it is right now. On a seprate note...Bryon you should be a politician.

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    • Anonymous, I hope that's a politician in the sense of a peacemaker or mediator and not the negative meaning I came to have when I lived in Washington, DC. ;-)

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  • Bryon, I will not longer comment on your website/blog in a negeitive manner. I am sorry if my commenst upset you or Joel.

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    • Anonymous, I hope you continue commenting on iRunFar. In my deletion, I tried to keep your negative sentiment. There's nothing wrong with that. Joel posted a comment that was sure to incite strong opposing responses. I welcome healthy debate such as what was included in your longer response. The only reason I deleted your comment was because it was solely an attack on Joel.

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  • Really great article! I couldn't agree more.

    Although, the title was misleading... I was hoping you were going to write about guys like me who wear size 15 running shoes and how hard it is to find the right shoe!

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    • Good point, James. I've tweaked the title a bit.

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  • Joel's comment was the same as this article...just to get people to think. Just because he is right doesn't mean he is advocating for that idea...just food for thought.

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    • Well said.

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  • Great article by Dakota.. the credits list Bryon as the author though.

    The point about children is interesting.. it is commonly accepted that a child in the developed world makes a larger impact than one in an undeveloped world. That said, I am a hypocrit for having two kids. I would like to think that they will make a positive impact environmentally and cancel out their inevitable western lifestyle and carbon output, but this is out of my hands as they are to choose their own paths with a small influence from me and my wife.

    I disagree with anonymous, "The no baby idea is a lazy and easy way of dealing with things, so I am not surprised that is the suggested solution." Actually, to choose to NOT have children takes WAY more effort than to have children. I know several couples who have chosen to not have kids exactly because of the impact that these kids could likely have on the planet, which takes a ton of personal sacrifice and requires that one put aside innate emotional and biological needs.

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    • Dave, Thanks for pointing out a few things.

      First, I whiffed on the byline. I set Dakota up with an author account on the website, but failed to change the author name for the post. That's been correct.

      Second, I was going to let the sleeping dog lie, but I'd agree that "“The no baby idea is a lazy and easy way of dealing with things" is incorrect. It's certainly not "lazy" not to have kids... It's not like any one of us, in particularly, needs to have kids and those that don't are skimping out on a duty. As for not having kids being easy.... well, it's actually a minor societal taboo NOT to have kids if you can. I have a cool family, but I was asked on numerous occasions when I was going to have a kid until my sister did. I can't say that my family really put pressure on me, but families, societies, and religions can put heavy pressure on individuals to have kids. The hard choice is not to have them. Plus, there's the personal asked that you mention. I think kids are great. I spent a heck of a lot of time babysitting when I was younger and it was fun. Few things make my day more easily that video conferencing with my 21 month old niece. That said, I won't have kids with the environment being one of many considerations that led to that decision.

      For everyone else, I don't think that the point of anyone in this thread is to make anyone feel guilty about having had children. You have lovely children (I hope), enjoy them! Rather, as with the article, it's to think about all of your actions... especially the major ones. Deciding whether or not to have an additional child in the future is one such decision.

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  • Yes, just ban all races on trails, close all public lands... completely, limit travel to within walking distance of home, plow under the roads, make every family move into the house next to theirs, so they can all share body heat to warm the place, and every other home will be vacated, eat only what you grow, wear shoes made out of woven dandelion stems! Mother may I?

    Come on, seriously! This smacks of 'as-long-as-I'm-in, shut-the-gate-behind-me-and-I'm-fine". (An attitude I've witnesses over many years in one suburb after another in Park City, btw.) Don't take that plane to UTMB (but wait, it's going anyway, right.) What now, only those who were already in ultrarunning before a certain date should be allowed in? Hey, I'm ok with that, as long as it's cut off after I started, how about you? Hell, just ban it altogether.

    I'm as concerned about the environment, as the next guy , probably much more concerned, but there are a myriad of options for any given individual to take that would have a far greater positive impact. I've always loved trail running and ultras because it wasn't corporate, and wasn't elitist. Guess I was wrong on at least one count.

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    • Lloyd, I think you might be over reading the article. I won't speak for Dakota's intent, but I read it as an article that asks us to consider out environmental impact as people and as runners. It's good to be reminded of that from time to time. I can't see anything in Dakota's story that we absolutely shouldn't do any one thing. He acknowledges that compromises are made to meet our desires when he share he'll be going to UTMB even after knowing the cost.

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      • I think Lloyd's reading is an accurate one. The article jumps back and forth between them, but ultimately it makes two basic points:

        1. Rich Westerners live high-energy lifestyles, wherein we consume and waste recklessly.

        2. Once upon a time, ultra-running was so unpopular that the choices individual participants made didn't matter since the net impact of the entire sport was so small as to be completely negligible.

        Lloyd is responding to the tone in which point (2) is made. When I was in college, this was called NIMBY-ism. NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. Everyone wants to live on the top of the hill. But then, one day, another suburb gets built--behind yours, and further up on the hill! Horrors! (Never mind that yours is the fourteenth in a never-ending series of developments.)

        As far as point (1), the author suggests several things, like insulating your home, eating organic food, et cetera. Half of those suggestions require either large capital expenditures (insulation, new fridge) or regular increases in household goods spending (more expensive light bulbs, more expensive food, more expensive paper towels). Earning the money to buy those expensive light bulbs or those locally grown tomatoes or that high-tech insulation takes a lot of energy!

        The author overlooked an obvious suggestion: buy a programmable thermostat if you don't have one. Program it to keep the temperature considerably warmer (summer) and cooler (winter) during those times when you're usually away. In general, let the temperature be two degrees closer to the outside temperature than you historically have. The thermostat represents a whopping one-time $20 cost, and will make a huge difference in your energy usage (that is, your wallet). If your home is sufficiently poorly insulated, then it may be worth the significant expense and time, but the go-to suggestion is to alter your thermostat settings.

        Likewise, the suggestion to use fluorescent light bulbs: sure, if you're already at the store and you have to buy light bulbs, consider those over incandescents. But if you have a stock of incandescents, consider using them rather than increasing the demand for light bulb production by purchasing new ones. The best suggestion where lighting is concerned is to simply switch off more lights. In general, people over-light their homes.

        Replacing your refrigerator: not necessarily the best idea for everyone, financially. It might make more sense for someone to refrain from buying and keeping frozen food. That's right! Empty your freezer. Then turn the temperature all the way down on your empty freezer. As Gordon Ramsey will remind you on those Fox "Green it, mean it" promos, it takes 10 times the energy to make frozen food than to make fresh. And again, if you already find yourself in need of a fridge, then consider the most energy efficient one you can afford. People usually like to buy new fridges, which increases the demand for fridges, which increases production, and making fridges takes a lot of energy! So if you can bear to have a 'used' fridge that's a couple years old and is energy efficient, that's the best option, from an environmental point of view.

        In general, consider behavior-based changes, rather than different consumer choices. It's ironic that the author, who derides consumerism, guides the reader toward high-energy, expensive purchased solutions (updating your home's insulation, get a new fridge, replace light bulbs). I would have preferred to see suggestions based on changing behaviors (adjust your thermostat temperature, turn off lights, stop using your freezer) rather than buying specified types of products.

        The suggestion to run your washer/dryer and dishwasher off peak hours is a great one. Kudos to the author on that. A behavioral change that requires no purchase. Good suggestion.

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  • Bryon/ Dakota.

    Awesome article. I'm in the midddle of re-reading "Let my people go surfing" by Yvon Chouinard founder of Patagonia. I read this a few years ago and it impacted me so much I have changed so many parts of my once wasteful lifestyle.

    Patagonia leads the industry on giving back and monitoring its footprint.

    I bring my own cup for coffee, use my own lunch cooler, NO plastic bags. Recycle everthing possible. I refuse to buy from a Mall.

    I have made my own hurache sandals from a lawn tractor tire. I could order some Lunas but why? My current runners have about 800+ miles on them. My old runners go to a charity that sends the shoes to areas that need them. In Ghana Africa they prefer used shoes to the bootleg new shoes the sell ther. A used shoe has a quality that will last.

    You make great points on how we can lower our footprint. Race directors need to get in on this as well. Here is a 50k in our area that has gone green.

    You can get a shirt, for the price of the shirt or you can get the lower fee for no shirt. Limited paper cups. Bring your own handheld. First 100 entries get a Nathan quick draw hand held. Our running group van pools whenever possible. 4-6 per van. Whay should everyone drive. It builds a better community and saves on the footprint.

    Gels are tough. You can make your own but what do you store them in? I have found a Fuel belt with 4 bottles works. A good gel is chia seeds. It helps with hydration as well.

    Energy bars still require you to wrap them in plastic. I believe Lara bars have a bi-degradeable wrapper.

    Ned had a good point about Goodwill. We have one that sells clothing by the lbs. Its the last chance they have to sell some of the donated clothing. For a few min of digging you can get some great stuff. Found some new Dry-fit pants today. 50 cents. If I need to have something to ditch at the start of a race. I didn't lose out on anything.

    Back to race directors. Why do we need to have the big name sponsors on every event. I like the Fat Ass format much better than the Big name sponsored event.

    And do you run the race if the major sponsor is something you don't agree with.

    Cabalo got it right turning down North Face to sponsor the Copper Canyon. Running should remain free and clean as possible.

    I may never make it to Leadville or Western States. But I'll be happy to know I didn't increase my footprint getting there.

    Sorry if any of this copies other responses. I stopped reading them after the Joel situation.

    Run Free.

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  • First time commenter here. Can I make a constructive suggestion for your gear reviews? Make a special point to always mention where the manufacturers get their material for the product, what provisions they make to dispose of the product (if any), and what the reputation of the company as a whole is on the environment.

    The manufacturers rely on blogs like this to give honest appraisals of their gear for your readers and their consumers. Blogs can be a loud voice saying what is like and disliked about a product. If all their customers demand sustainable products I think more manufacturers will provide them. Additionally, as a consumer, when I buy I would like to support companies that manufacture as responsibly as possible and that additional info would be helpful to me.

    Thanks - love the blog.

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  • there are too many issues raised here to comment on all of them, but i think it's great that Dakota (or anyone) is raising these points. no matter what you think about these issues and how much you are willing change (if at all) to lessen your impact on the planet, i think it's valuable for these issues to be in our consciousness. i think we as humans are completely unaware of most of the stress that we put on the natural world around us. there are a few "hot topic" areas where most everyone knows about their impact (transportation, trash/recycling, type of light bulbs we use, etc), but these things are just scratching the surface when looking at human impact on the planet. this piece doesn't go a whole lot deeper than most of this, but it does go a little bit deeper and brings up some things which many of us have probably never considered.

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