Saving the Earth, Running, & One-Use Plastics

Rate this Article:
Saving the Earth, Running, & One-Use Plastics Saving the Earth, Running, & One-Use Plastics

Trying to save the planet might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of runners. But sports are a wonderful tool to inspire us all for positive change. It’s a great way to bring people together, and a fun way to spread awareness of an issue or cause! Read on to see how you can help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world as a runner and in your everyday life.

You can support a sportswear company with sustainability goals.

Many sportswear or active lifestyle companies are making admirable efforts to be a part of the solution to our world’s waste problem. Buy gear that’s environmentally conscious, and make a difference!

  • Adidas & Parley Run for the Oceans (an organization that fights to protect marine life and ecosystems) partnered together in 2015 to start a movement to fight plastic pollution in our oceans. The sportswear company now takes plastic waste that was polluting our oceans and converts it into quality sports gear like running shoes, athletic shorts, and sports jerseys. Together, they have re-purposed millions of pounds of plastic waste to date. Not only are they recycling the plastic waste, they’re removing the pollution from our oceans  – and guess what? The reviews for their running shoes (called the “Ultraboost Parley” shoe) seem to show a trifecta of success: one reviewer called them “the most comfortable running shoes ever”. Eric Liedtke, an executive of A.D.I.D.A.S is quoted as saying, “…Our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”
  • The athletic brand Patagonia make a great effort to create fair trade, organic and eco-friendly sportswear.
  • New Balance, known best for running shoes, are striving for zero waste while making an effort to source environmentally sustainable resources.
  • Another popular active brand, Puma has taken the initiative to measure their own environmental impact, and have set sustainability targets to reduce their impact on the environment.

You can be a part of a run or marathon raising funds for eco-awareness.

There are many runs and marathons for good causes – check the current events in your area. For example, there are often runs and marathons to raise awareness that you can join on Earth Day (next one is April 22, 2019) and Ocean Day (next one is June 8, 2019), or websites that keep track of eco sports events in your area (like for Southern California).

You can also start your own fundraising run or marathon, get your friends and family involved, and donate the funds to a local charity or towards a cause you support!

You can read more about the Sustainability & Plastic Pollution movement online.

Education is the most important part of every good cause. Even if you didn’t make any changes in your personal life except to simply tell others about the issue with one-use plastics – guess what? That in itself makes a huge difference. You can read more about the movement on the following websites dedicated to the cause:

You can buy reusable containers and purchase your food in bulk.

This is probably the most common, and easiest change to make in your everyday life – buying reusable containers instead of disposable ones. You can buy a reusable drink bottle for water, a reusable mug for your takeaway coffee, a glass or metal container for takeaway food from restaurants. Also an easy change: buy items in bulk at the grocery store. It makes more sense anyway and is usually more affordable to buy 10 pounds of oatmeal in a single container rather than 100 single use packets of oatmeal, for example.

You can pick up trash when you go on long distance or trail runs.

Because trail runners often run large distances over isolated terrain, they are in a perfect position to pick up trash in nature that might otherwise not be noticed!

Plastic Waste Snapshot

  • A plastic shopping bag in the ocean will take 20 years to break down
  • A plastic drink bottle thrown away will take an incredible 450 years to break down
  • Approximately 9 billion tons of plastic waste has been created on Earth to date
  • Just 20% of this plastic waste has been processed for recycling or burned
  • That still leaves 7 billion tons of plastic waste in our landfills and polluting our environment
  • 1 million water bottles are bought every single minute: that’s about 20,000 water bottles per second
  • 8 to 10 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into our oceans, lakes, and rivers
  • Plastic microbeads (that stuff in your facewash and many other products) contain chemicals that have been found to alter the hormones of fish
  • Some additives in common plastics have been found to alter the endocrine system, have carcinogenic properties, impair neurological functions, and even cause genetic damage

Now, it would be crazy to say that all plastic is evil. It’s a truly wonderful creation that when used correctly has a million useful purposes, with many yet to be invented: plastic car parts have reduced the weight of cars and therefore their carbon emissions; plastic insulation used in homes can make them more energy efficient; and perhaps most importantly, plastics have revolutionized the medical field and it’s safe to say, saved millions of lives.

The real common enemy here is disposable plastic, or one-time-use plastics, like plastic straws, plastic shopping bags, plastic water bottles, plastic takeout containers, etc. This issue is sometimes referred to as the demand for “virgin plastic”.  When you think about the fact that there are up to 10 million TONS of plastic waste in the ocean not being recycled, yet millions of ‘virgin plastic’ products are being manufactured every single minute… it’s easy to see that this problem is not going anywhere, and we are only contributing to an already horrific mess.

As John Warner, a chemist and one of the founders of Green Chemistry (a field of chemistry and chemical engineering focusing on the sustainable design of products) summed it up: “It took centuries to create the mess. No magic bullet will solve it overnight. It will take time, creativity, and hard work.” 

But it’s not impossible if we all work together, and there are little changes we can make every day that will add up to a big positive change in our environment!


  1. Alicia Wood, Why Is Plastic A Problem?, Statistics