Sustainability at Go Heritage Runs

Go Heritage Runs are held at scenic heritage sites of cultural and natural significance and so we ensure all our events are conducted in a sustainable manner. We do this in many ways – limiting participation, reducing waste generated, reusing materials extensively, and where feasible, sourcing locally.  Many of these sustainability initiatives are cost-effective too! We are documenting our processes here for the benefit of other small and medium-scale event organizers to explore and adopt.

ATTENDANCE: We limit participation at Go Heritage Runs to 1500 runners for a few reasons – our run destinations are often in small towns that may not have the capacity to deal with a large influx of visitors along with their families over a single weekend. Similarly, when our runs start and finish at a particular heritage site, parking and other facilities at the venue may not be sufficient for a larger contingent of participants. More importantly, we’d like to limit the pressure on the heritage site area. Limiting attendance ensures that the volume of waste generated at the event is controlled and can be managed and disposed appropriately.

T-SHIRT PACKAGING: If you opt to buy one of our souvenir run t-shirts when you register, you will notice our volunteers pick one of your size out of a stack, fold it, and hand it over to you at the bib distribution desks. This is because we have our vendor ship t-shirts in “ten-packs” rather than in individual packaging. This has reduced plastic packaging consumed by a factor of 10. 

SIGNAGE: Any running event requires signage to direct and inform runners – along the run route, at the start point and at the finish line. One of the more obvious ways to do this is to print out large volumes of single-use flex on metal frames which is then discarded post-run. We’ve approached this differently – we currently use reusable corrugated plastic signage. These are 4ft x 3 ft in size – big enough to be visible along the run route, while also small enough to be transported to run destinations. Our reusable signage lasts us over 8 months – and so, like our Hall of Fame runners, have been to 4 or more heritage destinations across the country! This has also replaced the need to print over 6000 sq ft of single-use flex annually.

Reusable signage

START ARCH: Quite early on, we observed that fabricating a Start/Finish arch at the event venue, apart from being flex-intensive, was a time-consuming process. Working with local vendors involved lengthy discussions around sizing and installation and the quality of the final product varied widely depending on the skills and resources at their disposal. Enter the inflatable arch. We sourced this from China, made as per our size, color and design needs and immediately eliminated another point of single-use flex consumption. The inflatable arch paid for itself within three runs and has been in use across about 15 run destinations since 2017. We will be replacing it shortly so you can look forward to see a new and improved arch towards the end of 2018.

Inflatable arch

REUSABLE TUMBLERS: We reduced waste volume generated at aid stations by a factor of 20 by switching away from single-use paper cups at aid stations.  Apart from being difficult to recycle, since they have a plastic lining, these were responsible for a significant volume of waste generated at Go Heritage Run aid stations. And so we replaced them with reusable plastic tumblers. Aid station volunteers instruct runners to sip a drink of water or electrolyte without making contact with the tumblers and then refill them as required. Logistically, it is also easier to transport about 30 reusable tumblers to each aid station – rather than a variable number of single-use paper cups typically 500-600 per aid station.

reusable cups at aid stations

BREAKFAST: Food is served hot and on-site so there is no need for single-use packaging at the venue. We instruct our caterers to use steel plates, cups and cutlery – or at the very least utensils of the biodegradable variety. This has not yet been possible at all run destinations but is an area we are working on improving. All food waste generated is collected by the caterers and disposed appropriately off-site or handed over to the waste collection authorities on-site.

What happens to the waste that is generated?  Waste generated at our aid stations during our runs includes Banana peels, Enerzal jars and Used biscuit packet wrappers. Waste generated at the start/finish point includes uncollected runner kits and finisher certificates.  Even at our hugely popular runs at Ooty, Hyderabad and Hampi waste generated adds up to no more than 15 kgs. We ensure this is disposed off appropriately post-run – including sending them to waste segregation facilities if these exist at the run destination. Uncollected runner kits often include run passports and paper bags – which we reuse at subsequent runs.

A common observable thread is that our processes have now converged towards being sustainable, cost-effective and also operationally feasible. However, we’re always open to learning how we can improve further.

Reach out to us at [email protected] if you have suggestions or if you’d like advice on how to make your runs sustainable and cost-effective too.

For reference, here is a list of our vendors:

T-shirts: Wiwbee
Reusable Tumblers: Mahendra Enterprises, Bangalore. Ph: + 91-8041249640
Inflatable Arch: Ace Air Art (China-based)
Corrugated Plastic Signage: Chickpet, Bangalore.
Eco-friendly Cloth Bags: Sri Vigneshwara Textiles, Erode. Ph: + 91-8807889900
Paper Bags: Aar Cee Print Process

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