Going Greener

What Great Run are doing and how you can play a huge part

Embedding greener initiatives into the DNA of any business should be a core objective, and here at The Great Run Company we are no different. That’s why we place the matter of sustainability at our heart and will continue to strive for greener, more environmentally friendly options, solutions, ideas and practices. 

We want our commitment to sustainability to be clear, not only to our staff, but also to our stakeholders, partners, crew, charities and volunteers…. And of course, our participants. 

A great deal of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that we maximise the positive impacts of mass participation events, while leaving the lightest footprint. We want to ensure our events are great for people AND the planet. 

So here are a number of great improvements and enhancements we have made to continue to lessen that footprint. 

It starts at the core 

Not only do we have an established ‘green team’ within the business, but every member of staff also receives carbon literacy training. In addition, we work with external sustainability consultants to ensure we tackle challenges, gain a better understanding of sustainability in the running industry, and ensure we can help steer and lead the way in industry-wide initiatives. 

Cleaner power 

Running events often use diesel-driven generators to support the infrastructure during event day, so we’re making big changes! We’re making a conscious effort to reduce our use of diesel generators and are delighted to be replacing many of them with our battery powered generators instead, helping to reduce our overall carbon emissions. 

Finisher bags 

We’re really excited to be introducing our first ever ‘no finisher bags’ option at this year’s AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run, and also at the Arla Great North Swim. All the goodies will still be available to participants, just not contained in any plastic bags. 

For our other events where finisher bags are provided, we’ve had an upgrade! Our finisher bags will now be made from a sustainable low-cost, non-woven material, which is made from polypropylene, is non-toxic, and is 100% reusable and recyclable.  

Wear those 100% recycled medals with pride 

By way of a change to our medals this year, these will be made from 95% recycled zinc with the ribbons all made from recycled Pet (non-virgin plastic).  

Space blankets 

In our bid to reduce plastic waste on event day, and after careful consideration, we will no longer add space blankets into any finishers’ packs at our events, with the exception of the Great North Run, where they will only be made available in the case of bad weather. 

Bamboo isn’t just for pandas 

All presentation trophies at this year’s events (from our youngest champs in the children’s events, right up to the half marathons) will be made from bamboo. Bamboo is highly renewable and is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet– reaching up to 1 metre of growth per day!   

Jog On 

Our favourite shoe recycling drop-off points will be back bigger and better this year at all events. The Jog On shoe drop has had a re-brand and will be located next to the information point on the Saturday and Sunday of each event. Over 400 pairs of shoes were collected and saved from landfill in 2023 – so let’s make 2024 even bigger!  

Who’s Albert? 

Sustainability practices come in many formats, and FilmNova – the TV production arm of The Great Run Company, has been working with Albert since 2018 and became part of their Affiliates Scheme in 2023. Albert supports the film and TV industry to reduce environmental impacts of production and to create content that supports a vision for a sustainable future. FilmNova use Albert’s Carbon Calculator and Carbon Action Plan for BBC Sport, BBC Red Button and Channel 4 productions, helping us to recognise our impact and actively take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. 

In 2023, FilmNova supported the prevention of 88 tCO2e from being emitted via verified carbon avoidance projects. Wow! 

T-shirt opt outs = planting trees 

In 2023, 11,980 participants chose to opt out of receiving a t-shirt, which resulted in an 8% reduction in the number of t-shirts being printed from 2022. By making this choice, our participants have directly helped to contribute to the National Trust Woodland Appeal, which aims to plant 20 million trees by 2030. 

Rehoming your clothes 

If you’ve ever experienced the start line of a running event, you may have seen piles of discarded clothing as people get ready to start their journey… Well, this year we have teamed up with some of our fantastic charities to ensure that every start line has a clothing collection team in place to gather any leftover items, redistribute them to their charity outlets, and sell on for another day. 

Drink, drain, aim…. 

We are pleased to welcome back Aqua Pura as the Official Hydration Partner of the AJ Bell Great Run Series again this year. Together we are committed to our DRINK, DRAIN, AIM initiative. We ask runners to DRINK, and then DRAIN their left-over water (this helps the bottles to be recycled), before AIMing at one of the designated on-course collection bins to ensure the empty bottles can be recycled more easily. In 2024 we have increased the number of on-course collection points to allow us to keep the roads clearer, enhancing the runner experience and allowing us to collect more bottles for recycling. 

Aqua Pura bottles are 100% recycled and recyclable, with an integrated flip cap so let’s DRINK, DRAIN and AIM them on their way to a new use after each race! 

Nissan – leading the way 

We’re delighted to be working with Nissan, our Official Automotive Partner, to use their 100% electric vehicle range for all of our lead cars at our events. Look out for them as they lead our runners around the routes. 

Transforming plastic bottles into clothing 

Did you know that our Official Merchandise Partner, Scimitar, create their Great Run range of clothing out of plastic bottles? Take a look at the range here>   

Ways you can help to leave a lighter footprint:

DRINK, DRAIN, AIM – this is the most effective thing you can do to ensure we can manage plastic waste at events. Once you’ve had what you need it’s really important to drain any leftover water before you drop the bottle into the new, easy-to-spot, “bottle target drops”. It requires extra energy to squeeze out leftover liquid during the recycling process and makes the waste heavier to transport.

  1. Think about your hydration in the days and hours before you run, think about how much water you take on when training and arrive at the start line hydrated.
  2. Consider using a running belt, hydration vest, or carry a reusable running water bottle with you along the way to remove the need to use plastic water bottles.
  3. Use public transport to travel to the start lines, or where using cars consider car-sharing to reduce your impact.
  4. Dispose of waste responsibly on-site, or at home.
  5. Consider the quality of clothing you might leave at the start line to ensure the charities can help to give it a new lease of life.

To view our full 2023 Environmental Report, please click here > 

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