Large marathons say they are recycling what runners dump and continue the offering of pointless sponsored paper flyers (most people dump these) + give out useless samples.
2018: I had asked the event organiser to go cupless. They told me give them 3 years (2018-2020). Additionally when I had arrived in Nice, the organisers presented a sustainability statement and gave me the additional challenge to get the banner fully signed so they could move forward to take the next step towards a cupless event.
Runners and their children signed the pledge and continued to sign and over signed. Of course there were a couple of runners who said it would impede their running time but if everyone was made to go cupless and were at the same level, then they would BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable) cup / bottle / hydration bag.
In 2018 the run route had been littered with cups and sponges with participants having to slow right down to gingerly make their way through the litter. I saw one runner trip over a sponge. Some water stations were right next to the beach and sea. The winds were strong and the cups blew everywhere including onto the beach and into the sea. It was impossible for the volunteers to control the litter. Road events need to change as the litter is a common scene that is dangerous to other runners and escapes into the environment with runners tossing their litter anywhere along the roads, bushes, drains, and water ways. Left outside of the bins, the cups simply blew away!
2019: Having cycled to the Geneva Marathon and talked about taking bigger bolder actions, the Nice marathon organisation contacted me to share with me they would have 7 out of 15 water stations cupless and each participant would be provided with a single personal sponge.
It was a pleasant surprise as I partly did not believe they would go through with heading towards a cupless event. This is a bigger bolder action that would have a meaningful impact for 20 thousand runners and our environment. This would reduce the cups used on the course by 100,000 and the number of sponges used by 20,000. Less pointless manufacturing would also mean less carbon emissions from manufacturing, transportation, and waste management handling. Would I help them?
Of course. To fit in, I was again given the title “Sustainability Ambassador” or “Durable Development Officer” and I would take a train adventure to the event…. a 14 hour train journey from the UK to the South of France on 5 different trains!
It was important to join the dots and help drive the awareness amongst participants to understand about “Zero Dechet” or “Zero Waste” for waste and litter generation. AND also find out how many participants knew about the event having 7 out 15 water stations without cups. It seems that mainly the French speakers / readers knew this fact. All others did not actually know that this would be happening this year despite there being emails, press releases and on the web site…..though hidden in the sustainability section.
Additionally the organisation gave me double the screen size of the last pledge banner. They didn’t need to tell me what to do.
“Est que vous signez le ligne verte? Pour Zero Dechet, pour tous les monde portez votre goblet, pour tous les monde jetez les dechet dans le poubelle!”
By 4pm on Saturday, we had 2 fully signed banners and still more wanted to sign the banner….perhaps because it looked like graffiti and invited more to make their mark. But I needed to go home and rest as a throbbing headache was stinging in the background of my head from 3 days talking to people non-stop about the event being cupless and to make sure they put their waste in the bins provided. There was a lot of support for the event taking the initiatives to go towards zero waste and a number of participants asked why the event just did go fully cupless this year. “L’année prochaine” I proclaimed.
I am very grateful for the help from Rey Smart, a participant I met last year who has given me tips on how to promote the cause to the everyday person; Jean Jacques my crazy friend who made me come here who is suffering tinnitus but still helped out for some hours in the noisy crowd every day; Ange (JJ’s friend who came for a couple of hours to cover whilst I went to a press conference) and TAF (The Animal Fund) volunteers who collaborated with me.
TAF was sited next to me to raise awareness of plastic pollution and animal welfare and we collaborated together to help each other.
Additionally had support from the mayor (Christian Estrosi) and his wife, Philippe Manassero – the president of the Olympic Committee in the Cotes D’Azure area, and Richard Papzian who is an executive of the Sports Council of Nice.
Other sustainability actions the event took was to:
- Provide train and bus alternatives to driving as well as an app to car pool. Trams were free for anyone with a bib number.
- Provide e-vouchers to download in lieu of paper rubbish and samples that are normally in the bag. Some vouchers could be found in emails + details of a 5K breakfast run around Nice + breakfast.
- An e-goody bag was sent via email the week before the event. I was glad to no longer see the leaflets in the bag that would normally be binned. This is a good saving on paper waste that would have been dumped by most people (23 thousand participated)
- The various vendors at the expo had samples / goodies you could pick up directly from them so you could skip stuff you didn’t want.
- Finally at registration a drop bag was provided with your bib number and a small booklet with the programme. You could pick up a t-shirt and sponge at the end after going through the expo and seeing me, of course I was encouraging participants to go zero waste and for marathon junkies to forego the t-shirt and sponge. Yes I did not pick up my t-shirt and sponge and hope it finds a good home.
Environmental Sustainability is must, not an option! Now d’ya think the vendors can use QR codes instead of giving out thousands of flyers that people put in the bin?
Plane vs Train
When Fabien (technical director for the event) contacted me and asked me to be the “Sustainability Ambassador”. I thought “Yeah! I’ll go by train, as don’t have the time to cycle”. By plane the journey would be about 3 hours in total (one hour before the flight, 2 hours in the air) and cheaper at 65 GBP. By train it was just over 200 GBP for the return journey. I considered plane as had heard that the airlines such as Air France and KLM have been making strides to reduce the carbon emissions of flying by:
- Reducing the weight of the cargo nets with a lighter material. Lighter weight means less fuel is used.
- Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuels. These are fuels that have been blended to the normal fuel and are produced from non-fossil fuel sources, that is from renewable feedstock such as:
- Municipal solid waste
- Used Cooking Oil
- Cellulosic Waste
- Plants that do not infringe on food security such as Camelina (a fast growing crop that could be grown on fallow land) or Jatropha – a plant that can grow on difficult soil
- Perhaps a plastic to fuel plant can be also incorporated.
For more information you can read a beginner’s guide to SAJF
- And here is a video by Air France/Lab Line to help you understand it…. though numbers always need to be checked such as the claim that 80% less carbon emissions will be emitted:
Upon investigation there are no SAJF plants in the UK and only one in Caen, France so the planes would be fueled by normal fossil fuels at both ends. The plane is still out of the question for the moment.
Currently the trains in the EU are mostly electric, and that electricity is generated from both fossil fuels and alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear. So allons-y by train.
On the journey out, I found sitting on my butt for a long period of time was a struggle and my poor head hurt by the time I got to Nice. Had to use the underground in Paris to cross from my one station to another, but the ticket would not be accepted by the barriers. Unable to find an underground personnel to help me, I passed through with others as time was very short between the train arriving in Paris and the train leaving to Nice. I made the Gare De Lyon with 10 minutes to spare.
5th Nov: Took a train journey back on the second day after the marathon. This seemed to be much better. Perhaps it was having 2 full days of activity. Marathon day and on the Monday running around Nice and Monaco. Got to try out the Live features in Instagram and Facebook and completed a 5km walk across Paris from Gare De Lyon to Gare du Nord.
In the meantime in the search for clean energy am waiting for diamond nuclear batteries…..that is converting nuclear waste into a diamond battery: https://southwestnuclearhub.ac.uk/research/case-studies/diamond-battery/
Next post will be about the Nice-Cannes Marathon Day.