With the help of major sponsor Waste Management, Grandma’s Marathon is committed to hosting an eco-friendly marathon each year and green initiatives are an important part of the operational planning of race weekend.
A sustainable marathon creates partnerships with companies committed to environmental stability, and provides opportunities for participants and volunteers to practice sustainability.
“Considering our place on the north shore, we have to make a dedicated effort to be conscious of the impact on our community and the environment that occurs when over 50,000 runners and spectators travel to our region during race weekend,” said Shane Bauer, Grandma’s Marathon Executive Director.
Grandma’s Marathon continuously reviews current practices and implements new strategies in accordance with the latest technology and information. Current sustainability initiatives include simple practices like composting all food waste and organic materials, donating unused food to local food shelves, and recycling used sponges to be made into carpet-backing. Larger initiatives include transporting over 15,0000 runners to the starting lines via buses and trains.
A partnership was recently formed with Goodwill Industries to help reduce the environmental footprint while giving back to the community. It will include the retrieval of all apparel items that are discarded by runners along the race course, which will then be donated to Goodwill. Other sustainability partners include Clif Bar, Coca-Cola, Duluth Coffee Company, Duluth Transit Authority, Eco-Rotary Club, ProPrint, Super One Foods, Verso, and Voyageur Bus Company.
During the Essentia Health Fitness Expo, runners are encouraged to bring their old running shoes to be refurbished and then distributed to people in need around the globe. Last year, approximately 2,600 pairs of shoes were collected, and the amount of shoes that are donated has grown every year. This effort is executed in partnership with Toyota.
Grandma’s Marathon also provides race participants with virtual goody bags, minimizes packaging and recycles all packaging materials, and positions green team volunteers at the finish line to ensure all recyclable and compostable waste is sorted into correct bins to minimize overall waste. Marathon weekend events also utilize fire hydrants and water trucks to supply all racecourse water aid stations. Any bottled water that is distributed is Dasani water packaged in recyclable bottles made with up to 30% plant-based material in partnership with Coca-Cola.
Throughout the year, Grandma’s Marathon suggests that race participants can help with sustainability efforts through actions such as using a reusable bottle in training and at races, reducing carbon footprints by ridesharing with friends to race events, or volunteering with green teams.