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Posted: June 23, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this

Athletics: The San Francisco Marathon Leads In "Green" Initiatives

Environment is One of the Event's Top Priorities

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - (June 22, 2009) - The San Francisco Marathon(tm), scheduled for Sunday, July 26, 2009, has announced a number of leading edge "green" initiatives to minimize the impact of the event's 20,000 runners on the environment. In 2007, the event made a conscious effort at "going green," when most road races were still figuring out how to preserve precious natural resources.

Since then, The San Francisco Marathon (SFM) became one of the first races to appear on Runner's World magazine's list of environmentally friendly events. Last fall, an article in the New York Times ("Saving the Earth, One Road Race at a Time," 9/24/08) described how in 2008 SFM spent about $10,000 specifically on environmentally sound operations.

Road Race Management includes SFM as an environmentally responsible industry leader in its Guide to Greener Running Events. Running USA, a nationwide membership organization of road running events, noted in its Running USA Wire news blast how product marketers are tripping over each other to associate with pro-green organizations, and how SFM "lined up an impressive list of sponsors to help implement its green plan."

Last year, runners from all 50 states and 56 countries participated in the San Francisco event's signature marathon (26.2 miles), two half marathons, and 5K run/walk.

"In an eco-responsible state such as California, our event feels an obligation to implement ambitious and inventive earth-friendly policies as an important example and service to our participants," said Sophia Li, the San Francisco Marathon's Race Director. "Today, we've infinitely increased our quantities of recyclable and compostable tonnage while significantly decreasing the amount of waste a race can create. At the end of the day, our goal is to eliminate all unnecessary waste and preserve all ecological resources while providing a quality race for our runners."

The amount of garbage alone that a large road race can produce has been ignored for too long according to some environmentalists: thousands of pounds of discarded paper cups and bib numbers, water bottles, uneaten food, paper registration forms, entrant and results sheets, plastic goody and tote bags, and dumped runner's clothing. The CO2 emissions generated by thousands of runners traveling to a race, shuttle vans and other race vehicles, and power generators run by petroleum gas contribute to global warming.

But, the road running industry, with an estimated 8.9 million finishers annually (2009) in the U.S., is making a dedicated effort toward environmental responsibility, according to Keith Peters, the President of Eco-Logistics, a consulting firm that advises road races about greening their events, and the author of Guide to Greener Running Events.

"Although there's no real count of green races, per se, 67 percent of the races I've polled have changed their environmental outlook in the past 18 months," Peters said. "This change in outlook can be summed up in just a few words: Race directors are responding to market trends and media coverage to reduce their environmental footprints. Races are becoming more green because the information and resources are out there to help race directors produce greener events."

From collecting donations by race entrants that are directed at energy offsets to using alternative fuel options, the San Francisco Marathon is talking a lead role in this trend:

* SFM's stated environmental policy is: Try to do everything possible related to the environment and try to set an example by thinking of innovative ways to address environmental issues.

* At last year's event, SFM recycled and composted 20,000 pounds of race day garbage. SFM creates and implements recycling plans with all of its vendors.

* After the 2008 race, 10,000 pounds of leftover food, and more than 1,000 pairs of used running shoes, were donated to local charities such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Delancey Street.

* Compostable drinking cups only are distributed to runners on the race course, and before and after the race.

* Starting with this year's race, biodegradable goody bags that can be reused as runner drop/sweats bags will be distributed to all entrants. SFM creates reusable tote/equipment bags from old street banners. All paper entrant lists, on-site results printouts, heatsheets and runner D-tags (timing chips) will be recycled.

* SFM's entry fees are lower for runners who enter online versus paper registration, providing an additional incentive to reduce waste. Approximately 99 percent of SFM's participants register electronically. All finishers receive an online electronic finisher's certificate rather than a paper certificate.

* Newsletters and other informational updates are distributed to entrants via e-mail and the race web site -- another tree-saving measure. The web site includes a "How Green are You" section that offers race-day conservation tips such as: Reuse your cup at each aid station rather than using and discarding multiple cups.

* All unused products from the race are donated to local shelters.

* SFM encourages all race registrants to donate an additional amount ($5.00 this year) beyond basic registration fees towards its Going Green Initiative. In 2008, the race donated over $5,000 from this initiative to Native Energy for its pioneering projects to reduce carbon emissions. In 2007, $2,600 was donated to Native Energy.

* Biodiesel fuel blends are used for the event's power generators on race day. SFM is investigating natural gas options for its spectator and participant buses to cut emissions.

* The race provides preferred parking for participants who carpool and bicycle to the race and pre-race San Francisco Marathon Expo (Friday-Saturday, July 24-25 at the San Francisco Design Center). Race entrants and volunteers are encouraged to conveniently sign up online for a carpool through PickupPal. Valet bicycle parking is offered through the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

* SFM provides detailed public transit information for race day and the Expo on its web site.

* Instead of lead/pace vehicles, SFM uses lead/pace bicyclists.

* SFM has created a 5-year plan for continuing its environmental efforts. It includes eco-strategies such as partnering with a non-profit environmental organization via the event's Cause to Run fundraising program. When the partnership is established, race entrants can raise money for the partner organization and receive tips and advice regarding environmentally sound practices.

For more about The San Francisco Marathon's resource conservation efforts and policies, please visit the event's web site at

The 2009 San Francisco Marathon, on Sunday, July 26, starts and finishes on the Embarcadero at Mission Street, near Justin Herman Plaza and the Ferry Building. The official starting time is 5:30 a.m. Top runners are expected to reach the finish line at Embarcadero and Folsom at approximately 7:50 a.m.

REGISTRATION DETAILS and more information about The San Francisco Marathon(tm), and all of the marathon's events, are available online at

About The San Francisco Marathon(tm)
The San Francisco Marathon enjoys success as the premier summertime marathon in the U.S. San Francisco's blend of natural beauty, big city charm, and perfect mid-summer running temperatures, make marathon running in San Francisco a truly magical experience. Race events include a full marathon, two half marathons (choose a half), 5K, and Progressive Marathon. The event's unique Cause to Run program has raised over $10 million for local non-profit organizations since 2003. The San Francisco Marathon's Youth Run4Fun running program allows San Francisco's underprivileged youth, ages 7 to 17, to train for, and participate in, the marathon's events without cost.

The 2009 San Francisco Marathon is sponsored by CytoSport, Gu Energy Gel, and Organs 'R' Us. Our partners include Committed 2 Community, The San Francisco Marathon Training Program, Youth Run4Fun, The Big Rumble, and the San Francisco Amateur Radio Club.

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