Sustainability is a Marathon, Greening Running’s Most Historic Race

Today’s 120th Boston Marathon is the culmination of months, and in some cases, years of dedication to training and a commitment by thousands of athletes to complete what is arguably the ultimate goal in the running world. After establishing the Center for Sustainable Energy’s (CSE) Boston office in late 2015, just a short jogging distance from the famous Boylston Street finish line, we learned history and tradition are not hindering race organizers from implementing sustainable practices.

With more than 10,000 volunteers and hundreds of thousands of international participants and spectators, the marathon, like many large sporting events, can pose a significant environmental impact when considering vehicle miles traveled and the potential for producing waste.

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) is Keeping the Boston Marathon an Eco-Friendly Event. Through their planning efforts, organizers work with event sponsors and the cities and towns along the 26.2-mile course to reduce, reuse and recycle, while encouraging public transportation and the use of clean vehicles.

Initiatives include reducing paper use through electronic communication and having numerous opportunities for participants to sort, recycle and compost their waste. By simply replacing a 32-page booklet with a two-page printout for its volunteers, organizers saved over 30,000 sheets of paper. The marathon’s official airline also allows runners to purchase carbon offsets, which support emission-reducing projects.

Before and during the race, participants, volunteers, sponsors and officials commute and move around the course using buses, and electric or alternative fuel vehicles to reduce noise and emissions – an effort of special importance to CSE through our work with the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) Program.

Sustainability by nature is a marathon, not a sprint. By actively working to decrease the Boston Marathon’s carbon footprint, the B.A.A. is helping ensure the storied race welcomes runners for another 120 years. 

Congratulations to all the finishers of this year’s Boston Marathon!