US Trail Running Conference Webinar Leads the Way to Zero Carbon Races

May 4, 2023

Panelists present constructive approaches to reduce carbon footprint throughout the sport

Nailsworth, England/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Putting on Zero Carbon Races was the subject for the third webinar in an eight-webinar series produced by the US Trail Running Conference presented by Marathon Printing, and was live on Tuesday, April 25. The webinar series is free for all race directors and event organizers to access, and is held in partnership with the American Trail Running Association. This session was sponsored by Native, a carbon offset provider who works with organizations and companies to help them achieve their sustainability goals.

This webinar’s panelists featured three individuals who each have experience in this relatively new field to race organization. Claire Lafave is Client Strategy Manager with Native, a Public Benefit Corporation and a certified B Corporation. Aimee Kohler is an upcoming Race Director that has initiated The Running Kind, a consultancy to help Race Directors to move their events to zero carbon. Lastly, Porter Bratten is a seasoned Race Director with Evergreen Trail Runs, and Orca Running, and has been producing carbon neutral events since 2022.

Claire Lafave opened the session with information on selecting a carbon offset project and the importance of checking its integrity. “The market is definitely seeing increased scrutiny from the media and civil society…We encourage you to ask questions of a developer so that you can ascertain if a project has permanence and that the impact on emissions will continue.” She also highlighted the importance of checking the claims integrity for a project, “our recommendation for all project supporters is to be as accurate and transparent as possible when you’re communicating your climate actions.”

Lafave went on to explain the difference between project types, either removal or avoidance. “Removals projects are those that sequester carbon….while avoidance are projects that avoid emissions that would have otherwise occurred.” She then closed with sharing information on a case study that Native have been working on with a partner organization, Reverb. “They work with musicians and music venues to put on green concert events and engage fans on climate action.”

Aimee Kohler then shared the three key factors that have been indicated by her work with her own events, or working with race directors on a consultancy basis with her organization, The Running Kind. Kohler is unique in that she set out to make her events carbon neutral from the start. “One dollar from every registration is set aside purely to offset running travel to and from the races that I put on or partner with. This is consistently the largest chunk of emissions per event that I have had. My events so far have been fairly local…I now also make sure I include any travel that is involved with promoting the event before the event happens.” Kohler went on to include information on car pool systems that she admits that she has not completely dialed in as yet.

Then Kohler moved on to value alignment, so this is working with other organizations that are prioritizing climate action and climate justice. “There are a lot of shoe companies that have been making strides in this area. I partnered with On Running last year….it seems that every shoe company I have spoken with recently has at least one shoe that is made out of some recycled materials…This year I am partnering with Tarkine running, who are based in Australia. They make 100% sustainable running shoes and have just come out with their first trail shoe.”

The last area that Kohler covered was runner experience. As an example, she shared that “for 15 minutes before the race starts I have a discussion with the runners where I talk about how we are carbon neutral and what project we are investing in…then I like to purchase my offsets before race day, including an additional 1 Tonne to cover any day of race registrations. We also make sure to do sustainable swag, trying to reuse materials that would otherwise be thrown away.“

Porter Bratten, while also being a race director that has moved to carbon neutral races, came from a perspective of moving existing races to become carbon neutral. “Because we have 25 races, so a lot each year, we don’t have time to revisit between races. Let’s try this, introduce it into the cycle of operations, and once we have got that down, let’s move on to the next thing rather than try to do everything all at once. That can be overwhelming and distract from putting the races on. You want to be carbon neutral, however you also have to make sure your course is well marked, etc.”

When it came to funding carbon offsets, Bratten added a line item of $0.96 per runner at checkout on the RunSignup platform. “The more you can bring sustainability to the forefront of the mind for participants the better – there are multiple ways pre-race, day of, and post event where runners can be reminded about sustainability. I have only had one person complain out of many 1000s, so no big deal.”

“For most races, the overwhelming majority of the footprint is going to be the participant’s travel. When we did our own calculations, it was 92% for participant travel.” Bratten has developed a spreadsheet that he has made freely available for other race directors to use, so that they can enter various moveable factors, along with participant travel data, and generate an output. “The other thing that you can measure is your shipping – I use Cloverly, and I send them all of our shipping details on Stamps.com once a quarter. Then they send me a figure for the amount to offset. You can be very transparent about this figure and put it on your website….The more transparent and precise you can be with what you are measuring and how you are offsetting, the more people will trust that you are legitimate, and will then sign up for your race.”

Then Bratten moved onto cover offsetting vs reducing footprint. “Aimee mentioned car-pooling and I feel that this is the Holy Grail of the niche field of carbon neutral race directing because it is a sticky problem…with a tight knit community it’s easier to manage. It’s a much steeper hill to climb where you don’t have that, with people coming from many different locations. We have experimented with places where parking is limited. So when one person turns up in a car, they pay $5 to park – if you show up with two or more in a car, the parking is free. Experimentation is what we are all about, trying different things.”

Lastly, Bratten talked about where to purchase your carbon offsets. He recommended using Native, and also had some comments on the type of project that was worthwhile considering when making an offset purchase. “To provide a benefit to the local economy, wherever they are, they also reduce emissions, and they benefit the lives of the people in that community. As long as they are well vetted and have that transparency that has been mentioned.”

Active at Altitude, organizers of the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, reported more than 100 participants registered for the session, representing 28 states, as well as Canada, Austria, Bolivia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, North Macedonia, Russia and England. A recording of this webinar is available on the US Trail Running Conference YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/dla7N9FqSVM.

The next webinar is titled: Leveraging Technology – How using latest tech can help grow your race, and takes place on Thursday, May 25, 2023, from 10.00 am to 11.00 am MST. Panelists will be Arash Kia, ActiveTrack, Paul Kirsch and Tom Hooper, Sunapee Scramble.
Who is this for? Race directors and event organizers who are interested in taking actions to help grow their races and their brand using the latest technologies available in the sport. Registration is free – see https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/ for more details.

More info:

For details on the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, go to https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/

Contact Event Director, Terry Chiplin for further information, terry@ustrailrunningconference.com, or + 44 07474 648250

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