The Next Wave Of Green: Athletes For A Fit Planet

Compostable cups can reduce a race's carbon footprint.

Company connects athletes and events with eco-friendly goals.

For Bruce Rayner, 54, the founder and chief clean officer of Athletes For a Fit Planet, becoming a spokesperson, resource and strategist for environmentally supportive athletic events and companies was a second career that married his passion for completing and improving endurance events.

“I was at a half-Ironman in 2007 and I had my disposable plastic bottle after the race and was looking for a recycling bin and there was nothing—just trash piled high in a bin,” recalls Rayner. “It was then that I realized there was an opportunity there.”

Rayner, who worked as an editor and manager of magazines and newspapers for 20 years, had launched a website in the early 2000s about greening electronics, and applied the knowledge he’d learned from that endeavor to launching Athletes for a Fit Planet, or FitPlanet, in 2008. Rayner suggests envisioning a Venn diagram when explaining the mission of FitPlanet: The three overlapping circles connect athletes, events and companies with environment-preserving intentions.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about the [race] participants,” says Rayner. “It’s about providing athletes opportunities to participate in environmentally responsible events.”

On afitplanet.com, athletes can find such events, learn about topics such as carbon footprint impact, discover companies who produce green products, and take the EcoPledge, which participants sign to show they’re serious about embracing green practices. The list of pledges currently totals almost 5,000 individuals, and Rayner communicates with these athletes via an e-newsletter that informs participants of new developments, cool green products and, of course, events that support the cause. Events can also promise to go green—FitPlanet’s pledge of sustainability ($100 cost) gives events access to 30 environmentally friendly criteria that they can work toward, as well as access to a green businesses page and a web-based how-to-green guide. “This is the first step toward certification to the Council for Responsible Sport standard,” says Rayner. “We look at this as a continued improvement process—maybe year one, the event will introduce recycling, and in year two, introduce composting.”

The Council for Responsible Sport (CRS) established the sports industry standard for event green certification, and provides resources and educational information that encourages people to adopt eco-friendly habits.

Rayner and his small global team of sustainability consultants can be hired by events to help orchestrate the CRS certification process; to date, they’ve assisted acclaimed races such as the Beach to Beacon 10K, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, as well as triathlons, golf tournaments and the Special Olympics. In 2008, Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) deputy director Angela Huff met Rayner at the Road Runners Club of America convention and the two started brainstorming ways to green the famous Washington D.C. event.

“[Rayner] helped us tremendously during the first certification process in 2009,” recalls Huff. “We did conference calls and worked intensely with the vendors and partners and got them on board. We came up with a program and, with Bruce’s expertise, we put it in the right direction.”

Huff reveals that Rayner worked with her to ensure that the race followed CRS’ certification process worksheet; MCM achieved CRS silver certification in 2009, and applied for certification renewal—a requirement every two years—in October 2011 on her own.

“With some races, we work with them for a year and then they’re off on their own, and that’s great because they’ve internalized it and have taken ownership,” says Rayner.

It’s exactly what Huff and her MCM colleagues did, and, although CRS recently altered their certification requirements, Huff would like to strive for gold certification in the future. “I have to be honest, it’s not cheap—sometimes we have to pay a little extra to get it done, but it’s worth it,” Huff notes. “When we started this process, we sent out a survey to our runners to ensure we were on the right track, and they were ecstatic to hear we wanted to be a green event; they were very supportive.”

Remaining vocal about their green initiatives and asking for support from vendors, sponsors and the local community helps the MCM cause tremendously. Communicating openly about the green mission has resulted in support such as in-kind cash donations, compostable cups from sports drink sponsor Gatorade, electric cars for race week operations from Nissan, and recycling programs developed with help from Arlington and Rosslyn counties.

“I tell people not to give up,” says Huff. “It’s a challenging thing to do. Educating your vendors, sponsors and runners is a key thing to do. Try to get everyone on board.”

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