Trail Running is Paving the Way for Green Running!


At the US Trail Running Conference in San Luis Obispo, California this last week the RaceJoy team got to connect with race directors and vendors in the trail running industry.


We get a lot of great ideas for RaceJoy from this group and definitely see a growing trend towards trail running as runners seek more ways to experience nature and new running experiences.

Bishop Peak Trail in San Luis Obispo, California

With a focus on preserving the nature that is the foundation of trail running, race organizers are committed to reducing trash and minimizing environmental impacts. We also see road race events adopting many of these running green initiatives. Event series like Vacation Races and Ragnar are breaking new ground in discovering ways to be more environmentally friendly. Organizations like the Council for Responsible Sport provide guidance and best practice for race organizers. Salem Stanley with Vacation Races suggests races prioritize their approach in this order:

  1. Reduce: Look at ways in which to reduce the impact to environment like asking vendors not to include packaging or to minimize packaging with items like finisher medals.
  2. Reuse: Look for ways to reuse items such as tin or flex cups versus paper cups.
  3. Recycle: This should be the last resort.

We heard many creative ways in which events are minimizing the impact to the environment from discounts to participants for carpooling to having sponsors or runners buy carbon offsets for the events. Here are some of the innovative ways that were discussed at the conference and others way that we see organizers are focused on delivering minimal impact events:

Paper free.

This seems to be the first area races look at reducing the event’s impact to the environment. One easy way towards this is to have online only registration and events use kiosks or mobile apps for those that register on race day. Many events have transitioned to either no race bags or to more of a virtual event bag like what Virtual Event Bags or Eventbaxx has to offer with online Goody Bags where vendors can promote discounts and giveaways.

Cup free options.

This is a significant focus for trail races and there are many vendors now offering compact reusable cups/flasks that the runner carries and then is refilled. Check out these reusable cup vendors:

Vacation Races takes this a step further and also likes to reuse tin cups as these can be reused thousands of times.



Quickly becoming a standard for race events are ways in which to recycle trash accumulated at events. The main recycling vendor recommended at the conference was Teracycle. A new trend is for races to use clearly labeled sorting of trash with clear stream containers like these shown below:


The challenge with recycling bins is the definition changes for each category based on geographic location and it is confusing for runners. Vacation Races suggests having a trained volunteer be stationed at each recycle station to help make sure trash gets sorted correctly. Ragnar suggests taping typical items for each category to the outside of the trash bins. Otherwise, races will have people rake through the recycling to ensure things are sorted correctly. But using clear bags, volunteers and helping to define the categories will help events to be more efficient and bypass the need to sort through the trash.

Composting toilets.

One of the most creative environmentally focused options available is composting toilets. This is especially helpful for ultra distances and trail running events where portable toilets aren’t a feasible option. The feedback is runners are loving these new portable toilet options! These portable toilets make use of saw dust versus chemicals to decompose the waste and use a tent like structure.

Collecting, transporting, processing waste are factors that need to be considered and laws vary with each state and city. Hats off to organizations like Vacation Races that are paving the way through the cumbersome red tape to help facilitate changes in this area.

Offering “The Best Poop You’ll Ever Take”

Reduce or Eliminate Generators.

A new way to have power for timers and other race operations is using portable solar panels such as those offered by Goal Zero.


Mobile Tracking.

Of course, we wouldn’t miss our chance to point out that RaceJoy is an environmentally friendly way to provide runners with continual progress updates without adding equipment on the course or disrupting the trail. Also, there is no need to purchase additional tracking devices and races can reuse the device runners are already carrying: their phone.


This industry is trail blazing change for the running industry and its dedication to providing a pure running experience is truly impressive.

Race organizers wanting to create more environmentally responsible events should check out the Council for Responsible Sport. The key advice provided at the conference is for races to focus on one thing to change and then continually make incremental changes.

Runners wanting to get more connected with trail running should check out the American Trail Running Association.


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