Sustainable Triathlon

imageKelly Dunleavy wrote an article on about the environmental impact of triathlon. Many of us think that we’re green just because we ride bikes, but that is far from true. Kelly’s insight into  the reality of the state of sport is a little troubling. I know that 5430 sports has put on a couple of events which were advertised as being carbon neutral. I haven’t been to one, and I’m going to take their word for it that they were in fact able to achieve their goal. The other 2500 races in the US alone, however, are probably not even close. Just think of the ITU races where they require water stations to pass out fresh bottled water to the elite athletes in order to ensure no banned substances are given to the athletes. That’s pretty far from carbon neutral.

I don’t want to repeat what Kelly wrote so elegantly about, so please take a look at her article.

If that doesn’t convince you to read it, she also quotes both me and Chris Lieto.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. I liked the article, but I think it was a little misleading in implying that it’s not so easy to be green. From an economic standpoint, from a work standpoint, from a moral standpoint, it really is easier these days to be green than not. You have to be lazy *and* ignorant to waste as much as is currently wasted. Ninety-five percent of the progress toward sustainability is just sound economics, more than anything else.

    Why use conventional cars, hybrid or no? An EV costs pennies on the dollar to fuel, and even a cheap NEV will easily cover the distances and speeds necessary as a course car in a triathlon, with far fewer maintenance and fueling costs.

    Why tow along a generator or “offset” power needs by paying some solar company? Solar power is *free* and, with cheap panels and a single boat battery, could easily drive a course clock for years on a single (relatively tiny) investment, even here in the dreary Northwest ( It sure as hell costs less over 5 years than any gas generator.

    Why have wrappers at all? Triathletes are (supposedly) obsessed with health. Organic growers are hard-pressed to find a venue for their goods outside of farmers’ markets. Bring the two together. Why not stock the finish area with fresh, unpackaged, organic fruits, veggies, and grains, with a compost bin in back for the waste? Hell, the vendors could even supply bins of bulk course food for consumption on the bike. The only stipulation would be that athletes must bring reusable containers to get any of the organic, wrapper-free equivalents of Gu or Power Bars prior to the race.

    Why litter the course with cups? Events could easily hand out biodegradable cups and, if they miss a few during course cleanup, no harm done. They’re half the price of party cups and, as an added bonus, they can also be thrown in the compost bin in the finish area. Any athletes caught littering on the course should be summarily disqualified. As a Seattlite, I’ve always found this a matter of ethics and respect. I’ve *never* littered during a race, and I’m not that special.

    That right there accounts for the majority of a race’s waste. Those are cheap, simple steps to making the world a more liveable place. Personally, I’m getting tired of the “carbon neutral” craze. I’d love to go to an event that actively *improves* the world in some way, either by encouraging sustainable agriculture or generating more energy than it consumes. I don’t think this is such a crazy notion, either.

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