Twenty thousand participants equals some 80,000 plastic bottles.
That is a huge pile of waste, and something that the organisers of the Music Run by CIMB feel strongly about.
“Our industry, especially involving mass participation, has not had a great reputation for our impact on the environment, what with all those plastic bottles that are needed, ” said Tom Sarginson, Music Run co-founder and events director, during an interview recently.
The Music Run is a 10km and 5km running series with speakers lining the entire Sound Track race course, culminating in a live music festival at the end. This year marks the sixth edition of the run.
“We’ve always recognised the impact of the event on the environment and, in the past five years, we’d like to think we have been very good at managing our waste, but we haven’t put a real focus on turning it into a truly sustainable event.
“This year, together with CIMB as our new presenting partner, we wanted to do things differently, ” said Sarginson.
Mohamed Adam Wee, CIMB group chief marketing officer, said the company was part of the initial group of members who signed the UNEP-FI (United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative Principles for Responsible Banking).
“We wanted a large-scale event to become the platform to raise awareness on sustainability. And we wanted the organisers to really consider the sustainability aspects of the event.
“More importantly, it’s the messages that we hope people will take away and start to consider more seriously because it’s really about their future. It’s not just about coming out and having fun but, at the end of the day, you benefit with some information, knowledge and practices that you can take away, ” said Mohamed Adam.
The Music Run adopts a six-pronged approach to sustainability.
Firstly, it will work on a carbon-neutral recording process to record carbon footprint to quantify the impact of the event on the environment.
“It’s not a straightforward process because, effectively, you are calculating the greenhouses gas emissions as best as you can, and no one can do that to a 100% (accuracy).
“But, essentially, you are calculating where your products are coming from, how participants get to the event, electricity used at the event and at the end of it, you get a calculation in terms of tonnes that we offset through a sustainable project, ” said Sarginson.
Secondly, the focus is on single-use plastic and trying to eradicate as much of that as possible.
“Last year, we had about 80,000 plastic bottles used, so we wanted to see what we can do to completely remove the use of those bottles.
“So this year, we will be using a water filtration system called ‘superior osmosis’ that supplies water like a dispenser. We believe we are the first in the region to introduce this technology in an event environment, ” he said, adding that participants will be given a reusable, collapsible water bottle as part of their run pack.
The T-shirts for the participants are also made locally, reducing carbon footprint from transportation. Getting them from a local source also allows the organisers to be much more accurate with the amount and size of T-shirts required, leading to less wastage and less energy used.
These T-shirts, as well as medals for the event, will be distributed without the usual clear plastic wrappers that come with them. The event will also adopt a no-flyer policy.
The third initiative involves giving away trophies made from e-waste. CIMB collected three tonnes of e-waste from its staff to produce the 20 trophies to be given out on that day.
Fourthly, at the event, recycling bins will also be placed across the venue and there will be people on hand to show the various ways to recycle. Participants can also expect to spot some reverse vending machines there.
“Essentially, (with these machines), you get rewarded for recycling things like aluminium cans, ” said Sarginson.
Fifthly, to tackle waste from food consumption, all cutlery used at the food village will be compostable. Together with food waste, the cutlery will be sent to a composting facility, after which the compost will be used for tree-planting in school programmes.
Clean, leftover food from the event will be donated to the needy.
The sixth initiative is that the foam “hands” at the event, as well as table and chairs at the Food Village, will be made from recycled cardboard.
“Participants, who came to the event last year, will notice huge changes this year. Making these sustainable initiatives a big part of the event from start to finish is really important to us. It’s not just about running and having fun, but doing it in a responsible way, ” emphasised Tim Johnston, Music Run co-founder and marketing director.
Participants will also be encouraged not to bring plastic bottles, flyers or give-aways that will be thrown away. They will be encouraged to travel to the venue via public transportation, ride-share or carpool.
“The idea is year-on-year, we are increasingly building on that sustainability agenda so that it becomes the new norm. We certainly look at ourselves as pioneering the industry and invite other event organisers to see what we are doing and apply the initiatives to their own events. Overall, when more people do it, it starts to create momentum and hopefully, that will be a positive change for everybody, ” said Johnston.
Said Mohamed Adam, “I think it’s important to come, run and have fun, and at the same time not feel that sustainability is something that requires a lot of effort.“We hope that when they come, they will realise the importance of practising these sustainability approaches and hopefully, they will practise it in their own lives as well, realising that all this has a huge impact on their future.”
Music Run 2019 will be held on Nov 23 at the National Stadium at KL Sports City, Bukit Jalil. Details at themusicrun.com.my.