Big-scale events like marathons often involve high resource use and a considerable amount of waste. However, with increasing awareness of the need to protect our environment, more efforts are being taken to reduce the impact of such events on planet Earth.
The 15th Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon (KLSCM), organised by Dirigo Events, is one such example.
Taking place this weekend (Sept 30-Oct 1) at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, it implements a range of measures to minimise carbon footprint and promote awareness of environmental responsibility.
KLSCM project director and Dirigo Events director Rainer Biemans said the shift toward an eco-friendly marathon aims to educate participants, volunteers and spectators about waste reduction, recycling and sustainable lifestyle choices.
“Marathons often attract a large number of participants and spectators, leading to significant resource consumption.
“By reducing waste like plastic and paper, we can conserve valuable natural resources like water, energy and raw materials used to produce these materials.
“The production, transportation and disposal of plastic and paper products contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
“Eco-marathons can lower runners’ carbon footprint and contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change.
“These events can raise awareness and inspire positive behaviour change in the broader community,” said Biemans in an email interview recently.
In previous KLSCM events, about 77,000 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles (1.5l and 0.5l), nearly 50,000 PET bottles of isotonic drinks (1.5l and 0.5l), 44,000 single-use plastic wrappers for medals, and 34,000 single-use plastics for running bibs were utilised, Biemans shared.
To garner support of runners for the transition to an eco-marathon, organisers conducted research, asking about participants’ willingness to opt for reusable cups or bottles for water and isotonic drinks instead of paper cups.
They received encouraging responses, propelling them to move to an environmentally friendly marathon.
“We decided that the time was right for us to embark on this journey and we would like to encourage all our stakeholders to do the same to make KLSCM one of the most sustainable distance running events in the country,” Biemans said.
This year, the event will introduce refillable options at all drink stations to reduce paper cup usage.
“Participants are encouraged to bring their own refillable bottles or cups. We will be selling lightweight and collapsible bottles and cups through our merchandising platform.
“We will be doing away with single-use plastic wrapping for all our race and finisher medals (to be replaced with paper wraps), as well as for our running bibs where we are completely doing away with any wrapping.”
Additionally, organisers will sponsor public transport options, allowing runners to use Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or Light Rail Transit (LRT) for free to get to and from the race village.
Biemans added that over 54,000 bananas, 20,000 apples and 10,000 pears will be provided for participants during and after the race.
KLSCM is collaborating with social enterprise Fuze Ecoteer to repurpose organic waste from the fruits and convert them into organic fertilisers.
It is also partnering with Alam Flora Environmental Solutions to collect and transport plastic waste to recycling centres.
“The organic waste from the fruits will be collected in designated bins along our race routes as well as at our Race Village in Dataran Merdeka."
KLSCM’s apparel partner, Britain-based Pressio, said that every garment they produce is created with sustainable materials (recycled yarn) and technologies (non-dying and biodegradation), complete with traceability.
“They will be producing over 61,000 T-shirts for the upcoming marathon,” Biemans said.
He added that over 2,000 volunteers would assist in running the event.
In line with the green theme, race marshals will employ bicycles in their duties.
“We have also included Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) as one of our beneficiaries under our Run For A Reason charity initiative.
RCM advocates the conservation of coral reefs and sustainable practices like responsible fishing, efficient waste management and creating alternative means of income for communities dependent on marine resources.
“By helping to raise funds for their activities, we hope to play a part in preserving our marine ecosystems for future generations,” he said.
While the research findings are promising, Biemans is concerned about runners’ receptiveness to these sustainability initiatives this weekend.
“Malaysian participants are accustomed to certain cultural norms, like the availability of paper cups at drinks stations.
“We need to manage their expectations while introducing new concepts at the same time.
“So this year, while we will not completely eliminate paper cups, we are significantly reducing the amount by introducing refillable options at all our drinks stations and encouraging all our participants to bring their own refillable cups or bottles.”
Looking ahead, Biemans and his team plan to utilise social and mainstream media to educate Malaysians on environmental awareness and proactive measures to reduce their carbon footprint when participating in large-scale events.
“This year will be regarded as our baseline year where we start to collect all the necessary data to find out where we stand in terms of sustainability so that we can start accurately measuring the success of our initiatives in future editions.
“We hope participants will serve as our advocates and encourage the running community to embrace these changes for a more sustainable future for all,” he said.