It’s the start of a new (and greener) era for endurance sports. The last thing on a competitive athlete’s mind, as they push for that new personal best, is conserving the environment. But the #GOGREEN initiative is about to change that. Old Mutual has teamed up with Wildlands to upcycle the dreaded water sachets and paper cups that are left behind (and blown by the wind) after an event into recycled desks for underprivileged school children.
The first event to sign up for the #GOGREEN initiative is the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. Carol Vosloo, General Manager of the event’s NPC says, “While we have tried various approaches – from gentle collaborative encouragement to more direct instruction – some runners still find it acceptable to litter along the route. As a result, we are now adopting a more hardline approach. Participants guilty of intentional littering may be fined, disqualified or even barred from future OMTOM events.”
Ouch! That might seem like quite a hefty punishment, but instead of acting out fear, runners will have great satisfaction in knowing that every small effort made to dispose their waste responsibly has the potential to provide a better learning environment for a child. According to the United Nations, there is currently a shortage of over 300,000 school desks in South Africa. And a whopping 80% of Gauteng schools experienced this shortage in 2015 (Equal Education Gauteng Schools Social Audit Report).
Best part of all? The process of making these desks does not require a single drop of water. The estimated waste that will be collected at the OMTOM will contribute to the manufacturing of approximately 500 school desks. These will benefit a network of Western Province-based schools specifically.
Another major bonus of the #GOGREEN initiative is that it helps reduce the impact that endurance races have on the environment. Think the clean-up crew takes care of everything? Nope. Vosloo says, “Despite having clean-up crews working around the clock during and after the race to return the route to pristine condition, the wind still carries much of the discarded waste into drains, culverts and the ocean.” And that’s a real pity for an event like OMTOM, which runs along environmentally sensitive areas like the Table Mountain National Park, Chapman’s Peak and the Atlantic Ocean – all the places we dearly love as outdoor enthusiasts.
How will Throw Zones work?
There will be large and clearly branded bins placed at every kilometre point and after every refreshment station. In addition, there will be Throw Zone marshals – who will also be known as Green Champs – on standby to encourage and remind runners to dispose of their race waste in the Throw Zone bins only.
OMTOM is also adopting the IAAF Yellow / Red card principle. Participants identified by race officials as littering will be shown a Yellow card and given a warning. A second yellow card may result in a red card (disqualification) during or after the event. There will even be video cameras on the route which will be reviewed both during and after the event for evidence of participants intentionally littering.
FYI – spectators aren’t off the hook. Municipal by-laws indicate that spectators and supporters can also be charged with littering. “We want to keep the world’s most beautiful marathon litter-free. Let’s work together to achieve this,” Ms Vosloo concludes.
The best is yet to come for endurance events. Wildlands hopes to get the Soweto Marathon and Comrades Marathon on board with the #GOGREEN campaign (which means desks for Gauteng and KZN schools too!)
Follow the OMTOM #GOGREEN campaign