Making Triathlon Sustainable

Recently our friends at Green-Layer signed a “Go Green” deal with USA Triathlon, as the official corporate partner for Green Affairs. Hopefully this means that a full awakening will occur at USA Triathlon events. It would be great if there were actual environmental standards for an event to qualify as an official USA Triathlon sanctioned event. We’re probably a ways from there yet, as the economy probably isn’t helping with events gaining new sponsors or holding onto current sponsors, and it definitely takes money to integrate recycling programs and other green initiatives at races.

It would be helpful if some of the major companys in our sport would support these initiatives and start working on their own ways to support the green movement. Triathlon has always been an innovator and leader in the areas of design and technology, but we need more Greentrepreneurs* to help our sport change its ways. We need company’s to step up and start experimenting with products made from recycled materials – goggles, sunglasses, race apparel – the technology is there, its just a matter of these company’s caring and putting research and development into our sports future.

The perfect solution for sustainable production is what they call the “closed loop system”, or one in which the product can, at the end of its useful life, be seamlessly introduced as an input to the next production process. This way, resources can be passed around much like a good book that is purchased once, but enjoyed by many readers (ie: rubber becomes tires, becomes shoes, becomes building insulation…). Just think of how many items are bought for one season and then tossed into a pile in the garage after the season never to be used again.

Other sports and fields are already organizing recycling programs to gather old and retired products to be used for the next round of items. Our friends at Patagonia who have been world leaders in the environmentalism movement for years, have created the “common threads garment recycling” program – which basically, is a voluntary program where you turn in your old and worn out apparel to be recycled by Patagonia for their use in future products. The best thing about Patagonia, is that they offer up their methods of production and resources to anyone who wants them – they want you to learn from them and follow their lead. They aren’t trying to keep trade secrets – they want to solve the environmental crisis.

There are alot of big company’s who have a toe dipped in triathlon that have as many or more resources than Patagonia at their disposal and could become a major part of the solution to this issue. We have way too many products that have a one year or less lifespan that just end up in the dumpster – we need to change our way of thinking on this.

*Portmanteau: a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms. “Greentrepreneurs,” for instance, is a mix of Green and Entrepreneurs. It’s a fantastic portmanteau – it is portmantastic.