Whether you're a casual runner who jogs a few miles every once in a while or you're a serious marathon runner logging long miles, you certainly enjoy a run in the great outdoors. Hopefully, this gives you a better appreciation for the natural world and the need for all of us to protect it. This is also some of what motivated Samuel Huber, founder of Ecology Runner, a site dedicated to physical fitness, nutrition, and environmental sustainability. We recently had the chance to speak with him about why he started the site, ways runners can shrink their carbon footprint, and what his big dream for the world is.
CPC: Where did the idea for Ecology Runner come from? Did you have an "aha!" moment? Huber: I still remember, plain as day, the first moment the idea popped into my head. While running down a trail from Lake Park to Bradford Beach on the Eastside of Milwaukee, I looked into the woods and was shocked at the amount of trash I saw. As far as the eye could see, there was litter mixed amongst the leaves, hung up on branches, and blowing through the fallen debris. I thought, “How ridiculous; someone has to do something about this.” No one else was around, so I picked up a plastic bag stuck on a tree and DID something about it.
Later that night, I recalled my act and thought about how good it felt to clean up, and how nice it looked after I was done. I loved my run, and the positive environmental change that I made, however small. The name, Ecology Runner, came along shortly after I decided others needed to know; the website followed.
CPC: How are fitness and the environment related? Huber: If you exercise outdoors, I believe they are related in every way. We most likely choose to exercise in nature because of the beauty of our surroundings; the inspiration that beauty provides to keep up moving forward; the fresh air and sunlight; the scenic trails, streams, and mountain passes; overall, repeating it again, the “beauty” of our world. However, if it is dirty, polluted, and messy, would we feel the same way? I doubt it. Thus, the main reason Ecology Runner came to be.
CPC: Do you have a story you can share about the impact of your work? Huber: Individually, I kept track of my trash clean up over one year (ex. 2009): Averaging 5 bags per run ≡ 25 bags per week ≡ 100 bags per month ≡ 1200 bags a year! I can visibly see the impact on my regular routes. During each ensuing run, there is less and less litter. So, if you’re wary that you are just one person wish a small, insignificant impact, you are not. Over time, one person makes a huge, significant impact! Imagine if each of us took just a little time to pick up.
Worldwide, Ecology Runner themed races have devoted entire events to the cleaning of roadside/trail rubbish. Ecology Runner past events have included the Carlsbad Marathon (California), Tarawera Ultramarathon (New Zealand), the Oxfam TrailWalker (Australia), the Royal Raid (Mauritius), and the Sierra Cascade Adventure Racing Series (West Coast, USA).
CPC: What tips do you have for making sure our work out has a small environmental footprint? Huber: We typically consider running, walking, biking, or hiking to be inherently green activities. At their simplest, they require little gear or travel. However, when you break it down, the annual carbon footprint can add up quickly.
Consider the following ideas: limit the number of shirts, shorts, socks and shoes you purchase on a yearly basis, and donate them once you are finished instead of throwing them away; choose races that are close to home to decrease your carbon footprint (flying/driving mileage); buy recyclable water bottles instead of plastic single-use bottles; exercise outdoors instead of at the gym or on electronic equipment; choose eco-friendly/organic activewear; choose energy bars and drinks that are organic and earth-friendly; and most importantly, pick up a piece of litter or two.
CPC: Now that it's getting warmer outside, what are some ways people can stay fit while enjoying nature? Huber: Walk, run, bike, hike…outdoors! Stay away from the gym or your treadmill. Appreciate the world around you and take care of it. Keep it clean and healthy. As the winter snow melts, there’s lots of litter that is uncovered. Take a little time to clean it up!
CPC: How can our readers become more involved in what you're doing? Huber: They can visit our site, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. It’s updated daily with lots of interesting exercise, sustainability, health, food, and green living ideas. Plus, a new recipe page is in the works, so keep an eye out for those tasty and healthy suggestions.
Most of all, spread the word. Whether by action, social media, word of mouth, or wearing the Ecology Runner shirt. They all increase awareness and change behavior.
CPC: What is your big dream for the world? Huber: Every person you see, whether they are running, cycling, walking, kayaking, rollerblading, anything, imagine if, if only once or twice a week, they attempted eco-running/eco-fitness along their regular route or waterway. Imagine! People are everywhere.
The giving of just one exercise session a week, per exerciser, would result in substantial changes to our surrounding environment. Each of us, focusing on our "small picture", will collectively transform our shared "bigger picture" for the better. Our rubbish would slowly dissipate, almost to the point of disappearing. Or, if anything, just don’t throw your trash on the ground in the first place; the whole problem can be eradicated as simple as that.