Environmental Friendliness In The Open Water Community

Environmental Friendliness In The Open Water Community

In the Marathon Swimmers Forum, Evan Morrison raised the issue of environmental stewardship in the sport of marathon swimming.

His questions generated many comments, suggestions, and solutions from open water swimmers around the world.

There is no doubt of the strong and sincere interest open water swimmers have in protecting the environment both on land and in the venues where they showcase their aquatic talents.

The expressions on the Marathon Swimmers Forum ranged from outrage to simple questions. Dr. Karen Throsby asked the question to the Forum members, “I’ve always been puzzled about the relative absence of environmental concerns within marathon swimming (with some notable exceptions) – it seems ripe for something akin to Surfers Against Sewerage…it seems to me that however complicated environmental issues are, we shouldn’t let ourselves be blinded by complexity in the face of a small and obvious step – just don’t drop litter when we swim.”

Julia Washbourne, an aquapreneur from Hong Kong, one of the nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year for 2012, offers a solution to open water swimmers and race directors. Her BAMBOA cups are made from bamboo and are completely biodegradable. The cups have been used in various open water swims including those in Hong Kong (Sheko Challenge) and those sanctioned by the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA).

WOWSA has sanctioned numerous swims from Florida and Vermont to Hawaii and Spain. In the World Open Water Swimming Association sanctioning requirements, WOWSA has adopted the PDP Sport Guidelines as proposed by the Ocean Recovery Alliance. That is, WOWSA events attempt as best they can to encourage environmental friendliness at their events – from solo marathon swims to short amateur races – and among the sponsors, participants, venues, suppliers and spectators.

The goal, based on the recommendations and practical solutions proposed by the Ocean Recovery Alliance‘s Plastic Disclosure Project, is to improve reduce the environmental impact of each event. Like other like-minded environment groups and individuals, the long-term goal of the guidelines and sanctions are to encourage an individual mindset where environmentalism is conducted 24/7 both on land and in the water.

The WOWSA Environmental Friendliness information is as follows:

WOWSA 16.0 – Environmental Friendliness

WOWSA 16.1 – Open water swimming events, their sponsors, participants, venues, suppliers and spectators increasingly wish to reduce their environmental impact. WOWSA events can take steps to minimize their plastic footprint. Plastic takes decades to fully degrade, can cause ecosystem and health impacts, and is often the cause of much of the waste that is found in our racing environments.

WOWSA 16.2 – WOWSA offers guidelines [see below], created by the Plastic Disclosure Project, to assist event organizers. This document lays out guidelines to assist event organizers, including a checklist to assist with planning and a scorecard to help evaluate progress towards certification as a PDP Sport event. These guidelines should be very achievable for most events from solo marathon swims to mass participation events. For events that already pride themselves on their sustainability, they should stretch further and seek ISO 20121 certification.

Overall sustainability of events is important, but these guidelines focus on minimizing an event’s ‘plastic footprint’. Plastic is a useful and valuable resource, especially to sports event organizers. However, plastic needs to be managed properly, and doing so can be an easy, but significant, step towards a more sustainable event. Plastic is often highly visible to event participants and those that use the location afterwards, so brands and events want to be careful about the image they leave behind, and also demonstrate that they are responsible and effective event organizers and supporters. In addition, plastic is a valuable commodity, and there are often strong economic reasons for ensuring it is not wasted. Furthermore, plastic takes decades to fully degrade, can cause ecosystem and health impacts, and is often the cause of much of the waste that is found in our racing and training environments, both on land, and in the water. This is completely avoidable, and athletes are a perfect segment of society that can be ambassadors in driving a large-scale reduction in plastic waste.

Checklist and Tips

To help move towards zero and minimize an event’s ‘plastic footprint’, event organizers should consider the following as develop and review their plans:

Checklist Tips

Have you made a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle all plastics?

 Who is going to assist in your efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle?
 Consider a waste management/recycling committee to create partnerships and environmentally friendly initiatives between all stakeholders – facilities management, event organizers, vendors, waste services contractors, and recycling processors.
 How will you educate your volunteers about your efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle?
 Have you publicized your commitment to participants and encouraged their help?

Have you considered all the situations where plastic is provided?

 Consider items provided to athletes, officials, organizers or spectators
 Remember both free and sold items
 Remember drinks, food, prizes and event equipment/gear
 Consider items made of, served in, or wrapped with, plastic

Can plastic items be replaced or substituted with something more sustainable?

 Can athletes bring their own reusable bottles?
 Can you use powdered form for flavored drinks and/or provide water via dispensers?
 Can you use sustainable wooden chopsticks instead of plastic cutlery?
 Can you use washable cutlery and plates?
 Can you supply utensils and equipment without individual plastic wrapping?

Where plastic is provided, can favorable plastics be chosen?

 Look for high % of post-consumer recycled content of the plastic
 Use biodegradable plastic where possible (ideally with feedstock that does not come from food related crops), and even better if there is proper composting infrastructure for this material after the event
 Prefer types of plastic that are readily recyclable in your area
Where plastic waste is generated, is it collected in an organized way?

 Clearly designate where people should put their plastic waste
 Remember to ensure collection is where the waste is generated (e.g., bottle caps near the start, bottles on the course)
 Some events receive great PR if they, or the sponsor, have teams of people in branded uniforms collecting waste

What assistance can you anticipate from local waste management and recycling services?

 How does your plan fit within your local waste management and recycling program?
 How much waste do you anticipate? How much of this waste will include plastic?
 Are waste management and recycling services already collecting at your location? Who is it?
 Will they pick or materials or require delivery?
 Will they provide adequate collection and recycling receptacles based on anticipated waste?
 What sorting of materials do they require in order to recycle plastics (i.e., Bottles separate from cups? Bottle caps? Plastic bags? Plastic containers?)
 Will they pay for materials based on quantity and quality?

Where recycling is conducted, are you confident in the recycling process?

 Do you know where your recycled material goes after pick up?
 Make sure that there is a systematic process of collection, sorting and removal, and that you don’t simply rely on existing municipal waste management operations to do your job
 Can they provide data about how much PET or other materials they recycle?

PDP Sport – Move Towards Zero Plastic Footprint – Scorecard:

To help gauge your progress towards a minimal plastic footprint being left behind after your event, measure your event against this scorecard. For each question, score your event appropriately, and total your response. In general, if you either have no plastic, or manage plastic very carefully to minimize both reputational and environmental impacts, your event will score sufficient points to become a certified PDP Sport event.

COMMITMENT
0 – Your event has made a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle all plastic waste and publicized it to all staff, volunteers and participants
3 – Your event has made a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle all plastic waste, with no publication to staff, volunteers and participants
5 – Your event has not made a commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle all plastic waste
____ EVENT SCORE

DISTRIBUTION OF SINGLE-SERVE PET BOTTLES
0 – No single-serve PET bottles are distributed (i.e., you provide water or other beverages through water bottle filling stations)
1 – Single-serve PET bottles distributed, with organized and assisted collection and recycling by brand company volunteers
2 – Single-serve PET bottles distributed, with organized and assisted collection and recycling by event volunteers
3 – Single-serve PET bottles distributed, with unorganized collection and recycling
5 – Single-serve PET bottles distributed, with no collection or recycling
____ EVENT SCORE

DISTRIBUTION OF PLASTIC OR PLASTIC-COATED CUPS
0 – No plastic cups distributed
3 – Plastic or plastic-coated cups distributed and actively collected by volunteers (i.e., staffed feeding stations)
5 – Plastic or plastic-coated cups distributed, with no active collection
____ EVENT SCORE

DISTRIBUTION OF STYROFOAM (CUPS OR ANY OTHER CONTAINER)
0 – No Styrofoam distributed
3 – Styrofoam distributed and actively collected by volunteers
5 – Styrofoam distributed, with no active collection
____ EVENT SCORE

FOOD OR FEEDING STATIONS (ANY CONTAINERS OR UTENSILS)
0 – No plastic distributed
1 – Plastic distributed, actively collected, washed and reused by volunteers
2 – Plastic distributed and actively collected and recycled by volunteers
3 – Plastic distributed and actively collected by volunteers
5 – Plastic distributed, with no active collection
____ EVENT SCORE

EQUIPMENT OR GEAR (BIBS, CAPS, BADGES, ETC.)
0 – No plastic equipment or gear issued
1 – Plastic equipment gear issued, but collected and either recycled or reused (over 100 participants)
2 – Plastic equipment gear issued, but collected and either recycled or reused (25-100 participants)
3 – Plastic equipment gear issued, but collected and either recycled or reused (1-24 participants)
5 – Plastic equipment gear issued, with no collection
____ EVENT SCORE

PRIZES, AWARDS, OR GIVEAWAYS (INCLUDING RACE PARTICIPATION BAGS)
0 – No plastic prizes awards, or giveaways distributed, OR those distributed made from 100% recycled material, and not wrapped in plastic by manufacturer
2 – No plastic prizes awards, or giveaways distributed, OR those distributed made from 100% recycled material, and although wrapped in plastic by manufacturer, 100% of wrapping removed and recycled by event staff/volunteers
3 – No plastic prizes awards, or giveaways distributed, OR those distributed made from 100% recycled material, but distributed with individual plastic wrapping
4 – Plastic prizes, awards, giveaways distributed that come wrapped in plastic, with 100% wrapping removed and recycled by event staff/volunteers
5 – Plastic prizes, awards, giveaways distributed with individual plastic wrapping
____ EVENT SCORE

APPAREL
0 – Made from 100% recycled material (Clothing made from PET bottles help create demand for recycling plastic waste)
2 – Made from 75-99% recycled material
3 – Made from 50-74% recycled material
4 – Made from 25-49% recycled material
5 – Made from