Environmental indicators play a critical role in trail running events as they help assess the environmental impact, promote environmental stewardship, preserve natural resources, support sustainable event management, and engage stakeholders in environmental education and awareness. By incorporating these indicators, event organizers can effectively minimize the ecological footprint of trail running events and contribute to the preservation and protection of the natural environment
There is an increasing acknowledgement of the importance of conducting sports and sports events in environmentally responsible ways. This shift in perspective is evident in the attitudes of governments, public authorities, and regulators. Consequently, adopting a proactive and conscientious approach to environmental management has become crucial for the sports sector to maintain its license to operate and foster the growth and sustainability of fan bases.
Trail running, being an outdoor recreational activity means that its environmental impacts must be considered and reduced to preserve the natural resources for future generations and runners. Erosion, waste production, disturbance of animal species, and transport emissions are some of the impacts that need to be minimised to achieve sustainable and respectful trail running event management and celebration.
The following environmental impacts should be considered when performing outdoor running events:
Habitat loss or modification
The direct impact of human activities can lead to the loss, fragmentation, or alteration of natural habitats. This can result in various consequences, including the loss of vegetation, diminished areas for breeding, feeding, drinking, or resting, disruption of breeding patterns, and the loss of access to essential resources such as food and water.
Disturbance or damage to wildlife
Biodiversity is significantly influenced by seasonal changes, meaning that sites of importance for nature conservation may only be impacted by sports events during specific times of the year. If the quality of the habitat remains unaffected, it may be feasible to organize an event during the “off season” when it would have minimal impact on the site. The presence of noise and vibrations can have a significant impact on wild animals, causing various changes in their behaviour.
Introduction of alien invasive species
The introduction of non-native invasive species can occur when sports equipment, clothing, footwear, and other materials, including plants used for landscaping, become contaminated with seeds, spores, eggs, or larvae. If these invasive species become established, they pose a threat to the survival of native plants and animals. They can disrupt the natural food chain, compete for habitat, consume native species, or introduce new diseases.
Depletion of water resources
The extraction of water can have significant consequences for aquatic ecosystems, altering their habitats and impacting the plants and animals that rely on them. Additionally, the increased movement of sediment into downstream water bodies can result in changes to the composition of plant and animal species within these aquatic ecosystems.
The pollution of terrestrial and aquatic habitats and ecosystems can pose a threat to wildlife, potentially resulting in death or harm to various species. Pollution can introduce toxic chemicals, alter the chemical composition, or disrupt the nutrient balance, leading to the potential death of wildlife or significant modification of their habitats. Improper disposal of waste in unregulated landfill sites can have adverse effects on aquifers and other natural habitats.
Climate change and unsustainable sourcing
The selection of goods, materials, or services that are known to have negative impacts on biodiversity, contribute to climate change or that are not produced or delivered sustainably will directly impact the biodiversity balance.
The solid waste generated during a sports event is typically sent to landfill sites, posing risks of polluting groundwater, surface water, and soils, thus harming wildlife habitats. Additionally, landfills produce methane gas, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Abandoned equipment and packaging, considered as large solid waste, can cause harm to wildlife through entanglement or entrapment. Smaller solid waste, such as degrading plastic particles, can be ingested by wildlife, leading to increasing toxicity, sickness, and even death as it moves through the food chain. Certain products and materialsthrown on the forest can overheat and contribute to wildfires.
To address these issues, the ideal approach would involve minimizing solid waste disposal by prioritizing reduce, reuse, recycling materials, avoiding single use items, and composting organic matter where appropriate facilities are available.
The primary contribution of sports events to climate change stems from the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation, including the travel of individuals to and from events, logistics within the supply chain, and the energy consumption at venues. The uncontrolled access and parking of vehicle in natural areas can cause disturbances to wildlife, erosion, loss of habitat and pollution.
Prioritizing the use of public transportation and carsharing, regulating access to natural areas and enabling parking areas are some of the actions to take in account to reduce the environmental impacts from mobility.
Energy, Food & Product’s impact and Water
Promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency at sporting events can serve as a powerful example and inspire fans and participants to adopt cleaner energy practices in their own lives. It showcases a commitment to sustainability and can encourage broader environmental consciousness. By transitioning to clean energy sources, sporting events can help reduce their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on global efforts to combat climate change.
Meat-free alternatives have gained popularity to reduce the environmental impact associated with meat production especially if it is sourced from certified sustainable origin. Purchasing local products not only reduces the environmental impact associated with transportation but also minimizes distribution costs and supports the growth of local businesses. Other actions include avoiding the use of single use bottle for water consumption, using organic and sustainable products and avoid excessive packaging for food.