For the eighth time in its 36-year history, UAA hosted and organized the Mayors Marathon and are made an effort to reduce the amount of waste created by the aid stations along the course of Anchorage’s largest running event.
Part of these duties includes staffing aid stations with volunteers from local businesses and non-profits. The stations supply runners with water, sports drinks, first-aid and encouragement along the way. There are 16 stations along the course, two of which are run by UAA groups.
“These stations have historically produced a lot of waste,” UAA’s assistant ski coach Mandy Kaempf, who also helps organize the event, said.
Though left over products from aid stations have been sorted and recycled in the past, this year “will have a greater emphasis on green practices such as the use of biodegradable products” Kaempf said.
The organizers hoped to operate the tables and the race as a whole in a more sustainable way.
“Sustainability,” Kaempf says, “refers to impacting the natural and social environment in a way that does not deplete it”.
There are 84,000 cups and 1,000-trash bags were used at the event this year, all of which are made from corn-based products that are friendlier to the environment than plastics.
“This is a huge statement to the public that we hope will be appreciated,” Deborah O’Leary of Alaska Green Sources, the company supplying the cups and bags, said. She says this is the largest event thus far in Anchorage to use the products.
Mike McCormick, the assistant director of UAA Student Life & Leadership is ran an aid station at mile 21 this year.
McCormick has helped at other races in the past and said that volunteers at this event are really pushing to make sure everything gets sorted and recycled.
“Everything we do can be a positive influence,” McCormick said, “As the availability of these products rise and the prices go down more people will start to use them.”
Eventually, he hopes there will be a demand that more races are organized with sustainability in mind.
Completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment for runners. For many, working the aid stations and helping cheer the participants on is very gratifying as well.
There is always a contest among the aid stations based on their creativity and encouragement. This year collecting, sorting, and returning all of their garbage to the finish line for recycling was also part of the criteria for judging the aid-station contest. The winning station received $500.
Aside from the aid stations, additional steps are also being made to lower the environmental impact of this annual function.
Balloons were eliminated in favor of reusable decorations in last year’s race.
Energy gels, which come in non-recyclable packaging, and sponges for the runners to cool themselves were eliminated as well.
Commemorative posters are being printed on 100 percent recyclable paper and online registration has been promoted instead of traditional forms; the amount of brochures was also reduced.
“What we’re trying to do is produce less waste and take care of what we do create more responsibly,” Michael Friess, UAA’s head track and field coach, said. “By eliminating certain items we can reduce that.”