Becoming A Sustainable Athlete

Becoming more Sustainable Athletes by Reducing the Impact of our Footprints 

I flatted recently on a ride and while changing the tube my buddy said “Look at this banana peel! It has three patches in it!” My immediate response was, “What? It still works… Or it did until a minute ago.”  I’ve come to hate terms like sustainability and going green because they’ve become associated with granola crunching, liberal, ultra hippies in the war on global warming. To me taking steps to protect the environment in which we train just seems like common sense.

I originally got into cycling (and eventually triathlon) for two reasons. I needed to make a life change, and I felt like there was a better way of getting around than driving. Regardless of your stance on global warming you must admit as athletes between the water bottles, tubes, tires, gel packets, etc., we create a lot of trash (take a good look at an aid station at your next race) and that trash needs to go somewhere. Part of the reason I love this sport is simply because I love being outside. And wanting to protect the outdoors, I try to take steps to lessen my impact.

Yes, one of those steps is patching my tubes. (For the record, the previously mentioned tube developed a fourth hole, but three is my limit.) Until the valve lets go, done properly, a patched tube is just as good as a new one so long as you use a vulcanizing patch and not the stick-on type. Vulcanizing basically means melting the patch and creating a permanent bond with the tube. Patching is also a lot quicker and cheaper than driving to the bike shop to get a new one. That said, leading into race day, I swap out my tubes for new “clean” ones, which is good practice anyway. To blow these tubes up CO2 cartridges are a very convenient item, but to pressurize all that CO2, while recyclable, it takes a lot metal. On training rides I pack my pump and save the cartridges for race day.

Tires I’ve found you can really extend their life by occasionally rotating the them. Generally I do this when swapping out my training tires for race tires. One of the best training tires I’ve found Vittoria Rubinos. Doing Ironman, I still get a season and a half out of these these. Once they’re no longer road worthy, tires can get a second life as a trainer tire over the winter.

With the amount of training we do, running shoes can sometimes only last a few months because the cushion in our otherwise good shoe has been pounded into oblivion. These shoes can be donated to various charities to ensure they are received by someone in need. If the shoe is really beat up, it can be recycled into a sports surface.

I found nutrition to be one of the biggest generators of waste. Once I got into endurance sports, I quickly moved from bottled sports drinks to powders to cut down on the amount of plastic I was consuming. Commercial sports drinks will only give so many calories and generally you need to supplement this with gels or bars, which is a lot of additional wrappers. Eventually I switch to a custom nutrition to simplify my race fueling, but it also had the added benefit of being a more sustainable option by reducing the amount of packaging.

While I fuel most of my workouts like its race day, over the years I’ve also played with various forms of natural foods from bananas to Go-Gurt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for when I’m out on an easy noodle session. These I’ve found to generally make a mess and be difficult to get at while on the bike. I eventually settled on dates. Dates have about the same number of calories as a gel packet, no packaging and no mess. Just be careful not to swallow the pit!

Please use our comment section to share with us your most creative use for your used gear.

Dave Sek



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