What are we doing to tackle the climate crisis? That is the question London Marathon Events (LME) asked itself nearly two years ago. As an organisation that sees itself as the world’s leading organiser of mass participation sporting events that seek to inspire activity, were we doing enough to reduce our environmental impact? The simple answer was no.
Each year the team at LME delivers seven world class mass participation events – including the Virgin Money London Marathon, Prudential RideLondon and Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine. In total, more than 150,000 people participate in our events every year – and our major events are always over-subscribed.
We are proud of the huge positive impact our events have on so many people, improving health (physical and mental), bringing communities together, supporting local businesses and raising money for charities.
But many of these events can leave a negative impact on the environment and that is not good enough. We believe we run the best mass participation events in the world, and we want to match that by leading the world in mass participation event sustainability.
We are at the start of our journey but have already achieved a huge amount in the last year. In 2018 LME established a team to develop new environmental initiatives and practices and commissioned a full review of its environmental impacts.
We partnered with Environmental Resources Management (ERM) a world leading sustainability consultancy, to help create an Environmental Policy, Environmental Management System and Environmental Impacts Register to understand our impacts and embed sustainability within the organisation. Throughout 2019 we have delved into every aspect of our events to build a comprehensive picture of all our environmental impacts.
In addition to embedding environmental protection within the organisation in 2019 we have trialled some truly innovative initiatives to reduce our impact including:
- Introduced a closed loop recycling project for plastic bottles used in the Virgin Money London Marathon. Bottles used in Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark and Canary Wharf were collected and returned directly to Buxton and Lucozade and recycled into new bottles.
- Reduced the number of drinks stations on the Marathon route from 26 to 19 and eliminated more than 215,000 plastic bottles from the course.
- Trialled a new bottle belt made from 90 per cent recycled materials. This initiative also monitored how much water a runner used and found runners wearing belts used nearly half as many bottles as runners without belts.
- Ran the largest ever trial of Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules – following a successful trial of 10,000 at The Vitality Big Half, 30,000 were used at the Virgin Money London Marathon.
- Prudential RideLondon became our first plastic water bottle free event with riders refilling on route.
These are just a few examples of the initiatives we ran in 2019, and we’ve been inspired by how successful they were and are determined to continue. However, we know we can’t achieve everything in one event, in one year, but the changes and the trials we introduced this year have the potential to change how mass participation events are delivered in future.
Now if we are asked ‘what are you doing to tackle the climate crisis?’ we have an answer. But this is not something we can do alone and everything that has been done so far has been delivered with the support, help and enthusiasm of our partners, participants and staff. Our aim is to empower, enhance and encourage the desire for change and improvement. When people come together, we can make the changes needed to ensure mass participation events are making a positive contribution to tackling the climate emergency.