Runners are generally an environmentally aware group, but who thinks about the impact of all those race t-shirts and just how often we buy new kit. Re-Run clothing wants to make a difference.
Re-Run clothing, a social enterprise set up by British international 24hr runner Dan Lawson and his wife Charlotte, aims to make runners think more about their impact and how a few simple choices could improve our environmental impact.
Lots of companies are getting behind the environmental movement, with Patagonia leading the way for decades and smaller brands, like Rockay socks moving towards sustainable materials, who felt that “its just the way that the world needs to be going, and anything less than that seems like a failure in our book”.
The simple race t-shirt is a prime example. Since setting up the project and taking in second hand kit the vast majority has been race tees. Huge amounts are still in their plastic packaging they were received in.
“We could cut out over 50% of the textile waste within the running community just by removing the finisher’s t-shirt,” says Lawson in a recent interview. “It’s always the easy option just to take the shirt. You’re at the end of a race, tired and sweaty, and someone thrusts a free t-shirt and a medal. Even if you don’t want one, you’ll probably take it.”
There are some who treasure their race tees and wear them to work for the next month straight to let their colleagues know they finished a 100 miler (or a 5k), but many just have large collections in the cupboard.
Make the t-shirt a tougher option
Lawson and Jalley aren’t suggesting we get rid of the t-shirts altogether (well they are but they realise it might be too much for some) but just making it a tougher option.
“Even if it were just a little bit tougher to pick up your commemorative top you might see less people taking them. Most of them are basically just plastic bags in another form. It’s similar materials, but we don’t think twice about the waste it can cause,”
When you put these tops in the washing machine there are micro fibres that come loose and get into the water system. These micro fibres all end up in the ocean eventually,” says the ultra runner. “That’s without thinking of the pollution caused by the manufacturing and shipping process of the kit.”
Some events, such as Basingstoke Half, give runners the option to be a ‘zero waste runner’ and not take home a tee, a medal or any of the other items potentially unnecessary to the athlete. In turn the race offers a discount in price too so everybody wins. How many people would take up this offer in more races?
What races can do to help the environment is a whole other article in itself, but first we can all focus on what we can do as individuals. If we start asking or demanding different standards from our races then we will have a positive impact.
Ultimately the answer is for us to all consume less in our lives in general. How many items of clothing in your wardrobe haven’t been worn at all in the last 12 months? Do you need that new pair of shorts or trainers. Could you make a difference.
The aim of ReRun is to get the running community thinking. Could you purchase “pre-loved” clothing instead of new kit?
“By extending the lifetime of our clothing by two or three months we see a 5-10% reduction in the carbon, water and waste footprints of that item,” remarked Jalley, “extending the life by 9 months would result in a 20 to 30 % reduction.”
And extending the lifetime is one thing ReRun do, by up-cycling unwanted kit into something beautiful that will live on longer. Their running vests, constructed of multiple unwanted pieces of kit, are stylish and functional. Lawson himself is running in entirely second hand or up cycled kit going froward. He is committed to the message they want to send out.
If an elite international ultra runner can run all his events in second hand kit then what is your excuse?
Dan and Charlotte getting into my head
It is working too. As I’m fortunate to consider Dan and Charlotte good friends we’ve spoken about their mission on a few occasions. Now I have their voices in my head every time I look at new kit. I’m asking myself if I really need it, stopping myself collecting race t-shirts that I won’t use and being more aware in general.
I’m not perfect, I have purchased new shoes recently. But I am making an attempt to batter the ones I do have before I pass them on. A lot of my kit ends up with friends or family, rather than dumped or thrown out but even that means I’ve got too much in the first place.
Becoming part of the problem?
Even this early into the project ReRun are finding themselves encouraging commercialism. “We have one runner who’s purchasing a lot on our website. It’s great that they’re really buying into the idea and, hopefully, not buying loads of kit elsewhere too. But we also want to ask if they really need all the ReRun kit they’re buying too!”
The demand for ReRun custom up cycled kit and pre-loved items is going really well. If you look on the website you’re certainly going to find a gem or too for your next race, but before you buy anything, ask yourself “Do you really need that t-shirt?”
Ultimately ReRun is about extending the life of the products we do use and maybe finding a new purpose for them after they had been worn out. Companies thinking about sustainable materials is great, but are they thinking about where their product will end up and trying to avoid those ocean plastics ending up back in the ocean or a landfill?
What can we do?
On the website there is even advice on what we can do as runners:
*Donate any unwanted clothes or equipment to ReRun
*Organise a collection of unwanted running gear or equipment for us at your local club.
*Donate your unwanted clothes or equipment to another project or runners you know.
*Sell on your own unwanted clothes or equipment to prolong the life of it.
*Smile and tell everyone how wonderful they are.
*Encourage everyone else you know to do one of the above
The other thing that will make a difference is to turn down that race t-shirt and make sure the race organiser knows why. The more runners that voice this opinion, the more events will start to think.