The Outdoor Friendly Pledge

Earlier this week, outdoor running god Kilian Jornet launched (via the Kilian Jornet Foundation) the Outdoor Friendly Pledge. The aim of the pledge is, in their own words:

…to contribute towards a more ecological sporting model. With this pledge we want to share ideas and actions, from the simplest to the most complex, to make outdoor sports more sustainable and encourage athletes, brands, events and federations to commit to what they feel capable of.

This is a brilliant thing. Kilian is a great ambassador and transcends sport, which means this initiative can really make a difference.

My absolute running hero.
And Kilian Jornet.

The pledge suggests 10 actions each for events, athletes, brands and federations to aim to achieve by 2030.

Within these actions are some particularly close to our heart, such as suggestions for organisers to reduce waste and get rid of unnecessary “goodies” (you can read them all here), but we want to focus on what YOU can do.

Why? We believe that the suggestions for brands are the most challenging, and are likely to have the greatest impact, but they will only be tackled if we as consumers let the companies we buy from know what we do and don’t want. So, we need to act. We need to be active advocates (pledge 5), know what we are buying, whether we really need it, and make sure it lasts a long time (8, 9 and 10), be aware of our local environment (4 and 7). We also need to minimise our emissions of carbon dioxide (pledges 1, 2, and 3).

Let’s talk about CO2

Quiet at the back. Without over-sciencing or teaching you stuff you already know, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is one of a number of Greenhouse Gases. These gases in the earth’s atmosphere provide the insulating layer which allows life to survive. They are in a delicate balance: Too little and the earth is too cold, too much, the earth warms and we die. Since the industrial revolution, greenhouse gas levels have risen sharply due to human activities (if you want to watch them rise, literally day by day, follow the Little CO2 Box on Twitter).

A major contributor to this is travel. All types of travel produce CO2 emissions, among other emissions like particulate matter and nitrous oxide, but today we’re talking about CO2. Number 1 of Kilian’s 10 pledges for athletes (that’s him, you, me, and everyone else) is:

But what does 3 tons of CO2e actually mean*? I thought it might be useful to show some rough numbers on how your transport contributes to these emissions. In short, 3 tonnes is actually a lot, you can definitely set a much lower target than that. Let’s get competitive! How low can you go?

Emissions of transport

Have a think about all the travelling you do in order to run each year. How many times do you drive, take the train, or fly? Once you have a rough idea, you can use these approximate numbers to estimate your emissions.

As you can see, 3 tonnes is a huge allowance. It is very easy to have annual running transport emissions much much lower than this and still race regularly, compete at the top of the sport and have a great time. Just ask the likes of Finlay Wild and Es Tresidder.

Even if you live in London, you could spend every other weekend in wonderful mountains and still emit less CO2 than a single trip to the US:

If you move to an electric car, or fill any type of car with more people (pandemic-permitting), your emissions fall even further. If you can’t live without the occasional far-flung race, even this can be done within Kilian’s maximum limit:

(Again, these are all approximate and designed just to give a starting point. If you want to measure your CO2 footprint more accurately and look into (first) reducing it and (only then) offsetting it, have a look at Ourcarbon or a similar environmental footprint calculating service.)

But… Will somebody PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Thank you Kilian for launching this initiative. RAR are 100% behind it and we hope lots of you will get involved too.

There is a balance between the desire to experience places, run races and see faces in far flung locations, but it is time to temper this with a consideration for those who follow us.

If you’re feeling hard done by, bear this in mind: To stay within 1.5’C of global warming, a three-year-old today has a 1 tonne per year limit on their total emissions, not just their running travel emissions. All the food they eat, things they buy, travel for any reason, heating, homes, and everything else has to fit within the a third of that rectangle in the picture above.

If we are to stay below 1.5’C of warming, a 3-year old has a lifetime CO2 budget of 86 tonnes. And a life expectancy of 88 years. That’s less than 1 tonne of CO2 per year. (Left: Carbon Brief, Right: ONS)

So come on, how low can you go?

*We’re assuming they mean tonnes (i.e. 1000kg), not short or long tons. The figure given is in CO2e, meaning CO2 equivalent. This is the amount of CO2 which would have the same effect as the total greenhouse gases (including CO2) emitted. Since CO2 is the largest contributor to CO2e, we have used the terms interchangeably here, though the numbers are not the same and our calculations are approximate.

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