Making sustainable choices while staying active

Making sustainable choices while staying active

Part of living a healthy, active life is making sure we have a healthy planet on which to live. After all, if you’re getting out there and moving, you need fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, and of course precious earth to walk or run on, climb over, hike through, or whatever else it is you like to do. That’s why making sustainable choices is so important, and why we’ve put this list together of ways we can all do our part, along with reasons why it’s essential that we do.

What is Sustainability? 

It’s a bit of a buzz word these days, but what exactly is “sustainability” all about? Well, basically, it means making conscious decisions that minimize or eliminate negative impacts on our planet, to ensure we stop damaging it and instead help it remain healthy and safe for generations to come. 

Why is Sustainability so Important? 

Let’s put it this way: if we want all the little toddlers running around today to be able to enjoy running and other activities as adults, sustainability must be a priority, not only to protect our planet, but also, their future.

Looking at the retail landscape alone, statistics are staggering. Plastic waste is the number one threat to our marine ecosystems. More than 300 million tons of it is produced each year and more than half of that is from packaging.

Responsible for approximately 20% of global water pollution from chemical dyes, textile production is the second largest contributor to plastic waste as well. Nearly 60% of all clothing material is plastic, producing 42 million tons of plastic waste each year.

It’s also been estimated that of the 25 billion pairs of shoes manufactured annually, 95% end up in landfills. And the footwear and apparel industry combined are responsible for  as much as 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

We can do better – As an industry, as a company, and as a community.

It may sound dramatic, but all of our lives depend on a strong and healthy biodiversity, meaning all life on Earth – from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammal – and the habitats and relationships we all share. Unfortunately, our own actions have caused Earth’s biodiversity to be in great peril, but the good news is, we can change that. 

Making Sustainable Choices

Sure, saving the planet sounds like a monumental task, but there are actually plenty of little things we can do that can make a big difference, beyond simply recycling (although that’s a great start!).

Move your body (not your car)

We love encouraging people to move and live actively – it not only helps your own well-being, but Mother Earth’s too. When you walk or ride your bike instead of driving, you reduce emissions, improve air quality, use less fuel, and do all of that while reaping the physical and mental health benefits of moving. Good for you and good for the planet!  That’s a win-win in our book.

Ditch the One and Done

80% of approximately 22 billion plastic water bottles produced each year end up in landfills, each taking over 400 years to degrade. 

We can reduce waste and keep it out of landfills by swapping out those plastic bottles (and bags for that matter) and choosing reusable options instead. From versatile cloth bags to hydration systems you can use again and again, you’d be surprised what making this simple change can do. 

Purchase with us, and you’ll take your loot home in a reusable shopping bag as well. And when you sign up for any of our signature events, you’ll discover our zero waste devotion in action, as we continually look for ways to improve sustainability and strive to help change how endurance events impact our environment for the better. 

Here's how our events match our values:

SHE RUNS Grand Rapids 5K, 10K, and 13.1

  • Our amazing volunteers and a designated Green Team sort all event materials to be recycled or composted. 
  • Our sponsors work with us to source materials that do not go into landfills.
  • TerraCycle “all waste” boxes are used to recycle the unrecyclable – to date, we have shipped over 75,000 wrappers that bypassed the landfill and instead, were made into something new. 

Lake Michigan RTS 10K

  • There are no garbage receptacles - compost and recycling cans only. 
  • Our course is marked with biodegradable tape and our signage and flags are reused every year. 
  • We sweep the course afterward and remove every trace that we were ever on the land. 
  • Participants are asked to bring their own reusable water bottles and we supply refilling stations.
  • All our post-event food comes in either biodegradable or recyclable containers, and anything leftover is donated. 

Whoville 5K

  • We reuse our decorations each year, most of which are made from recycled materials such as warehouse boxes or recycled wrapping paper. 
  • Decorations that become too damaged are recycled
  • Anything leftover after the event – whether apparel, medals, or food – is reused, donated or recycled. 

Go Slow (Fashion)

Believe it or not, fashion is the world’s second highest polluting industry behind oil and gas. 100 billion new pieces of clothing are produced globally every year, creating 92 million tons of waste, 87% of which ends up in landfills or incinerators. Yikes!

Discarded clothing also takes hundreds of years to decompose which significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and releases harmful chemicals into soil, thus contaminating water resources and increasing water scarcity. 

So, how do we slow this trend? 

Choosing durable, high-quality gear made to last means you won’t need to purchase as much, which reduces consumption as well as overproduction – both obviously damaging to the environment. This (along with buying used) is referred to as “slow fashion” – think quality over quantity (bonus if what you buy is made from sustainable materials). 

Support Sustainable Brands

From mindful manufacturing and fair labor practices, to offsetting emissions and using organic and recycled materials, more and more brands are seeking sustainable ways to minimize their footprint beyond making durable products from renewable resources. We seek out brands that share our love of planet Earth, and you can do the same. 

Learn about our sustainable brands: 

  • Created the Ultraboost 22, made from recycled polyester and at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic intercepted from shorelines, preventing it from polluting the ocean.
  • Implemented Made to be Remade process in which worn products can be returned, then remade into something new.
  • Since 2015, CO₂ emissions have been reduced by at least 25% from operations and 30.8% from supply chains, and these percentages continue to rise.
  • Over 90% of new running shoes created since 2021 contain at least 20% recycled polyester.
  • Created the carbon-neutral Ghost 15 by converting materials to recycled alternatives, using low impact processes, manufacturing with renewable energy, and partnering with carbon offset projects that avoid, remove, or reduce emissions, compensating for any they themselves were unable to reduce. 
  • Dedicated to using repurposed materials, offsetting carbon emissions, and seeking out ethical sources.
Free Fly
  • Use non-chemical processes to produce products made from organic, renewable bamboo, and give back to local and global clean water initiatives.
New Balance
  • Established the Green Leaf Standard which stipulates that all their footwear and apparel must be made from at least 50% recycled or renewable sources. 
  • Founding member of Sustainable Apparel Coalition
  • Continues to find innovative ways to transform existing plastics, yarns, and textiles into sustainable materials, such as recycled nylon from carpets and fishing nets and recycled polyester that lowers carbon emissions by up to 30% and diverts an average of 1 billion plastic bottles annually from landfills and waterways. 
  • With environmentalism as part of their values, Patagonia gives 100%:
  • Uses 100% renewable electricity in the U.S.
  • 100% of voting stocks in trust protecting values
  • 100% of non-voting stocks given to environmental non-profit, Holdfest Collective
  • 100% of down responsibly sourced
  • 100% virgin cotton grown organically
  • Created CleanCloud™, a high-performance running shoe foam made using carbon emissions as a raw material, before it can pollute our atmosphere. 
  • Redesigned packaging to be made of 99.9 - 100% recycled materials.
  • Hangtags made from 80% post-consumer waste and 20% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper stock from responsibly managed forests.
  • 100% of their performance apparel styles include recycled materials
Shop All Sustainable Shoes >

Shop All Sustainable Clothes >

Recycle Non-Recyclables

What? Yes, you can do that! There are actually more ways to recycle more things than you might imagine! For instance, did you know you can bring us your used running shoes and we’ll send them off to be turned into something new? Helping us with our zero waste events and recycled shoe program, Terracycle is a company that collects non-recyclable pre- and post-consumer waste on behalf of companies like us and people like you, turning it into raw materials that can be used in new products. How cool is that?

In addition, all Gazelle Sports locations participate in the Smartwool® Second Cut™ Project which collects clean, used or old, unwanted socks of any brand, deconstructs them, then makes sure they make their way into new products instead of a landfill. Look for our collection bins every April, and be sure to look for other ways to recycle things you never thought you could!

Make it a Group Effort

As the saying goes, it takes a village. When we band together we’re a powerful bunch and can do even greater things than going it alone. There are many organizations and groups that are actively involved in and advocates for sustainability that you can join and be a part of their efforts.

Gazelle Sports, for example, is a proud member of the Low Impact Alliance – a global collective of retailers, athletes, and brands advocating for a more environmentally responsible, sustainable running industry. Our joined forces not only make a bigger impact, but also allow us to inspire and support each other – kind of like a run group does for individual runners.

Making a Difference

We are committed to not only supporting a healthy mind and body, but also a healthy Earth. Join us in creating a better, more sustainable future by making choices that help our beautiful planet remain that way. Together we truly can make a difference.

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