Compulsory race tees – time to get shirty?

One of the highlight of signing up to many races around the world is the free branded race t-shirt that you get as part of your entry. It’s a memory, something to be proud of, and really makes you feel like you’re getting the most out of your (often pretty expensive) race fee.

 

However, people are increasingly questioning the necessity of race tees at every single event. While for many it may be their first race, or a special occasion they want to remember, for so many others it is just another t-shirt that will never be worn, adding to the pile of other t-shirts from other races.

In terms of sustainability, having compulsory race tees is a big no-no. Often made from synthetic materials originating from non-renewable resources, each wash releases microfibres into our waterways, and the energy, manual labour and chemicals used to create each and every t-shirt contributes significantly to many of the challenges we face in reducing our environmental footprint. One polyester t-shirt emits 5.5kg carbon, and although cotton t-shirts are better in terms of emissions (2.1kg), they also require much more land and water, both precious commodities in the regions cotton is grown. If the fashion industry was a country, its emissions would rank almost as highly as the entirety of Europe – it is clear that we need to change the way in which we consume clothes.

So what can we do? Here are some options for what to do with when faced with an unwanted race t-shirt (or any other sports kit for that matter!).

Image above: some shocking statistics about our athleisure, taken from ReRun

 

Opt out of tshirts

Some races now have an option to opt out of t-shirts and other race peripherals. Think twice about whether you need another race t-shirt, or if a medal might be memory enough. Some people live for race tees, and if you know you’ll love and wear it, go for it! But if you don’t feel strongly about it either way, it might be best to opt out.

Trees not Tees

Some race entry forms do not allow you to sign up without choosing what sized t-shirt you want (whether you actually want it or not). Thankfully, a company called ‘Trees not Tees‘ works with race organisers to start providing the option “I don’t need another T-shirt – please plant a tree for me instead”.

Rather than the race spending money on a t-shirt that will never be used, the money instead goes towards planting a tree on a patch of land in Scotland, contributing to rewilding the area with native vegetation. If your race entry didn’t allow you to opt out of t-shirts, why not email hello@treesnottees.com to let them know. If you have an email contact for the race you’re signing up to, send that over too – the following year you could have contributed to the planting of thousands of trees!

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Trees not Tees are doing amazing things in the name of sustainability

ReRun

ReRun is a Community Interest Company dedicated to up-cycling and rebranding old (or even new) sportswear, selling them for a fraction of their original cost. Their goal is to raise awareness of the waste generated by buying new clothes, and to extend the life of all the clothes we have. Even just a few months of extra wear can reduce the waste footprint of each item. Clothes can be taken to specific drop-off locations around the UK before being sent where they are needed.

Even the most worn-out clothes are put to good use – un-sellable clothes are donated to refugee/homeless projects and the profits from all sales go back into the running community.

Too Many T-shirts 

If you would like to keep all your t-shirts (‘for the memz’), but know that you’re unlikely to wear them all, ingenious company ‘Too Many T-shirts‘ offers a service that sews them into a throw/blanket/duvet for you. This way, you have a functioning addition to your home (perfect for wrapping up in after a long run) and are able utilise and enjoy up to 40 t-shirts at once.

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Image courtesy of Too Many T-shirts

Wear before you race

In colder races, it is commonplace to wear and then discard items of clothing at the start line. This saves carrying around extra weight you don’t want, or arriving at the start line completely freezing (this brings back memories of Tokyo marathon, and it’s no fun). Thankfully, many races are now collecting discarded items and donating them to charities. If you like to do this, why not wear an unwanted race t-shirt to the start line before donating it – just double check they are donated rather than discarded at your particular race!

The Swap Box

This community project based in Cornwall aims to extend the life of pre-loved (or even unused) sportswear, allowing runners to donate their own clothes, and/or swap items with other local runners. Sadly this is only available in Cornwall (currently) – the shop pops up Penrose Parkrun every 3 Saturdays, and can be found at numerous other local events.

Runners Renew Programme

This isn’t strictly for t-shirts, but I thought I’d add it here as I get asked a lot what to do with old trainers. The Runner’s Renew Programme collects secondhand trainers (and other bits of kit) and donates them to women. This initiative also breaks down barriers for many women looking to get into running. Shoes and other sportswear can be expensive, so donations such as these can be invaluable to those in need. DM them on Instagram to get involved!

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Runner’s Renew providing some much needed trainers!

Freecycle/local charity shops

You’ve received your race tee and race pack at home, and want to ensure it doesn’t end up in your drawers, unused, but many people struggle to find the time to send off to the above initiatives. As a last option (and one that is significantly better than chucking your clothes, or having them sit unused), try putting up clean t-shirts on freecycle, a website that offers free items to anyone who is willing to collect them. This means that someone who is in need of a sports t-shirt can come and relieve you of your burden, and you are doing good in the process. An alternative to this is donating to your local charity shop.

 

I would love to know whether you opt in or out of race tees, and what you do with all the ones you have been given! I’m sure there are loads of other great initiatives out there, and if we all called for more responsibility from race organisers, the difference we could make to the sustainability of our sport would be immense.

 

Looking for more information on sustainability in the running community

Exhausted – The effect of air pollution on running

What is green energy and can it save the planet?

8 environmental influencers you should follow

 

Come and find me on Instagram for more

Shopping rules

With each of our wallets, we have a choice: to buy or not to buy. In fact the choice gets even better – with so many shops having so many ranges year round, the choice gets larger and larger. What should we buy? How often should we buy? Should we buy at all?

Everyone is different in their purchasing habits, which is why I can only speak for myself, but I am trying to make a conscious change at the moment to buy better. I find myself mysteriously wanting a midi leopard-print skirt the moment I see it being put on in fast-forward on Instagram, and thinking about buying a new gold mirror when I see a Made-dot-com advert on the tube. However, in this age of consumerism, waste and neglect, I am desperately trying to come up with ways to spend my money better.

As an ‘influencer’, I think it’s important to remember that gifting (when a blogger/influencer will get sent something for free in the hope that they might post about it) is not impact-free. Just because it didn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, so for the purposes of this post, I am including accepting gifting as purchasing something.

I am not perfect, and have constant cognitive dissonance with my job – do I work with a brand that promotes consumerism? What brand doesn’t? Am I perpetuating the problem by advertising stuff or by using my platform to educate and provide greener alternatives am I actually helping? I don’t think the answer is simple or clear-cut, but I hope that I can at least have some positive impact while I’m here on this earth.

So, without further ado, here are some of my self-imposed purchasing rules for non-essential items.

  1. Ask myself if I can imagine myself using/wearing an item when I am in my own house in 5 years time. At 5 years it has already significantly beaten the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK (2-3 years), so may well be worth buying. Timeless pieces and the perfect jumpsuit are often worth buying. Everything else is often not. Basically, you can do consumerism as well as you like, but if you’re still buying stuff, you’re still contributing to having more things. We don’t need more things, we need less.
  2. Message a brand if their product arrives in excess packaging. This isn’t to seem like a dick, but I think it’s actually really important to make your voice known when it comes to your purchases. I recently received a very generous amount of fitness clothing from a brand (that I didn’t know was being sent) and each item was individually wrapped in plastic. So I messaged the brand to ask if they had any plans to reduce plastic packaging in future – hopefully if enough people ask, they will consider taking the requests onboard.
  3. Share amazing brands doing amazing things. Small brands rely on dedicated people and word of mouth. I work with an incredible brand called Freda that sells sustainable and ethical period products with a social mission. For me, buying from a brand like this is a no-brainer – they’re not significantly more expensive than Tampax, have a MUCH lower environmental footprint and have a ‘giveback’ (a proportion of the profits go towards ending period poverty in the UK). However, as start-ups, brands like Freda don’t have huge advertising budgets, or the ability to gift to hundreds of influencers in the hope that they’ll post. It’s by getting loyal customers who share by word of mouth that the message gets round, and each and every one of us can provide that service to brands we love and that we feel should do well. Put your money and your mouth where your values lie – it’s only in this way that small brands that do good can compete with big brands that don’t!
  4. If a highstreet brand has a ‘sustainable/ethical’ range, purchase from that (if you have to buy something). If I’m just looking for ‘something’ (e.g. for an event), I will often head to highstreet stores. Ideally I would be able to shop in advance in more sustainable shops, but sometimes it’s not possible in time, so the highstreet offers a speedy alternative. Whilst a ‘sustainable’ range from Zara is unlikely to have anywhere near the positive credentials as something from a small eco-friendly brand, imagine if Zara suddenly find that 25% of their customers are preferentially buying from their small ‘eco’ range compared to their ‘normal’ clothes. The proportion of ‘eco’ clothes are going to increase, and at that point we can ask for more from them. We have so much purchasing power and brands really are listening!
  5. One in, one out. When it comes to clothes, the vast majority of us have too many. We forget what we own, end up buying more and then check everything back into the same drawer. I do quarterly clear-outs to friends and charity shops, and then maintain that level of clothes – a level where I know what I own, know my special-occasion outfits and try not to buy more. If something new comes in, something I haven’t worn recently goes out. It’s a good system that means everything gets worn!

These are just some of the ways I try to improve the way I live through my purchasing power. I’d love to hear your ideas and tips!

Top 8 eco-influencers

This post was originally written for Freda, a brand I’ve been working with for the past month or so. Freda is a sustainable menstrual product subscription service that allows you to choose exactly what you want/need and get it delivered through your letterbox for exactly when you need it. The eco-credentials are amazing, and the brand also works with UK-based period poverty initiatives to provide menstrual products to those who can’t afford them, from school girls, to refugees, to homeless people. An amazing brand with amazing values. Give them a follow!

I’ve always preached supporting the people who you want to see grow. Whether that means sharing their pages, spreading their message or buying their products and services – it all helps! So I thought I’d share some of my favourite eco influencers, big and small. These are the people making waves. Share share share!

Venetia Falconer – @venetiafalconer

Producer and presenter Venetia Falconer is queen of sustainability and eco-friendly living, from food to fashion. Her captions are educational , funny and relatable, which is something we should all be looking for a little more on Instagram. Follow for sustainable outfit ideas, vegan food and a little thought-provoking education. Want more? Subscribe to her podcast, Talking Tastebuds.

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Natalie Glaze – @natalieglaze

Natalie is a model and founder of the eco brand Stay Wild Swim. She always promotes reusing clothes for as long as possible, as well as buying from charity shops. What I love about Natalie is that she’s balanced – for the vast majority of us, a zero waste lifestyle where we live off only what we already have is not possible, but Natalie shows us how to live that little bit more sustainably in everything we do. Follow for beautiful fashion, lots of plants and travel.

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Kate Arnell – @kate_arnell

Zero waste eco blogger and YouTuber Kate posts about all things eco, especially in the fashion industry. She promotes repairing clothes and purchasing on the basis of ‘cost per wear’ – expensive clothes are worth buying if you’re going to love and wear them for decades to come! She provides links and recommendations of plastic-free alternatives to some things you wouldn’t even thing are very damaging to our planet, including chewing gum and plastic toothbrushes. Well worth a follow.

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Clare Press – @mrspress

Clare Press is the sustainability editor of Vogue Australia but based in the UK, where she hosts her podcast, Wardrobe Crisis. She is passionate about conscious living, and being aware of what goes on behind fast fashion. She has also published multiple books on the topic of fast fashion, ethical clothing and issues within the supply chain. Well worth a follow as someone who really knows her stuff both in terms of sustainability and ethics in the fashion world.

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Immy Lucas – @sustainably_vegan

Immy first started her account to talk about living a zero waste lifestyle and veganism. Since then, she’s founded Low Impact Movement, an educational platform that uses social media to help reduce person waste and raise awareness of the issues surrounding our intrinsically wasteful lifestyles. Both pages are worth a follow, and if you like it, you can find her blog and YouTube too.

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Jo Becker – @treesnpeace

“You have two homes, the earth and your body. Take care of them”. You can find this quote in Jo’s Instagram bio, and it summarises nicely what she stands for. Jo actively campaigns for living more sustainably, including calling for a reduction in unnecessary plastic packaging in supermarkets. Did you know that UK supermarkets generate 59 BILLION pieces of plastic annually? This is just one of the many pieces of information you can learn on Jo’s page. Support her work by supporting her pages.

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Zanna Van Dijk – @zannavandijk

Zanna has recently co-founded the Stay Wild Swimwear range with fellow top eco-influencer, Natalie Glaze. Zanna is vegan and regularly donates part of the profits from other collaborations to charities invested in helping the environment. It’s great to see people with larger followings maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Follow for workout ideas, recipes and information about how we can all help save our oceans.

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Gemita Samarra – @gemitasamarra

Gemita is one of those girls that just does it all. Stunt performer, documentary film maker and founder of the My Name Is Human project, she appears to be superhuman. Gemita works tirelessly to help refugees and homeless people, and acts as a voice for both, in between campaigning for everybody to live more consciously. There are some hard hitting truths on Gemita’s page, but unfortunately that’s the reality of caring about the plight of the environment and people less fortunate than ourselves. Follow and learn.

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Chewton Glen

Nothing beats a relaxing weekend in the countryside, especially when you get to celebrate it with someone you love! I had the privilege of taking my boyfriend to Chewton Glen, a luxury 5* hotel and spa in the New Forest, Hampshire. Nothing screams romance as much as a break that involves huge rooms, comfy beds, incredible food and an amazing spa.

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As we were only staying for one night, Fiann and I wanted to arrive as early as possible on day 1. We arrived at 3pm and were immediately made to feel welcome. We were given a little tour of the hotel and then were shown straight to our room. I was amazed at the size of the room – it had enough floor space to dance around it (I can confirm) and swing many cats (I didn’t try this one). The bathroom boasted a huge bath, mirrors everywhere and a double shower with four showerheads. We were staying in the croquet lawn room – a midrange room – and I have never stayed in such a plush room. If you want luxury, this is where it’s at. As it was still light and sunny, Fiann and I headed down to the coast, a short and pretty walk away. If you happen to be a surfer, the surf looks amazing! If you’re not, the rest of the beach is beautiful too.

That evening was Fiann’s birthday dinner, so we booked into one of the hotel’s restaurants, The Kitchen, a relatively relaxed restaurant with a seasonally changing menu, where many of the ingredients are grown on site and others are from local suppliers. As it is situated up the drive, we were transported to and from in a cute little van/golf buggy, which was quite sweet. Pros: the food was delicious, and they rustled something up when we asked for things that weren’t on the menu. Cons: as we hadn’t said in advance that we were vegan, we had to go half-vegan, half-vegetarian for the dinner, as the cuisine is classic English countryside – plenty of meats and cheeses. However, what we had was delicious, and I would recommend it to anyone passing by – the restaurant is open to anyone, not only hotel guests! If you let them know in advance, there are vegan options available.

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Our breakfast in the morning was a delicious buffet followed by foods ordered from the kitchen (because is it even a meal if there aren’t two courses). I can’t really fault the food or atmosphere, everything was perfect! One small irritation was that all the sugar cubes were individually wrapped in plastic, which for a hotel hot on local foods, felt a little wrong. I will be feeding this back to them because other than that the whole experience was perfect.

We checked out of our room at 12pm, but were encouraged (with very little resistance from us) to stay and experience the gym and spa. These are both available on a day pass if you don’t have time for the full weekend – there is a big swimming pool and then another room with hot tubs, jets and other fun spa things. There’s a ‘health food’ café as well as a gym and plenty of other spa-y things in each changing room. Despite being relatively busy (it was a Saturday), the spa was big enough for all, and thankfully very quiet in all the relaxation areas. The gym isn’t huge but has much more than most hotel gyms I’ve been to! Would definitely recommend the wellness day passes even if you can’t stay overnight.

Overall I absolutely loved my stay at Chewton Glen. We were made to feel so welcome by all the staff (and there were a lot of them!), and they pulled out all the stops to make it a special weekend for Fiann’s birthday. 100% would recommend for anyone looking for a unique weekend away – there are rooms available for every type of weekend break, and the hotel really thinks of everything for you. They even provided much needed hunter wellies for our walk to the coast. Take a look at the rooms to see how perfect it is for yourself!

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Nb/ The overnight stay was provided free of charge, however as always all views are my own.

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