Desperately Seeking … Sustainability Partners

This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, Event Leadership Institute.

This November, over 45,000 runners will suit up at the start of the ING New York City Marathon.

By the time the race starts, most of those people will toss aside sweatshirts and warm-up clothing. Ten years ago, all of that clothing was thrown away. Now, it’s reused thanks to the  New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organization that puts together the marathon.

NYRR recognized the waste involved, came up with an idea to address it, and went to work.

Now, other event organizers can learn from their experience:

How the NYRR turned waste into reward for one deserving organization

NYRR has implemented lots of other sustainability initiatives, but I find this one the most compelling for two reasons. One, it addresses what had been perhaps the most glaring aspect of waste in the event. And two, NYRR, as broad an organization as they are, is solving the problem by reaching out to partners experienced in this area.

NYRR developed a partnership with New York/New Jersey Goodwill Industries and UPS to work with Wearable Collections—a nonprofit organization that recycles clothing in the NYC area. Much of the discarded clothing will be distributed and sold at Goodwill stores throughout the greater New York area. The sale of the clothes helps further the Goodwill mission—getting people ready for and connected to jobs.

Often event organizers feel the tug of addressing sustainability at their event, either for moral reasons or because they don’t want to appear insensitive to their guests, hosts, etc. Yet solutions can be so overwhelming that you often don’t know where to start. This is where selecting a partner organization can help.

How to choose a sustainability partner organization for your event

Pick one aspect of your event that you’d like to address and find a suitable nonprofit partner to help you design and implement a good plan. Not only will you have an expert to help you address your sustainability concerns, but being able to put a face on your sustainability efforts can go a long way. Letting guests know that centerpieces will be recycled is one thing; telling them they’ll be delivered to XYZ hospital or senior center takes your efforts to a whole new level, as people can now visualize exactly where those efforts will lead.

There are numerous ways to improve an event’s sustainability quotient, and for hard core devotees, there is always more that can be done. It’s important to remember that sustainability, like R.O.I. (return on investment), is not an all-or-nothing exercise. Doing something is better than nothing, and the easiest way to get started is to focus on a single aspect of the event, and tackle it with a qualified partner organization.

To get an inside peak at what’s involved in planning the biggest marathon in the world, watch this clip of an interview with the president of NY Road Runners, and Race Director of the NYC Marathon, Mary Wittenberg. Or visit our website to watch the complete video.

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