Gold Standard Stewardship Launches Sustainability Consulting for Trail Race Directors

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.

Most of us agree that trail race organizers and participants are responsible to care for the environment where events take place. As trail races slowly come back online following the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, race directors have the opportunity to think not only about how to put on safe events, but also how they can go “greener.” As part of our 2020 series of “Climate Action” articles, I interview Matt Bone of Gold Standard Stewardship, to learn about his new sustainability consulting practice for trail race directors.

[TAYTE] Why did you start Gold Standard Stewardship and what services does it provide?
[MATT] I knew that I wanted to work on sustainability in the sports industry after receiving my master’s degree in Sustainability Planning and Management from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019. With the world in its current state, finding a job didn’t look promising, so I figured I should make a job for myself by doing something that I find fun and fulfilling. This past week I launched this company to provide sustainability consulting and management to forward thinking sports organizations. Part of my decision to launch now is that I’ve found a promising target market in the sports industry – trail running. Trail running is a sport that I’m familiar with and that is ready to make transitions to promote sustainability.

[TAYTE] Which trail running events you partner with, how did these relationships develop and how have they evolved?
[MATT] I’ve been aided tremendously by my father, Mike Bone, who runs ATRA member Spectrum Sports Management. I’ve helped him with purchasing decisions and planning zero waste initiatives at his Run Catalina events. With my consulting, we’ve increased the number of Spectrum Sports Mangagement’s cupless races and are currently seeking certification with the Council for Responsible Sport.

[TAYTE] Why should trail races have a sustainability coordinator and how can they make it cost effective?
[MATT] As people who curate experiences in the outdoors, trail race directors have a responsibility to set an example for how to treat our natural resources. Providing a zero waste experience gives race directors a unique opportunity to connect with their participants while helping them build environmentally responsible habits to take home. From a financial point of view, sustainability leads to cost savings and the opportunity to build new sources of revenue after an initial investment.

Getting to these positive outcomes can be difficult and demand a heavy investment of time and resources from a race director to even get started. My role is to provide the expertise and resources to launch a sustainability program for races and events. I have the knowledge on both the event management front and the sustainability/zero waste front to provide a right-size solution for any trail running event.

[TAYTE] What can race directors can do to reduce their events carbon footprint and be more sustainable?
[MATT] Zero waste is a great way to start for any event. There are quick benefits and it looks good for the race’s brand. This is a growing trend in almost all areas of the sports industry right now.

To go a step further, event directors can take actions to mitigate the impacts of their event’s energy use and the energy that participants use to get to the event. Race directors can use this as an opportunity to engage participants in positive social action and build sustainability into their brand. An easy way to do that would be to add one dollar to the registration fee that goes toward planting trees. There are plenty of other ways to offset a race’s impact and race directors should always consider local environmental issues when deciding on what impact they’re aiming for. To do this effectively and cost efficiently requires understanding the scope of the event’s impact and how to engage its audience. I can provide that insight and make the proper connections for engaging, impactful, and financially sound sustainability programs.

Going even further, race directors can view their events as platforms for building a better world and showcasing a commitment to protecting the environment. It’s one thing to change how we behave in our operations, but if we can create a legacy where race participants take home what they learn, then teach their kids, friends, co-workers, and family, that is how you make a truly sustainable event.

[TAYTE] How common are sustainability coordinators for trail running races and how responsive has community been to this type of position?
[MATT] At this point, only large professional sports organizations are creating positions specifically to handle sustainability. For trail events (and almost all participant-driven sporting events), sustainability duties are often divided among the event staff. Sustainability in trail running events is still at a stage where its financial benefits are not well understood throughout the industry. As more race directors commit to sustainability and realize the benefits, more resources in the industry will be directed toward sustainability. This may lead to the creation of more sustainability positions. However, with the current state of the events industry, it makes more sense for race directors to work with a sustainability coordinator like myself instead of putting additional responsibility on their staff.

[TAYTE] What resources would you suggest for race directors wanting to learn more about sustainability in the sports industry?
[MATT] The body of knowledge on sustainability in sports is growing rapidly. Two of my go-to sources are the Sport Ecology Group and the Green Sports Alliance. The Sport Ecology Group is hoping to increase the body of research on connections between sport and the environment. The Green Sports Alliance is the leading global platform for distributing information on sustainability and encouraging sports organizations to engage in sustainability.

[PRO TIP] What to learn more about how the American Trail Running Association is covering and contributing to sustainability in our sport? Check out these recent articles:

Also check out our race sustainability guidelines and POW Trail’s race director toolkit for climate action

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