Register your place in the virtual 2022 TCS London Marathon!

Running a sustainable marathon

London Marathon Events (LME) is committed to inspire and deliver innovation in mass participation event sustainability and to reduce the environmental impact of the Virgin Money London Marathon and all other events it organises. This year, LME published its second annual report Leaving the Right Impression, which set out our progress during 2020 which, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was a challenging year for the organisation.

Achievements include:

  • Joining the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework
  • Reducing total waste by almost 20 per cent from 2019 in the one like-for-like event, The Vitality Big Half
  • Switching to 100 per cent renewable energy at LME’s offices and warehouse
  • Promoting pro-environmental behaviour by joining with other mass participation sports organisations to share knowledge, experience and set cross-industry standard
  • Introducing a carbon levy for international ballot participants in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon
  • Donating more than 8,000 items of clothing to charitable causes
  • Introducing electric vehicles at the Virgin Money London Marathon elite event 

Sustainability at the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon

Measures to reduce the environmental footprint at this year’s event include:

  • Kitbags are made from sugar cane rather than plastic, with lower emissions associated with production
  • Printing bib numbers on demand (to reduce waste from uncollected bib numbers)
  • Clothing donation points at the Start to enable participants to hand in unwanted items of clothing which will be donated to charity or recycled where possible. In 2019, we recycled around 1.6 tonnes at the Start and 2.8 tonnes went for re-use
  • Participants are encouraged to ‘drink, drain, drop (in the bin)’. BUXTON Natural Mineral Water bottles are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and are 100 per cent recyclable. Participants are asked to drain the bottle before dropping it into bags at designated drop zones after each Drinks Station. This will ensure the bottles can be recycled in a closed-loop system
  • Encouraging participants to wear bottle belts to reduce touchpoints. A trial in 2019 showed that the use of the bottle belts led to around a 45 per cent reduction in the number of bottles used by each participant. London Marathon Events’ specially designed bottle belts are made from more than 90 per cent recycled plastic
  • Supplying Lucozade Sport in compostable cups
  • Using generators fuelled by HVO (that’s Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) over red diesel, as it has fewer emissions associated over its lifecycle
  • Electric lead vehicles
  • Collecting waste from events to make mile markers for future events
  • Offsetting emissions from generators and event vehicles while greener alternatives are sought
  • Introducing electric vehicles for elite athlete transfers
  • Providing UK-based participants in the virtual event with plantable Finish Lines made from seed paper. Non-UK participants have received FSC-certified non-seeded Finish Lines

LME has set itself ambitious targets for the future and is grateful for the continued support of and feedback from participants.

Balancing carbon emissions

Alongside taking action to reduce environmental impact and decarbonise emissions, LME also wants to balance residual emissions and we have begun doing this through investing in a combination of UK-based and international initiatives.

Earlier last year, LME planted 1,086 trees in partnership with Trees for Cities at a site in east London which will, over time, offset 381 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions created by our use of generators and vehicles, along with staff and elite athlete travel to our 2020 and 2021 events.

The wide variety of trees were chosen to provide a long-lasting healthy urban woodland and for their ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

The east London site is currently disused and the tree planting is part of Trees for Cities’ long-term plan to create a new urban woodland, bringing it back into community use. It is in an area that suffers from high pollution and the trees will help absorb both air and noise pollution and provide a home for wildlife.

In 2021, we will be supporting two certified projects based in Kenya in partnership with the organisation ClimateCare to offset emissions. These projects include:

  • Community-led reforestation: the project provides income to small groups (six to 12 people) of subsistence farmers who monitor the growth of their trees through a smartphone network, creating a real-time database of trees by age and species. Since its beginning in 2004, the project has grown to include 65,000 members, who have planted more than 8.3 million trees in Kenya
  • Forest protection: the project protects more than 200,000 hectares of highly threatened forest and preserving important wildlife migration routes