SPARKPEOPLE Feature | Eco Running: Get Fit & Give Back

SPARKPEOPLE Feature | Eco Running: Get Fit & Give Back


Some people would only run if a bear were chasing them. Others do it to lose weight, get fit, or relieve stress. But Wisconsinite Samuel Huber runs to help the planet. He is part of a growing movement of runners who realize that this form of exercise doesn’t just get you from point A to point B, but can also be a vehicle for change. They call it Eco Running.

Huber is a physical education teacher and avid runner who believes that the environment around us makes outdoor activities enjoyable and memorable. Because he was tired of seeing litter on his runs, he became an “eco-runner,” a term that describes both a simple act and an entire philosophy.

What is Eco Running?

Eco-running involves picking up rubbish while you are out on a run. Huber carries a biodegradable bag when he runs outside, and when he sees something that shouldn’t be there, he swoops down and picks it up, carrying it in his bag until he reaches an appropriate trash receptacle. But eco-running is about so much more. According to Huber, eco-running is just one part of living a truly green lifestyle. It fits in with other eco-friendly actions, like using alternative methods of transportation, buying local and organic foods, bringing your own bags to the grocery store, recycling, and cutting energy usage.

Through eco-running, Huber realized that running itself, while enjoyable and healthy, was something he did just for himself. But eco-running allowed him to give back to the earth that provides him with such beautiful places to run. He says that through eco-running, “I’m satisfying my ‘I’ and so much more.” And he’s not the only one. Eco-running is catching on. Huber maintains a popular running website and two blogs. He posts tips for adults and kids who are interested in eco-running, FAQs about eco-running, and links too numerous media interviews he’s done about his philosophy and practices.

5 Steps to Eco-Exercise

To become an eco-runner, all you need is your usual running attire, a trash bag (Huber recommends biodegradable BioBags, but any bag will do), environmental awareness, and motivation. Really, you don’t even have to run! Attach an “eco-” to any fitness activity you choose, and look for litter along the way. Try eco-walking, eco-hiking, eco-cycling, eco-kayaking, or even eco-golfing. The Eco-Runner concept can be applied to any activity you love, as long as you’re, in Samuel’s words, “leaving nothing but footprints, and taking someone else’s trash with you.”

Here are five more ideas to give a green twist to your fitness routine:

  • Do as much as you like. You don’t have to dedicate yourself to litter patrol during every fitness activity to be an eco-exerciser. You could set aside one run per week for eco-running, or even just commit to 15 litter stops per hike, for example.
  • Take it one step further. Put paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, and other recyclables you find into the nearest recycling bin instead of throwing them in the trashcan.
  • Green your gear. Although you don’t need any special equipment to eco-run (and the most eco-friendly thing you can do is use what you have instead of buying new stuff), there will come a time when your running shoes will wear out, or your favorite high-performance sweat-wicking shirt will stop performing. When this time comes, replace it with these eco-friendly threads.
  • Consider your transportation. Are you driving your SUV to the bike trail, park or gym on the other side of town? Get there in an earth-friendly manner, if possible. Carpool with friends, use public transit, or pick a closer destination to decrease your footprint even further.
  • Choose wisely. Consumers want products that are made sustainably, and more companies are heeding to the call. These days, it’s getting easier to find eco-friendly fitness and recreational equipment—from snowboards to bikes to water bottles. Do a little research to find out which companies are taking the planet into consideration when choosing materials, manufacturing and shipping methods. Buy their products if feasible. When consumers increase demand, prices will drop and choices will increase.

Eco-running (or eco-anything for that matter) is about taking small steps to improve our world, while improving your body at the same time. Combine your passion with a purpose, and bring your awareness of the environment with you wherever you go.

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