Published on April 22nd, 2012 | by Vivian Nelson Melle


Pat’s Run: an Eco-Conscious Model for Charity Races

Under Tempe’s desert sun some 28,000 competitors walk and run a 4.2 mile trek in honor of Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman played for Arizona State University (ASU) in the stadium where the commemorative race ends. When Pat went on to don the Arizona Cardinal uniform he still chose to bike to practice and not take some flashy car. He was a simple man who went without the frivolities so many sports figures flaunt. He enlisted in the Army shortly after September 11, 2001 walking away from a $3.6 million NFL contract and died under friendly fire in Afghanistan. It makes sense that Pat’s Run strives to better its eco-efficiency every year to honor a man who gave his life for his country and became a model for simplicity and honor.

Here are five ways Pat’s Run is an eco-conscious model for charity races.

recycle bin

Clearly labeled recycle bin

The Green Team Keeps Pat’s Run Eco-Conscious

Pat’s Run is made up of volunteers working to make a safe, successful and eco-friendly charity race. To carry out their green goals the Pat Tillman Foundations enlists Tillman Scholars, ASU’s Green Team and last year local Pinnacle High School worked to accomplish their eco-agenda. ASU’s Green Team is part of the Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives (CSSI). They offer recycling and sustainability help at major ASU events. The eco crew  worked closely with the City of Tempe to complete their goals which included the following five points.

{recycle bin photo via Morguefile}

Pat's Run 2011

Pat’s Run 2011 finish line

1. Pat’s Run Recycles

For Pat’s Run 2011, volunteers oversaw the placement and use of 200 bins marked for trash and recycling. These bins were strategically placed throughout the finish line expo and stadium. It’s difficult to eliminate waste at charity races, but offering recycling receptacles helps lower the amount of trash headed for landfills.

{cc photo courtesy of sheiladeeisme on Flickr}

typical schwag bag from an event

Typical schwag bag from an event

2. Minimization of the Schwag Bag

Schwag bags are the staple of special events, from sporting competitions to professional conventions. Some might not like the idea skimpy schwag bags but runners who know Pat’s story are okay with that. If the subject of the race could walk away from a 3.6 NFL contract than surely competitors can forego a few trial-sized energy bars. The infamous schwag bag from races includes coupons, sample sized treats and even full size energy drinks and water containers. This year, Pat’s Run used Virtual Race Bags. An email was sent to participants with a link to a Virtual Race Bag set up for Pat’s Run. The site collects and offers all the discounts and deals normally found in paper form in race schwag bags.

plastic bottles at a recycling facility

Plastic bottles at a recycling facility

3. Educating the Public on Being Green

The volunteers in charge of the race’s green initiatives designed and created green t-shirts to easily stand apart from other event workers. They use the race as a teaching moment to promote green living explaining the eco-minded details of the race and their impact on the environment.

{cc photo courtesy of Plan for Opportunity on Flickr}

4. Using the Internet to Lower Paper Waste

While many races allow online registration, they may still send confirmations and t-shirts through the mail. It seems harmless but actually causes an increase in paper waste. Pat’s Run offers registration and confirmation, including signing of the participation waiver, all online. A confirmation email includes your participant number used to pick up your race shirt. Many participants running with friends or family have one member pick up all the shirts to cut down on transportation the three-day t-shirt pick up. This is not only an eco-minded endeavor, the move helped cut printing and paper costs by 1/3 which is significant for a charity event.

{mailbox photo via Morguefile}

Tempe light rail at ASU Stadium

Tempe light rail at ASU Stadium

5. Pat’s Run Supports Biking, Carpooling and Light Railing

ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium stands next to the Phoenix Metro’s Light Rail system which runs from central Phoenix through Tempe and on to Mesa. The Pat Tillman Foundation asks participants to use public transportation or carpooling to cut down on emission and traffic congestion the day of the race and when picking up t-shirts the days before the race.

{cc photo courtesy of Nick Bastian Tempe, AZ on Flickr}

{Source: Pat’s Run Race Program}

How do you feel about the waste produced by charity races? Is greening of these races important to you?

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About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at and

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