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November 14, 2014

IRONMAN: Planning for the race and the waste

To be an IRONMAN triathlete is to dream big. To overcome physical and mental obstacles. To meticulously plan for every segment of the race.

I’ve lived this experience many times as a competitor in the IRONMAN – a grueling mash-up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. As director of Waste Management’s sustainability services, I’ve found that planning the sustainability goals of a major event takes much the same mindset, including our work as the environmental solutions provider for the IRONMAN triathlons (view my chat with Shane Facteau, IRONMAN’s Chief Operating Officer, at the recent IRONMAN World Championship).

The Dream

A more sustainable environmental footprint. A goal we think is a worthwhile reach for many events, achievable through careful benchmarking and a phased approach. We’ve done it with one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has achieved zero waste status for two years running.

The Obstacles

The physical obstacle is clear: the sheer mountain of items that could be generated by hundreds of participants, spectators and volunteers at even a short-term event. The key to addressing that is to overcome a mental obstacle – the attitude that something can’t be done. Instead, you must build the mindset that all waste generated during an event can find a second purpose.

The Plan

Whether training for an event or competing in sport, data is important. We take the same approach in benchmarking the entire U.S. IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 series with our ENSPIRESM tool, an online reporting platform that enables organizations to track their environmental impact and view sustainability trends over time.

At IRONMAN events in Florida, Texas and Arizona last year, we helped keep 45 to 65 percent of trash out of the landfill. We’ve also helped IRONMAN add a sustainability coordinator to their team and are guiding the first attempt at a carbon footprint assessment of a full IRONMAN race.

So, what’s a waste company doing at a sporting event? Dreaming big. Overcoming obstacles. Planning. Helping IRONMAN achieve a smaller footprint and a more sustainable future.

Waste Management is IRONMAN’s official environmental solutions provider and the presenting sponsor of IRONMAN Arizona (Tempe, Ariz.,Nov. 16, 2014) and Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas (The Woodlands, Texas, May 16, 2015).