Climate Footprint - overview

FitPlanet defines an event’s climate footprint as including all direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced in the planning and production of the event. For events, the primary GHG produced is carbon dioxide. The largest component of the climate footprint for any event typically comes from travel, including athlete, staff, volunteer, and spectator travel. Based on our experience working with events, FitPlanet estimates travel represents between 70% and 80% of an event’s total climate footprint.

On average, every mile you drive produces about one pound of carbon dioxide. Flying produces a slightly higher amount per passenger seat and experts suggest that CO2 emitted at altitude is more damaging to the environment that CO2 emitted on the ground.

The other primary contributor to GHG emissions comes from race-day operations. This includes the emissions from vehicles used, and power drawn from the grid (typically coal-fired power plant) or from mobile diesel or gasoline generators used to power sound, lighting, timing systems, etc.

Another significant contributor to GHG emissions that should not be overlooked, particularly important for large events, is the climate footprint of the pre-event expo.

An event of 300-400 people that caters to the local community will produce perhaps 30-50 tons of CO2, the majority of that coming from travel. A large marathon of 15,000-plus people will produce thousands of tons of CO2. Again, most of that footprint is from car and air travel.

This chapter provides recommendations for (1) reducing and (2) offsetting your climate footprint. You should focus first on reducing your footprint. What you can’t reduce, you should consider offsetting. Visit FitPlanet’s CO2 and U page on our website for more information.

Through a combination of reduction and offsetting you can produce a “carbon neutral” event. Carbon neutral means that the net greenhouse gas emissions produced by the event is zero.

To become carbon neutral you need to (1) estimate the climate footprint of your event. Then you need to (2) determine the cost of buying carbon credits - FitPlanet recommends supporting local offset projects. Once you’ve determined the cost of being carbon neutral, you need to (3) determine the mechanism for covering the cost, which is covered in the Offset <PETER LINK TO OFFSET BELOW> section of this chapter.

FitPlanet can provide support every step of the way to help you achieve carbon neutrality. We can calculate the climate footprint, we have relationships with leading offset providers, and we can help you identify appropriate offset projects for your event.


In this section we’ll discuss a few specific ways you can reduce the climate footprint of travel and operations.

  1. Travel. There are two primary ways to reduce the emissions from travel: public transportation and ride sharing.
    1. Public Transportation. This is an appropriate option for urban events and for communities with a robust public transport infrastructure. But in general FitPlanet recommends you suggest athletes use public transportation if its available by providing information about public transportation options on your website.

      Public transport is not a viable option for many events for a variety of reasons: the event starts before public transportation is operating; you can’t take your bike on the bus, etc. In these cases, you might consider contacting the public transport authority to arrange for ‘enhanced’ service on the day of the event to accommodate athletes and spectators. Earlier operating times, more train cars, free admittance for athletes, etc.

    2. Ride Sharing. To complement public transportation, you should recommend ride sharing for athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators. If everyone shared a ride an event’s climate footprint would be nearly cut in half.
    3. There are a number of ways to promote ride sharing. These range from a mention on your website to providing a link to a unique ride share software option. You can also offer VIP parking to athletes and spectators who ride share. Ideally, you should provide an option for athletes in online registration for them to sign up for a ride share program.

      FitPlanet works with ride-share provider PickupPal, one of the largest ride share providers in North America. PickupPal can customize a webpage specific to your event and FitPlanet can provide you with the language and logo that you can add to your registration page. Athletes can either offer or ask for a ride. This service is free for you and free for the athlete. Click here to view the module you can place on your registration page.

      Using the FitPlanet PickupPal option will satisfy R5 of the Pledge of Sustainability and is free to the event organizer and the athletes.

    4. Alternate transportation. Walking, running or bicycling to the event are all examples of alternate non-polluting transportation options. FitPlanet recommends you provide bike valet service for athletes that arrive at the event on bicycle. You might want to consider incentives or prizes for athletes who use alternate transportation.
  2. Operations and Expo. These two elements of the event account for about 205 to 40% of the event. Your focus should be on reducing the emissions from vehicles and power sources used to produce the expo and the event itself.
    1. Vehicles. Events use trucks to haul materials, pace and press cars and motorcycles, and any number of vehicles to get staff and volunteers to and from the event. Options for reducing emissions of these vehicles include a variety of options.
      1. Rent fuel-efficient vehicles. Consider renting vehicles that run on natural gas, bio-deisel, or are battery powered (hybrids).
      2. Work with a sponsor to provide fuel efficient pace and press vehicles. Makers of hybrid or electric cars and motorcycles are one option.
    2. Power Sources. Most events use generators as their mobile power sources, and most generators are either diesel or gasoline. Consider renting bio-diesel generators if they are available in your area. In some communities you can find companies that can provide solar powered trucks or trailers.
    3. Staff and Volunteers. Encourage your staff and volunteers to ride share to and from the event. If you engage with a ride share service provider such as PickupPal, recommend they use this service.
    4. Expo options. For large events such as marathons, the climate footprint of the expo can be significant. This includes the power requirements to heat/cool and light the facility and the power requirements the vendors and sponsors need to run their booths. Then there are the emissions from the vehicles used by the exhibitors to get to and from the expo.

      FitPlanet recommends you locate your expo in a facility that uses alternate energy to power the building such as solar, hydro, or wind power. If the facility relies on coal-fired power plants, then you might consider purchasing carbon offsets or renewable energy credits. (See Offset section below).

      We also recommend you communicate with your exhibitors before the event to encourage them to consider ways to reduce the climate footprint of their participation at the expo. This includes using fuel-efficient vehicles, ride sharing or using public transport to get to and from the expo. Of course, the same goes for expo attendees.


What you can’t reduce, you should consider offsetting, with the objective of striving to make the event “carbon neutral.” You may not set out to achieve carbon neutrality this year, but it should be a goal within the next few years. For information about carbon offsets and carbon neutrality click here.

There are two primary ways you can offset the emissions from your event:

  1. Contributions from athletes. These could be either voluntary or mandatory. You won’t get to carbon neutrality through voluntary contributions but you will make a dent and begin to raise awareness among athletes about the climate impact of events in general.

    The advantage of a mandatory contribution is its simplicity. The offset cost is included in the registration fee and the cost is borne equally by all athletes. The disadvantage is that some athletes might complain about an additional fee.

    The advantage of the voluntary contribution is you provide athletes with a choice and help to educate them in the process. For those that contribute you might offer incentives such as VIP parking or a green stamp on their bib.

    FitPlanet can help you develop an offset plan and guide implementation. One voluntary option you might want to consider is the FitPlanet Green Tag program. This option will satisfy R6 of the Pledge of Sustainability and is free to the event organizer.

    Here’s how it works. FitPlanet, in cooperation with offset provider NativeEnergy, would provide an option on your registration page for athletes to purchase one or more Green Tags. Each Green Tag costs the athlete $3.00, which offsets 300 pounds of CO2 or about 300 miles of driving. Click here to view the module you can add to your registration page.

  2. “Green Sponsor” covers the climate footprint cost. The other option for offsetting emissions is to offer one or more sponsors the option of underwriting the cost of making the event carbon neutral. This could include the climate footprint of both athlete travel and operations, or perhaps just operations. For their contribution, the sponsor would be identified as the event’s “Green Sponsor.”

    Depending on the size of the event, the offset cost typically ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. FitPlanet can provide you with support to identify companies interested in being Green Sponsors.