Wharf to Wharf Race Director Scott McConville and race Finish Line Director Stephen Hoversten proudly hold the refillable aluminum water bottles that will be given to each finisher this year as part of the organization’s effort to reduce waste and encourage sustainability. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)
By ELAINE INGALLS | firstname.lastname@example.org | Santa Cruz Sentinel
CAPITOLA — In its 47th year, Wharf to Wharf Inc. is putting new sustainability practices in place at Sunday’s race, in hopes of obtaining gold-level certification from the Council for Responsible Sport.
Last year, Wharf to Wharf Inc. conducted a case study with the council to examine the race’s environmental and social impacts. This year, Wharf to Wharf Inc. is partnering with a third-party evaluator, Blue Strike Environmental, to establish sustainability policies and execute them during the event, all to achieve council certification.
“It took me a while to have the confidence to move forward with the board of directors’ support and push this change for the future,” said Scott McConville, Wharf to Wharf race director. “It’s ambitious, but we think we have a good shot.”
McConville has been the race director since 2013. His focus on sustainability started when he graduated from college with an environmental studies degree.
As part of its sustainability movement, Wharf to Wharf is partnering with San Francisco-based company Pathwater to provide racers with reusable aluminum water bottles instead of plastic water bottles. While Pathwater is donating the bottles, Wharf to Wharf will be spending money on the process for certification, McConville said.
Other features of the race are “going green.” All aid stations will use compostable cups, replacing its 40,000 water cups the race used previously. Green Waste will provide specific dumpsters for the compostable cups to later be used as soil and fertilizer. Wharf to Wharf will also give runners reusable giveaway bags.
“It shows a commitment to the place they’re running on,” said Alex Baxter, Blue Strike Environmental’s sustainability program manager. “It shows they’re good stewards of the land…It’s about committing a legacy to the community, pushing socioeconomic barriers.”
If Wharf to Wharf does achieve this certification, it will be the first event in Santa Cruz County to achieve it, as well as the first in the San Francisco Bay Area to achieve it since 2011, according to a press release.
“Our goal is not to be perfect, but to improve as an event, to lower our carbon footprint and take the appropriate next steps to continue to lower our environmental impact,” McConville said.
Founded in 2008, the Council for Responsible Sport leads a certification program that evaluates events on their environmental and social impacts and ranks their practices. The council has certified 165 events globally, according to Managing Director Shelley Villalabos.
“It (the council) aims to have a world where responsible events are the norm, not the exception,” said Villalabos. “Consumers want more sustainable options when they are purchasing. Experiences aren’t the exception.”
The certification process typically takes about 10 months. Events/organizations must be recertified every two years.
Certification levels, ranging from basic to evergreen, are based on how many standards an event meets out of 61. For example, a certified event meets 27-35 standards, while an evergreen event meets 55 or more of them. Standards are comprised of five sections: planning and communications, procurement (how an organization partners in hosting an event), resource management, access and equity and community legacy. The council has certified more than 100 road races around the world, but only 20 U.S. road races have earned the gold ranking, according to a press release.
Runners are encouraged to help the event in its sustainable practices after the race. Runners can take the Wharf to Wharf Sustainability Survey and bring their old running shoes for donation at Fleet Feet’s finish village booth. They can also speak with the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency at the finish to learn about local water security.