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Bank of America Chicago Marathon runners

Incorporating environmentally and socially responsible practices is an important part of the operational planning, preparation and execution of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The Chicago Marathon sustainability program focuses on environmental stewardship, community engagement and outreach, accessibility and innovation.

In 2016, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon was awarded evergreen levelEvergreen seal certification for achieving 57 of the best-practice standards offered in the Council for Responsible Sport’s certification program for social and environmental responsibility at sporting events. The Chicago Marathon is the first marathon to earn evergreen status, the highest possible level of certification, and the largest race to be certified.

New sustainability initiatives for 2017

  • Organic waste collected from the course and Grant Park on race day will be delivered to Nature’s Little Recyclers, a commercial worm farm located just a few miles south of Grant Park. The worms will digest the waste and turn it into nutrient-rich soil. The finished product will be donated to the Chicago Park District in the spring.
  • Water filling stations will be added in Grant Park on race day to increase the availability of filtered water to participants, guests and volunteers and to reduce the number of plastic bottles used.
  • Eco Sneakers will be collecting gently used shoes at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo to donate to disaster relief efforts.

Abbott Health & Fitness Expo

  • McCormick Place, home to the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo, is the world’s largest convention center to be certified as a sustainable venue under the APEX-ASTM standard pertaining to the evaluation and selection of venues for environmentally sustainable meetings, events, trade shows and conferences.
  • Free shuttles are available to visitors, reducing the carbon footprint of participants picking up their race packets. In 2016, our shuttle service provided transportation to 49,413 passengers and made 1,087 round trips.
  • Participant t-shirts from Nike are made from 100% recycled polyester, a material produced from plastic bottles that uses less energy, water, and oil than new polyester.
  • Recycling efforts at McCormick Place include paper, plastic and aluminum as well as wood pallets and other exhibitor waste.
  • All electricity used at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is offset with clean, affordable wind energy, a commitment of McCormick Place.
  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes, a not for profit organization dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes, will provide information on local water related issues.
  • Eco Sneakers will collect gently used running shoes and donate them to disaster relief efforts.

Race day

  • Participants and spectators are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by taking advantage of a variety of public transportation options and increased levels of service from CTA and Metra available on race day.
  • Aid Station 13 collects Energy Gel wrappers and ships them to Terracycle, where the packets get shredded and melted into hard plastic to make new recycled products.
  • Banana peels, Gatorade cups and event water cups from Aid Stations 15 – 18 will be collected and delivered to a local commercial worm to be composted.
  • Green Team volunteers will be stationed in Grant Park’s Runner Refreshment, Gear Check and Runner Reunite areas to oversee waste diversion efforts. In 2016, over 50 tons of recyclable and compostable waste was diverted from the landfill.
  • Water filling stations are available in Gear Check areas, Runner Reunite and the 27th Mile Post Race Party. In 2016, volunteers stationed at water filling stations served 6,213 liters of water, reducing the number of plastic water bottles used at the event by 12,426.
  • Discarded clothing collected from the start line will be donated to Pacific Garden Mission and Illinois AmVets. Last year, 10 tons of clothing was donated to these organizations.
  • Remaining product from the Runner Refresh area will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. In 2016, 17 tons of food and water was donated to them.
  • Flower arrangements from Hospitality tents will be donated to Ronald McDonald House.
  • Heatsheets and stretch wrap collected by Green Team volunteers will be transported to a specialty recycler. Last year, 300 lbs of LDPE was collected and recycled through these efforts.


  • All participants and volunteers are encouraged to view an instructional video on Hands Only CPR through our Event Alert System email communication, providing a lasting impact on the Chicago running community.
  • Where possible, locally sourced produce is made available to runners at Runner Refresh and in our Hospitality areas. Last year, 42,000 Michigan apples were handed out, providing runners a locally sourced, healthy treat to refuel their bodies.
  • We give back to the Chicago Park District through annual support of the Chicago Park District Cross Country Championships
  • Opportunity Enterprises, a local charity that creates sustainable life choices and opportunities for individuals with physical and mental challenges, hosts an annual “Pack-A-Thon” where all bags for race participants are assembled. This event is one of OE’s largest annual fundraisers.
  • A catalyst for community involvement and volunteerism, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon involves 12,000 volunteers from over 100 local groups.

Providing access & equity

  • Gender neutral changing stations were available at all gear check areas, negating the need for athletes to identify with a gender specific changing tent.
  • Over 2,700 runners participated in the inaugural International Chicago 5K, allowing friends and family to experience the Bank of America Chicago Marathon weekend.
  • 5 Duo Teams completed the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, allowing runners to push an individual in a customized racing wheelchair.

Beyond race day

  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon measures the carbon footprint of event operations. Green-E Climate certified offsets sourced from the Big Smile Wind Farm at Dempsey Ridge were purchased from Terrapass to offset the carbon footprint of event operations for the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 116 metric tons of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gases were avoided by this investment in offsets (this is the equivalent of the carbon sequestered by 3,006 tree seedlings grown for 10 years or the CO2 emissions from 123,783 pounds of coal burned).
  • Race bibs not picked up at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo will be sorted by volunteers and recycled.
  • Street pole banners and unusable coroplast signage are recycled with a local plastics recycler post-race.
  • Downloads of the event’s mobile application, helping disseminate information digitally, rather than in print form, are available to participants and spectators

Bank of America World Marathon Majors IAAF