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Sustainability

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.

Evergreen inspire sealThe 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been named an Evergreen Inspire Event by the Council for Responsible Sport in recognition of our sustained commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Inspire event status is awarded by invitation only to events that have achieved multiple certifications from the Council, with the intention of recognizing the legacy that sporting events committed to sustainability and thoughtful resource management provide to their audiences and communities. The Chicago Marathon was first certified by the Council for Responsible Sport in 2010 and is currently the largest marathon to be certified by the Council.


2018 sustainability initiatives include:

  • This year’s organic waste, which includes Gatorade and course water cups, banana peels, apple cores and other compostable materials, will be delivered to Nature’s Little Recyclers, a local commercial worm farm, for composting. After the worms have broken down the organic materials, the resulting nutrient rich compost will be donated to our community partner, the Chicago Park District, to enrich the soil in their community gardens.
  • Volunteers will collect Heatsheets, a blanket designed to help regulate runners’ body temperatures, at the start and finish line for recycling. Through Heatsheets Blankets to Boards program, the gathered blankets will be turned into benches for installation in a Chicago Park District park.
  • To help raise awareness around the issue of single use plastic pollution, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon has partnered with the Shedd Aquarium. Participants, spectators and event partners will be encouraged to “Shedd the Straw” to reduce the use of single use plastic at the event and beyond. Water filling stations will be located near gear check tents and at the Biofreeze 20th Post Race Party for easy refilling of water bottles.
  • Zero waste stations will be introduced throughout Grant Park, staffed with Green Team volunteers to aid in the collection and sorting of waste to reduce the amount sent to the landfill. Volunteers will sort waste into multiple recycling and composting options, including upcycling foil lined wrappers.

Tracking and reducing our environmental impact

  • 70 tons of waste collected was composted or recycled, 13 tons of food and water from the finish line was donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and 9 tons of clothing was collected from the start line, and donated to the Pacific Garden Mission and Illinois Amvets.
  • In the days leading up to the race, 568 pounds of event staff meal scraps and compostable tableware were picked up by Healthy Soil Compost, a bicycle-powered food-scrap and organic waste hauling service and delivered to Nature’s Little Recyclers.
  • Nature’s Little Recyclers, a local commercial worm farm, received 10 tons of organic waste on behalf of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Over the winter, the worms broke the waste down to approximately one ton of nutrient rich compost soil, which was donated to the Chicago Park District’s community demonstration garden in May 2018.
  • 500 pounds of LDPE, including Heatsheets and stretch wrap, was collected and hauled to Antek-Madison for recycling.
  • 20,524 Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel wrappers were collected at Aid Station 13 and shipped to Terracycle, where the packets were shredded and melted into hard plastic to make new recycled products.
  • 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 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 132 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 3,421 tree seedlings grown for 10 years or the CO2 emissions from 144,420 pounds of coal burned).
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon calculated the event’s water footprint and identified that 58,897 gallons of water used at the race.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon Abbott Health & Fitness Expo shuttle service provided free transportation for a record 66,287 passengers to and from four downtown locations. The shuttle, scheduled to run every half hour, made a total of 1,248 round trips.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon participant shirt was made from 100% recycled polyester, a material produced from plastic bottles, using less energy, water and oil than virgin polyester.
  • Volunteers at water filling stations in Grant Park served 6,522 liters of water, the equivalent of 13,044 plastic water bottles.

Engaging the local community

  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes, was featured at the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo. The Alliance encouraged Health & Fitness Expo attendees to sign up for their Adopt the Beach program to help keep the Great Lakes clean.
  • 43,000 Michigan apples were handed out, providing runners a locally sourced, healthy treat to refuel their bodies.
  • 600 reusable water bottles were distributed to event staff to encourage the use of local water, both at the event and in their everyday lives.
  • 30,240 gallons of water from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon were donated to Feed the Hungry, The Greater Chicago Food Depository and Pacific Garden Mission to support their efforts of providing clean water to the communities they serve.

Providing access & equity

  • Braille medals were provided to all visually impaired runners.
  • Telemundo Chicago produced training tips in advance of race day, as well as a live race day broadcast for Spanish-speaking viewers throughout the Chicago area.
  • Over 5,000 runners participated in the second Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K, allowing friends and family to experience the Bank of America Chicago Marathon weekend.

Community legacy

  • In 2016, more than 10,000 runners raised $16.9 million through the 2016 Charity Program. Since the charity program was officially established in 2002, more than 106,000 runners have raised over $167 million for local, national and global causes.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon continues to contribute to Chicago’s economy, with the 2016 race delivering an estimated $282 million in total business impact to the city.
  • For the second year, Bank of America Chicago Marathon worked with Chicago Sister Cities International to recognize international sister marathons in nine of Chicago’s sister cities. This was an opportunity to recognize the strong relationships between these marathons, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the City of Chicago.
Bank of America World Marathon Majors IAAF