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Countdown to the big race, October 13, 2019


Aerial photo of runners in start corrals at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

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.

The 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was 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:

  • Organic waste, including Gatorade and course water cups, banana peels, apple cores and other compostable materials, was delivered to a local 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 collected 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 local community gardens.
  • To help raise awareness around the issue of single use plastic pollution, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon partnered with the Shedd Aquarium. Participants, spectators and event partners were encouraged to “Shedd the Straw” to reduce the use of single use plastic at the event and beyond. Water filling stations were located near gear check tents and at the Biofreeze 20th Post Race Party for easy refilling of water bottles.
  • Zero waste stations were 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 sorted waste into multiple recycling and composting options.

Tracking and reducing our environmental impact

  • 80 tons of waste collected was either composted or recycled, 16 tons of food and water from the finish line was donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and 10 tons of clothing was collected from the start line and donated to Illinois Amvets.
  • In the days leading up to the race, approximately 500 pounds of perishable food was donated to local shelters with the help of the Food Recovery Network and 351 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 a local composting facility.
  • Nature’s Little Recyclers, a local commercial worm farm, received 10.5 tons of organic waste from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Over the winter, the worms have been breaking down the waste down to nutrient rich compost soil, which will be donated to the Chicago Park District and community gardens in the spring of 2019.
  • 355 pounds of LDPE, including Heatsheets and stretch wrap, was collected and hauled to Trex for creating composite boards. The boards will be used to create benches for donation to local community gardens.
  • 25,948 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.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon calculated the event’s water footprint and identified that 60,242gallons of water used at the race.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon Abbott Health & Fitness Expo shuttle service provided free transportation for 61,729 passengers to and from four downtown locations. The shuttle, scheduled to run every half hour, made a total of 1,204 round trips.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon participant shirt was made from 100% recycled polyester (https://news.nike.com/news/nike-better-world), a material produced from plastic bottles, using less energy, water and oil than virgin polyester.
  • Water filling stations in Grant Park provided 763 gallons of water to participants and spectators, the equivalent of 5,779 plastic water bottles.

Engaging the local community

  • We partnered with Shedd Aquarium to help raise awareness of plastic pollution through their #SheddtheStraw campaign
  • Michigan apples and grape tomatoes were handed out to participants, providing runners with locally sourced, healthy treats to refuel their bodies.
  • 26,208 gallons of water from the Bank of America Chicago Marathon were donated to Feed the Hungry to support their efforts of providing clean water to the communities they serve.

Providing access & equity

  • New in 2018, The Elite Athlete Mentor Program is a partnership between the Chicago Marathon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wheelchair sports program. It is designed to provide mentorship and inspiration to children living with permanent disabilities who are interested in wheelchair sports.
  • Over 5,000 runners participated in the Advocate Health Care International Chicago 5K, allowing friends and family to experience the Bank of America Chicago Marathon weekend.

Community legacy

  • In 2017, more than 10,000 runners raised $18 million through the 2016 Charity Program. Since the charity program was officially established in 2002, more than 116,000 runners have raised over $185 million for local, national and global causes.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon continues to contribute to Chicago’s economy, with the 2017 race delivering an estimated $338 million in total business impact to the city.
  • The 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 Abbott World Marathon Majors IAAF Gold Label Event
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
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