What does it take for a large, annual festival to ‘go green’? Fort4Fitness is finding out

If you live in Fort Wayne, you might be familiar with the annual Fort4Fitness events that encourage people to get out and get active in their community.

In 2008, the group set out to educate, motivate, and inspire Fort Wayne residents to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Today, Fort4Fitness hosts a Fall Festival with foot races, a Spring Cycle race, and a Winder Wonder Dash. (Its Fall Festival is the largest event, boasting participation from 7,500 residents and visitors.)

But what you might not know about Fort4Fitness is that along with creating a healthier human population in Allen County, it’s also creating a healthier environment.

Fort4Fitness hosts a popular Spring Cycle race.

This year, in response to participant requests and a desire to improve the festivities each season, the 2019 Fort4Fitness Fall Festival is going green!

So what does it take for a large, annual festival to “go green”? As an environmentalist at the Allen County Department of Environmental Management, I’d like to help answer that for you with my trusty eco-friendly 3-R’s: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The first step is waste reduction.

In the case of Fort4Fitness, runners and walkers are being encouraged this year to reduce single-use plastic waste by bringing their own refillable water bottles to the race. There will also be water filling stations (in addition to Parkview Field’s water fountains), so runners can top off their bottles with fresh H2O instead of buying bottled water.

Since more people will have their own bottles to begin with, fewer paper cups will be handed out along the race course, which reduces single-use paper waste, too.

The second step is to reuse.

In an effort to encourage reuse, Fort4Fitness will be handing out its race packets in reusable bags that can be taken to the grocery store for shopping—reducing the need for single-use plastics.

The festival’s signs, barriers, and other equipment will also be reused from previous events and made to be usable across its future events, as well. Some of its signs will even be repurposed to display messages about why it’s important to reduce the city’s environmental footprint.

This brings me to the last step, which is recycle.

One way Fort4Fitness is incorporating a theme of recycling into its event is by providing a chance for participants to donate old shoes in any condition to Changing Footprints, a non-profit that will either clean them up and give them to someone who can appreciate them or recycle them into other materials.

Recycling will also be implemented in several forms at the event—from water bottle recycling stations for those who don’t BYO bottle and even shirts made with recycled materials for volunteers.

A special division of volunteers will form a Green Team to ensure that recycling and trash are in their proper places, too.

Last but not least, environmental organizations will be added to the roster of informational tables at Fort4Fitness so participants can learn more how to “Go Green” at home when the event is over.

Fort4Fitness Race Director, Zac Compton, says it’s all part of a greater trend the organization is moving toward in the future.

“I think this year is really about communicating we are starting on this journey with these steps, and we plan to move forward with it in future events,” he explains.

Fort4Fitness will be looking for environmentally friendly options for medals and t-shirts this fall.

His team is currently working on finding environmentally friendly race shirts and medals, as well as possibly allowing runners to opt-out of those things if they don’t want to create more waste in the first place.

It’s just another thing to consider the next time you host an event of your own.

Attend the 2019 Fort4Fitness Fall Festival

The Fort4Fitness Fall Festival is the year’s biggest community celebration of fitness in Downtown Fort Wayne. It will be held September 27-28, 2019.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit fort4fitness.org/fall-festival.

Read more articles by Jodi Leamon.

Jodi Leamon is a Fort Wayne native with degrees in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Biology from the University of Illinois Chicago. Send her your questions at [email protected]
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