Can sustainable behaviours help your pocket as well as the planet

“Weekend running the Pennines: *Cost – train £40 vs car £80/90. *Time – 1:40 cycle + 3 hr train vs 5:40 car. *Carbon: train 18kg vs car 30-50kg. *Bonus: train time to work/chill, less traffic stress, get exercise in, ease of toilets/comfort.                          All numbers one way”

The cost of living crisis is hitting everyone, including the running community. For some this is a serious challenge, with everyday decisions being weighed up by their affordability, horrifically in the most extreme cases even between eating and heating. For others who are not being hit as hard are still looking to reduce costs, save money or avoid unnecessary expenses.

Half of people are already purchasing less goods and services due to the rising costs of living[1].  While some countries have responded to increased global energy costs by burning more highly polluting coal further worsening the climate crisis. Fortunately many individual sustainable actions are not only better for your bank balance but also the planet.

How you move

Oil and fuel prices are at record highs, increasing personal vehicle travel costs. The good news is you don’t actually have to travel far to achieve your running goals, often there are equivalent training or racing options nearby that don’t need to drive to. While, when travel is needed, being organised helps – booking trains in advance can often be cheaper than driving, organising shared journeys shares the carbon and the costs. Combining trains and cycling can get you most places efficiently, cheaply and lower carbon, even cycling/running to your office, gym or park run adds up over the weeks.

“Long weekend of running accessed by train and bike. Easier and cheaper (thanks to 2together Railcard)than costs to drive.”

Race directors have a role to play too, by putting on shared transport from local transport hubs or encouraging car sharing helps the planet and helps lower the total cost of attending events. Through considering total cost and carbon across all elements it may even help attendance sales, an important consideration in a cash strapped society.

How you kit up

The cheapest and lowest impact choice is the item you already own. Many of runners already have draws full of kit and gear. One of The Green Runners key pillars, and one of the easiest ways to reduce your outgoings, is using what you already have and avoiding buying new. Sharing, renting or selling/buying second hand can have financial upsides and, with the fashion industry responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of waste water use, buying less new kit can have serious planet impact too.

Another simple solution to keep you on the trails without forking out for new kit is caring for your current kit. Caring for clothes may be as simple as washing on the right setting and skipping the tumble dryer. Sixty percent of UK households own a tumble dryer which not only causes much more harm than air drying (50% lower material tensile strength after 20 wash & dry cycles) but also uses significant amounts of energy. Most tumble dryers cost around £1.50 per load or nearly £180 a year on average1.

Caring for kit can extend its life but inevitably items become damaged and basic repairs can keep your kit going year after year. So, grab a needle and thread and fix the basics, if in doubt check online or even ask an older generation as this was common practice up until very recently.

Finally, we should look to celebrate quality that lasts to incentivise manufacture of quality over short term trends, which are only destined for landfill after a few uses. When there is truly a need for something new, it may be counterintuitive but buying more costly but durable products (if can afford it) often saves money in the long run. Better materials, design and construction, especially if also has extended warranty, reduces the need to replace as often.

A key consideration when having to buy new should be price per use not price today. Over the years a higher upfront cost item but used regularly and lasts longer represents much better value than cheaper products with a short lifespan or less versatile uses. Fewer items means few resources, less waste and lower total environmental and social harm.

We are already seeing the cost of living impact in consumer behaviours: Sustainable procurement is likely to increase with 41% people saying they will do more clothing recycling and 33% buying second hand2. Two thirds are choosing second hand, recycled or reusable products more often than they were pre covid 19. Hopefully individual behaviours and manufactures will adapt accordingly with reduced need to produce more cheap fast fashion in favour of longer life and reuse/repair options.

How you eat

Food waste is an obvious area where both daily costs and impact can be reduced, it’s estimated that around 60% of food waste comes from within the home across the UK.

An easy and simple option is avoid throwing away good food you’ve already paid for: meal planning, fewer impulse buys, careful consideration of multibuy offers or even through sensible use of sell-by date and use by dates. Sell by date is only referring to quality and nothing to do with if it is still edible, use by date is an indication of when a food may go off but still not a hard and fast date. Use your nose, many foods may last past the use by date. It is also helpful to get creative and plan meals better using what needs eating soon and look to create meals with that first, while saving any leftovers for another meal.

“the secret to a tasty, nutritious and low carbon meal: beans”

Making broader dietary wide sustainable choices can also help reduce your food impact and your weekly shop cost. It has been shown that in countries like America, the UK and Western Europe choosing to go vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian could reduce your food bill by up to one-third2.

  • Vegan diets were the most affordable and reduced food costs by up to one third (21-34% reductions, depending on the composition).
  • Vegetarian diets were a close second with similar reductions (27-31%).
  • Flexitarian diets with low amounts of meat and dairy reduced costs by 14%.

This is backed up by low cost recipe cook book author Miguel Barclay who says, “I’ve written seven budget cookbooks and have costed up hundreds of recipes, and without doubt vegan and vegetarian meals consistently come in at a much lower price than recipes with meat.”

You don’t need to jump all in and be super strict but small and consistent changes will add up both for the planet and your costs. For example, bulk buying and cooking with more nutritious and protein packed beans and lentils rather than more expensive and harmful red meat can significantly reduce your dietary environmental harm and lower cost per meal. Not only that but these dietary shifts can also be better for your health, including fewer heart, cancer risk and other diet related health impacts4.

Benefits of small actions may also help the current global spike in food costs driven by the crisis in Ukraine. Which unfortunately is most likely to hurt those in rural Africa already bearing the brunt of climate impacts. The global shortage of cereals on export markets this year is expected to be 20-25 million tonnes – but, with lots of grains going to animal feed, if Europeans alone cut their consumption of animal products by 10 per cent, they could reduce demand by 18-19 million tonnes.

Overall, if really struggling financially, sustainability is likely the least of your worries. However, for those looking to save a few pounds, shed a few pounds or protect the planet many sustainability actions can be mutually beneficial.



2) facts and stats are from food and beverage consultancy Levercliff. Levercliff surveyed 1,001 adults in the UK between October 2021 and March 2022



Andrew Murray (Green Runner)

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