Last Sunday, people from all over the Philippines gathered for the National Geographic Earth Day Run and ran together for one purpose, and that is to promote efforts to protect the environment.
Now running on its 8th year, the event serves more than just an avenue for running and fitness enthusiasts but also a means of raising awareness regarding environmental issues and support for nature-related advocacies. This year’s proceeds will go to Ipo Watershed which supplies around 98% of Metro Manila’s water needs.
However, as ironic as it may seem, an environmental issue was raised by a concerned citizen against the event. Romina Lim, a student and an environmentalist, wrote an open letter to the organizers of the run regarding the disposable cups they distributed during the event. According to Romina, “Plastic cups are non-biodegradable and will contribute to land and sea pollution. Likewise, paper cups will take years to decompose because they are lined with PLASTIC (which explains why liquids do not leak). In the ocean, it may end up being ingested by sea animals.”
She also mentioned that instead of distributing disposables, the organizers could have promoted the BYOB or Bring Your Own Bottle movement that aims to decrease waste and prevent pollution. After all, the event was held for the environment. Read her full statement below.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ORGANIZERS OF NATGEO EARTH DAY RUN
To the organizers of NatGeo Earth Day Run,
This is Romina Lim, a student and environmentalist. Before anything else, I would like to commend your purpose to raise awareness to NURTURE and PROTECT our Earth by organizing the annual NatGeo Earth Day Run. As a runner and environmentalist, I was personally enticed by your intention that I registered for your event a few years ago. To keep your runners hydrated during the run and for their convenience, you provided water contained in disposable cups in each of your water stations. There were paper cups, and there were plastic cups (probably dispensed after supplies of paper cups run out). After drinking, the cups are then deliberately thrown away to the sides by the runners. Enumerated here are my concerns:
1) With the thousands of registrants, more than thousands of cups were used only to be thrown away right after drinking. This left trash scattered throughout the road. Fortunately, there were people who painstakingly cleaned up after the event.
2) The routes were situated beside Manila Bay. It is possible that some cups will be blown away and end up in the sea. I’m NOT saying that there’s a high chance of getting blown away into the sea. I’m just saying that it IS possible.
3) Plastic cups are non-biodegradable and will contribute to land and sea pollution. Likewise, paper cups will take years to decompose because they are lined with PLASTIC (which explains why liquids do not leak). In the ocean, it may end up being ingested by sea animals.
4) Buying disposable cups means more demand, and higher demand means more will be produced. We are aiming for a litter-free Earth and continuous production will only hinder us from achieving this goal.
5) As mentioned, higher demand means more production. Higher production requires more water and energy to be consumed, and this increases emissions of carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. If you think that paper cups are the greener alternative, production of paper cups consumes 4 times the energy and 3 times the amount of water used in producing plastic cups.
I’m therefore asking the event organizer to, instead of providing disposable cups, ask their runners to BYOB (‘Bring Your Own Bottle’). Bringing a bottle while running is a SMALL sacrifice compared to the Earth we’ll sacrifice just for our convenience. Also, there can be alternatives to bottles e.g. hydration pack or hydration belts which you can also suggest to your runners for their convenience. Keep the water stations so they can refill their bottles, but I suggest to do away with the disposable cups because this generates kilograms of trash.
Just so you know, this has been done in other fun runs e.g. Run for the Pasig River, Citytrail Manila, Clark Runway Color Fun Run, etc.. It HAS BEEN done. It IS possible to do away with the disposable cups. So please, for your next event, minimize your waste production and let’s promote environmental awareness.
I appreciate your intentions, but I hope the NatGeo Earth Day Run will stay true to its values and actually commit to protecting the environment.
Romina also clarified that her post is not saying that the organizers did not take care of the trash after the event. Instead, she reiterated that her point is for people to bring their own bottles and for the organizers to promote this movement.
Yes, there were assigned people to clean up after the event. But to begin with, there wouldn’t be any trash to pick up if you just properly disposed of them. Just because there were people to clean up after your mess does not mean you can just litter. Kudos to the people who painstakingly picked up the cups after the event.
The point of this post is to BRING YOUR OWN BOTTLES. I think this is the best option for everyone bc (1) we need not generate trash from the disposable cups, (2) runners can save time because they do not need to regularly stop at water stations, (3) runners will also have a constant source of water if they bring their own, (4) organizers do not have to spend money on disposable cups, and (5) people would not have to clean up after the event.
She also mentioned that a similar letter was sent to the organizers of Manila Bay Clean-up Run, and that the photos she included on her post were not hers.
We tried to reach out to the organizers of National Geographic Earth Day Run in the Philippines; however, they haven’t replied to us yet. We’ll update this article as soon as we receive a word from them.
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