Pro triathlete, Chris Lieto, recently started a campaign called The Green Athlete. The Green Athlete provides resources and ideas that support athletes in their effort to live green. The Green Athlete campaign encourages athletes of all levels and abilities who lead busy lives and want to make small changes that add up to big results. A core component of the campaign, The Green Athlete Blog, provides weekly tips that cover everything from where to recycle your running shoes to what food choices will help make a difference. We hope to bring together athletes of all levels and abilities to make proactive environmentally friendly choices and changes, a part of their athletic lifestyle!
I recently had a chance to pull Chris away from his busy training schedule to ask him a few questions about The Green Athlete. Here is what he had to say.
We know the basic idea of what The Green Athlete is all about. How did this come into being….was this an idea that you came up with?
Yeah, I came up with the idea. I thought this would be a good way to do what I can to bring awareness and educate people on being more green. In the process I have learned a lot and have seen more things that I can do to lessen my impact. Before I started the project I was a bit wary of doing the Green Athlete because I am certainly not the perfect “green” person. But you have to start somewhere and just do the things that you can do. There is a learning curve as you get more involved in being green. Through the Green Athlete I have been learning more things that I can change and have changed my thought process as a result. For example when you go to the coffee shop. Sure, the cups they use are from recycled material and you can recycle the cup but the better option would be to bring your own coffee mug and forgo the paper cup altogether.
Have you been a big supporter of recycling, composting, basically being “green” even before now?
I have always recycled and have learned since starting the Green Athlete that it is more about reusing and reducing instead of recycling…..which should be the last option of the three. For example I don’t buy bottled water. I use a filter on the tap instead. I am trying to get my sponsors to think along these lines as well, which many of them have already been doing. My sponsor BASE Performance Nutrition has a product that comes in concentrate form and it makes 8 gallons when mixed with water. So, rather than buying a bottled drink I can just mix it up using my water bottles, filtered water from the tap and the concentrate.
So you’re driving around to races in a bio diesel and solar powered van? How is that? Do you have problems finding places to fuel up?
It has been great. We are pretty much self sufficient in the van. We have a kitchen, fridge, microwave and of course a flat screen TV with a Sony Playstation III.
I don’t have much of a problem finding a place to get biodiesel. There are websites that list stations that have biodiesel. So before I take a trip, I just have to map out where we are able to fuel up. We drove up to Boise for the 70.3 race there and we were able to fill up in Truckee and then again once we got to Boise. The van will run on diesel if I run out of biodiesel. Of course that is certainly not something I want to do and would rather run 100% on biodiesel. But, like I said I’m not the perfect green person and if I am able to use biodiesel 80-90% of the time then I am still making a difference.
The idea of having the van is twofold. The first obviously being to reduce carbon emission and be more green. The second is to use the van to be the catalyst to draw people in and peak their interest in the van and in biodiesel and solar and being green and get them to start asking questions. I like being around people and am a very social person so at races we have a bunch of chairs set out by the van. So people can come and just hang out, check out the van and ask questions about green issues, talk about racing, about gaming...
**Chris will have his van set up at the Vineman Ironman 70.3 expo on July 19th so stop by and say hi and check out the van!
What kind of changes have you made when you go to races?
Well the van is equipped with a water filter so I don’t have to buy bottled water. I also bring gel flasks and use those during a race instead of gel packets. I don’t take anything from the bike aid stations because I make sure I have everything I need with me. This helps reduce the garbage out on the race course. As I mentioned before the van has everything we need so that really helps. I think it’s not enough that races themselves are going green. We, as athlete’s need to do our part at races that are green to help them in their efforts.
What other kind of changes have you made at home or in your daily life?
Well, I already mentioned that I have a filter on the tap and use that instead of bottled water. I try and ride my bike to the pool. I stop at the store at the end of a bike ride rather than making a separate trip. I also use my scooter to go places and run errands. We are in the process of having solar panels put on our house. I have been working with a Berkeley startup company called called Sungevity, https://www.sungevity.com/. They have been great to work with! (Sungevity also helped Chris to add solar to his biodiesel van)
What has been the reception from athletes/spectators at races?
It has been great. People have been asking lots of questions. They have said that they really like the name (the Green Athlete). There have been some pros that have stated an interest in The Green Athlete. We’d like to be able to have them do some blog entries on the website to tell people what they are doing to be green and give some ideas that they have and changes they have made. We’ve got an idea where we can have people sign a pledge of some kind to get them more committed to making changes.
Now that it is the height of race season I don’t have a lot of time to work on the campaign and website and expand on it but I hope to do more down the road. We just started on this project so I’m not sure what direction it will take but so far we’ve had good response to it.
Are you finding a lot of racing coming on board with green initiatives like Vineman is doing and like Barry Siff has done with 5430 in Boulder?
Yes. In just this race season I have seen a lot of races making changes. WTC is getting on board and North America Sports has voiced some interest as well.
You’re involved with a program called Soles for Souls. Tell me a little bit about this. And, you have a link on your website for people to find out more about this right?
Soles for Souls collects and donates used shoes to people in need all around the globe from victims of hurricane Katrina to those of the tsunami in Myanmar. If the shoes that they collect are no longer wearable the shoes are then ground up and turned into turf and material for playgrounds. We have been collecting shoes at various races (and will collect shoes at Vineman Ironman 70.3). The Green Athlete has teamed up with K Swiss and when someone donates a pair of shoes we’ll give them a discount coupon for a pair of K Swiss shoes.
Well, Vineman will certainly get the word out about Soles for Souls and encourage athletes to bring their old running shoes to our race expo on July 19.
Thanks Chris for taking some time out to have a chat about The Green Athlete! We’ll see you in a couple of weeks at Vineman where you’ll be taking part not only in the race on the 20th but also the Athlete Welcome Reception on July 18th at 7pm and at the expo on July 19th.
Best of luck with the campaign and with the rest of your 2008 race season.
To find out more about Chris and his efforts check out the following websites: