In a world where eco-consciousness is on the rise, more consumers are considering the environmental impact of their purchases. Reports show that 82 percent of shoppers want brands to embrace sustainable and people-first practices — and Gen-Z is leading the charge.
In fact, a recent survey found that three-quarters of Zoomer shoppers see sustainability as more important than brand names (Forbes, 2022). For retailers, especially those in running and other outdoor industries, taking responsibility for our effect on the planet is paramount. This is where the Low Impact Alliance (LIA) steps in by advocating for change, providing retailer education and resources, conducting research and building a bridge between brands and retailers that will better prepare our industry for a more sustainable future.
Guiding Stores in Sustainability
Recycling can seem like a confusing and daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. The LIA recognizes that many stores want to enhance their in-store recycling practices and to support them we’ve created a comprehensive guide (https://www.lowimpactalliance.com/recycling-guide). This guide explains the basics of recycling, why it matters and how to effectively manage recycling in your store. It’s a valuable resource for retailers looking to minimize their environmental impact and meet the demands of eco-conscious consumers.
When it comes to the life cycle of products, the LIA is not content with the status quo. While the run specialty industry has done its part in participating in footwear donation and collection programs over the years, the LIA is working closely with key industry partners to shift the conversation towards product recycling and circularity.
With the LIA “Better Bins” Program, set to debut at The Running Event this month, we are looking to change the conversation around product recycling and circularity by making it a focal point of run specialty stores through a more engaging and elevated collection fixture (made from recycled materials) that both educates and inspires consumers to consider more responsible disposal of their gear while also tracking industry participation and the total waste diverted from landfills.
These bins offer a novel approach, akin to the familiar landfill/compost/recycling centers you find at restaurants and event venues, but tailored to footwear, clothing, socks and nutrition recycling.
For retailers, offering LIA Better Bins will showcase their dedication to running a more sustainable and environmentally responsible business while creating another reason for customers to return to their stores. We also believe an effort like this can dramatically increase product recycling awareness and participation and will better prepare our industry (brands, retailers and consumers) and its infrastructure for the future of circular product take-back and remanufacturing.
And the best part about this program is that there’s no cost to retailers. Through the partnership and recycling logistics of Sneaker Impact, Recover and GU/TerraCycle, participation in the LIA Better Bins Program is not only free, but also helps fund the Low Impact Alliance and contributes significantly to our ongoing effort to expand the program into every run specialty retailer in the country.
Engaging Events and Research
The Low Impact Alliance has been busy putting our words into action.
• Beginning with the release of our Plogging Guide and Nationwide Plogging Initiative in April, where we provided 100 free plogging kits to retailers and run clubs across the U.S. and Canada and collectively picked up thousands of pounds of trash along running paths, roads and waterways.
• We then hosted an ASICS-sponsored plogging event at RIA’s Runchella event in May where attendees picked up a staggering 100 pounds of litter along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail in less than one hour.
Such events not only contribute to a cleaner environment, but also foster a sense of community and shared purpose among retailers and their consumers.
• Through our collaboration with the University of Minnesota, the LIA has also conducted groundbreaking sustainability research specific to run specialty — an area severely lacking in data. Building off the momentum of our Consumer Attitude Survey launched in early 2023, which collected baseline data regarding the attitudes of more than 400 consumers towards sustainable products in the running industry, the LIA recently launched a new pilot study aiming to gather Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories from retailers across the country.
It’s important to note that the collection of emissions data from run specialty retailers is not being done to call any retailers out; rather, it is to show brands the effect their manufacturing decisions have on our industry and offer insight into how each retailer can reduce its environmental impact through more eco-conscious purchasing and product curation. If your store wants to complete your own GHG inventory and be one of the first to learn from this research study, please reach out to us.
• The LIA has also offered webinars to the industry throughout the year. They ranged from teaching the basics of sustainability key terms in our “Building a Shared Language on Sustainability” roundtable to identifying the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and our planet are interconnected.
• In our industry roundtable, “The Intersectionality of Environmentalism,” with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, the Low Impact Alliance created a space to bring sustainability leaders, prominent industry figures, brands and retailers together to learn from each other and create a transformative force and alliance that will lead the industry toward a more sustainable future.
The TRE23 Milestone
The Running Event has always marked important milestones in the LIA’s journey and we are honored to return this year as the event’s Environmental Impact Partner. This partnership marks a significant step forward in our commitment to environmental responsibility and underscores our dedication to reducing our industry’s collective carbon footprint.
With this partnership, we are poised to substantially reduce TRE’s environmental impact and help set a new standard for responsible event management through a multifaceted approach that includes initiatives across the event’s operations, educational programs and vendor and attendee engagement and responsibilities, as well as onsite recycling opportunities, experiences and events.
To kick off TRE 2023, we will be leading an ASICS-sponsored trail cleanup in collaboration with local cleanup organizations.
We will also have a strong presence at TRE’s education sessions, with the LIA leading a seminar on the environmental impact of events as well as participating in various panels.
Our booth will be highlighting the many free resources we offer to the industry, debuting the LIA Better Bins Program, hosting multiple educational sessions and unveiling limited edition LIA product collaborations with Ciele and Recover.
We look forward to forging new relationships at The Running Event and beyond as we all work toward a more sustainable future. It’s time for us to come together as an industry and take responsibility for our environmental impact.