Putting the 'Green' in the Greenline 1/2 Marathon

On October 12th, 2014, Shelby Farms Park will be hosting the greenest race around for the second year in a row: the Greenline Half Marathon.   


Sustainability is built-in to the Park’s mission, management, and programming. Though thinking green is part of our DNA, it takes vigilance to ensure sure that sustainability remains at the forefront when planning events. Registration, catering, transportation -- all of these things can contribute to an event's carbon footprint.   

Natalie Wilson, Events +Programs Manager for SFPC, recognized the impact and waste that events can create and made it her mission to improve event sustainability. She focused first on the Greenline Half Marathon because of the 13.1 mile impact and its focus on funding the upkeep of the trail that has helped spur green transportation in the city.  

Natalie started conversations with the Council for Responsible Sport, a group dedicated to helping organizations make their events more sustainable, in February of 2012, and had received their certification by December of the same year. By undergoing the their ‘ReSport Certification’ process, Natalie was able to divert 92% of would-be race waste from landfills. Below is a list of all the inventive changes Natalie implemented to make our Greenline Half Marathon stay true to its name.   


Reduce Paper Waste 

  • Move all registration online to eliminate paper waste
  • Use compostable paper cups at water stations 
  • Use bicycles, electric vehicles and natural gas powered trucks to plot out the race, set up water stations, pace the race and monitor the course with emergency services 
  • Eliminate waste from race bags by providing a virtual goodie bag with discounts and coupons around town   

Re-Purpose Materials 

  • Turn waste into nourishment for the Greenline Gardens with an onsite composting program at the race 
  • Order T-shirts that are composed of ground up coke cans 
  • Use recycled paper and non-toxic ink on all race bibs (these were the only paper product given in race bags, everything else was eaten)   

Reinvent the Norm   

  • Utilize solar energy for 50% of the energy needed for the event in partnership with Sharp Solar 
  • Bring in environmentally sustainable portable potties 
  • Cater post-race parties with locally sourced goodies     

SFPC checked all the boxes above, making the Greenline Half Marathon the first sustainable sporting event in Tennessee! We met 44 out of 45 credits possible and achieved Silver Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport, one of the first 50 sites certified in the world.   

When asked about the process, Natalie admitted it was “very, very difficult, but… it’s about making a commitment to our environment”. 

As pioneers in sustainable races, we could not have accomplished a 91.3% diversion rate without creativity and incredible support from our great partners: Memphis Runners Track Club, Revolve Sportswear, Bluff City Sports, FedEx, MLGW, International Paper, Rock10, Get Green Recycles and charities such as the Tennessee Council on Disabilities, Shepard’s Haven, and Verizon Hope Line. 

SFPC also partnered with Clean Memphis and Memphis City Beautiful to train a group of developmentally disabled adults from Behavioral Services of Tennessee how to recycle in their homes. After their training, the group volunteered at the finish line of the race. 

Changes this big did not go unnoticed: nearly 95% of post-race survey respondents said they noticed event organizer’s sustainability initiatives. 

Future: Zero Waste Initiative 

The Greenline Half Marathon is setting standards for sustainable events and we hope it can be an example and resource to help other races accomplish the same green standards. These sustainable practices have found their way into all of our events around the Park--whether it was replacing 1 million Christmas lights with LED lights or mowing the cross country trail and leaving the surrounding grasses alone so that birds can nest in the nearby taller grasses--there are little efforts each day that are contributing to a more sustainable heart of Shelby County.   

Because of the success of her initiatives, Natalie is inspired to keep pushing the recycled envelope and is pursuing “Evergreen” status-- the highest certification awarded by the Council for Responsible Sport-- for the Greenline Half Marathon. Ultimately, Natalie hopes to offer transportation to and from the race, as one of the continued efforts to ensure Shelby Farms Park’s Greenline Half Marathon remains, and is increasingly, truly green.      

Check out the Sustainable Site Certification In the News         


*A full list of race regulations and sustainability tactics Shelby Farms Park underwent to make the Greenline Half Marathon a truly green event can be found here.

Posted by Betsy Peterson at 10:30 AM
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