Eco-Exercise: Get Fit & Give Back

Some people would only run if a bear were chasing them. Others do it to lose weight, get fit, or relieve stress. But Wisconsinite Samuel Huber runs to help the planet. He is part of a growing movement of runners who realize that this form of exercise doesn't just get you from point A to point B, but can also be a vehicle for change.

Huber is a physical education teacher and avid runner who believes that the environment around us makes outdoor activities enjoyable and memorable. Because he was tired of seeing litter on his runs, he became an “eco-runner,” a term that describes both a simple act and an entire philosophy.

What is Eco-Running?
Eco-running involves picking up rubbish while you are out on a run. Huber carries a biodegradable bag when he runs outside, and when he sees something that shouldn’t be there, he swoops down and picks it up, carrying it in his bag until he reaches an appropriate trash receptacle. But eco-running is about so much more. According to Huber, eco-running is just one part of living a truly green lifestyle. It fits in with other eco-friendly actions, like using alternative methods of transportation, buying local and organic foods, bringing your own bags to the grocery store, recycling, and cutting energy usage.

Through eco-running, Huber realized that running itself, while enjoyable and healthy, was something he did just for himself. But eco-running allowed him to give back to the earth that provides him with such beautiful places to run. He says that through eco-running, “I’m satisfying my ‘I’ and so much more.” And he’s not the only one. Eco-running is catching on. Huber maintains a popular running website and two blogs. He posts tips for adults and kids who are interested in eco-running, FAQs about eco-running, and links too numerous media interviews he’s done about his philosophy and practices.

5 Steps to Eco-Exercise
To become an eco-runner, all you need is your usual running attire, a trash bag (Huber recommends biodegradable BioBags, but any bag will do), environmental awareness, and motivation. Really, you don’t even have to run! Attach an “eco-” to any fitness activity you choose, and look for litter along the way. Try eco-walking, eco-hiking, eco-cycling, eco-kayaking, or even eco-golfing. The Eco-Runner concept can be applied to any activity you love, as long as you’re, in Samuel’s words, “leaving nothing but footprints, and taking someone else’s trash with you.”

Here are five more ideas to give a green twist to your fitness routine:
  • Do as much as you like. You don’t have to dedicate yourself to litter patrol during every fitness activity to be an eco-exerciser. You could set aside one run per week for eco-running, or even just commit to 15 litter stops per hike, for example.
  • Take it one step further. Put paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, and other recyclables you find into the nearest recycling bin instead of throwing them in the trashcan.
  • Green your gear. Although you don’t need any special equipment to eco-run (and the most eco-friendly thing you can do is use what you have instead of buying new stuff), there will come a time when your running shoes will wear out, or your favorite high-performance sweat-wicking shirt will stop performing. When this time comes, replace it with these eco-friendly threads.
  • Consider your transportation. Are you driving your SUV to the bike trail, park or gym on the other side of town? Get there in an earth-friendly manner, if possible. Carpool with friends, use public transit, or pick a closer destination to decrease your footprint even further.
  • Choose wisely. Consumers want products that are made sustainably, and more companies are heeding to the call. These days, it's getting easier to find eco-friendly fitness and recreational equipment—from snowboards to bikes to water bottles. Do a little research to find out which companies are taking the planet into consideration when choosing materials, manufacturing and shipping methods. Buy their products if feasible. When consumers increase demand, prices will drop and choices will increase.
Eco-running (or eco-anything for that matter) is about taking small steps to improve our world, while improving your body at the same time. Combine your passion with a purpose, and bring your awareness of the environment with you wherever you go.
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Member Comments

Good article. Report
I didn't realize their was a name for picking up trash as you walk but we (my family) like to pick up trash as we walk around our neighborhood and parks. Report
Charity Miles is a great app that tracks the time you run/walk/bike and then translates that into minutes of research for things like St. Judes, the March of Dimes, Michael J. Fox Foundation, etc. It's a super easy way for people like me who don't really have money to donate, to feel like I'm actually giving something and helping someone. :) Report
Lets try again... I teach high school in the city schools of Rochester NY. In past years we had a hiking club in which the kids picked up debris while we walked. Since staff is not allowed to drive the kids, they carpooled with other kids who had cars. We did drive to several area parks. The kids who did not have cars (and some who did) were amazed these places existed. Many of them live in neighborhoods where taking walks is not a safe option and many of them don't see a lot of nature. There have been studies done that show that exposing kids to nature for a certain amount of time each week lowers their stress levels and increases their self esteem. I didnt' do it this year bc it was such a pain to set up the carpools and the person who was in charge left. Maybe I will apply to start another hiking club next year. Report
I teach in the city school district in Rochester NY. In past years we have had a hiking club in which the kids did this while we walked. Since we are not allowed to drive the cz Report
I have also been doing this for a long time now, for about 20 years. I don't do it because it's "eco" or cool. I do it because that is the responsible thing to do. Report
I must say that this all seems a little ridiculous to me. Since when is picking up trash in order to be a good stewart of God's creation labeled and conceived as a "novel idea"? Whatever happened to just being a caring person who hates litter? I've been carrying plastic grocery bags (doubled) with me whenever I take walks for years, sometimes in the spring needing to go back over the route in my car to pick them all up, and then sort out the glass, aluminum and burnable trash. Guess it's not such a novel idea after all. Report
A friend of mine mentioned seeing someone doing this recently. I run a few trails near my house and am going to start picking up garbage on my runs there. There is a trash can around the midpoint as well, so it really won't take much effort to make a difference. What a great concept! Report
People in my area have done this for years! I am 57 years old and did this as a kid. My husband never leaves the house without a trash bag, either walking or driving.
As for driving to a walking/running track ....I mentioned that I thought it an oximoron to drive someplace to walk and got lots and lots of rude comments. Report
I've been doing this for a while, now... especially when I have my girls in the stroller. The little baskets under their seats aren't used for much else than picking stuff up off the sides of the street. We don't have random trash receptacles, though, so it all comes home with me. Report
I've been doing this for years, but it won't earn a safe spot if the Agenda 21 people have their way. Only the ones they deem worthy will have those. In the mean time, I will keep doing my best to keep/make the planet a beautiful, healthy place to live.. Report
How ironic. I usually see a lady doing this while I'm running; never knew it had a name besides picking up neighborhood trash. Cool :-) Report
The link is NOT to his page, however. That link goes to a commercialized one that is "sponsored" by businesses. His actual website is: http://www.ecolog
You wouldn't get very far in some neighbourhoods. Report
I do this and didn't realize there was a name for it! Cool! Report


About The Author

Liza Barnes
Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.