USA Triathlon: A race toward sustainability

Led by his passion about sustainable change in the sports industry, Master of Sustainability Solutions student Brian Boyle decided to create a sustainable event guidebook for USA Triathlon events. The project focuses on providing resources, capacities, and strategies to manage and mitigate the overall sustainability footprint of USA Triathlon (USAT) events with an emphasis on outcomes and behaviors that adhere to sustainability principles.

By promoting institutional change in the sports industry, Brian believes that “Sports events or events, in general, can be viewed as a system with inputs and output…to mitigate effects such as excess waste or greenhouse gas emissions.” His idea for the project grew out of the SOS 498/594 Corporate Sustainability Programs course taught by Colin Tetreault, where Brian investigated what sustainability efforts sports organizations were making. He discovered a wide range of approaches from greenwashing to large scale climate action advocacy and wanted to make an impact with an organization in the industry. After several discussions, he agreed to work with USAT.

With input from the USAT management team, Brian is creating a guidebook for triathlon events that focuses on the energy, transportation, waste, procurement, communication with attendees, climate change, and sports. The guide’s goal is to establish sustainability competence in race promoters and directors as they plan and produce triathlon events. Strategies in the guide include reducing solid waste and energy use, using renewables for energy instead of fossil fuel sources, mitigating event-related transportation’s greenhouse gas footprint, water conservation, and social engagement with event attendees.

An important element of the guide is directed toward increasing participation in the sport by a wider swath of society’s socio-economic sectors. More inclusion requires providing better accommodations, identifying barriers to participation, and working with local high schools, clubs, and colleges. Brian believes that “By taking a strong position on access and equity in the sport of triathlon, USAT can show a strong commitment to inspire more people to be active, connect with their environment, and promote the benefits of mental and physical well-being.”

Although Brian is unable to pilot his guide this semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is being adapted for future events. He believes “there is a window of opportunity to emerge out of this and create better events.” To help USAT get the program up and running quickly, he has created an event checklist as an implementation tool for race directors and event planners. In addition, Brian is pushing USAT to sign the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework to signify the organization’s commitment to sustainability. Brian’s advocacy for change through the use of the guide is an example of how ASU students continue to make a difference in the community.