In the pre-dawn hours of 30th April 2017, thousands of runners had gathered at the F1 Pit Building, awaiting to take part in the NTUC Income Eco Run 2017 at the famous F1 race track. To those who were frequent participants in charity runs, race grounds that were strewn with unsightly heaps of rubbish were a familiar sight at the close of such events. What was originally a healthy, perspiration-inducing activity under the sun, would unfortunately turn into an unbearable burden to the environment……
As an encouragement for the Eco Run participants to minimize the amount of trash generated at the event, the organizer came up with the concept of “Zero Waste Runners”. Some 1,500 out of 10,000 runners responded to the organizers’ call to “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bottle). They also invited Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) to help promote the environmental protection message of this race, with the aim of encouraging more people to incorporate environmental practices into their daily lives.
Lined along the running route were different recycling bins for various types of recyclables, such as aluminum cans, plastic containers, fruit peels, paper, etc., as well as a bin for unrecyclable trash, to enable runners to dispose of their trash accordingly.
At first, the runners did not notice the different bins and accidentally threw their trash into the wrong bins. However, after patient explanations from the Tzu Chi volunteers on duty, many runners felt a novel curiosity and found the earth-friendly practice to be rather meaningful. Each runner had a running bib with a unique number fastened to their attire with safety pins, and these were handed over to Tzu Chi volunteers at the end of the activity. The volunteers then helped to return them to the race organizer for reuse in the future.
Volunteer, Eddie Lee (pictured below), joined the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers three years ago, and has devoted himself to the organization’s Mission of Environmental Protection. He patiently explained to the runners Tzu Chi’s various missions, including its efforts in promoting environmental awareness and practices to residents around Singapore at its 37 recycling points island-wide.
“Actually, I think it is quite meaningful to take part in charity runs. I used to be a frequent participant in marathon races, so I can leverage on my experience and knowledge about these races to start a conversation with the runners,” shared Lee.
Interestingly, three participants dressed as “sharks” were spotted at the race site. They had come forward to challenge the 21.1KM half marathon. It was really a grueling experience to don a heavy shark suit while running the half marathon under the blazing sun, and these three intrepid runners are Joel Liang, Thomas Ho, and Ashley Ng.
Hailing from Shark Savers Singapore, they were undaunted by the challenge, and further shared that there were at least a dozen other courageous volunteers from the same NGO, all donned in crowd-drawing shark costumes during the run. They hoped to draw the public’s attention to the inhumane act of killing sharks for their fins, which has caused the shark population to dwindle alarmingly to the point of being endangered as a marine species.
Joel Liang shared that sharks play a decisive role in maintaining the ecological balance of the ocean, and that the destruction of sharks as a top predator in the marine food chain may tip the ecological balance of the marine environment, which may ultimately impact the survival of the human race.
There were three race categories at the NTUC Income Eco Run, and they were the 21.1KM half marathon, 10KM competitive race, and 800M children’s race. Accompanying his children in the 800M race, Mr Ling Chong Yuen said, “Bringing the kids out every Sunday for runs not only improves their physical fitness, but also enhances parent-child bonding. And, I think that it is a good idea for the race organizer to come up with the concept of Zero Waste Runners.”
After listening to a Tzu Chi volunteer’s explanation about the monthly Recycling Day event in the community, he expressed his wish to take his wife and children to a nearby Tzu Chi recycling point in the future. This way, they could learn how to sort recyclables together and do their part in protecting Mother Earth, too.