When triathlete and race director Jeff Henderson ’97 tried to make the City of Portland (Ore.) Triathlon an environmentally sustainable event in 2007, he quickly realized there was no blueprint for going green. So the former Princeton swimmer and his colleagues made their own plan, buying local food, using sustainable materials in equipment like bicycle racks, and recycling and composting the event’s waste.

Now Henderson is sharing what he learned and providing incentives for other environmentally conscious race directors through a nonprofit called the Council for Responsible Sport. The organization aims to endorse sporting events, much as LEED certifies sustainable construction projects, using environmental and social criteria. The “ReSport” guidelines, applied on a pilot basis at 11 events last year, cover everything from promoting healthy lifestyles to reducing an event’s impact on climate change.  

Going green adds costs, but athletes seem willing to chip in, Henderson said, in the same way that many consumers pay a premium for organic food or hybrid cars. “If people know what they’re paying for and believe in it, they’ll pay the additional fee,” he said. At the City of Portland Triathlon, for instance, more than half of the entrants elected to pay a small, adjustable fee to offset the carbon their cars would emit traveling to and from the race.