Trees not Tees - please!

Trees not Tees work with race and event organisers to give participants the option of planting a tree rather than getting given a T-shirt they won't wear.

They recognise that we're in a climate crisis and that the running community has its part to play in helping to resolve it. To quote their interview with Ultra Runner Jack Scott “you don’t have to be a member of a group or extreme movement to want to improve the environment. I think if we all focused on our own mini projects, like walking into town, instead of driving…will eventually make a big difference.”

As mini-projects go, Trees not Tees is expanding quickly. They’ve already purchased land in the UK, and are in the process of planting a native forest of oak, birch, rowan and alder. They’re part of a certified planting scheme to ensure the trees they plant will offer the best long term benefit. 

Their offer to race organisers is simple. By giving a choice to participants, runners can either chose to receive a race shirt or normal goodie bag item – or select for a tree to be planted in their name as a substitute. Instead of buying too many T-shirts which are unused or barely worn by the receiver, the race organisers donate the cost of the T-shirt for a tree to be planted. Of ocurse participants who still want a T-shirt have the option of getting one too.

But as Fort William based fell runner, Finlay Wild notes, “how many race t-shirts do I need?” 

Its not just about helping to declutter runner’s wardrobes, the environmental cost of making a T-shirt is huge. It takes the same amount of water that a person drinks in 2.5 years to make a single cotton T-shirt, plus the equivalent of over 2kg of carbon dioxide contributed to global warming. If it's never even worn, all those precious resources were spent for nothing.

“Recycling is important, but not producing an unnecessary product in the first place is scores of times better for the environment” Finlay adds.

‍Equally, the environmental benefit of planting a tree is huge. It helps to directly fight against climate change by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and locking it away, it provides a home for a diverse range of species, and it gives us the clean air for us to breath.

Race t-shirts might seem like a small starting point, but added up over the total number of runners, across multiple events each year the direct impact is not insignificant. However, it’s all part of a bigger change in direction. In their interview with Pro Runner Killian Jornet he states “I think if we don’t start a transition towards a more sustainable way of living soon (or now!) the next generation will face problems that might not be possible to resolve.”

How does it work?

Once a tree is planted participants will be sent a certificate via email with a picture of their young tree, details of the species of tree planted and a geo-location address on what3words.

 If you’re a race organiser, or if you want your favourite races to partner with trees not tees – further details can found here: