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Toolkit to Responsible and Sustainable Outdoor Challenge Events

The new Toolkit to Responsible and Sustainable Outdoor Challenge Events is provided to promote best practice in organising outdoor challenge events and to encourage the responsible and sustainable use of the Northern Ireland countryside.  Many popular event venues are subject to heavy use on a regular basis.  By following these guidelines you will help preserve the special nature of the environment we enjoy and rely on.

A well planned and managed event will comply with legal requirements, avoid or minimise impact on the landscape heritage features, plants and wildlife, and have no adverse effects on other established recreational activities or other uses such as farming or forestry.

Any event that is run following the good practice guidelines within the toolkit can claim to being run under the principles of Leave No Trace and assure participants that events are planned in such a way as to minimise the environmental impact.  Leave No Trace principles should be incorporated at each stage of your event.

How to use the toolkit

The Toolkit to Responsible and Sustinable Outdoor Challenge Events is simple and straight forward to use. It follows three key stages to assist you in planning a responsible and sustainable outdoor challenge event.

Stage One - Research and Planning

Stage One explores why, what, who, where, when and what if. It gathers the valuable foundation information without which there would be no point in holding your event. One of the key elements of this stage is Consultation - a valuable tool to ensure any potential issues can be realised through discussion with land managers. This is also a great way to gain local knowledge and advice. 

Stage Two - Development

The Development stage uncovers the detail of your event management plan by outlining how you will manage elements of route choice and design, infrastructure, safety and insurance, giveback and publicity and communication, as well as developing checklists.

Stage Three - Restoration and Review

Whilst some form of restorative work is always inevitable during and following your event, the toolkit should ensure it is kept to a minimum. This final stage will inform you on post-event consultation with those involved in the event organisation as well as how you can review and obtain feedback on your event and share good practice amongst other event organisers. 

Further information on each stage of the toolkit can be found below. In addition, there are a number of case studies to help show elements of the toolkit in practice. 

Responsible and Sustainable

It is important to maintain responsibility and sustainability as your core values when preparing your event proposal and event management plan. Take some time and use the following points to help and inform your decision making:

Responsible

Managing aspects of staff, volunteer, participant and spectator safety will help you create a responsible event. This involves effective management of risk through route choice and design, infrastructure provision and consultation with land managers. In addition, you will need to put in place appropriate public liability insurance and make provisions for medical declaration, permission and disclaimer forms and Access NI checks where necessary (see safety and insurance below for further information). This can all be highly time consuming, so ensure that you budget sufficient time for it during the planning process.

Remember that there are many variables relating to the safety of outdoor recreation events and whilst many are out of your control, they can be managed. Risks are dependent on the type of activity or task, the ability of the person carrying it out and the environment in which it is carried out. Therefore, a risk overview is a key tool to understand these risks and implement the most appropriate control measures (see risk overview below for further information).

Safety and insurance

You should consider your staffing and volunteer requirements and individual responsibilities early on, as the recruitment process can be long and arduous. It is vitally important that whether you use your own staff or volunteers, or bring in the staff of an accredited outdoor event professional on the day, you must consider the following:

  • Do all staff and volunteers need qualifications specific to the job or task that they have been assigned and do you and/or your insurance provider or broker need evidence of it?
  • What training will staff and volunteers involved in stewarding and feed stations need and how and when will you provide this training?
  • Do you and/or your insurance provider or broker require any medical declaration, permission or disclaimer forms to be completed or Access NI checks to be carried out (see the table below for details)?
  • What qualified staff and volunteers are needed to ensure that sufficient first aid cover is in place for the event?

 

Required Form

Details

Medical declaration forms

Medical declaration forms are an important way for your participants to declare that they are physically fit and well enough to take part in the event. It also allows them to declare any pre-existing medical conditions or requirements which may be important in the event of an emergency.

Permission forms

It is essential that staff, volunteers and participants under the age of 18 years old have permission from a parent or legal guardian to participate or help in the event. This form should be signed by the parent or legal guardian and should allow them to give (or not) permission for the use of photographs of the person for publicity purposes.

Disclaimer forms

A disclaimer form will delimit your responsibility to actions taken by participants and staff or volunteers that are out with your control.

Access NI checks

This is a criminal history record check for those involved in close and/or regular contact with children or vulnerable adults. If there are staff, volunteers and participants under the age of 18 likely to be involved with the event, then those staff and volunteers who are older will be required to undergo an Access NI check. 

 

Risk Overview

A risk overview is a simple evaluation of any hazards that may cause harm to those involved in your event, including staff, volunteers, participants, spectators and third parties. It helps to ensure that, as far as possible, a route is safe and appropriate by reducing any hazard that may be present prior to the event taking place.

If you have employed an accredited outdoor event professional, you should ask them to carry out the risk overview. If not, it should be carried out by a competent person involved in the organisation of the event.

Sustainable

A sustainable event will create positive impacts away from your event by considering its social and economic impacts and benefits as well as its environmental impacts and benefits. You should think about:

Direct environmental impact:

As outdoor recreation events are often held within sensitive landscapes, it is important to ensure that all involved respect these areas and leave them as they were found. There are many ways to create an environmentally responsible event, including:

  • Providing sufficient waymarking and trained stewarding to keep participants and spectators on trails and away from sensitive areas and land management operations
  • Consulting with the land manager to ensure the route or path is appropriate to your chosen activity
  • Implementing a ‘no dogs’ policy to reduce impact to wildlife and farm animals
  • Asking those involved not to take anything away with them or leave monuments
  • Ensuring participants take preventative measures such as washing down equipment before entering the venue to prevent the spread of invasive species
  • Communicating best practice ideas to those involved in the event

Waste management:

Consider providing facilities (bins and/or waste sorting areas) and trained personnel to allow participants and spectators to follow the ethos of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and help reduce waste to landfill. Think about discouraging participants from dropping litter deliberately during the event by penalising anyone caught.

Resource use:

Think about how you and your participants can reduce your use of resources by, for example:

  • providing water bottle filling points instead of supplying pre-packaged mineral water
  • minimising wasteful items within goody bags
  • using renewable or efficient energy sources

Health, wellbeing and accessibility:

Your event is a tool to encourage people to keep active and move away from a sedentary lifestyle. This is important for the health and wellbeing of your participants and will have a positive impact on wider society. Think about making your event accessible to a broader spectrum of society - create shorter or easier events or routes in parallel to the main event i.e. events that target differing age groups and/or abilities such as fun runs, easier challenges etc. This will create a bigger draw for your event and ensure more people are involved.

Transport:

Think about how your staff, volunteers, participants and spectators will travel to your event. Encourage the use of public transport as an alternative to private car use by publicising train and bus time tables and links. Consider providing park and ride coaches from more accessible, central areas or organising an additional stop on a public transport route to be located near the venue if one does not already exist.

Where private transport is the most practical option due to the venue location and/or event activities, think about encouraging participants to car share by providing a link to a car sharing website or creating a forum on the event website for those involved to interact prior to the event commencing.  Why not incentivise the use of alternative means of transport by providing a prize for the most innovative means of transport to and from the event?

Community:

Encourage your participants and spectators to use local businesses, hotels, B&Bs, campsites and restaurants. Think about contacting the local tourism office and improving your linkage with tourism services. You may want to consider collaborating with local community groups, clubs or outdoor activity providers to bring a sense of ownership to the community. If you are hoping to have entertainment and catering facilities, think about using local suppliers and providers.

Consider creating a Giveback Scheme to provide participants with the opportunity to give something back to the area and/or community in which the event is held.

Goals and Objectives:

You may wish to set sustainability and environmental goals and objectives for certain aspects of your event. These may include having a target amount of waste to be recycled, an amount of money donated to a community initiative, or setting a target for the number of participants using alternative means of transport. Any goals or objectives should be effectively communicated through the creation of a sustainability and environmental statement.

Spectators:

Think about how spectators can help you reach your goals and objectives as well as assist you in keeping to the principles of Leave No Trace and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Sponsorship:

If considering sponsors, think carefully about how their ethics and policies contrast with your own for the event and the area or areas you are using. Having your event connected with a negative image will reflect badly on your own event, participants and the local area.

 

Don’t forget that by following the guidance laid out within this toolkit, your event will be adopting the principles of the Leave No Trace ethos.

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