Sustainability at the Great North Swim

Great North Swim has welcomed 70,000 swimmers over the last 15 years. As an event, we’re committed to delivering safe and well organised events for participants and our host locations, as sustainably as possible. 


Here are a few things we are doing this year: 

Travel and Transport


General Waste Reduction



Finishers Bags

Water Quality at Windermere



  • We encourage everyone travelling to and from our events to make use of public transport. At this event we partner with local bus providers to facilitate a park and ride system, and we continue to work with the local Ferry providers to enable water transport to the event.  

  • Consider car sharing – sharing a car with another 3 people reduces your travel emissions by a quarter and can be comparable to public transport. 

  • Parking on site – This year the parking on site will be reserved for those who are car sharing. Further details with regards to purchasing on site parking is released in April, however this is extremely limited, and we encourage everyone to use public transport where they can.  

  • After each event we invite feedback from our participants and as part of this process we monitor how people travel to the event. This information will be used to compare and contrast across different events.   

  • The company’s carbon footprint is being monitored for event delivery via the number of vehicles used and how staff travel to and from events in order to reduce this at future events.  

  • Stay longer – don’t just stay for the event, make a trip out of it. Stay longer, see the sites and combine the event with a holiday, maximizing the benefit of your travel! The Lake District National Park has plenty to offer! 


  • We understand and share customer and community concerns about single use plastics, so we’re working hard to reduce them.  

  • As part of our drive to improve the sustainability of our swim events there will be no free bottled water available at the events (with the exception of water at the medical facilities).  

  • We encourage swimmers and spectators to bring their own reusable bottles and make use of the refill stations around the event site.  

  • There will also be reusable cups on sale at the event for participants that might not have their own.


  • We work with local partners across the UK to remove waste from site and recycle as much as possible. This is not limited to plastic and includes, cardboard, wooden pallets, medals, clothing and signage.  

  • We will be improving our signage at events directing runners and spectators to waste bins, recycling points, and our water refill points, in order to help people dispose of rubbish correctly and responsibly. 

  • We partner with the Yorkshire Aid Convoy to donate unused event t-shirts and obsolete event supplies to the Ukraine and Romania, annually.  

  • Event waste is separated at source to ensure as much is recycled as much as possible, all visitors will be encouraged to use the correct bins accordingly. 

  • When your wetsuit is getting tired we recommend to looking at repairing and re-using it before looking to replace.

  • If you must replace, can you buy second hand? If you are buying new, can you buy something that will suit multi-activities? 


  • We will continue to expand our use of battery power provision at our events and where applicable, we will use eco-efficient lights to illuminate our build sites before and after the event. We use the one site power provision at Brockhole as opposed to diesel generators where possible.  

  • Where possible we will monitor fuel usage, and look to access a green energy supply, and in certain areas switch to hybrid generators to reduce our carbon footprint. 


  • We have made the decision to introduce optional finisher tees to our Great Run and Great Swim events for 2023. You can choose to forgo your finisher tee shirt at the point of entry, and in lieu of this we will make a donation to the National Trust Woodlands Appeal. Find out more here. 

  • We will donate a portion of the fulfilment costs for each runner who chooses this option to the fund and commit that this donation to be a minimum of £20,000 in 2023. 


  • Our finishers packs have been reduced in size and are made from 85% recycled material and are 100% recyclable.  We encourage swimmers to re-use their hard-wearing bags whenever possible to reduce polythene consumption or to recycle them at their local supermarket collection point. 

  • We have stopped printed flyers and leaflets in finisher packs. Instead our suppliers and partners have to opt for digital and online offers for swimmers.  

  • All of our exhibibitors giveways have to be non-event specific to allow for re-use as well as either be natural or from recyclable materials. 

  • Medals that are left at the end of the year are all recycled back into scrap metal. 


  • We’ve been assured by Lake Rangers from the Lake District National Park that there are no concerns with regard to water quality at our Brockhole event site. 

  • Every year we conduct a large number of water quality tests of our own, looking at both bacteria and algae levels in the Lake. We intend to carry on this process and have capacity to increase this testing if any new water quality issues are drawn to our attention. 

  • We are currently looking at how we can as an organisation scale up our commitment to supporting the long-term health of the Lake. 

  • Last year the team from Lake District Diving helped us with Lake Shore Cleansing to ensure the site at Brockhole was as pristine as it should be. We plan to have them back again.

Great North Swim is committed to continuously working to reduce our environmental impact. We feedback after each and every event and this year we are conducting independent research to audit our performance and improve our work.  


What you can do to go further…. 

A new Love Windermere partnership launched in July 2022. It's the biggest-ever cooperation of sectors to tackle challenges in the lake. The partnership is developing a science-based plan to set out a road map for environmental protection that could be replicated across the UK. Read about what the Love Windemere campaign is doing to help protect the long-term health of the lake. Read more here.

We really recommend reading articles from Outdoor Swimmer which will give you plenty of information about wild swimming.  You can also read the ‘Swimming without a trace’ article from the Outdoor Swimming Society here which gives great advice on key environmental considerations when swimming outdoors.  

1001 Outdoor Swimming Tips (Environmental, safety, training and gear advice for cold-water, open-water and wild swimmers) by Calum Maclean is a great and informative book packed with lots of tips. 

You can check if they are likely to be sewage spills upstream of where you want to swim on The Rivers Trust sewage map.