Running is good for people. It should be good for the Earth, too! Click the photo for a video that shows what Happy Planet Running is all about – and how the Can’d Aid Foundation can help you get started with a Zero Waste program!
This site promotes and supports running events that are environmentally friendly, energy frugal, and as waste-free as possible, while providing a great experience for everyone involved – runners, spectators, and volunteers.
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A perfect day to run the RF Events Liberty run at Heritage Park in Canton. Runners could choose a 5K, or 10K, or both (the Liberty Slam), and enjoy the rest of the Liberty Festival afterward. And Wonder Woman sang the national anthem!
The Zero Waste station was set up near the finish line, where the post race food – bananas, chips, and cookies – were handed out. Total waste was way down from previous years. Part of that was due to lower attendance, but the adjusted total (waste per 100 runners) is trending down as well. Good stuff there.
This year’s Dexter-Ann Arbor Run was back at its normal date of early June, with increased attendance and a perfect day for running. And for the fourth consecutive year, we achieved over 96 percent landfill diversion, qualifying it per ZWIA  guidelines as a true “Zero Waste” event! (90% Diversion is considered Excellent and 95% is considered World Class.)
Waste streams included:
Cardboard, plastic wrap and water bottles from the finish line;
Disposable cups from the aid stations and food tents;
Food waste and pizza boxes from the food tents;
PPE (disposable gloves and masks), and hundreds of Stinger and Gu wrappers, which all went to TerraCycle along with small plastics and race bibs.
Landfill was mainly tape, medical waste, and vinyl tablecloths used on the food tables. Overall, 1,174.4 lbs. of waste was generated at the start lines, aid stations and finish line / food tent areas. The 21.8 lbs. total landfill is our lowest to date.
As we expected a small number of morning volunteers, we set up just one staffed Zero Waste station on Main St. across from the food pavilion. Like last year, we set out “All Waste” boxes on tables and the Green Team did the sorting.
The first Epic Races triathlon for 2022 took place on a gorgeous morning with good water conditions. Several race options are offered, from mini-sprint to Olympic distance, with hot food, ice cream, and Smooj hard smoothies at the finish. Everything seemed to go smoothly, with no hidden trash cans to surprise me at the end. (Not that it’s ever happened.)
I set up one Zero Waste station in the post-race party area by the food tents, with All Waste boxes on tables facing front and rear. I put additional All Waste boxes at the two exits to transition, moving one to the Run ramp when I observed runners tossing cups onto the grass there. Aid station bags were reasonably well sorted.
Summer triathlon season kicked off around here with the Stegosaurus, the first in the T-Rex series of sprint triathlons.
This was about as smooth an event as I’ve been a part of. The weather was perfect, water temperature comfortable, and everything seemed to go well, including the Zero Waste effort, with less than half a pound of landfill. Just one glitch: volunteers were in short supply, as with most events I’ve worked this year, so my wife Joyce came along to help. She held down the main station while I worked the satellite station in the post-race party area.
Total waste at these events has dropped significantly, in part due to pandemic-induced lowered attendance, but also due to less material use. T-shirts are now an optional extra, which reduces cardboard, and the packaging for the medals has been reduced by going local and lighter. In fact, this event’s medals were hand-cut by one of the staff!
Also, post-race food did not include sandwiches or pasta. Instead, athletes got bags of Chex Mix and cookies. I heard no complaints.
About the only dilemma I had is an ongoing one – what to do with the dead inflatable dinos (along with dead inflatable Martians). I’m not counting them as landfill because I’m convinced there’s a recycling solution out there somewhere. I’ll keep you posted.
Hightail to Ale is one of those iconic examples of the truism, “If you provide beer, they will come.” Held at the Atwater Brewery in Detroit, runners enjoy a 5K along the riverfront, followed by free beer after they finish, along with live music and food from Simply Spanish, Little Caesar’s, and Atwater.
Attendance was down from previous years, but still healthy, and there would be plenty for the Green Team to handle. Along with beer cans, there were snack bags of chips and cookies, water bottles, food waste, plastic wrap from medals, and cardboard from multitudinous boxes.
I set up one station in the parking lot that held the food trucks and the band, and another on the street that served the line for the beer.
So far, so good. But what would an event like this be without a crisis or two?
Here’s a great report from the 2022 She Runs Grand Rapids, produced by Green Team captain Chelsea Brehm. In 2015, this event (known then as the Gazelle Girl) was where I learned what a first-class Zero Waste event was like. Over 3,000 runners, and the landfill didn’t fill a shoe box! That led to me taking the processing back to Ann Arbor, successfully starting a Zero Waste program at many races, and from there to creating Happy Planet Running.
Every year it’s been held since then, I’ve returned as a volunteer as my way of paying back what I’ve learned. And this was one of their best years ever in terms of waste management. Along with increased use of TerraCycle boxes this year, the aid stations used reusable silicone cups from Hiccup Earth instead of disposables.
See below for the results and some great photos. (Chelsea and I are sorting the “rogue trash can” we found on the street leading to the finish line.) Check out her report below!
A beautiful cool spring day, perfect for a gravel road bike race, with beer and hot BBQ afterward. What more could one ask for? How about a bike repair shop that offers house calls? And making the event sustainable, with a 99 percent landfill diversion rate?
Such were the happenings at this year’s Waterloo G&G race in the Portage Lake Recreation Area and nearby roads. This year the race management transitioned from Epic Races to Tris4Health. Many thanks to the new organizers for deciding to keep the event Zero Waste and hiring yours truly to do the job.
That pretty much sums up the Zero Waste effort at Trail Marathon Weekend this year. A great weekend of running out in nature, and minimizing our environmental footprint. Pretty hard to top that.
Back in 2016, this was the first Zero Waste race RF Events put on, thanks in large part to a grant from the Can’d Aid Foundation, set up mainly for recycling aluminum cans but happy to support a larger goal. That year we processed nearly 500 lbs. of total waste, with only 46 going to landfill – crazy good for a first effort. And it only got better from there. Have a look at the results since then, with big drops in overall waste along with steadily improving landfill diversion from 90 percent to nearly 99 percent.
Hello, Space Force? I’d like to report an alien abduction.
How many? Nobody. I’m pretty sure all the runners at our race last Saturday got home safely. But something is definitely missing. You see, I worked at the race, and I collected nearly five hundred pounds of waste. But at the end, I could account for only seven pounds. Yes, that’s right. Over four hundred pounds of trash is missing, and I think Martians stole it.