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Happy Planet Running

Run a great race. Leave no trace.

HPR Mission

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!

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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.

Sound good? Are you hooked? Browse this site and find out what’s happening with sustainable running. And if you know something we don’t, please give us a holler and enlighten us!
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Featured post

Ugly Dog Triathlon Sustainability Report

It was hard to tell who enjoyed Saturday’s Ugly Dog Triathlon more – the athletes, or the mosquitoes. Thanks to two weeks of wet weather, the little buggers were out in force, as were some bees. But the Epic Races staff persevered and pulled off another great event!

The race followed the same format as last time (2019), with several duathlon/triathlon options offered, and the post-race food was the same – pancakes, egg & cheese wraps, bananas, and “puppy chow” Chex-style treats. Missing this year was the Ugly Dog Distillery offerings, except for tiny bottles as (over 21) age group awards. However, the Zero Waste strategy was quite different.

Instead of several stations in the area, we continued the new method of a single large Zero Waste Station near the food tent, with boxes for “all waste” on tables, to be sorted by the Green Team.

Transition had a pail at each end, and the finish line had a bag for plastic wrap from medals and cases of water bottles. The food tent also had its own “all waste” box, which was periodically swapped out by the Green Team. The team taking down transition at the end of the event got a dedicated pail for cut tie wraps (used to secure the fencing to its poles).

Overall waste was down from 2019, most notable in landfill, which dropped from 6 pounds to 0.6 pounds – ten percent of the 2019 total!

In another change, park trash cans were not covered. However, the Green Team checked nearby ones and retrieved waste that was clearly from the race, mainly banana peels, water bottles, and Gu wrappers. With these changes, one person was enough to get everything done. With a lot of help from the local insects, of course.

Firecracker 5K Sustainability Report

Independence Day in Ann Arbor wouldn’t be the same without its traditional 5K event. At least not to runners, and the Epic Races team! And so despite a warm morning and a new location, the show went on without a hitch.

This year’s event, for several reasons, took place at Briarwood Mall instead of downtown Ann Arbor. In addition to the 5K, there were one-mile and 7.5K options, and a short run for the little kids, led by Larry the Ginormous Hot Dog (see the top photo). There was also a “hot dog” division, where the contenders had 76 seconds to eat up to four hot dogs, and then run the 5K. One minute per hot dog was deducted from their finish times. Thankfully, no “cleanup by JC Penney” was required.

Post-race treats included bananas and candy, but by far the most popular were the red, white, and blue frozen “bomb pops”. We were equal to the task, composting the wooden sticks and sending the wrappers to TerraCycle.

The report below has the details and the fireworks-worthy result – under one pound to the landfill, which we tossed into one of the mall’s trash cans. It’s never a bad thing when our total event trash didn’t weigh as much as the mall-related trash in the parking lot!

It was also good to hear from a Briarwood staffer that the mall takes recycling seriously, and redid the roof to reduce energy costs. Way to go!

Triceratops Triathlon 2021 Sustainability Report

The RF Events T-Rex Triathlon series was back to normal last Wednesday, after a pint-sized Stegosaurus Tri earlier in June. Back to standard attendance, post-race sandwiches and live music, and the vibe of an athletic event!

With a team of just two people, we set up a single Zero Waste Station near the parking lot, and one in the party area instead of three Zero Hero tents. We focused on keeping the stations in order, and left “all waste” pails in the transition area. A bag for plastic wrap and a large recycling bin near the water bottles completed the setup.

                        Green Team volunteer Veronica mans the main station, while I took the party area station.

The approach had some interesting effects. No one had a problem with using the single station in the party area, and we ended up with less “outside” waste that usually comes from the beachgoers. The transition pails needed quite a bit of sorting and were really not large enough, so we’ll be looking for improvements there. Aid station waste was mainly  ups and water jugs, and did not require much sorting.

The trend chart below the report shows we had a dramatic drop in total waste, particularly food waste and compostables – a 75 percent drop from 2019. One reason was serving sandwiches on napkins – no plates or wrappers – which worked just fine. There also seemed to be less overall food consumed by the athletes. We’ll be looking to see if this continues.

Overall, a great result on a beautiful day!

Epic Races Goddess Weekend 2021 Sustainability Report

The forecast for last weekend at Portage Lake predicted a soggy mess for the Epic Races Goddess 5K on Saturday and the Tri Goddess Tri on Sunday. But the weather goddesses were smiling down on us, and both days were (nearly) rain-free, making for happy athletes and happier staff.

We set up our Zero Waste Station between the finish line and the food pavilion, so it was convenient for both the athletes and staff. The food tent had an “all waste” bag or bin, which we periodically swapped out. The bike transition area had a bin for water cups. Waste collection followed our new model of “All Waste Here” boxes on tables at the station. From there, the Green Team would ensure the compostable items, recycling, and landfill items were properly sorted.

The Saturday Green Team, ready to go!

The report is posted below, featuring staffers Libbie and Amber holding the usual SBoT (Single Bag o’ Trash) from an Epic Races event. Just over two pounds from the entire weekend, resulting in landfill diversion of 97.5 percent! The effort was helped by Epic’s heavy use of compostables, which makes cleaning or scraping off food unnecessary. Kudos also to the Bearclaw Coffee truck, which uses compostable cups, lids, and straws.

Also see the trend chart showing a significant reduction in overall waste over the four years we’ve been tracking this event, in particular from 2019 to 2021. Whatever the causes (and we’ll try to figure them out), it’s a great trend to have. Recycling has its place for sure, but producing less waste to recycle is the best approach!

Island Lake Tri Sustainability Report

A beautiful day for a triathlon, from mini-sprint to Olympic distance, at the Island Lake Rec Area. And with restrictions lifted, nearly 500 athletes turned out. And the classic Epic Races food was back, with pancakes, breakfast burritos, candy, and even ice cream. The Zero Waste effort would be put to the test!

We set up a single main station where people put all their waste on a table, to be sorted by the Green Team. Due to the course layout, we had to set it up a bit farther from the post-race food tent and gathering area. So we put a couple of “all waste” bins in that area and periodically took them to the main station for sorting. Transition waste was minimal – just a few paper cups and small trash.

For most of the event, everything went smoothly. We got a bit jammed at the end, leaving some bags to be sorted after the event. Many thanks to Epic staff member Alise, who cheerfully pitched in and stayed late to lighten my load. One other help was using the half-size disposable water bottles, which reduced recycling volume and saved time emptying out the half-full ones.

Landfill waste was a bit heavier than usual, due in part to food-soiled aluminum foil and ice cream wrappers, aided by the park’s removal of their own trash cans. So we ended up with several diapers and even a raw chicken breast! Not sure why anyone would bring that, let alone an athlete. One of life’s little mysteries.

Still, we achieved over 90 percent landfill diversion! Report is below. (Click to enlarge.)

Flirt with Dirt 5K/10K Sustainability Report

This event represented a first for Happy Planet Running – leaving the Zero Waste station unattended for an entire race. Yes, perhaps a more fitting title for this was Flirt with Disaster, but I don’t get to name the races. I’m just the Trashman.

How did this come about? A very fortunate event – the resumption of live races – combined with a shortage of volunteers and being double-booked on this particular day. But we had a couple of things going for us here. There were only about 300 runners signed up, the event was over quickly, and Flirt with Dirt has a history of producing very little landfill – like one small baggie’s worth. So we gave it a shot.

I set up a single station near the finish line, with a large bin for recycling, smaller ones for compostables and snack wrappers, and pails for landfill. Then I said a prayer and headed off to the other race I had that morning.

I came back to find everything in good order. Post-race sorting was minimal. I’m sure it helped that many, if not most, of the athletes go to multiple RF Events races, and thus are accustomed to our Zero Waste program. All the same, not something I would like to do again, if avoidable.

And the result? The top image says it all. Baggie for the third year in a row! Report below. (Click to enlarge.)

The Roar Restored: RF Events Stegosaurus Tri Sustainability Report

The RF Events T-Rex series of triathlons is finally back in business, and kicked off June 2 at the Island Lake Rec Area with its brand-new fourth in the series, the Stegosaurus! Despite a cold, rainy afternoon fit for neither man nor dinosaur, several hundred eager athletes braved the weather for a half mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and 5K run. And, as usual, Happy Planet Running was there, keeping the event Zero Waste.

One new development was the absence of park trash cans. This worked out well, since there was no confusion about where the athletes would stash their trash. Our Zero Waste Station model changed as well, replacing the scattered tent & bin approach with one main station with sorting done real-time. Transition had one pail at each end for all waste, and the finish area had one recycling bin and a bag for plastic wrap. With overhead reduced, one person was able to manage the situation.

Below is the report (click to enlarge). We continue the grand tradition of less than five percent landfill at these events!

The Classic Returns: RF Events Trail Marathon Weekend 2021 Sustainability Report

April 24-25, 2021 – Pinckney Recreation Area, Silver Lake

After over a year, RF Events returned to live races this month with its longstanding (34 years) classic trail marathon, and HPR was there to support the newer tradition (5 years) of making the race Zero Waste.

Due to park restrictions, attendance was limited to 300 per day, and with additional precautions, aid station food and drink was limited. This, plus the race going “cupless” in 2019 sharply reduced overall waste. Normally, the heavy use of prepackaged snacks would lead to more landfill. But thanks to TerraCycle, we’re able to recycle all the snack wrappers, and the Gu wrappers as well, leading to a diversion rate of over 99 percent!

We continued the experiment of not using multiple waste stations and went with a single pavilion. And instead of labeled bins, we put out boxes labeled “All Waste” and the Zero Waste team did the sorting. This model worked very well both days. The only bags to sort were from the aid stations, which were taken care of relatively quickly, helped by a reduction from three aid stations on the course to two.

In addition, Trail Marathon Weekend was the first RF Events race to go Zero Waste, back in 2016, so it is also the first event where we have five years of data. The trends show a general reduction not only in landfill waste, but in all waste categories. Some of this is due to going cupless, as well as a general reduction in materials used.

Sustainability report and five-year chart are below.

Back in Business! Waterloo G&G Bike Race Sustainability Report

April 17-18, 2021 – Portage Lake Recreation Area

A gorgeous weekend for a gravel bike race. So nice, it went both days instead of just Saturday. Perhaps a certain park capacity limit due to a certain lingering ‘situation’ contributed to that, but I didn’t see anyone complaining.

The Epic Races Zero Waste effort picked right up where it left off, recycling or composting just about all of the event-generated waste. It would have been nearly zero except for a couple of boxes wrapped heavily in packing tape due to their weight.

We set up a single station near the bike racks.

In addition to recycling and composting, our “Free Stuff” box (see the corner) resulted in some castoff clothing and water bottles from previous races getting new homes.

There were a few procedural changes. There were no formal post-race parties. Instead, bags of snacks were created for each rider and placed by their station for pickup after they finished. So overall waste was down significantly, as most people left with their treats, but there was enough waste to make it worth the effort. And a Bearclaw Coffee truck was there as usual, and a hot dog stand on Saturday.

Results below. A good start to what will hopefully be a good year!

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