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!

TMW - Tent in use

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

Could You Cover Your Glass, Please? Super 5K Sustainability Report

A snowy Sunday morning in Michigan, but over 1,000 runners came out to get in a 5K before the Big Game. And all of them would want to grab hot dogs, cookies, pint glasses and awards, and be on their way soon afterward. In past years the rush has been very challenging for the Zero Waste team. Could we keep up this year, and improve on last year’s 93 percent diversion? We were going to find out!

Continue reading “Could You Cover Your Glass, Please? Super 5K Sustainability Report”

Big Feet, Small Footprint: Bigfoot Snowshoe Race Sustainability Report

The snow had mostly melted south of Traverse City, but at Timber Ridge there was hard pack on the groomed trails and deep dry powder in the singletrack sections. Perfect for a snowshoe race! Temperatures in the 30s meant some racers ran in T-shirts and shorts, but the lines for the post-race chili were as long as ever. The Zero Waste team had to be on their toes! Could we improve on last year’s 86 percent diversion, and avoid any unpleasant surprises?

Continue reading “Big Feet, Small Footprint: Bigfoot Snowshoe Race Sustainability Report”

HPR Accepts Environmental Excellence Award

What’s more fun than getting an award? An award plus getting to promote sustainability at running events!

Happy Planet Running has been given a 2018 Eunice L. Burns Environmental Awareness Award from the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors (AAABoR). I accepted the award at their annual meeting on January 10.

Happy Planet Running award - cropped

I was nominated for the award by Mary Culbertson of Epic Races, who is also an AAABoR member. Thanks again, Mary!

As part of the award I was invited to give a brief presentation about my company and what we’ve been able to accomplish. The following is an edited version of my presentation and remarks.


Thanks so much for the award, and thanks, Mary, for nominating me. And above all, thanks for the opportunity to tell you a little about my company and why I’m so passionate about Zero Waste.

In 2017 Happy Planet Running serviced thirty events, most with RF Events and Epic Races. Over eight tons of waste was processed and 97 percent of it was returned to productive use. Terrific results, and yet Zero Waste programs are still the exception and not the rule.

I believe that’s because as a society, we don’t take the true cost of waste into account. We use a lot of energy and resources to make things we use once, and then send it to a landfill where it sits forever. Recycling and composting cost a fraction of what it takes to create them, but it’s still too easy and cheap to just throw things away.

So my clients do Zero Waste events, even though it costs more, because they believe it’s the right thing to do. And I’m really grateful for that.

AAABoR award - triathlon photo

I run and volunteer at many races each year, and I grew increasingly bothered about the amount of waste an event produced. The waste in the truck (see above photo) is from an RF Events triathlon in 2015. I knew the park recycled, so I asked the rangers how much was going to be recycled, and they said, “None. It’s not sorted.” And I thought: there’s got to be a better way.

I went to the RF Events staff and offered to start a Zero Waste program, and to perhaps their everlasting regret, they said okay. In 2016 I managed their program as a volunteer, achieving 90 percent average landfill diversion, and incorporated Happy Planet Running in 2017.

AAABoR award - Turkey Trot photo

Fast forward; a single small bag is now the typical trash at an RF Events race. This photo is the Zero Waste team at last November’s Turkey Trot. We had over 4,000 runners, plus spectators, and generated 400 pounds of waste. All but three pounds was recycled or composted.

Randy Step, the owner of RF Events, said last year in an interview that he used to feel guilty about how much he was throwing away at races. He then said, “I don’t feel guilty anymore.”

AAABoR award - Firecracker 5K photo

2017 was the second year for the RF Events Zero Waste program. For Epic Races it was their first year, which makes this photo that much more remarkable. That’s me with Eva Solomon, the owner of Epic Races, at the Firecracker 5K last July 4.. We’re holding up the total trash with two pinkies – less than two pounds out of a total of 200 pounds.

AAABoR award - Education photo

But Happy Planet Running is just as much about education as it is sorting waste. I want to help move Zero Waste from the margin to the mainstream. Showing what can be done fosters the expectation that this is they way it should be done. I want people saying at other events, “These other guys are doing Zero Waste. Why aren’t you?”

So thanks again for having this award because it shows your commitment to a better planet – a happier planet. Your support is a big step toward making it happen.

Ski-riffic! Frosty Freestyle Sustainability Report

In March 2017, Epic Races started their Zero Waste program, and wrapped up the year with a landfill diversion rate well over 90 percent. Could that performance carry over into 2018, and at a ski race instead of a run or triathlon? Indeed! Read on for details.

Continue reading “Ski-riffic! Frosty Freestyle Sustainability Report”

Brrr! Holiday Hustle Sustainability Report

It was Holiday Hustle time in Dexter, where several thousand diehard runners showed up, hustled their way through a mile or three, and then hustled out of there. And supporting them was over a hundred diehard staff and volunteers determined to help them enjoy the experience.

The Zero Waste team was fired up to finish the year on a strong note. But a late afternoon winter race meant a dark, cold takedown. And we had to keep moving fast just to stay warm. Did we get everything taken care of before we all turned into ice sculptures? Yes! – sort of. Read on!

Continue reading “Brrr! Holiday Hustle Sustainability Report”

Happy Planet Running Receives Environmental Awareness Award!

From the Totally Unexpected News desk: I’ve won an award!

The Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors (AAABoR) has selected HPR to receive its Eunice L. Burns Environmental Awareness Award for 2018.

The award recognizes HPR for developing Zero Waste programs for local running events such as the Ann Arbor Marathon and the Dexter and Ann Arbor Turkey Trots. In 2017 HPR helped 30 events recycle and compost over 15,000 pounds (nearly eight tons) of event waste that would otherwise have gone to a landfill.

Firecracker 5K - single bag of trash
2017 Firecracker 5K: Total event trash held up with two pinkies!

The award will be presented at the AAABoR General Membership Meeting in January. I’ll provide details after the date is confirmed, and again after the ceremony.

More information about the award, and its past recipients, can be found on the award’s web page here.

Many thanks to Mary at Epic Races for nominating HPR and to AAABoR for selecting me!

Cold Turkey, Hot Chocolate, Zero Waste

A cold, blustery morning didn’t stop thousands of people from packing downtown Ann Arbor for the annual Turkey Trot. With a hot chocolate and coffee station for the runners, we promised to be awash in cups, as well as bananas, cookies, and cardboard from all the boxes.

We learned last year that making the race waste go where we wanted was not easy. But this year we came in with a new plan and a bigger team. Could we get everything cleaned up, sorted, and disposed of before the football games and the afternoon gorging?

Continue reading “Cold Turkey, Hot Chocolate, Zero Waste”

Worth Gobbling About! A2 Turkey Trot Sustainability Report

Baby, it was cold outside! But due to their dedication to the great sport of running, hundreds of people came out to run at Hudson Mills anyway. Or maybe it was the Ray’s Red Hots, hot chocolate and pumpkin pie. Either way, the Zero Waste team had a job to do. How’d we manage? Smooth as gravy! Read on.

Continue reading “Worth Gobbling About! A2 Turkey Trot Sustainability Report”

Sweet Success! Hot Cocoa Classic Sustainability Report

How do you get several hundred people to show up on a cold, gray morning and climb a steep hill to begin a run? Promise them hot chocolate afterward! With a lot of food and drink being consumed in a short time, could the Zero Waste effort keep up? With a good process and thoughtful use of materials, the answer was Yes. Read on for how we did it.

Continue reading “Sweet Success! Hot Cocoa Classic Sustainability Report”

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