Sustainability Report: RF Events Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K 2017

Date: March 12, 2017
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Downtown Ann Arbor, MI
# Attendees: 1,500 runners
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 6

Race Overview

Shamrocks & Shenanigans is one of a myriad of St. Patrick’s Day races (but of course the RF Events one is the best). Some people run it seriously; we had a new record finish this year of 15:12! For others it’s an excuse to dress in green and drink beer in the morning. This race accommodates both types of runners. Hell, what do we care? But given the frigid temps, would we get our usual festive crowd of fast Irishmen, fair redheaded maids, and little leprechauns? And would enough volunteers be there to ensure the end of the rainbow wasn’t full of trash?

The Kids Kilometer began at 9:30, and the 5K at 10:00, later than usual but a good decision for the runners as March 12 was “spring forward” day to Daylight Savings Time. Not so great for the staff, who had to set up in an extra hour of pre-dawn dark.

Zero Waste Plan

We put out five Zero Hero tents in the parking lot where post-race food and activities were held. The registration tent got an Advocate for its plastic wrap, and the finish line got a special bin for the plastic wrap from the medals (there’s a lot of it). We set up our sorting station (check out the new name) in the back of the parking lot.

Shamrocks 2017 - Ground Zero station.jpg

We had one aid station with just water and Gatorade, so the only waste was the cups. Two cardboard bins proved sufficient.

Recycling was cardboard, water bottles, Absopure cups, and coffee cups, as well as a lot of plastic wrap (collected separately). All this went into a six-yard recycling dumpster provided by the City of Ann Arbor. It turned out to be just the right size for the event.

My Green Michigan took the compostables, which were straightforward this time – just food and the occasional World Centric coffee cup.

The only known landfill contributor was the Styrofoam ice cream cups for the kids doing the Kids Kilometer. But as it was such a cold day, not many of them were actually used, at least not at the event itself.


One of our best ever results, with close to 97% landfill diversion rate and under 6 lbs. total of garbage out of 170 lbs. total!

Breakdown by waste stream:

  • Compostables: 41.9 lbs. (24.6 %)
  • Recyclables: 122.9 lbs. (72.1 %)
  • Landfill: 5.7 lbs. (3.3 %)

What Went Right

The post-race food was standard short-race stuff – bagels, bananas, etc. – with no need for utensils or plates. This made the compost bags simple.

I had just purchased a new, larger shipping scale. Not only did it make the stacked cardboard easier to weigh, we used it to weigh the bags, too, so we didn’t need to use the flaky hand scale.

We had enough volunteers to staff the tents during the crush, which cut way down on the need for final sort – a really good thing given the temperature.

Shamrocks 2017 Zero Waste Team.jpg
Our awesome volunteers braved the chill to keep trash in its place!

I was really grateful I had brought along a propane heater. Setup in the dark and cold would have been a lot more uncomfortable without it.

Opportunities for Improvement

We had some confusion regarding the recycling dumpster location. The City couldn’t get it into the parking lot where we had everything set up. So it was placed at the side of the road, far enough away from the finish line that it didn’t interfere with anything.

During setup we found there weren’t enough cardboard bins. So I drove back to the RF warehouse to pick up some more, and snuck back through the closed roads just before the start. Thankfully, someone had put an “Official Race Vehicle” sign in my car.

Shamrocks 2017 - Official Race Vehicle
Don’t I look official? I sure feel official!

This was our first Zero Waste S&S, so it was a guess on where to locate the tents and volunteers. Two tents were outside the normal flow of people and didn’t receive much waste. And there should have been one closer to the food table, as a bin meant only for plastic wrap was also used for banana peels and water bottles. Faith and begorrah!

Shamrocks 2017 - Manning a tent

My standard sports camera decided its SD card was “read only” and I couldn’t convince it otherwise. So I switched to my phone, which told me its memory was full. I did manage a few photos, but nowhere near my usual number. I have to test more carefully the day before, not just that the battery is charged. (Learned that one the hard way, too.)

What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

Get the bin count right, adjust the tent locations, and settle on the location of the recycling dumpster earlier.

Other than that, not much. Everything went (mostly) smoothly, and we finished right along with the rest of takedown. Saints preserve us!

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