Gazelle Girl Race Achieves 98% Diversion and Saves 2,000 lbs. From Landfill

The Gazelle Girl has done it again! Not only does this annual women’s race get more popular each year, they find new and better ways to make it more environmentally friendly. This was the event (2015) that sparked my involvement in Zero Waste at races, and led to the creation of Happy Planet Running. I was pleased and proud to be a part of it again this year!

Read on to see what was new this year with their waste management and what their vendors are doing to make sustainability a mainstream, everyday practice.

Sustainability Report: Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, 5K, 10K
Date: April 23, 2017
Event company: Gazelle Sports, Grand Rapids MI
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
# Attendees: 4,000+ runners (women & girls only)
Green Team volunteers: 6-10

The Gazelle Girl races support empowerment and fitness for women and girls of all ages and athletic abilities, and raise money for their charity partners like Girls on the Run and the YWCA. It’s an upbeat, energy-filled event that attracts thousands of runners for the races and the post-race party.

But they also actively support sustainability. The “GG” has been using Zero Waste practices for several years, and was recognized for their accomplishments in 2015 with Silver level certification from the Council for Responsible Sport.

What does that entail? First, they direct the event waste away from generic trash cans and dumpsters to special collection stations that separate out the compostable and recyclable materials. In this the City of Grand Rapids showed its leadership in sustainable practices by providing these stations, setting them up before the event, and taking them away afterwards, all for a single, affordable fee.

Gazelle Girl 2017 - Chelsea at Sorting Station.jpg

The stations were staffed during the event by a dedicated “Green Team” of volunteers, who assisted the runners with proper disposal. “What’ve you got?” was their mantra when a runner approached.

The vendors were also environmentally friendly. For example:

Gazelle Girl 2017 - Brewery Vivant

Brewery Vivant is a LEED certified brewery and B Corporation, meaning they actively promote sustainability and transparency as part of the way they do business. They served their beer in compostable cups. One unintended consequence was that many runners put the cups in the Recycle bins, requiring some extra sorting by the Green Team.

Still, using compostable materials is a great practice that is becoming more popular with food trucks. This vendor served a first-rate grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and basil, on a compostable plate. If small businesses can do this, what’s the excuse for the bigger ones?

Gazelle Girl 2017 - Vendor using compostables



While the runners were enjoying their beer and sandwiches, the Green Team was doing a final sort of all the collected waste. This was a messy and tedious job, but the team got it done!

Gazelle Girl 2017 - Green Team in action

The payoff of all that work: just one bag of trash going to the landfill! I’m holding the bag along with Chelsea, the Green Team captain. (She’s the better looking one.)

Gazelle Girl 2017 - Single bag of trash

Breakdown of waste from race day:
Recycle (plastic jugs and water bottles) – 980 lbs.
Compost (food waste, course cups, Vivant cups) – 940 lbs.
Terracycle (GU packets and wrappers) – 15 lbs.
Landfill (Styrofoam cups, diapers, tablecloths, drink tabs from bibs, heatsheets) – 37 lbs.

Saving a ton (literally) from ending up in the landfill, and a 98 percent diversion rate!

In addition, a lot of leftovers and recovered materials was donated:

  • Clothing was donated to Sole Sisters.
  • Leftover food and drink went to the YMCA, and wrappers went to GFB, who will be recycling those with their corporate recycler.
  • KCGOTR took bottled water and GFB bars.
  • YWCA took a car load of fruit, chocolate milk and bagels.
  • More fruit went to the John Ball Zoo for the animals and the rest of the bagels to Degage, helping four non-profits serve their communities.

Another successful event that everyone involved should justifiably be proud of, and that other event companies should take notice of. It CAN be done!

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