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.

Sustainability Report: The Original A2 Turkey Trot 2017
Date: November 11, 2017
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Hudson Mills Metropark, Dexter MI
# Attendees: 600 runners + staff + spectators
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 2

Race Overview

Hudson Mills is a pretty metropark just northwest of equally picturesque downtown Dexter. A paved path runs along its circuit, and while it’s mainly flat, there are a few gradual climbs that can suck the breath out of those pushing too hard. And on a windy, frigid day, it made for a challenging run.

Runners had the option of a 5K or 10K, with an “Iron Turkey” option for those brave enough to run both. This year for the first time a one-mile fun run was also included.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-7,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E:Y

Post-race food was cups of hot broth and cocoa, bananas, and pumpkin pie. Ray’s Red Hots also provided turkey and beef hot dogs for the runners, staff, and volunteers.

Zero Waste Plan

Near the finish line a large heated tent was set up to for food and drinks and seating. We set up one Zero Hero tent just outside the tent on the way to the park building, and another on the way from the building to the parking lot. The finish line got a bin for plastic bags and wrap from the medals.

Inside the park building, which had registration, awards, and vendors, we set up two Advocates (mini-stations).

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-7,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E:Y
Sam helps runners with disposal options. (Pictured: Advocate.)

We checked with Ray’s before the event to make sure they would use compostable materials. Their original plan (deli papers) turned out to not be compostable, so they switched to plain paper wrappers.

The pie serving plates and forks were compostable. Cups and water bottles were recyclable. Snack bags of potato chips were also served, to be treated as trash unless we had enough to make their collection meaningful.

We planned to take the collected recyclables to the nearby Dexter Township Hall, which has a set of recycling dumpsters. Compostables would be taken to Tuthill Farms.

Results

Less than one pound of trash, and over 99 percent landfill diversion. ‘Nuff said, I think!

Breakdown by waste stream (numbers rounded):

  • Compostables: 21.2 lbs. (17.4 %)
  • Recyclables: 100 lbs. (81.9 %)
  • Landfill: 0.9 lbs. (0.7 %)

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-7,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E:Y

What Went Right

The setup seemed just right, with only a small amount of stuff on the ground or on tables. Removing or covering the park’s trash cans proved necessary, as demonstrated by one can near the office we left in place, which runners somehow found and used for everything.

Using compostable forks simplified the disposal process, as did the unlined paper hot dog wrappers used by Ray’s. And cutting the pumpkin pies into small portions minimized the amount of pie thrown out half-eaten.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-7,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E:Y
These guys recycle at their school. Tomorrow’s sustainability heroes!

We dedicated one space per tent/Advocate to trash, which included potato chip bag wrappers. But there was so little actual trash that we were able to sort out the wrappers with little difficulty. They’ll be sent to TerraCycle.

The park ended up taking our collected recyclables, saving us the time and effort of hauling them to the recycle bins at the township hall. Thank you, thank you!

Opportunities for Improvement

We did have a number of uneaten banana halves at the end. While we composted them, it would have been better to have them intact so we could donate them.

The pie tins (aluminum) and covers (plastic) were smeared with crust or pie filling, requiring them to be rinsed before they could be recycled. Due to the cold day and with only one volunteer, I did this at home after the race.

What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

Perhaps bananas could be cut in half “on demand” after the rush is over, to reduce the amount of cut leftovers that must be discarded.

We could have a bucket of warm water and some paper towels inside to wipe the pie tins and covers clean during the event.

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