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.
The Frosty Freestyle is a two-day weekend featuring ski races of various types and distances, including a kids race featuring a life-size Frosty the Snowman skiing along with them. Following that race were adult races featuring skiers of all ability levels.
Although it was pretty cold outside (temps never above 15 degrees) everyone was in good spirits and enjoyed the races.
After their races, skiers repaired to the lodge, where there was hot food – pancakes on Saturday, and breakfast burritos on Sunday. Bananas and cookies were available both days, as were hot broth, cocoa, and coffee.
Zero Waste Plan
Inside the lodge we set up three Advocate mini-stations, one at each end and one on the wall opposite the pancake station. The waste streams were compostables, recyclables, and trash, and a bin for plastic bags/wrap. Separating Gu and snack wrappers would be optional based on time and volume. Outside was a single aid station with water and recyclable cups.
We used compostable plates and forks for the pancakes so we didn’t have to separate out syrup-covered materials. Butter was not provided, avoiding the single-use packs which, if used, would need to be trash. There was syrup in jugs, and whipped cream in aerosol cans which could be recycled once empty.
There just a couple of trouble spots. The cocoa/coffee cups were compostable, but due to sponsor requirements we used branded non-compostable cups for the broth. And on Sunday the burritos were wrapped in aluminum foil, some of which required rinsing in order to recycle them.
As the park does not have a recycling program, we took the collected recyclables to the Western Washtenaw recycling dumpsters. Compostables were taken to HPR HQ, where they will be held for future pickup by a composting facility.
In 2017, Epic Races events averaged an incredible 97 percent landfill diversion. The Frosty Freestyle picked up right where we left off, with 96.7 percent diversion. Of the three pounds of trash, the largest contributors were hand warmers and shoe-insert foot warmers, which we can hardly blame the skiers for using.
Breakdown by waste stream (numbers rounded):
- Compostables: 41.7 lbs. (45 %)
- Recyclables: 48 lbs. (51.7 %)
- Landfill: 3.1 lbs. (3.3 %)
What Went Right
The number and location of Zero Waste stations seemed appropriate, which was good because due to the lodge setup it would have been difficult to place them elsewhere.
For this race, an unusually large number of race bibs were discarded after use. HPR discovered last year that bibs are made of Tyvek and can be recycled by sending them to DuPont, so we collected them for future shipment.
Opportunities for Improvement
It was crowded inside the lodge at times, so apparently not everyone spotted the Zero Waste stations. Twice during the weekend someone lifted off the covers off one of the lodge’s waste cans, which then filled up with mixed waste that had to be sorted. It happened even with a clearly marked sign indicating the bin was closed!
The two different types of cup used meant that quite a few were tossed into the wrong container. Correcting it was not difficult but did require vigilance.
The race bibs were two-sided and went over the neck, using connection strings with clips on them to secure the sides. These little strings wound up all over the floor, requiring a lot of individual stoops to collect them afterward.
What We’ll Do Differently Next Time
Provide better visibility for the Zero Waste stations at peak occupancy times. Perhaps set up the large signs used at Dances with Dirt.
Set up a special box for collecting used race bibs, and inform the participants where to discard them. Also remind them not to toss the little connection strings on the floor.