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.

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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.

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