Big Feet, Small Footprint: Bigfoot Snowshoe Race Sustainability Report

The snow had mostly melted south of Traverse City, but at Timber Ridge there was hard pack on the groomed trails and deep dry powder in the singletrack sections. Perfect for a snowshoe race! Temperatures in the 30s meant some racers ran in T-shirts and shorts, but the lines for the post-race chili were as long as ever. The Zero Waste team had to be on their toes! Could we improve on last year’s 86 percent diversion, and avoid any unpleasant surprises?

Sustainability Report: Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K/10K 2018
Date: January 20, 2018
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Timber Ridge Resort, Traverse City MI
# Attendees: 550 runners, about 100 spectators
Zero Waste Team volunteers: 3

Race Overview

The Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K/10K is a qualifier for the U.S. Nationals, but it’s popular with snowshoe racers of all levels. According to race director Randy Step, it will likely be the largest snowshoe race in the country this year.

The lodge has two “peak times” for the Zero Waste team: just before race start, when people toss their banana peels and coffee cups on their way outside, and again when the chili and cookies are served after the race. Once awards are finished, the place clears out quickly and there is one final sweep to collect waste left on tables and outside.

The warmer weather meant quite a variety of race clothing choices.

Zero Waste Plan

This year we partnered with Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC) to collect our compostables and recycling. They also provided three ClearStream stations, which we positioned in the lodge by the exit doors. The only waste generated outside were cups at the water jug, which was close enough to the stations to not need a separate bin.

ZW team member Dave staffs a station. Note the cool infographic above the composting bin. More on that to follow!

As usual, Slabtown Burgers provided post-race chili, and we avoided last year’s scramble of sorting and rinsing Styrofoam chili cups by providing compostable bowls and spoons. Cups at the outside water station and the race aid station were recyclable as usual. Plastic bags/wrap were collected separately for recycling. Wrappers would be saved if time permitted, and otherwise be treated as trash.

Slabtown serves up chili to a hungry crowd. The compostable bowls and spoons saved time and effort, and helped the environment.


Total waste was up by weight from last year, most likely from the heavier cups. But the diversion percentage leaped from 86 percent to 97 percent!

Breakdown by waste stream:

  • Compostables: 25.9 lbs. (31.8 %)
  • Recyclables: 53.3 lbs. (65.4 %)
  • Landfill: 2.3 lbs. (2.8 %)

What Went Right

Using compostable bowls and spoons greatly simplified disposal.

Takedown was also simple. Instead of transporting the compostables and recyclables to collection areas like last year, we just broke down the stations and left them and the collected waste in the lodge for BARC to pick up.

Many thanks to my wife and one of our close friends who joined me on the Zero Waste team and kept things under control, even during the heavy rush after the race.

Opportunities for Improvement

Most people were unaware that the spoons were compostable, and despite the signs on the stations, many spoons wound up in the recycle bin, especially when a station was left unattended. Some chili cups also went into the recycle bin, and some went into the trash bin, requiring minor but frequent sorting.

My wife assisting racers with where to put what.

During final cleanup, I noticed a waste can outside that we hadn’t covered or moved out of sight. Sure enough, it contained waste from the race. There was also a small bin in the kitchen area that had some race waste. I could have left them alone, but the idea of Zero Waste is to keep as much as possible out of the landfill, so I took the time to sort.

What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

More education of the attendees. Perhaps a pre-race announcement, or have the chili providers tell people the materials are compostable.

Be a little more careful looking for, and covering, the lodge’s trash bins.

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