Celebrating Moms and Mother Earth: Ann Arbor Goddess 2019 Sustainability Report

A 5K on Mother’s Day to promote fitness, fight cancer, and celebrate motherhood ought to be equally respectful to our planet. And the event’s Green Team was equal to the challenge, putting in an effort we hope our Moms would be proud of!

Sustainability Report: Ann Arbor Goddess 5K 2019
Date: May 12, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Hudson Mills Park, Dexter MI
# Attendees: 1,000 runners + staff + spectators
Green Team size: 4

Results: 96.8 percent landfill diversion

Compostables: 48.2 lbs.     Recyclables: 112.9 lbs.     Landfill: 5.4 lbs.

Pie and trend chart - A2 Goddess 2019.jpg

Trash was waxed cups from the “chocolate mile” station (see Challenges), fast food wrappers, tape, diapers, and soiled plastics. The cups were the main reason trash increased to 5.4 pounds from 1.2 in 2018.

Race Overview

The Ann Arbor Goddess is a Mother’s Day 5K that celebrates motherhood, promotes awareness of ovarian cancer, and raises funds to fight it. Many families have three generations running. There is also a one-mile run, and a short out-and-back (a few hundred yards) for small children.

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Zero Waste Plan

The post-race area was on a paved patio and the weather was nice so we set up sets of bins instead of tents. The finish line got a bin for plastic wrap from water bottle cases. The aid station used water/Gatorade cups. For the “chocolate mile” station run by Iorio’s, see “Challenges” below.

A2 Goddess 2019 - Michael at Ground Zero

Post-race food: egg and cheese wraps, pancakes, bananas, cookies, bags of chips, and Twizzlers. Bearclaw Coffee supplied hot drinks in all-compostable containers. The Ann Arbor Track Club booth had several boxes of pizza for its members and staffers. For the “MOMosas” this year, Truly Hard Seltzer was served in plastic cups.

A2 Goddess 2019 - Paul Dodd and Colleen
PR Run Club members Colleen and Paul ham it up at the pancake station. (Hey, Paul, get back on those eggs, there’s hungry runners coming.)

A2 Goddess 2019 - Post-race Truly hard seltzer

Plates and forks were compostable. Aluminum foil was used to keep the wraps warm. Most could be recycled, but some had grease or cheese contamination and were landfilled. Food prep also got labeled boxes for disposable gloves.

We did not set up stations at the starting line or inside the club building used for registration. Instead we did a “sweep” of the trash bins there and recovered recyclables and compostables discarded by the runners.

Waste Streams Processed

Collected recyclables to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority dropoff station less than a mile from the park. Compostables went to WeCare in Ann Arbor. Special recyclables, such as small plastics and disposable gloves went into Happy Planet Running’s TerraCycle boxes.

Post-event waste processing was minimal, mainly wrappers and small plastic items such as straws and loose bottle caps.

What Went Well

The one-time sweeps of the starting area and club building went smoothly and saved time and effort over setting up and staffing stations in those areas. The amount collected was significant but not overwhelming.

The Green Team (new name) volunteers were outstanding, keeping the stations sorted and efficiently sorting and weighing the collected bags.

A2 Goddess 2019 - Zero Waste Team


Iorio’s handed out small cups of gelato at a “chocolate mile” station on the course. Unfortunately they ended up using waxed cups instead of compostable cups. The gelato contaminated the cups beyond recovery, so they went to trash, accounting for more than half the amount going to landfill (3.1 lbs. out of 5.4 total).

A2 Goddess 2019 - Chocolate Mile trash vs. rest of trash
Chocolate mile cups in the bag on the left, other trash on the right.

As people began to leave the event, we noticed heavy use of a park trash can located on the path to the parking lot. We converted it into a recycle bin, added composting and trash containers, and staffed it. The waste put in beforehand was recovered and sorted.

A2 Goddess 2019 - Station on way to parking lot 2

It was unclear whether the cookie boxes and inner separation liners were recyclable or compostable. I checked at a recycling conference afterward. The boxes are recyclable and high value. The liners are part plain paper (recyclable or compostable) and part lined with a moisture barrier (which should be landfilled). Good lesson for future events.

Opportunities for Improvement

Remind Iorio’s of the need for compostable cups, and that we can supply them if needed.

If the race is held at the park next year, have the plan include the waste station on the way to the parking lot.

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