The Forth is With Zero Waste! Upland Hills 5K/10K Sustainability Report

A fun little trail race that also shows no matter how small the event, you can make it sustainable and cost effective!

Sustainability Report: Upland Hills 5K/10K 2019
Date: May 4, 2019
Event put on by: Upland Hills School, Oxford MI
Location: Upland Hills Farm, Oxford MI
# Attendees: 150
Zero Waste team size: 3

Results: 95.6 percent landfill diversion

Compostables: 23.9 lbs.     Recyclables: 2.4 lbs.     Landfill: 1.2 lbs.

Upland Hills 10K 2019 - Collected waste

The main reasons for most of the waste being compostable include using compostable cups for water and coffee, and minimal use of other materials. All food was meant to be handheld, and there was little plastic wrap.

Comparison vs. 2018:  All numbers were just about the same.

Race Overview

Upland Hills is a K-8 school in Oxford, MI, dedicated to “encouraging children to know themselves and to connect with themselves and with their environment as responsible world citizens.” So they want their activities to be earth-friendly and sustainable, and the annual 5K/10K trail race is no exception. The race takes place at the nearby Upland Hills Farm, which offers activities and programs for school-age kids.

The kids are directly involved in planning the race. They also designed the event T-shirt (a May the Fourth be with You” theme) and made the awards.

Upland Hills 10K 2019 - Event shirts
Kids and teacher Robert wearing the shirts. Details a little hard to see – sorry about that.
Upland Hills 10K 2019 - Robin accepting her handmade awards
Robin accepting her handmade medal. Age group awards are hand-painted basil pots.

Zero Waste Plan

The main waste station, also designed by the kids, was set up near the food tables offering bagels, apples, and handmade treats. We also put a composting and recycling bin on the way to the parking lot, and used the farm’s trash bins for one more station near the restrooms.

Upland Hills 10K 2019 - Main Zero Waste station

The finish line and aid stations used 6 oz. World Centric compostable cups, which can be used for both hot and cold drinks.

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

Just about everything. A rainy morning turned into a nice day, and my niece Robin and I ran the 10K together. The trail was muddy in spots but in good shape otherwise, and we had a great time. She also helped out on the Zero Waste team.

Upland Hills 10K 2019 - Robin and me crossing finish line - cropped
Robin and I cross the finish line. I’m holding my right shoe, which came off in the mud.


None. Everything was well sorted and “good to go” for recycling and composting, except for a few containers of cream cheese and plastic knives that needed cleaning off before they could be recycled.

Opportunities for Improvement

Get more people to run this race. It’s a lot of fun, a great example of sustainability, and a showpiece of what creative kids can do.

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