Swimmingly Smooth: Tri Goddess Tri 2019 Sustainability Report

A beautiful morning, sunshine, happy athletes, and a hardworking Green Team that produced another terrific landfill diversion result. That’s a combination hard to beat!

Sustainability Report: Tri Goddess Tri 2019
Date: June 23, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Waterloo Recreation Area, Grass Lake MI
# Attendees: 400 athletes + staff + spectators
Green Team size: 5

Results: 96.4 percent landfill diversion
Compostables: 30.5 lbs.     Recyclables: 94.3 lbs.     Landfill: 4.7 lbs.
Pie and trend charts - Tri Goddess Tri 2019
It’s unclear why compostables and recycling totals were down significantly from previous years. I’ll post an update if we figure it out.

Main contributors to landfill were foil contaminated with cheese (used to wrap the breakfast burritos), ice cream wrappers, and disposable wet wipes. And the labels and backing sheets used for athlete identification are convenient, but not recyclable.

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Athlete envelope with label sheet

On the positive side, the packing peanuts were cornstarch and not Styrofoam!


Race Overview

The Island Lake Triathlon takes place at the Portage Lake beach of the Waterloo Recreation Area. Race options include sprint and mini-sprint triathlons, aquabike (swim/bike) and duathlon (run/bike/run). Pancakes, breakfast burritos, and cups of “26.2” beer await finishers.

Zero Waste Plan

Ground Zero, the sorting station, was placed next to the registration/retail tent, with a clear view of the transition area and main finish areas.

Stations were sets of three bins – compost, recycling, wrappers – and a pail for trash. As the finish area “footprint” was small and contained, we decided tents would not be needed. We set up three stations in the finish / food area and one in the beer area. They were also placed at the entrances/exits of transition and just outside the checkout exit.

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Green Team talking with an athlete
And check out the cool new Green Team shirts!

There was a small playground near the finish area that had a park trash can. Instead of setting up another station there, we would check it periodically and remove any waste from the race.

The finish line received its standard bag for collecting plastic wrap from medals and cases of water bottles, and empty bags of ice.

Post-race food was egg and cheese wraps, pancakes, bananas, ice cream bars, and bags of chips. Plates and forks were compostable. Catered Coffee supplied hot drinks in compostable containers. “Truly” hard seltzer and 26.2 beer were served in plastic cups.

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Checking results online
A small but meaningful waste reduction – athletes checking their results online instead of on printed paper sheets.

Waste Streams Processed

Collected recyclables were taken to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. Compostables went to Tuthill Farms. Special recyclables, such as small plastics and disposable gloves, went into Happy Planet Running’s TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes.

What Went Well

We had a large enough Green Team to staff each station in the finish area and keep the transition stations regularly checked and sorted. The finish line staff also did their best to keep their “bag of bags” free of water bottles and other waste.

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Family on the Green Team

The emcee in the transition area regularly reminded people at bike checkout that this was a Zero Waste race and to please put their waste in the proper bins.

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Zero Waste station at checkout
Waste station at checkout.

The amount of litter in the transition area at takedown was much reduced over triathlons in previous years. The vocal reminders and the new signs posted in transition may have contributed to this improvement.


No major challenges. Wow!

Opportunities for Improvement

Investigate options for reducing or eliminating trash created from labels and their backing sheets.

The multi-pack of mini-cones of ice cream has far less waste and litter than individually wrapped bars or cones. Perhaps they can be phased in and others phased out?

Tri Goddess Tri 2019 - Ice cream cart with different packaging
The Mini Drums packaging can all be recycled, and wouldn’t have any ice cream residue, unlike the other bars & cones here.

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