Ugly Dog Tri Sustainability Report

Okay, so this race is which of the following?

a) A gravel road triathlon with an ugly dog contest included;
b) A race where athletes have to run with their ugly dogs;
c) A event sponsored by a distillery with an interesting name.
d) All of the above.

The answer is (c) but this was the first year for this event, so who knows what could happen in the future? In the meantime, read on to see how “green and clean” a gravel road race can turn out!

Sustainability Report: Ugly Dog Triathlon
Date: September 7, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Portage Lake/Waterloo Recreation Area, Grass Lake, MI
# Attendees: 140 runners
Zero Waste Team size: 2 (Captain: Janette Lutz)

Results: 91.9 percent landfill diversion

Pie chart - Ugly Dog Tri 2019

Compostables: 22.8 lbs.     Recyclables: 45.5 lbs.     Landfill: 6 lbs.

Race Overview

The Ugly Dog Triathlon has a variety of race options each featuring varying mileage of gravel or paved bike courses. The main events include a sprint triathlon, aquabike, and duathlon with 29 or 10 mile gravel bike distances offered. Athletes can also choose the “Pretty Dog” option with a 10 mile paved road.

All races are completed and the area is cleaned up by early afternoon.

Zero Waste Plan

Zero Waste stations (compost, recycle, trash) were set up near the centrally located registration and food tent near the finish line. “Ground Zero” was conveniently set up next to the food tent in a walled enclosure of the recreation building.

Food included egg and cheese burritos (assembled on-site), peanut butter wraps, bananas, pancakes and syrup, chips, and puppy chow. Cups of water were handed out at aid stations and the finish line. “Summer Spritzer” aka the Ugly Dog Distillery dispensed their colorful spirits under the food tent.

Ugly Dog Tri 2019 - Adult beverages

What Went Well

Six variations of zero waste stations, all placed within the compact finish line/food tent area, allowed close monitoring and sorting success.

A time trial start produced a slow and steady parade of athletes through the finish line and food tent, so nearly constant monitoring of the six stations was possible by a two-person Green Team. The volunteer tended the two stations nearest the end of the food area, which resulted in almost no time required to sort at the end of the day.

Ugly Dog Tri 2019 - Green Team with SBoT
Just a single bag of landfill, as usual!


The main race activities are located directly next to the recreation area building and restrooms which contain multiple trash cans. It was difficult to determine which trash containers should be closed off to separate the race waste from general park waste.

Puppy chow was served in plastic wrappers tied with a plastic coated twisty tie, so effort was made to sort the ties from the recycling bins.

Ugly Dog Tri 2019 - Bags of puppy chow

Opportunities for Improvement

Bring headlamps for setting up in these later season races. This will allow earlier identification and separation of park waste containers.

Report and photos by Janette Lutz.

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