What’s a good way to handle a chilly fall morning? Warm up with a good trail run, then stay warm next to a fire with beer and s’mores. All done in an environmentally sound manner, of course! So the Zero Waste team was on site to compost and recycle as much as we could. The beer and treats had nothing to do with it. Really.

Sustainability Report: Bonfyre Trail Fest
Date: November 2, 2019
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: DTE Energy Foundation Trail, Chelsea MI
# Attendees: 900
Zero Waste Team size: 4

Results:  97.7 percent landfill diversion

Pie chart - Bonfyre Trail Fest 2019
Compostables: 49.6 lbs.     Recyclables: 372.5 lbs.     Landfill: 9.8 lbs.

Landfill consisted of snack bag wrappers, waxed paper plates (not provided by RF), a chipped ceramic finisher’s mug, and some dog poop.

Race Overview

Bonfyre is a new race from RF Events that takes place on the DTE Energy Foundation trail in the Waterloo Recreation Area. Three distances were offered: 5 (ish) miles, 10 (ish) miles, and 19 miles (which was actually closer to 18 miles). The races started together at 10:00 a.m. with a final cutoff of 3 p.m.

After the race, runners could get a cold beer and roast marshmallows around several wood fires, and listen to live music. Food was also available from the My Little Honey Pot truck.

Bonfyre 2019 - people roasting marshmallows

Handmade s’more kits were placed in the finisher mugs, with bamboo sticks available for toasting marshmallows (which could just be placed in the fires when people were done with them). “Beanie” hats with the race name were given to all runners.

Also present was a team from the Huron-Waterloo Pathways Initiative, supporting the construction of local trails connecting to the Border-to-Border Trail across Washtenaw County, and to the Iron Belle Trail that runs though Michigan.

Bonfyre 2019 - Lew shows newest HWPI trail plans
Lew tells me about the latest planned additions to the trail system. Can’t wait!

Zero Waste Plan

We set up a waste station pavilion roughly in the middle of the party area with two sets of bins (Compost / Recycle / Landfill). Another station was placed at the exit of the party area, within sight of the pavilion. The finish line collected and broke down its cardboard for later pickup, and had a bag for plastic bags and wrap. Cardboard and plastic bags were also collected in the registration area.

Bonfyre 2019 - central waste station

Bonfyre 2019 - waste station by exit

The My Little Honey Pot truck provided food and drinks in compostable containers.

Post-Event Waste Processing

Recyclables were taken to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority immediately after the event. Food waste and compostables went to Tuthill Farms, and the collected Styrofoam and plastic bags went to Recycle Ann Arbor. Discarded race bibs and small plastics were saved for TerraCycle.

What Went Well

The central “pod” and one other waste stations worked well in the party area. There was only a small number of water bottles left around to pick up.

As at Oberun and Run Woodstock, using 96-gallon carts to collect beer cans reduced the need to change bags and provided a large clear target for them.

Having the food truck with all compostable items meant no worrying about having to rinse out shake and smoothie cups.

Challenges

The beanie bags had small bits of paper in them identifying the manufacturer. A couple of RF staff members gamely sorted them out by hand but couldn’t get to all of them, so some bags had to go to landfill.

Bonfyre 2019 - sorting the plastic bags with paper tags in them

The Karen’s Trail crew brought along waxed paper plates for their pizza, which we had to landfill. (They’ll know to bring or ask for compostable plates next time.)

Aid station sorting was of mixed quality. Some bags were well sorted, while others had Gu wrappers and plastic bags mixed in with the cups. But my great team jumped right in and got everything sorted.

Bonfyre 2019 - sorting aid station bags
Robin, Sarah, and Carrie rocking out the sorting!

Opportunities for Improvement

Ask the beanie manufacturer if they can omit the paper tags from the beanie bags.