Hot Cocoa Classic 2019 Sustainability Report

What’s better than hot chocolate after a November morning race with a steep climb in it? Hot chocolate with marshmallows and candy canes, of course! And so several hundred people cheerfully ran or walked up and down the Mt. Brighton ski hill.

The challenge for the Zero Waste team is handling a lot of waste in a short window, as the resort opens for general business later in the morning. Could we continue the great results of over 98 percent landfill diversion at this event? Read on to find out!

Sustainability Report: Hot Cocoa Classic
Date: November 2, 2019
Event company: Epic Races, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Mt. Brighton Ski Resort, Brighton, MI
# Attendees: 500 runners
Zero Waste Team size: 3 (Captain: Janette Lutz)

Results: 98.5 percent landfill diversion
Pie and trend charts - Hot Cocoa Classic 2019.jpgCompostables: 51.1 lbs.     Recyclables: 71.5 lbs.     Landfill: 1.9 lbs.

Compost volume dropped due to the reduced use of compostable cups (hot cocoa was served in ceramic mugs).

Hot Cocoa Classic 2019 - Single bag o trash
Janette and Colleen show off the single bag o’ trash.

Race Overview

The Hot Cocoa Classic takes place at the Mt. Brighton ski and golf resort. Both the 5K and one-mile races are challenging, beginning with a long climb up the ski hill. Some brave souls do both!

After the race, runners warm up in the cafe with mugs of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows, sprinkles, and small peppermint candy canes. Pre-made bowls of Oreos, pretzels, a bag of potato chips, and small cups of peanut butter are set out for easy “grab and go” access. Also available are bananas, water bottles, and Twizzler licorice sticks.

Hot Cocoa Classic 2019 - Post-race refreshment area

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 near the food tables inside the cafe. The “Ground Zero” table was set up next to the registration tables. Some compost and recycle bins were set up outside to handle runner waste before race start.

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Food included hot cocoa with marshmallows (of course!) bananas, and compostable containers with peanut butter wraps and candy canes. Cups of water were available at aid stations and the finish line. Hot cocoa was handed out in metal mugs.

New this year, the hot cocoa was served in ceramic mugs instead of cups.

What Went Well

Variations of zero waste stations were strategically placed outside near the start and finish lines to coordinate with the waste bins onsite. This allowed clean sorting of the plastic bags and jugs produced in those areas. Two stations inside the cafeteria area allowed close monitoring and quick sorting. Two volunteers tended the stations nearest the end of the food / hot cocoa area to ensure no wrapped candy canes were placed in the compost bins.

The Mt. Brighton ski resort has embarked on a sustainability program which includes dedicated waste areas for landfill, recycling, and compostable waste bins conveniently located outside the kitchen/cafeteria. Plastic and cardboard recyclables and the compostable materials were placed in the waste hoppers under direction of resort staff.

Hot Cocoa Classic 2019 - Composting and recycling bins


Candy canes were wrapped in plastic, which required separation prior to composting the unwanted canes.

It was difficult to determine the optimal placement of the Ground Zero station before the race started. Once the traffic pattern was established, the station was moved closer to the registration area to avoid the influx of racers.

Opportunities for Improvement

Mark where the Ground Zero station ended up, and remember that location for next time.

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