Ho, Ho, Zero! Holiday Hustle Sustainability Report

The final RF Events race of each year is the Holiday Hustle, and over 2,000 runners braved the cold and came out to run a mile or the 5K. And, of course, we couldn’t lower our Zero Waste standards just because it’s a little cold and dark (okay, really dark). Could we improve on 2018’s landfill total of just five pounds? See below!

Sustainability Report: Holiday Hustle
Date: December 14, 2019
Event company: RF Events, Ann Arbor MI
Location: Monument Park, Dexter MI
# Attendees: 2,200
Zero Waste Team members: 6

Results:  98.7 percent landfill diversion
Compostables: 18.5 lbs.     Recyclables: 122.7 lbs.     Landfill: 1.8 lbs.

Pie and Trend charts - Holiday Hustle 2019

Main contributors to landfill trash were soiled plastic bags, gum, a few wrappers, a tube of toothpaste(?), and (naturally) a bag of dog poop.

TerraCycle items included discarded race bibs and holiday light necklaces, disposable hand warmers, and a few popped balloons.

Race Overview

The main event is a 5K running through Dexter. Holiday costumes are prevalent, and the race swag includes lighted necklaces and holiday beanies. For kids, there’s a one-mile race before the 5K, and hot chocolate and cookies afterward, and Santa puts in an appearance at the pavilion.

The 5K starts at 4:30 p.m. so it is fully dark at race end, which makes it a challenge to keep the waste sorted (and for runners to see the signs on the bins).

Zero Waste Plan

We set up a pavilion near the finish line and awards table, with Ground Zero and waste stations (Compost / Recycle / Landfill bins) on three sides. We put pails on the table for TerraCycle items and plastic wrap from lighted necklaces and wrappers from candy canes (provided by Santa). Satellite stations were set up near the registration tent and at the other end of the park near the memorial statue.

Cookies and pretzels were handed out in compostable bags at the finish line, along with water bottles. No small candies or snack bars were provided this year, which helped cut down on total waste and especially the small stuff that’s hard to sort out in the dark.

We forgot to put a bag at the finish line for plastic bags, so there was a bit of a pileup, but we collected it all quickly once we were made aware of it.

Post-Event Waste Processing

All collected waste went into a U-Haul trailer. Due to it being dark and cold, HPR did the weighing and final sort the next day. Compostables went to WeCare in Ann Arbor, and recyclables to Western Washtenaw Recycling and Recycle Ann Arbor. TerraCycle materials went into their respective Zero Waste Boxes.

What Went Well

The central multi-station pavilion worked very well, like the other events this year where we’ve used it. And we had a large enough team to keep the central pod staffed while others patrolled the other stations.

Holiday Hustle 2019 - Zero Waste Team
Thanks, everyone!

I had a team of six, which helped greatly in keeping the bins sorted and in a timely takedown in the dark and cold. The Zero Waste Volunteers of the Year award went to Dana Furnas and her daughter Layla for their “above and beyond” work at several events this year, including extra sorting the day after those events.

Holiday Hustle 2019 - Dana and Layla - Zero Waste Volunteers of the Year

Using compostable bags for the post-race goodies reduced overall waste and made disposal easy.


The cardboard boxes that held the beanies were wrapped with tape and plastic strapping. This had to be peeled off after the event. The strapping went into the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box for plastic packaging.

Holiday Hustle 2019 - Cardboard with plastic strapping

We covered the park trash bins with contractor bags, but some people still decided to put trash in the one near Santa’s pavilion (on top of the bag). It wasn’t a whole lot, so I’m not sure if that location warrants another station or not.

Holiday Hustle 2019 - Trash on top of covered bin

As with previous years, a number of water bottles were left on the tables and on the grass. The team swept the area to pick them up. And many discarded water bottles were unopened or mostly full.

Opportunities for Improvement

Consider going to smaller water bottles next year, or to cups and water jugs. Absopure is a sponsor and may require our use of the full sized bottles, but perhaps something else can be arranged.

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