Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock 2021 Sustainability Report

I had a feeling things were going too well.

It was Sunday morning, the final day of Run Woodstock, and the bags of waste from the Saturday night aid station cleanup were fewer than usual. And I had a good crew coming to assist with the final sorting and takedown. Things were looking up!

Run Woodstock is the most challenging race of my year, and with a brand-new location this year, it was even more a challenge. Over 2,000 runners and campers show up for the three-day weekend, and there are food trucks and a lively retail business contributing to the work we do.

This year, Pink Elephant Events out of Detroit was running the show, with me helping out after my planned trip was cancelled. In Ellen Lyle, I have found my equal in dedication to Zero Waste, and total lack of squeamishness in diving into bags to remove contamination. I think we made a pretty good team.

“Team Grody Roadies” on Saturday morning. Ellen center, me right.We made a few changes from the 2019 event, but kept the one that worked best – a central Zero Waste station near the start/finish line, continually staffed. Runners put all their waste on our tables, and we did the sorting. This eliminated contamination and any guesswork attendees might have. Instead of satellite tents in the area, there was one “All Waste” bin in each retail area, and one by the main set of porta-potties, which we regularly swapped out and sorted back at the main station.

The only trouble spot, as usual, were the aid stations. Despite their best efforts, contamination remained high in their bags. (Improvements to this challenge are under contemplation.) To ease that sorting load, we regularly checked on the Hog Farm aid station, within walking distance of main camp, and took away full bags.

The My Little Honey Pot food truck (100% compostables) and the Little Caesar’s Pizza on Friday (just cardboard and food waste) were zero trouble for us. The Saturday breakfast and lunch served by Chris Cakes posed some problems. We supplied them with compostable plates and forks, but they gave out individual packets of butter, syrup, and BBQ sauce. Small and nearly impossible to clean, most became landfill, although we did save many BBQ cups by running them through my washing machine.

The box of BBQ cups (left) with other special recycling. Just couldn’t bring myself to toss them!

Still, all looked good as we closed up business late Sunday morning and packed everything up. One final trip to drop off recycling, and volunteer Ed Green and I returned to the campground to load up my stuff. On our way we drove by Hog Farm – and all their trash bags were still there.

According to the aid station manager, there’d been a miscommunication, and the bags hadn’t been picked up with the other stations Saturday night. What to do? My Jeep and trailer were packed just about full. And all those bags needed sorting, and I had zero energy left. So we compromised. We took a few bags that looked pretty well sorted, and the rest went to the dumpster. Sad, but practical. We figured our loss at about 100-150 pounds. Those bags, including the ones we rescued, do not figure into the report totals.

Saving what we could.

On the good news side, we got over 90 percent diversion for the first time at Woodstock with the waste we did process. Woohoo! I’ll call that a win.


Published by RunBikeThrow

By day, I'm a mild-mannered Director of Training at a software company in Ann Arbor, MI. By night - I sleep, mostly. In between, I do other things I feel the need to write about. Check out to view my thoughts on running, cycling, Aikido, and other things that keep me going.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: