A chilly fall morning, with the promise of fires, live music, food, and beer later on? Sounds like a perfect setup for a trail run. And so it was, with 750 athletes traversing various distances on the DTE Energy Foundation trail system near Chelsea. Naturally, we had to make sure it was all environmentally friendly, and boy did we succeed, getting as close to Zero Waste as about possible.

Bonfyre offers three trail races – 5, 10, or 19 miles – on the DTE Energy Foundation trail. Finishers receive a mug with a s’mores kit in it, and, as advertised, a number of fire pits to hang out around on a chilly morning. New Holland Brewing provided beer, and My Little Honey Pot provided lunch and treats (served using all-compostable materials).

The post-event party takes place in a contained area (rules on beer), so we set up a Zero Waste Station in the center, with bins at the exit for beer cans and other waste, which we monitored and swapped out when needed. The team size of three, which included two awesome volunteers, seemed just right. (Thanks again, Webb and Micah.)

The finish line generated a lot of cardboard (mug boxes with inserts), which they stacked and we picked up later. The registration area had some cardboard from shirt boxes, but little else. Unlike 2019, this year the race swag (beanies) did not come individually wrapped in plastic, with paper tags in them (PTL!). The aid station bags came in before takedown, and sorting was went quickly and easily.

Our single small bag of landfill consisted of some PPE (sign of the times), fast food wrappers, soiled foil and plastic, tape, and some dog poop. Over 99 percent diversion!

As a bonus, with the temperatures below 40 degrees for much of the morning, the “Free Stuff” box near the registration tent was very popular, significantly reducing the leftover gloves, hats, and sweatshirts discarded from previous races.

Recyclables were taken to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority immediately after the event. Food waste and compostables went to Tuthill Farms. Discarded race bibs and small plastics were saved for TerraCycle, and plastic bags for a collection station.

A very smooth effort overall. The only OFI I can think of for next time is to bring a larger trailer, so I don’t have to make two trips to offload the recycling and pack my equipment.