Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock 2022 Sustainability Report

Run Woodstock: a weekend of peace, love, music, and running. And one heck of a lot of work for the staff, including the Green Team. I enjoy the vibe, live music, and passion of the runners, despite long hours and the inevitable nasty surprise or two, like last year’s pile of bags at the Hog Farm aid station only discovered after everything else was done. Anticipation mixed with dread kind of thing.

A mantra to live by.

We set up the Ground Zero station in the same spot as last year, near the main pavilion and next to the path the runners use. Learning from the 2021 experience, I made a couple of changes to the Zero Waste plan.

  • I set up a secondary station with All Waste boxes at Hog Farm, which offers the most options in food and drink for the runners. Then I manned it over the Friday night graveyard shift and intermittently on Saturday to keep things in order. Ultrarunners shouldn’t be expected to sort their waste, or even think, and being one myself, I should know this. Finally got it right this year.
  • I asked the folks in the retail area and the finish line awards station to send people with trash to the main station, just a short walk from each area. This avoided the full bins of mixed waste that kept appearing last year.
  • I helped with Hog Farm takedown as soon as they closed at 5 p.m. Saturday, and helped them put their final waste in the correct bins. As a result, just about everything was sorted when I hauled the bins and bags back to Ground Zero.
  • We directed campers with mixed waste to the trash dumpster near the exit, although we happily accepted their pre-sorted recyclables.
4:00 p.m. Friday: The 100-mile and and 100K runners start.
Friday night at Hog Farm, serving the 100-milers.

The 6×12 trailer I rented served its purpose well, although it took one trip to Tuthill Farms (five 96-gallon carts full of compostables), and four trips to WWRA for recycling during the weekend to have enough room for everything on Sunday. I still consider it better than having to maneuver a truck around.

Food trucks served the main campground area all weekend. My Little Honey Pot and Shimmy Shack were all compostable, as were the Little Caesar’s pizza boxes (except for some sauce cups). The coffee truck served smoothies in plastic cups, so they needed to be rinsed, but there weren’t too many. Chris Cakes had a pancake breakfast on Saturday (supplied with compostable plates and utensils by RF), and there was an afternoon barbecue lunch. They left some foil pans and other recyclables behind, which got washed after the event.

Thanks to my volunteers Julia, Fred, Darin, Shawn, and Sue, and my staffers Rachael and Debbie. I need to give special thanks to my Saturday afternoon and evening crews. That time period is usually when we catch up on aid station bags, but the flow of campers to our station was nearly endless, and being up nearly 48 hours straight didn’t help my mood. But that evening we did catch up, to my surprise and relief. Special thanks to my wife Joyce, who came over to help Saturday for a little while and would up staying most of the day. In addition to a lot of cup sorting, she kept me on a (reasonably) even keel emotionally when things got hairy.

Joyce finds it hard to understand how someone could mistake a watermelon for a cup.

Sunday morning, far from the frantic sorting party of previous years, went smoothly. With Hog Farm already processed, the final aid station bags coming in Saturday night were managed easily. With a good-sized team of experienced Zero Waste volunteers, I was able to make a run to the recycling center, get everything else sorted and weighed, and wrap up by 10:30 a.m., beating our usual Sunday finish time by several hours.

The Sunday morning team hard at it.

That said, there are some further areas for improvement, the largest one being aid station cross-contamination of food waste in with recyclables. A banana or two is no big deal, but coffee grounds are. I estimate that at least half our landfill total could have been recovered with better sorting at the aid stations.

Seriously, we can do better than this.

Also, somewhere along the line, the stations switched from using compostable cups for soup to Styrofoam, meaning each cup had to be rinsed before it was suitable to recycle. I salvaged about 300 cups, but many more were too much trouble and were landfilled.

No canopies were abandoned this year, but I did salvage a couple of chairs for parts, several reusable aluminum cups, and some perfectly serviceable blankets and a mat that just needed washing.

All in all, a good Woodstock weekend. If we can repeat and improve on this year, I will look forward to future years with more anticipation and far less dread.

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