I’m Jeff, and my company, Happy Planet Running, is the result of my passion to improve the sustainability of running events. Running is an integral part of who I am. It’s changed my life for the better in many ways, and this is one way I can give back to the sport.
I started running in my forties as a way to keep in shape, and ran my first race in 2008. I now run over 1,000 miles per year and compete in races from 5K to 150 miles, with a few triathlons thrown in for good measure. (You can follow my continuing adventures in running and other fitness activities at my personal blog, RunBikeThrow.)
Along the way I began volunteering at races, and one thing always bothered me – the amount of waste tossed into dumpsters at the end of the event, with no provisions for recycling, composting, or other methods for keeping it out of landfills.
My research into finding a better way led me to the Gazelle Girl races in Grand Rapids, MI. They attract over 3,000 runners and spectators, and generate almost no landfill trash. In 2015 it was one of only two running events in Michigan receiving sustainability certification from the Council for Responsible Sport.
This was something I had to check out. So I signed up for their “Green Team” at the 2015 event and discovered what’s possible with the right network and dedicated people.
I brought that experience back to Ann Arbor and made a pitch to RF Events, a local company that puts on over 20 races per year. I offered to help them become a Zero Waste company, and to perhaps their everlasting regret, they accepted.
2016 was an incredible year. We adopted Zero Waste at 17 events and achieved a 90 percent average landfill diversion rate! There were missteps and mishaps too, which we learned from and used to improve. Things grew from there, and in 2018 I provided Zero Waste services to multiple clients and over 30 total events; running races from 5K to ultramarathons, bike races, triathlons, ski races, and even a snowshoe race!
This site contains sustainability reports from every event I’ve worked at, so you can see all the details from planning, setup, onsite work, and the results by waste stream. In addition I post about innovative approaches to recycling, composting, and waste reduction that will hopefully get us closer to a true “circular economy” where Zero Waste is built into everything, and not seen as a costly and distracting add-on.
If you like what you see here, I hope you’ll share it with others. And maybe it will inspire you to get involved with sustainable events in your own community. Or start one! Contact me – I’d love to help.
I also welcome your stories and experiences, good or bad, with recycling, composting, upcycling, or anything else related to sustainable events. Send me an email. I love talking trash!
This page last updated February 27, 2019.