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Happy Planet Running

Run a great race. Leave no trace.

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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 fitnessat50.net to view my thoughts on running, cycling, Aikido, and other things that keep me going.

Run Scream Run 2021 Sustainability Report

Run Scream Run returned to Wiard’s Orchards after a year hiatus, and the Haunted Village was scary as ever. Attendance, at around 700, was about half the usual total but still had its share of colorful costumes.

Master of Scare-amonies Randy inspiring the crowd to run fast. Real fast.

Some group had held a party the previous night, and the ground was littered with tiny liquor bottles and other trash. As I policed the field I saw one of the orchard’s staffers also picking up trash. I told him to leave his bag by our station and I’d recover the recycling, so that total is a bit higher than actually generated by the race.

Continue reading “Run Scream Run 2021 Sustainability Report”

One, Two, Three…Scrumpy Skedaddle 2021 Sustainability Report

Back at Almar Orchards for the RF Events Scrumpy Skedaddle, featuring incredible organic hard cider, and a pancake breakfast provided by Chris Cakes of Michigan. And where I either reached a new high in Zero Waste, or a new low. Depends on your point of view.

Here’s a chance to test your estimation skill. How many syrup packets are soaking in this sink? Answer at the end of the report. I’ll give you a hint – there were 600 registered runners, plus another 100 or so spectators eating breakfast there.

You didn’t count them, Jeff. Please tell me you didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “One, Two, Three…Scrumpy Skedaddle 2021 Sustainability Report”

(Rain) Dances with Dirt – Hell 2021 Sustainability Report

Hell is a wetter place than I’d imagined. At least this year’s Dances with Dirt in Hell, Michigan, was wet. The races (50K, 50-mile, and relay) began on time, into a steady rain that lasted until after 10 a.m. The skies cleared in the afternoon and it warmed up, but the post-race area remained saturated, even flooded in places. Still, as the whole point of this race is to get dirty and wet on the trails, it was a success, both for the runners and the Green Team. Read on for details!

Continue reading “(Rain) Dances with Dirt – Hell 2021 Sustainability Report”

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. Continue reading “Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock 2021 Sustainability Report”

T-Rex Triathlon Sustainability Report

The 2021 triathlon season is over at RF Events, and a successful one despite the ongoing uncertainty. And there was no doubt about the Zero Waste success, with every event achieving over 95 percent landfill diversion.

Of the four triathlons in the T-Rex series, this one is the most challenging because it gets dark before the event is over, making takedown more difficult and effective waste sorting impossible. So the aid station bags and the last-minute site cleanup trash must be taken care of the next day. At least the mosquitoes are there to keep us moving.

The total waste from the event. FYI, this is about half of what it was five years ago!

With volunteers “dropping likes flies” as a staff member put it, I was a one-man Green Team, so I made some adjustments. The food area station was set up in the shade instead of using a canopy, and I used a 96-gallon cart to carry its supplies and hold the collected waste at takedown. In the finish line water bottle area I picked up the plastic wrap and cardboard periodically instead of leaving a bag there, which saved digging out contamination later. Transition remains a work in progress, but the “All Waste” boxes at each end seem to work better than trying to set up a sorting station there.

Aid station bags were in fairly good shape, but the mixed cardboard/water jugs and loose items made for a sloppy loading. For future events I’ll ask if they can stack the cardboard and bag the other items. Also, somehow plastic forks wound up at the food table. We can recycle them, but they had to be carefully sorted from the compostable sporks we usually use.

Even with the challenges, we achieved another spectacular landfill diversion rate!

Ugly Dog Triathlon Sustainability Report

It was hard to tell who enjoyed Saturday’s Ugly Dog Triathlon more – the athletes, or the mosquitoes. Thanks to two weeks of wet weather, the little buggers were out in force, as were some bees. But the Epic Races staff persevered and pulled off another great event!

The race followed the same format as last time (2019), with several duathlon/triathlon options offered, and the post-race food was the same – pancakes, egg & cheese wraps, bananas, and “puppy chow” Chex-style treats. Missing this year was the Ugly Dog Distillery offerings, except for tiny bottles as (over 21) age group awards. However, the Zero Waste strategy was quite different.

Instead of several stations in the area, we continued the new method of a single large Zero Waste Station near the food tent, with boxes for “all waste” on tables, to be sorted by the Green Team.

Transition had a pail at each end, and the finish line had a bag for plastic wrap from medals and cases of water bottles. The food tent also had its own “all waste” box, which was periodically swapped out by the Green Team. The team taking down transition at the end of the event got a dedicated pail for cut tie wraps (used to secure the fencing to its poles).

Overall waste was down from 2019, most notable in landfill, which dropped from 6 pounds to 0.6 pounds – ten percent of the 2019 total!

In another change, park trash cans were not covered. However, the Green Team checked nearby ones and retrieved waste that was clearly from the race, mainly banana peels, water bottles, and Gu wrappers. With these changes, one person was enough to get everything done. With a lot of help from the local insects, of course.

Island Lake Tri Sustainability Report

A beautiful day for a triathlon, from mini-sprint to Olympic distance, at the Island Lake Rec Area. And with restrictions lifted, nearly 500 athletes turned out. And the classic Epic Races food was back, with pancakes, breakfast burritos, candy, and even ice cream. The Zero Waste effort would be put to the test!

We set up a single main station where people put all their waste on a table, to be sorted by the Green Team. Due to the course layout, we had to set it up a bit farther from the post-race food tent and gathering area. So we put a couple of “all waste” bins in that area and periodically took them to the main station for sorting. Transition waste was minimal – just a few paper cups and small trash.

For most of the event, everything went smoothly. We got a bit jammed at the end, leaving some bags to be sorted after the event. Many thanks to Epic staff member Alise, who cheerfully pitched in and stayed late to lighten my load. One other help was using the half-size disposable water bottles, which reduced recycling volume and saved time emptying out the half-full ones.

Landfill waste was a bit heavier than usual, due in part to food-soiled aluminum foil and ice cream wrappers, aided by the park’s removal of their own trash cans. So we ended up with several diapers and even a raw chicken breast! Not sure why anyone would bring that, let alone an athlete. One of life’s little mysteries.

Still, we achieved over 90 percent landfill diversion! Report is below. (Click to enlarge.)

The New Running Reality: Scrumpy Skedaddle 2020

Sustainability Report: Scrumpy Skedaddle

Date: October 4, 2020
Event company: RF Events
Where: Almar Orchards, Flushing MI
# Attendees: 400
Zero Waste Team size: 1

It’s been quite a while since Happy Planet Running has had an event to report about. Since February the great majority of running events have been virtual, and the few live events haven’t had much waste – which is not all bad.

There have been any number of logistical challenges to face. How do you keep people safe at a running event during a pandemic? And how to deal with the limits on the number of people who can be gathered in one place?

The good news is that live events are happening, albeit under very different rules and practices than the year before. We’re adapting and adjusting, as people do! When this crisis has passed, and it will pass, it will be interesting to see which adjustments will be discontinued and which will remain because they’re worth keeping.

Read on to see how RF Events put on a safe, fun 5K at Almar Orchards!

Continue reading “The New Running Reality: Scrumpy Skedaddle 2020”

We’re Still Here!

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an event to work. But Happy Planet Running is still here! And when racing resumes, so will my work to keep events as Zero Waste as possible.

The last event I helped with, the Super 5K in February, seems like it happened years ago. Now it’s a different world, and who really knows what lies ahead post-pandemic.

One casualty has been recycling. While curbside collections have continued in my area, the dropoff centers were closed for a while, and are just now starting to reopen to the public. Some items, like Styrofoam, need to be taken there, so it was piling up in my garage until recently.

We’ve seen another reversal away from reusables to disposables, with the banning of reusable bags at many stores. Some are using paper, but big stores like Meijer offer only plastic bags. And coffee shops are dispensing into disposable cups only. Fortunately I have ways to recycle or compost these items, but in general it means more trash going to landfill, or ending up by the side of the road. Hopefully we can return to reusables in the future.

Good news on the compost side, however – the two commercial composting facilities in my area remained open, with some adjustments and restrictions, so when events restart we’ll be able to process food waste and other organics as usual.

And the Ann Arbor Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), three years after its shutdown, is  going to be updated and reopened! This is terrific news. Currently, the recyclables collected by Recycle Ann Arbor are trucked to Cincinnati for processing. Having this done at our local MRF means a lower carbon footprint and they can charge for processing materials instead of paying someone else to.

I’m also working on some new guidelines for hosting a Zero Waste event, and developing a way to recognize smaller events who can’t afford formal certification for their hard work.

So while there may not be any events at present, things are happening! Stay tuned to this website for updates.

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