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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
The Dexter-Ann Arbor Run is one of Ann Arbor’s longest-running events. This is the 47th year of the event, and the third using a Zero Waste approach. Once again we achieved over 90 percent landfill diversion, officially making it a “Zero Waste” event per ZWIA guidelines!
Attendance was down from previous years but still healthy, with 425 running the 5K, 527 runners in the 10K, and 1,347 doing the half marathon.
Waste streams include cardboard and plastic wrap from various sources, water bottles and disposable cups from the finish line and aid stations, and food waste and pizza boxes from the food tents. Disposable gloves were heavily used by the Zero Waste station teams and the food tent staffers, and we collected over one hundred Gu wrappers, which go to TerraCycle along with small plastics, race bibs, and the gloves.
This year we had just two Zero Waste stations: one across from the food tents, and one near the finish line at Main and Ann St. Runners put their waste into “All Waste” boxes on the tables, and the station staff sorted them. This approach prevented the heavy cross-contamination we experienced in previous years, such as plastics in the compost carts and food in the recycling bins.
Boxes for recycling, compost, and disposable gloves were given to the food tent volunteers, and periodically checked by the Green Team. The finish line had a bin for plastic wrap from medals and cases of water bottles, which was covered by cardboard to keep runners from using it as a trash can.
Challenges included people using existing City trash cans. We covered the big ones, but a couple escaped notice at first and were cleaned out and sorted. And, as usual, the aid station bags had to be carefully sorted to remove Gu packets and other contaminants from the bottles and cups.
We had enough volunteers to staff the stations during the event, but post-event waste processing made for a long afternoon for a few dedicated folks. Additional volunteers would have been greatly appreciated for afternoon sorting, weighing, and recycling dropoff at WWRA.
In a change from previous years, the City of Ann Arbor informed us that they no longer supply compost carts or recycling dumpsters for events. Fortunately, we had solutions. Since we already take waxed cups to Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority (WWRA), we just took the other recycling there as well. We rented 20 compost carts from Unlimited Recycling.
Overall waste was about half the 2019 total, due mainly to lower attendance. We had fewer pizza boxes and less food waste, and fewer cups and bottles. We took about thirty bags of recycling to WWRA, plus cardboard. Once again, we had just one bag of landfill, although the vinyl tablecloths used by the food tent made up another bag. It may be possible to find a recycling solution for them, but for now we are also counting them in the landfill totals.
Improvements identified for next year include: training the aid stations to pre-sort, using paper tablecloths instead of vinyl, and recruiting volunteers specifically for the afternoon.
P.S. ZWIA = Zero Waste International Alliance. Read more about their definition of Zero Waste, and their standards and policies, at https://zwia.org/policies/.
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.
Independence Day in Ann Arbor wouldn’t be the same without its traditional 5K event. At least not to runners, and the Epic Races team! And so despite a warm morning and a new location, the show went on without a hitch.
This year’s event, for several reasons, took place at Briarwood Mall instead of downtown Ann Arbor. In addition to the 5K, there were one-mile and 7.5K options, and a short run for the little kids, led by Larry the Ginormous Hot Dog (see the top photo). There was also a “hot dog” division, where the contenders had 76 seconds to eat up to four hot dogs, and then run the 5K. One minute per hot dog was deducted from their finish times. Thankfully, no “cleanup by JC Penney” was required.
Post-race treats included bananas and candy, but by far the most popular were the red, white, and blue frozen “bomb pops”. We were equal to the task, composting the wooden sticks and sending the wrappers to TerraCycle.
The report below has the details and the fireworks-worthy result – under one pound to the landfill, which we tossed into one of the mall’s trash cans. It’s never a bad thing when our total event trash didn’t weigh as much as the mall-related trash in the parking lot!
It was also good to hear from a Briarwood staffer that the mall takes recycling seriously, and redid the roof to reduce energy costs. Way to go!
April 24-25, 2021 – Pinckney Recreation Area, Silver Lake
After over a year, RF Events returned to live races this month with its longstanding (34 years) classic trail marathon, and HPR was there to support the newer tradition (5 years) of making the race Zero Waste.
Due to park restrictions, attendance was limited to 300 per day, and with additional precautions, aid station food and drink was limited. This, plus the race going “cupless” in 2019 sharply reduced overall waste. Normally, the heavy use of prepackaged snacks would lead to more landfill. But thanks to TerraCycle, we’re able to recycle all the snack wrappers, and the Gu wrappers as well, leading to a diversion rate of over 99 percent!
We continued the experiment of not using multiple waste stations and went with a single pavilion. And instead of labeled bins, we put out boxes labeled “All Waste” and the Zero Waste team did the sorting. This model worked very well both days. The only bags to sort were from the aid stations, which were taken care of relatively quickly, helped by a reduction from three aid stations on the course to two.
In addition, Trail Marathon Weekend was the first RF Events race to go Zero Waste, back in 2016, so it is also the first event where we have five years of data. The trends show a general reduction not only in landfill waste, but in all waste categories. Some of this is due to going cupless, as well as a general reduction in materials used.
Sustainability report and five-year chart are below.