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Wearin’ O’ the White: Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K Sustainability Report

Dear St. Patrick: Great job with the snakes and all. Anything you can do about snow?

The Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K took place on a day where, unofficially at least, spring took over. But that was in the afternoon. Race morning was a final blast of winter fury – cold, windy, and snowing. Still, the show went on, and lots of brave, green-wearing souls showed up to run, so the Zero Waste team was there too. Gotta job ta do, laddies!

Zero Waste volunteer Nick holds down the fort. I need a coat like his!

The Zero Waste station was set up in the parking lot near the finish line. With a pretty fierce wind, I did not set up a pavilion, and my tall sign blew over, so the setup was very minimal. No problem, as the runners easily found us when they had something to toss. We also patrolled the 5K starting line on Main Street. Several runners were holding coffee cups, but made no attempt to give them to us. I think this is the first race where I saw people starting still holding their coffee!

Total waste was way down from 2019, the last time this event was held – 38 lbs. total vs. over 100 the other three years measured. Several things contributed: slightly lower attendance, pint glasses and T-shirts being optional instead of included, and the weather conditions, causing many to leave quickly or head inside to Conor O’Neills. Landfill waste was minimal – just some tape and a few ice cream lids. Like previous years, we gave out ice cream (!) to the kids after their 1K run. Most chose, however, to take it back home rather than eat it there.

By afternoon the sun was out and the snow was gone, leading to several warmer days ahead. Nature will have her little joke.

Easy as 3.14159: Pi Day 5K Sustainability Report

For the first time in several years, Epic Races held their “Pi Day” race in person. (Technically two days early, but hey, it’s running plus pie. Sign me up!) Despite cold temps (13 degrees) and wind, about 200 people showed up at Hudson Mills Park to run the 5K or the kids race.

The race was held at the open-air pavilion instead of the activity center, which was hosting another event. So I did not feel the need to police their trash cans. And most people left right after the race, meaning there wouldn’t have been much to capture.

Post-race food was pancakes and hot chocolate. The finisher pies were individually boxed and most people took them home, which meant less waste at the event.

The biggest source of food waste was from the “Pie Division” runners, who had to eat a pie before they ran the 5K – hands-free, of course. Quite a bit of half-eaten pie was left over. In an inspired move, the contestants were given old T-shirts to wipe their faces with instead of disposables. They could either keep the shirts, or return them to be washed and reused.

Continue reading “Easy as 3.14159: Pi Day 5K Sustainability Report”

One Piece at a Time

(Note: This is also posted on my personal blog, RunCoffeeWrite, because, well, because I have the power.)

Went out for a club run yesterday morning, and I had garbage on my mind.

Come on, admit it. You went there.

Perhaps I should say, “litter” instead because, after all, I’m the Zero Waste guy, who reduces, reuses, and recycles (and composts) as much as possible before anything goes into my landfill bin. And I’d just completed five proposals for serving events in the area. So I was well prepped for what happened on said morning run.

Our route took us through one of the local parks along the Huron River. As I entered the park again on my way back, I saw a piece of litter on the path and stopped to pick it up. Then I saw another, and a third. I’d intended only to pick up those few items, but then in one of those “God will provide” moments, I spied a plastic bag caught in a bush.

And so the rest of my run turned into a plog. With no target pace or other training goals to worry about, I made it a game; I’d pick up any piece of litter on the path or sidewalk within a few feet of me, and at the end count how many I had.

It was just over two and a half miles back to the studio, through the park and into downtown Ann Arbor, and during that stretch I picked up…how many items? Have a guess! Here’s a photo to help you. Feel free to do a quick count if you like. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Continue reading “One Piece at a Time”

2022 Super 5K Sustainability Report

The Super 5K was back on Super Bowl Sunday! Unfortunately, we were unable to secure a formal Zero Waste team, yours truly being out of town and other captains also unavailable. So the RF Events staff stepped up and did its best.

The good news is we recovered 110 pounds of race waste, most of it cardboard from pint glasses and hats and such. There was also about ten pounds each of food waste and compostable containers, and general recycling like water bottles and cups. TerraCycle items – hand warmers, snack bag wrappers, race bibs, and small plastics – contributed a small amount.

No official landfill, as everything that couldn’t be easily recovered was left in the school’s trash cans. So the recovery percentage is effective N/A. Still way better than nothing. We’ll call that a win, even if the Detroit Lions were once again watching from the stands or TV.

Running Between the Vines Sustainability Report

The run at Sandhill Crane Vineyards returned this year, and conditions were perfect for both the races and the post-race party. “It’s almost like cheating,” the race director said of the weather.

The event features a half marathon, 5-miler, and 5K. After their race, runners head behind the vineyard to enjoy live jazz, wine tastings, and local goodies such as hummus, meatballs, olive oil, and chocolate. RF Events used compostable cups for all the treats they served.

This year we made some changes to our Zero Waste setup. Instead of unstaffed tents we had two staffed stations, one near the registration tent and one in the party area. This was all we could handle, due to just two staffers and no volunteers, a consistent problem at all events this year. People were instructed to put their waste in boxes marked “All Waste” and we sorted from there.

Zero Waste pro Debbie at the station near registration.
Some random guy working the main station.

A temporary station was set up and staffed near the porta-potties until the races had all started. And for those runners doing both the 5K and 5-miler, there was a recycling bin for their water bottles.

It’s staffed, honest! But someone had to take the photo.

This setup reduced the mixed waste problems we had with using tents. Still, we had a couple of unexpected curveballs tossed at us. First, the vineyard did wine tastings with small plastic cups instead of using the finisher tumblers. So we had to pick out those cups from the compostable ones.

Pop quiz: Which of these cups are recyclable, and which are compostable?

Second, no doubt due to good intentions, someone set up additional trash cans among the snack tents. By the time someone pointed this out to us, there was a significant amount of completely mixed waste, resulting in a lot of extra sorting, plus removing food and oil from the recyclable cups. (This was accomplished by using a washing machine.) For next year we’ll have to coordinate more closely with the vineyard staff.

Total waste was down significantly from 2019. While less waste is good, it can be chalked up nearly entirely to lower attendance, as waste per 100 runners remained consistent with previous years.

P.S. To answer the “pop quiz” above – the three cups on the left are recyclable, and the three on the right are certified compostable. And you can’t mix the two types in either stream. Simple, right?

The Legend Races 2021 Sustainability Report

The image you see above is of a Zero Waste Station that was unattended through an entire event. In earlier years I would not have dared to attempt this. And yet this year it has been successfully managed twice! In both cases the waste bins required only minor sorting before dropping them off at the recycling and composting centers.

Several things made this possible. For one, The Legend is a trail race, and trail runners in general seem more attuned to Zero Waste practices. And RF Events has been doing zero waste races since 2016, meaning the staff and the repeat runners are familiar with the process. And the overall waste this year was way down from previous years (less than half the previous low in 2019), which meant no bags needed to be changed out.

My thanks to everyone who ensured the station was in good order!

Battle of Waterloo 2021 Sustainability Report

What’s better than a triathlon – a three-stage swim/bike/run event? How about a ten-stage swim/bike/run event? Over a hundred athletes thought it was a good idea. And what’s even better than that? A ten-stage event that goes Zero Waste, of course.

And such is the Battle of Waterloo, so-called because it traverses the trails, roads, and lakes of the Waterloo Recreation Area. And the Green Team made sure we left it cleaner than we found it, and sent as little as possible to landfill.

With only 71 pounds of total waste generated, Epic Races did a great job of minimizing environmental impact from the start. And we recycled or composted all but five of those pounds. I’d say everyone there was a winner of this battle!

Pterodactyl Triathlon Sustainability Report

The third triathlon in the RF Events T-Rex series kicked off on a beautiful evening in the Island Lake Recreation Area.

While attendance was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, total waste dropped to its lowest ever – under 100 pounds! Contributing factors include optional, order-ahead T-shirts (reducing packaging), lighter medals with no inner plastic wrapping (and now sourced locally), and serving post-race sandwiches on napkins instead of plates.

The new model of just two waste stations – one by the parking lot and one in the finish area – continues to work well. “All waste” pails in transition replace full stations there. We also removed a recycle bin near the medals area, using only a bag for collecting plastic wrap from ice bags and bottle case wrap. There was only mild contamination. The only glitch was a lot of takedown as it was getting dark. For the August T-Rex, we may consider earlier takedown of the pavilions and some tables.

Triceratops Triathlon 2021 Sustainability Report

The RF Events T-Rex Triathlon series was back to normal last Wednesday, after a pint-sized Stegosaurus Tri earlier in June. Back to standard attendance, post-race sandwiches and live music, and the vibe of an athletic event!

With a team of just two people, we set up a single Zero Waste Station near the parking lot, and one in the party area instead of three Zero Hero tents. We focused on keeping the stations in order, and left “all waste” pails in the transition area. A bag for plastic wrap and a large recycling bin near the water bottles completed the setup.

                        Green Team volunteer Veronica mans the main station, while I took the party area station.

The approach had some interesting effects. No one had a problem with using the single station in the party area, and we ended up with less “outside” waste that usually comes from the beachgoers. The transition pails needed quite a bit of sorting and were really not large enough, so we’ll be looking for improvements there. Aid station waste was mainly  ups and water jugs, and did not require much sorting.

The trend chart below the report shows we had a dramatic drop in total waste, particularly food waste and compostables – a 75 percent drop from 2019. One reason was serving sandwiches on napkins – no plates or wrappers – which worked just fine. There also seemed to be less overall food consumed by the athletes. We’ll be looking to see if this continues.

Overall, a great result on a beautiful day!

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