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Happy Planet Running

Run a great race. Leave no trace.

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Recycling

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.

How I Failed a Cupless Race

All right, I’m just going to come out and say it right here.

I failed my first cupless race.

Meme - rabbit saying Noooo

Yes, me. Mister Zero Waste, owner of an event sustainability company and decrier of our current throwaway society. Here I will confess all, so you can learn from my sad experience and avoid similar shame.

Continue reading “How I Failed a Cupless Race”

Recyclable Cups? A New Hope

Runners love their coffee, and during races they need water and other hydration drinks. The most popular method for delivering the drinks continues to be paper cups. And why not? They’re inexpensive, lightweight, and do their job well. And they’re often provided free to races by sponsors such as Absopure.

But the standard cup is lined with polyethylene (PE) – a plastic – to seal the seams and waterproof the paper. The lining makes the cup difficult to recycle. At paper mills that aren’t set up to screen out PE, it can gum up the machinery. Entire bales of paper containing cups could be rejected and end up in a landfill or incinerator. And that’s a shame, because the paper itself is high-quality pulp that is very useful when recycled.

Continue reading “Recyclable Cups? A New Hope”

Can You Recycle Race Bibs? Yes! (Updated)

UPDATE March 2020: It appears that DuPont no longer supports recycling of Tyvek race bibs. At this time the only race bib recycling option I can find is to use a Sporting Goods Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle. You can find it on their website at this link. They are also sold through some third-party sites which you can find with an Internet search.

I will post further updates as I find out more, since I remain committed to recycling as much race waste as possible.

Jeff Jackson, Happy Planet Running

================ Original post below===============

Good news from the Zero Waste Running department: one more thing that has been going to the landfill at our events turns out to be recyclable!

I’m talking about a particular item familiar to people who run races of all distances. (See the featured photo if you need a hint.) Read on to find out how to recycle them!

Continue reading “Can You Recycle Race Bibs? Yes! (Updated)”

Plastic Recycling Gets A Boost, and More

Some really good things have been happening recently with plastic recycling. And a few of them relate directly to the plastic we consume and discard at running events.

Even at the Zero Waste events I work at and/or run in, plastic remains highly used, from water bottles and jugs to coffee and beer cups, disposable plates and tableware, and more. The good news is that most of it is highly recyclable. But some of it is not accepted by recyclers, and, I’m sad to say, too much of it ends up in landfills, or worse, in sewers or waterways where it wends its way to the oceans, as part of the estimated eight million metric tons added each year.

So I’m pleased to relate some examples of how some of this plastic waste is either being recovered, or otherwise diverted into productive reuse. It’s a start – and YOU can help!

Continue reading “Plastic Recycling Gets A Boost, and More”

Don’t Just Toss Those Old Race Clothes!

Look, I get it. I’ve run plenty of wet, sloppy trail races. You expect a mess, so you bring along an old pair of shoes you intend to “retire” immediately after the race. You cross the finish line, change into clean and dry clothes, have a celebratory banana and beer, and then into the trash go the shoes, and your socks too, and maybe even your shirt.

But once they go into the trash, the opportunity to reuse them or donate them to a worthy cause is likely lost forever. Unless the event has a Zero Waste team, and they have time after sorting food waste and recyclables to search though the trash, and they feel so inclined to retrieve the dirty, soaked clothes.

“You mean you really want them?” I heard you asking. Well, actually, yes.

Here’s some friendly, and I hope useful, advice to any runners reading this who wonder how clothes that are wet, muddy, torn, or otherwise rendered undesirable can be salvaged and sent to a better place than a landfill.

Continue reading “Don’t Just Toss Those Old Race Clothes!”

Recycling Marathon Heat Blankets: There Are Ways!

When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon back in 2011, I was handed a thin, light foil blanket. A runner’s body temperature begins to drop rapidly after stopping, and this was to retain some body heat until things stabilized.

It was over eighty degrees and sunny that day, so there was no danger of hypothermia. Still, I took the blanket as a first-marathon souvenir. But last month’s local marathon was wet and chilly, so the runners appreciated them, although they created a disposal issue.

The blankets are made of Mylar, plastic vapor-coated with aluminum. Both materials are recyclable by themselves, but together they are not. And when people started discarding them en masse, the volume quickly overloaded the receptacle. The Zero Waste team decided to collect them in the chance we could keep them out of the landfill.

A2 Marathon 2017 - Blankets and Overflowing Bin.jpg

We ended up with several large bags stuffed with Mylar blankets. What could be done? After some research we identified one bad option, one good (but costly) option, and one that didn’t help for this year but might for future events. Which one did we choose? Read on to find out!

Continue reading “Recycling Marathon Heat Blankets: There Are Ways!”

How to Make a Zero Waste Team Deliriously Happy

Hooray for runners! Not only are they cool people, they care about the environment. Every runner I know supports Zero Waste, and we’ve received many, many thank-yous and compliments from race participants.

And yet they do some things that make a Zero Waste effort more difficult. I know it’s not intentional; it’s more a lack of understanding how labor-intensive the process is.

A runner’s involvement with trash ends when it’s put in the bin or tent, but the Zero Waste team has to ensure it all goes in the right place. Final sort consumes a lot of time just when we’re trying to pack up and leave. Every saved minute helps!

Here are a few things all runners can do to help an event’s sustainability team. Trust me, we’ll love you all the more for doing them!

Continue reading “How to Make a Zero Waste Team Deliriously Happy”

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