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!
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!
The forecast for last weekend at Portage Lake predicted a soggy mess for the Epic Races Goddess 5K on Saturday and the Tri Goddess Tri on Sunday. But the weather goddesses were smiling down on us, and both days were (nearly) rain-free, making for happy athletes and happier staff.
We set up our Zero Waste Station between the finish line and the food pavilion, so it was convenient for both the athletes and staff. The food tent had an “all waste” bag or bin, which we periodically swapped out. The bike transition area had a bin for water cups. Waste collection followed our new model of “All Waste Here” boxes on tables at the station. From there, the Green Team would ensure the compostable items, recycling, and landfill items were properly sorted.
The report is posted below, featuring staffers Libbie and Amber holding the usual SBoT (Single Bag o’ Trash) from an Epic Races event. Just over two pounds from the entire weekend, resulting in landfill diversion of 97.5 percent! The effort was helped by Epic’s heavy use of compostables, which makes cleaning or scraping off food unnecessary. Kudos also to the Bearclaw Coffee truck, which uses compostable cups, lids, and straws.
Also see the trend chart showing a significant reduction in overall waste over the four years we’ve been tracking this event, in particular from 2019 to 2021. Whatever the causes (and we’ll try to figure them out), it’s a great trend to have. Recycling has its place for sure, but producing less waste to recycle is the best approach!
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.)
A gorgeous weekend for a gravel bike race. So nice, it went both days instead of just Saturday. Perhaps a certain park capacity limit due to a certain lingering ‘situation’ contributed to that, but I didn’t see anyone complaining.
The Epic Races Zero Waste effort picked right up where it left off, recycling or composting just about all of the event-generated waste. It would have been nearly zero except for a couple of boxes wrapped heavily in packing tape due to their weight.
We set up a single station near the bike racks.
In addition to recycling and composting, our “Free Stuff” box (see the corner) resulted in some castoff clothing and water bottles from previous races getting new homes.
There were a few procedural changes. There were no formal post-race parties. Instead, bags of snacks were created for each rider and placed by their station for pickup after they finished. So overall waste was down significantly, as most people left with their treats, but there was enough waste to make it worth the effort. And a Bearclaw Coffee truck was there as usual, and a hot dog stand on Saturday.
Results below. A good start to what will hopefully be a good year!
What a year! 41 events supported, and an average landfill diversion rate of over 95 percent with no waste sent to incineration. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, and as a commonly used definition, a diversion rate of over 90 percent is considered “zero waste.”
Many thanks to my clients RF Events, Epic Races, the Ann Arbor Track Club and others, who have made the additional investments to recycle, compost, and reduce event waste rather than send it all to landfill. And the athletes appreciate it too, as evidenced by the thanks and support we get from them at every event.
Thanks also to TerraCycle, whose Zero Waste Boxes and programs allow us to recycle many things we’d normally have to throw away, such as Gu wrappers, disposable gloves, party supplies, hand warmers, and much more.
See below for highlights and lots of juicy data for those of you who like numbers like I do. And if you want to see more, check out the sustainability reports on this website. The 2019 events are all there!
The first HPR-supported race of 2020 didn’t exactly go as planned. Who was expecting 50 degrees and all-day rain in the middle of January? But the park had snow and the skiiers wanted to ski, so the races went on, which mean the Zero Waste effort was on, too! Below is the sustainability report and some few photos.
A race to use up leftovers from other races! What a concept! Runners got their choice of a 5K, 10K, or 15K and received bibs, shirts, and finisher medals from random events. Plus French toast (made with leftover bread), cider, and hot chocolate. All that with Zero Waste, of course!