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Dexter-Ann Arbor Run 2021 Sustainability Report

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.

Yes, it took desperate measures to stop people from using this can, even right next to the waste station!

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.

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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/.

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?

Ann Arbor Track Club Salutes Zero Waste at its Flagship Event

The Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, a half-marathon put on by the Ann Arbor Track Club (AATC), has been held annually since 1974 and draws thousands of runners each year. As with any event that size, it generates a lot of waste.

In 2018 AATC approved a Zero Waste initiative for the race, and landfill waste was cut from several thousand pounds to just 28, and just 23 pounds in 2019. Happy Planet Running was proud to be a part of this effort. In its newsletter, the “Rundown” the club recently recognized and applauded the program. See the excerpt below. Great stuff!

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Strong and Sustainable: Women Run the D Zero Waste Report

The women came to Belle Isle to celebrate their strength and run in the beautiful park. A little bit of inclement weather didn’t dampen their enthusiasm! And the Green Team was there to make sure we left the park cleaner than we found it, with as little as possible going to landfill. After the heat and yellow jacket invasion of last year, did we have the fortitude to get it done? Bee-lieve it!

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Wine, Dine, and Run: Running Between the Vines 2019 Sustainability Report

What’s better than an early morning run that ends in a vineyard? Getting to have wine afterwards, of course – with live jazz and food thrown in. And you get a shirt, and a race-branded wine goblet to enjoy the vintages of your choice!

With all that pampering comes hundreds of pounds of cardboard boxes, banana peels, water bottles, cups, and other stuff that, for some reason, the runners would rather not take with them. So it’s up to the Zero Waste team to make sure as much of that as possible is returned to productive use instead of the landfill.

With a large turnout and a small team, were we up to the challenge? Find out below.

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The Legend 2019 Sustainability Report

Our third cupless event of the year, with over five hundred runners out on the trails on a warm morning. Did anyone lose their heads over it? Not that we could see!

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A Long, But Happy Day: 2019 Dexter-Ann Arbor Run Sustainability Report

It was a beautiful morning, and runners were out in force for the annual 13.1-mile jaunt along the Huron River from Dexter to Ann Arbor. This was great news for the Ann Arbor Track Club and local businesses.

But could the Zero Waste team stay of top of the festivities and repeat last year’s 98 percent landfill diversion? Not without a few bumps in the road – like almost having nowhere to put a thousand pounds of banana peels and pizza boxes. How did we manage it? Find out below?

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A Perfect Day for an Invasion! Martian Races 2019 Sustainability Report

What a difference a year makes! From the freezing rain in 2018 to a cool, sunny day in 2019, conditions were much improved for both the runners and the people working the race.

The Zero Waste team also benefited from the great weather and more experienced help. While last year the sorting had to be cut short and a lot of bags were sent to trash, this year we were able to process all the waste and drop the landfill portion to below ten pounds! Read on to see how we did it, and the few challenges we faced.

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Greening Up in March! Ann Arbor Marathon Sustainability Report

What’s one way to clean up Ann Arbor? Hold a marathon!

For this year’s Ann Arbor Marathon, the Zero Waste effort not only left the start/finish area cleaner than we found it, we did the same with the course! From a Saturday plog to a true team effort on Sunday, we “greened up” our fair city, taking trash off the streets and parks, and recycling and composting race waste– a total of over 900 pounds! Read on to see the photos and learn how we did it.

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