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.
All right, I’m just going to come out and say it right here.
I failed my first cupless race.
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.
To be fair, I did not fail the actual race, just the cupless part. If you’d like to, you can read about how my race went on my personal blog (RunBikeThrow) at this link.
The Potawatomi Trail Races take place every April at McNaughton Park in Pekin, Illinois. The runners follow a ten-mile loop along the park’s trails, which feature some lovely steep climbs, quad-killing downhills, and a couple of creek crossings for good measure. You pick your poison – from 10 to 200 miles – and then run the appropriate number of loops within the 72-hour race window (Thursday through Sunday). I was there to run the 50-miler and find out what I could do to help the event go Zero Waste.
The day before my race I volunteered at the base camp aid station and introduced myself to the director of volunteers and the race director, who were both interested in making the event more sustainable. In fact, for 2019 they were trying two waste reduction ideas for the first time.
For one, the race was cupless! Every runner got a flexible silicone cup to take along on the trail. Most trail runners carry their own water bottle or hydration pack, so the cup was for when they also wanted soda or an electrolyte drink. This way the aid stations didn’t have to put out and throw away hundreds of waxed paper cups.
In addition, a City of Pekin recycling bin had been set up at base camp next to one of the trash cans. It was clearly marked, but some non-recyclable material had been tossed in, and some recyclables (water bottles, etc.) had been put in the trash. I sorted it out.
A bit later I met the guy who’d arranged for the recycling bin. Like me, he wanted to help the race reduce its trash, but he didn’t have time to supervise the bin, and no one else knew what belonged in there. I made a sign listing what was recyclable, and kept the bin sorted while I worked the aid station. But after my race on Saturday I noticed it was gone. The race director told me the bin had been too contaminated. Something they can improve for next year.
But I failed as well. I hadn’t intended to. I carried a handheld water bottle, and the electrolyte drink they had doesn’t agree with me, so I brought Gatorade to drink at base camp after each loop. With those bases covered, what did I need a cup for? So I left it at base camp.
During the race I developed stomach trouble. Ginger ale sometimes helps, and the aid stations on the trail had some. Problem was – I hadn’t brought a cup for it. Fortunately, they had a few waxed paper cups under the table for this kind of situation. Feeling guilty but grateful, I accepted one, drank my ginger ale, and threw the cup away. This happened twice more before I finally got smart enough to fold up the waxed cup and put it in my pocket for future use. (Sigh. Either ultrarunning messes with common sense, or lack of common sense leads to ultrarunning. Not sure which.)
But as the race will improve its sustainable practices, so will I. That silicone cup will be in my pocket at my next trail race, which is also cupless. And I’m working Zero Waste at it, too. Must set a good example so I can scowl disapprovingly at those who don’t.
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.
2019 promises to be another busy year for Happy Planet Running, with the added challenge of an uncertain recycling market. So we’ll look for overall waste reduction and a shift toward more compostable materials where possible.
And in the breaking news department: RF Events is making one of their trail running series CUPLESS this year! Check it out at their Trail Marathon website.
Now for the shameless plug. Do you know of an event that could benefit from Zero Waste practices? Drop me an email on the Contact HPR page and let me know how Happy Planet Running can help!
How do you attract runners to a November morning race with a steep climb in it? With chocolate, of course! With a “chocolate aid station” and hot cocoa for recovery, several hundred people cheerfully ran or walked up and down the Mt. Brighton ski hill.
The challenge for the Zero Waste team is handling a lot of waste in a short window, as the resort opens for general business later in the morning. Could we match, and even improve, last year’s landfill diversion of over 98 percent? Read on to find out!
The Scrumpy Skedaddle is a lot of fun, but also challenging to the Zero Waste team. A lot of people are served pancakes and cider in a short time, there’s a lot of cardboard to take care of, and the waste bins are very popular with the local yellow jackets. This year rain was also a real possibility, but the races went on!
The music was grooving, the weather was cool, and the trails were in top condition. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a weekend of camping and trail running! And so it proved for this year’s Run Woodstock at Hell Creek Ranch.
But with a record number of campers, could the Zero Waste Team stay on top of things all the way from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning? A trashed campground would be most uncool, so it was on us to keep the right vibe. How did we do? Find out below!
This race has it all. Solo ultras, a 100K relay, beer and pizza at the end, … and a long day for the staff, including the Zero Waste team.
The past two years, the rush of people all leaving at once has overwhelmed the Zero Waste team with rapidly filled bags of beer cans and bottles, and towers of discarded pizza boxes. With redesigned waste stations and more signage, could we better handle the rush with only a couple of volunteers?
The Zero Waste effort at the Detroit Women’s Half was abuzz with activity – not all of it helpful, unfortunately. But despite that, we ended up with a bee-utiful day and a “honey” of a result! See below for the scoop!