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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.

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.

Runner filling a reusable cup
Doing it the right way: filling a reusable silicone cup from a “fast fill” jug. (Photo from Vacation Races.)

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.

Potawatomi Trail 2019 - Base camp before 50 mile start
Base camp Saturday morning before the 50-mile start. The recycling bin can be seen on the right.

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.

Oops.

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.

 

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Recycling Roundup, Week of Feb. 25, 2019: Zero Waste Cities

A number of cities around the world – at least 25, according to National Geographic – are pursuing Zero Waste as a city-wide initiative. Of the 94 major cities in the C40 Cities organization, 23 have signed a commitment that includes the following goals by the year 2030:

  • Cut the amount of waste generated by each citizen by 15%
  • Reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incineration by 50%
  • Increase the landfill diversion rate to 70%

It sounds great. But how much can reasonably be achieved?

In this post I highlight a couple of cities that have already made major strides in this direction – and one that is struggling with the basics.

Continue reading “Recycling Roundup, Week of Feb. 25, 2019: Zero Waste Cities”

Wind, Water, and Waste: Martian Invasion of Races 2018 Sustainability Report

There are some events where the Zero Waste effort goes exactly as planned. The day is beautiful, the volunteers are engaged and enthusiastic, and you achieve more than you thought possible.

This year’s Martian Invasion of Races was not one of them.

Continue reading “Wind, Water, and Waste: Martian Invasion of Races 2018 Sustainability Report”

Dirty Racers, Clean Race: Waterloo G&G Bike Race Sustainability Report

Epic Races kicks off their 2018 bike season and second year of their Zero Waste program. How “clean and green” could we make a race notorious for getting people dirty? Read on to find out!

Continue reading “Dirty Racers, Clean Race: Waterloo G&G Bike Race Sustainability Report”

Cold Turkey, Hot Chocolate, Zero Waste

A cold, blustery morning didn’t stop thousands of people from packing downtown Ann Arbor for the annual Turkey Trot. With a hot chocolate and coffee station for the runners, we promised to be awash in cups, as well as bananas, cookies, and cardboard from all the boxes.

We learned last year that making the race waste go where we wanted was not easy. But this year we came in with a new plan and a bigger team. Could we get everything cleaned up, sorted, and disposed of before the football games and the afternoon gorging?

Continue reading “Cold Turkey, Hot Chocolate, Zero Waste”

Worth Gobbling About! A2 Turkey Trot Sustainability Report

Baby, it was cold outside! But due to their dedication to the great sport of running, hundreds of people came out to run at Hudson Mills anyway. Or maybe it was the Ray’s Red Hots, hot chocolate and pumpkin pie. Either way, the Zero Waste team had a job to do. How’d we manage? Smooth as gravy! Read on.

Continue reading “Worth Gobbling About! A2 Turkey Trot Sustainability Report”

Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock Sustainability Report

Billed as, “a weekend of peace, love, music, and running,” Run Woodstock is the largest RF Events race of the year. It also generates the most waste of the year, with enough work to keep the Zero Waste team busy from setup on Thursday through takedown on Sunday.

In 2016 we achieved 88% landfill diversion and filled a 40-yard recycling rolloff to the top. How could we improve on that? Read on to see what we did, and if it worked!

Continue reading “Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock Sustainability Report”

Third Time’s the Charm! T-Rex Tri achieves 97.5% Diversion

The final race of the T-Rex series of sprint triathlons this year takes place on a perfect summer evening, and results in the best Zero Waste result of the three.

Continue reading “Third Time’s the Charm! T-Rex Tri achieves 97.5% Diversion”

No Sour Grapes! Running Between the Vines Achieves 99 Percent Diversion

Attempting Zero Waste at a race that also involves wining and dining 2,000 people? No problem! A beautiful morning for a challenging set of races, and despite being up to our epaulets in cardboard, the Zero Waste team achieved a high for the year in waste diversion. Read on to see how we did it!

Continue reading “No Sour Grapes! Running Between the Vines Achieves 99 Percent Diversion”

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