Gazelle Girl’s Zero Waste Commitment

by Chelsea Brehm

It’s no secret that sports are an important part of our culture here in the United States. Sport holds a special place in our society and family structure is often organized around sport participation or consumption – the current March Madness extravaganza, practice here, games there, weekend tournaments, team pictures, etc… The average American family spends anywhere from 5-30 hours a week dedicated to sport. We also know that sporting events have a large impact on the natural environment. Think about the power used to operate a gym (electricity), the number of people that drive to a soccer tournament (carbon emissions and air pollution), or the amount of trash generated that ends up in the landfill.

Coordinators of the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5K truly believe it is possible, and necessary, to organize sporting events in a way that minimizes the impact on the environment. Our hope is to leave the earth in better shape than we found it. We are committed to setting a notable example and have a vision of a world where responsibly produced sporting events are the norm.

With the help of Grand Valley State University, the City of Grand Rapids, and ZeroHero we have a full plan in place and hope to achieve a zero waste event for the third year in a row. Being a zero waste event means diverting at least 90% of your overall waste from the landfill. We can achieve this by reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, and donating items from race day. See below for a full list of our initiatives. There are even some ways we encourage you to help in these efforts.

PRODUCT PROCUREMENT: everything you receive on race day will be either compostable or recyclable. This means that you shouldn’t have any actual LANDFILL trash to throw away. All cups, utensils, packaging, etc…can be placed in one of our waste station bins that do not include trash.

COMPOST: All food scraps, paper cups, plates, utensils, and paper waste are compostable. If it came naturally from the earth it can go back to the earth through the compost process. All expotique and race day compost will be taken to Spurt Industries, a compost farm in Zeeland.

RECYCLE: All plastics numbered #1-7 can be accepted into the city of Grand Rapids’ recycling program and should be placed in the recycling bins. This includes bottled water at the finish line and any other plastic or aluminum containers that might be brought in. All cardboard will also be recycled.

GAZELLE GIRL GREEN TEAM: made up primarily of GVSU students enrolled in a sport sustainability course, these individuals will be dressed in bright green shirts at the expotique and on race day. They will be positioned at our waste stations and assist you in putting your waste in the right place (recycle or compost).

CLOTHING DONATION: You wouldn’t believe how much clothing runners shed during the race! We will be collecting all discarded clothing at the end of the race. Depending on the condition of the item, it will be donated to a local women’s shelter.

BIKE PARKING: We have teamed up with the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition to provide ample bike racks that will be located in Calder Plaza. Weather permitting, we encourage anyone within riding distance to warm up before the race by riding their bike to the start line. Each vehicle left at home helps reduce carbon emissions and is better for the environment. In addition, we encourage our Gazelle Girls and their spectators to carpool if at all possible!

TERRACYCLE: For the last two years, Gazelle Girl has utilized a company called TerraCycle. This company takes hard to divert items and keeps them out of the landfill by repurposing or recycling them. All foil-lined energy bar wrappers and GU packets are collected separately at the race (look for the yellow TerraCycle signs) and shipped to the company. Over the last two years Gazelle Girl has kept more than 14,000 pieces of these items from the landfill by sending them to TerraCycle!