What Sustainability Means to Us

Message from Race Director, Cara Zerbel    We all have moments that we can pinpoint as having a lasting impact on our view of the world and our place in it. I’ve got a pin firmly stuck on July 5, 2009. Living in West Michigan, it’s a fact of life that on July 4, the mass distribution of humans is heavily concentrated in a few places: PJ Hoffmaster State Park, Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park. In 2009, however, I decided I’d head to the lake AFTER the madness of the fireworks the night before had dispersed. Some friends and I piled into my car and headed for the beach on the morning of July 5, ready for the sunshine. When we arrived at Grand Haven State Park, the lot was relatively empty, so finding a relaxing spot next to the water was a given. As we unloaded and began dragging our towels, frisbees and beach bags across the concrete, our jaws hit the ground as soon as we reached the sand. The beach was covered in trash. Literally, covered. Diapers. Beer cans. Fast food cups. Snack wrappers. Sandwich bags. Straws. It was disgusting. I bring up this story because it left a lasting impression on me. That day, I had brought snacks in plastic wrap, juice bottles and other items that I planned to leave in the garbage can for someone else to take care of. I was just one person. The night before, THOUSANDS came to the beach without any thought to the waste they would leave on the lakeshore. I realized then that I needed to pay closer attention. Lake Michigan RTS 10k is a unique opportunity for community members to experience the pristine beauty of the Lakeshore while celebrating movement. With the impression left on me by a trash-filled beach-scape many years ago, I see my role not just as race director, but of steward of the environment that makes this event so special. Too often, events make choices that are perceived as easiest, most convenient or least expensive. At Gazelle Sports, we are moving forward in making the choices that will provide the best event experience with the least environmental impact. Here is what that means: Reusability: Single use items are so last year. Can we use rope instead of zip ties? Probably. Do we need to create a new event banner every year? Probably not. We do our best to make conscious decisions to secure items that can be used more than once. Compostability: The first question is always: “Is there a compostable alternative for this?” In asking our partners to consider the materials they provide, we encourage them to always think compostable first! Recyclability: If it can’t be re-used or composted, can it at least be recycled? We partner with vendors who understand how important it is to leave the single-use, non-recyclable wrappers, and items at home. In 2018, we sent one teeny tiny grocery size bag to the landfill after the event. That’s it. In 2019, our goal is to get that trash into a 1-gallon bag or smaller (and we’ll use a paper bag this time!). We continue to learn, but we are grounded in the work that we do to make a difference in our communities. We believe movement can change your life, and that you can participate in events without negatively affecting the environment.