The organizers of the Hood to Coast Relay are making strides during this year’s race — along with the concurrent Portland to Coast Walk Relay and High School Challenge — to adopt more sustainable event management practices and mitigate waste.
The roughly 200-mile relay race annually draws about 19,000 participants, along with thousands of volunteers and spectators, who travel from Timberline Lodge on Aug. 23 to the Seaside beach Aug. 24.
“We have a responsibility, but also the ability to reach a lot of people within the race community, so we can help drive social change,” Hood to Coast spokesperson Dan Floyd said. “There’s so much we can do at our own event.”
Although the organizers have internally attempted small measures for improved waste management over the past decade or so, they are undertaking a more concerted efforts this year through a partnership with Elysium Events, a sustainable event management company out of Portland.
Elysium founder and owner Lindsey Newkirk said in this initial year, they are using “a little bit of a softer approach to just try to get people information,” and bring awareness to the massive amount of waste created at large events, such as the “Mother of All Relays.”
The main challenges with Hood to Coast are the number of people out on the course and the numerous exchange points that manifest almost as individual “mini events along the way,” Newkirk said.
One step this year is implementing a strategy to ensure recycling is done correctly through building awareness and disseminating useful information. Organizers are providing a sorting guide with tips on reducing waste and properly sorting recyclable items from landfill items at exchange points where vendors are serving food and beverages. Participants can access the guide using the recently introduced race app — which also provides safety and course information to keep people updated about weather or last-minute changes.
Many people may not be aware, for instance, that if too many contaminants get into a recycling stream — rendering it too difficult to sort — the entire load will be sent to a landfill, Newkirk said. Elysium has a strategy for helping in this area by providing back-of-house sorting to remove contaminated items. Groups of students from Glencoe High School and Roosevelt High School have volunteered to help with sorting in exchange for bottles and cans that can be deposited for money at the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative.
As Newkirk pointed out, however, “It’s all the more environmentally preferred to prevent waste from occurring in the first place.” Participants are encouraged to use a refillable water jug or bottle instead of single-use, disposable plastic bottles, and buy snacks in bulk or put together homemade snacks in reusable containers, as opposed to individually wrapped items.
Teams also can sign an online pledge to commit to preventing creating waste. If every van were to convert to reusable water jugs and bottles, they could collectively avoid an estimated 157,000 single-use disposable plastic bottles throughout the course of the race.
The implementation of these strategies will allow organizers to establish metrics for determining the event’s average resource recovery rate and gauging waste reduction efforts in the future, as well as identifying new sustainable solutions and waste prevention incentives that could be used.
“This year, we’ll at least be able to create a baseline,” Newkirk said. “We can use that baseline for creating goals for increasing that recovery rate over time.”
This will be the 30th year Hood to Coast has used Seaside to host the Finish Line Party at the beach for participants. Like the varied terrain and starting point at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Floyd said, the party on the beach is one of the iconic aspects of the event that people have come to expect and look forward to.
“They definitely like coming and experiencing a lot of the same things,” he said. “We are selling people on the venue as much as the actual race.”
Teams filter into town from early morning until night during the second day of the race, and the public is welcome to join the party. This year, the Brian O’Dell Band will perform from 1:45 to 4:45 p.m., followed by the sponsor awards and a trophy presentation for the overall winning women’s and men’s Hood to Coast and Portland to Coast Walk teams. At 5:30 p.m., organizers will announce the results of the Providence Cancer Center fundraising campaign. Radical Revolution will then perform at 6:45. The awards ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday at the main finish area stage on the beach.
Even though Hood to Coast continues to present an athletic challenge for those interested in the sport of running, the appeal has shifted over the years to encompass those who aren’t serious runners but appreciate the team-building and bonding that occurs along the way, Floyd said.
“It’s more about the memories people are making and experience,” he said.