Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweetwater 420 5K: Fun Beer Run Could Be Greener

The Sweetwater 420 5K had three features that I love in a race:

1.) Late morning start time (11 a.m.)

2.) Great intown route (which I could bike to)

3.) Beer after the race (who doesn’t love beer?)

And it was a fun race. The weather was sunny and slightly warm and the route was enjoyable. The Sweetwater 420 Fest bills itself as an eco-conscience event with the tag line “We’re here for a good time. She’s here for a long time.” wrapped around an image of planet earth. Like a lot of people these days, I strive to be environmentally responsible. However, I felt certain aspects of the race could have been more eco-friendly.

Here are my ideas on making the Sweetwater 420 5K a greener event:

No water stations Waxed-coated water cups littered the street at the two water stations along the route. For a 5K, there’s really no need for hydration stations – especially for a race hosted in April where heat is not an issue. Wax-coated cups cannot be recycled. Instead, hand out plastic water bottles at the finish line.

Reduce trash - Sell beer in commemorative mugs While music is a big part of the fest, the real star is Sweetwater’s beer. And lots of it is sold at the event in plastic cups. The recyclable cups proudly promote being made from plant-based plastics, yet I saw a lot of them dumped in waste bins designated for trash instead of the recycling bins. Let’s face it -- people under the influence of beer don’t always make the best decisions. Instead of serving each beer in a new plastic cup, sell the first beer in a commemorative mug (for $2 or $3 more) and refills for $6 each. The result will raise more money for community organizations and reduce festival trash.

Offer a compost bin for banana peels At the end of the race, runners were offered bananas and bagels while they waited to get their festival wrist bands. With 2,000 runners, that produces a lot of banana peels. Instead of throwing food trash in a waste bin, why not offer the option of a compost bin? The compost could be used to fertilize the landscape around Candler Park.

Overall, this is a fun event and I’m glad a local company like Sweetwater is an advocate for conservation. I plan to share my ideas with the folks at Sweetwater and I’ll let you know what I hear back from them.

UPDATE 5/9/2011: Both the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization and Sweetwater provided feedback on my ideas which I shared in a new blog post.

Here’s the 5K route from yesterday’s race:

• Start on McClendon Avenue (by Epworth United Methodist Church)

• Head west, running past Candler Park

• Turn right on Euclid Terrace

• Veer right onto Euclid Avenue

• Turn left on Fairview Avenue

• Turn right on S. Ponce de Leon Avenue

• Turn right on Fairview Avenue

• Turn left on Oakdale Road

• Turn left on North Avenue

• Turn right on Candler Park Drive

• Turn right on Benning Place

• Turn left on Oakdale Road

• Turn left on McClendon Avenue

• Turn left on Candler Park Drive

• Finish at the corner of Miller Avenue and Candler Park Drive


Treasurer said...


Thanks for your thoughtful comments about the race and how it could be greener. I'd like to clarify that the 5K event is organized by Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (CPNO) and not SweetWater itself. Therefore, the water stations along the course and the bananas at the finish were CPNO's responsibility. The beer sales were handled by an independent event company so I don’t know if SweetWater had control over the types of cups used (perhaps they could influence this in the future).

I agree that a 5K is a fairly short distance and that many people can handle it without any water along the way. That said, here are some observations:

1. 420 Fest 5K is a social event. Sure, there are some elite athlete types who are in-it-to-win-it…but the vast majority are there to have fun. Perhaps they need more water than the average runner?

2. Last year, we were criticized for not having enough water along the course. This year, we were well stocked along the course and (no doubt) generated more trash.

3. This year we were fortunate to have incredible weather. By noon it was only about 62 degrees. On April 17, 2010 (last year’s race date), it was 77 degrees at noon.

I’d love to hear ideas about how we can operate greener water stations at future 5K races. Perhaps we encourage runners to bring their own containers and we provide a method to refill them quickly?

Your totally right about the banana peel compost bin. That’s an easy fix for next year!

Thanks again for your comments!

David Aynes
CPNO, Inc.

David said...

Where are the results of the SweetWater 420 5k? I can't find them anywhere.

Debbie Curtis-Magley said...


Thanks for the detailed feedback you shared on behalf of the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization. I'm glad to hear a compost bin might make an appearance next year!

I understand the popularity of water stations -- even on a short course. It would be great to encourage runners to carry their own water bottles in the spirit of being eco-friendly. If that idea doesn't fly, perhaps using plastic cups that can be recycled would be a viable option.

Regarding my suggestion about the plastic beer cups, I sent an email to the address listed on the Sweetwater 420 Fest event page. I look forward to hearing back from them.

Thanks again!


Debbie Curtis-Magley said...

Hi David:

Thanks for your question.

I'm not sure where the results are being posted. You may want to contact the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (find their web site on Google) to inquire further.