Greening College Game Days
Game days at university campuses tend to generate a large amount of waste, which is costly to the environment and the institution. To demonstrate its devotion to sustainability, the University of Arizona partnered with Waste Management to implement an extensive recycling program at its football stadium during the 2012 season, successfully diverting over 25 tons of trash from the landfill. This web seminar, originally broadcast on April 30, 2013, addressed how the university got the word out about its initiative, how collaboration among many different departments on campus was the key to success, how that success was measured, and the best ways to do the same at other institutions.
Being sustainable is no longer an option for higher education institutions. Students are seeking schools with sustainability curriculums and eco-friendly campuses. To help meet these demands, schools are developing plans in all areas of campus, including athletic venues, to promote sustainability and encourage waste diversion. Not only is supporting sustainability the right thing to do, it is also a smart business decision. Achieving sustainability and zero waste is a journey. The journey starts with a commitment to do the heavy lifting necessary to make significant improvements. Waste Management has a six-step “Think Green Campus Model” process for achieving sustainability.
- Establish Common Goals: You want to establish a team with common goals to gain commitment and buy-in from various departments at your university. It is important to ensure that all of the affected participating departments are represented. Determine a mutually beneficial goal for your university around waste diversion. At the end of this process, all involved parties should know what is expected for the program, why it is important, who needs to be involved, and what outcomes are expected. Game days at university campuses tend to generate a large amount of waste, which is costly to the environment and the institution. To demonstrate its devotion to sustainability, the University of Arizona partnered with Waste Management to implement an extensive recycling program at its football stadium during the 2012 season, successfully diverting over 25 tons of trash from the landfill. This web seminar addressed how the university got the word out about its initiative, how collaboration among many different departments on campus was the key to success, how that success was measured, and the best ways to do the same at other institutions.
- Conduct Assessment: It is essential to conduct an assessment throughout the stadium. It is crucial to identify exactly what is currently happening at the event in conjunction with the program. In this step, we systematically evaluate and document what’s being done today versus where the school wants to go. Identify the highest volume areas, materials, and opportunities to make an impact and drive results. At the end of this step, we should have a baseline assessment of current diversion numbers for the event, an analysis of the materials stream, available communications channels, available resources, and be able to identify needs and gaps.
- Program Development: During this phase, we will create an action plan for Greening the Game Day to divert as many materials from the landfill as possible on the day of the event. The action plan will include tasks leading up to the event, like equipment purchases, signage, marketing and promotional development, etc.
- Implement the Developed Plan: If you’re looking to effect a big culture change, it is key to educate your campus on the importance of waste reduction. Educating every person who comes on campus is no easy feat. When you have clear priorities, systems, and tools in place, people are much more likely to participate and become engaged in the process. During the implementation phase, good lines of communication with the parties involved are crucial. It is essential to clearly define what each person is doing to ensure that the roll-out of the program is smooth.
- Measure and Report: Gathering tonnage data for every game where you implement Greening the Game Day Programs is critical. By comparing the reports each week, the team is able to see the improvements and successes taking place. Detailed reporting is helpful in providing results to key players at your university. If we do this step correctly, we are able to accurately assess what is working and what is not.
- Evaluate the Process and Results: During this phase, it is important to record areas of success and find room for improvement. There may be easy adjustments you can make to the program. It’s important to work as a collaborative group with Waste Management and your university so that we can set new goals and work through the process together again if needed. This is the biggest opportunity to compare results to the baseline established and discover new ways to drive further results. The final part of the process is to promote, which is often overlooked and yet easy to implement. Once everyone has committed the time and resources required to implement and improve sustainability, it’s important to share the results. You need to tell the community you’re committed and leading the way to solve sustainability issues. If they see you’re working hard on it, they’ll be more likely to support your efforts or special requests in the future. Get people excited about what you’re doing and what’s possible to drive results.
We brought Waste Management in a year and a half ago to help us achieve the specific goal of increasing our recycling efforts on campus by 10 percent per year. We wanted a partner to assist our athletic staff, sustainability office, and facilities management team in increasing the amount of recycling that’s taking place on campus. Our Facilities Management department collaborates with many groups on campus, including our Students for Sustainability group. These students work hard with our staff to increase the amount of campus recycling. They played a key role in mapping the location of every trash and recycling receptacle throughout our buildings and athletic venues.
In 2011, the Students for Sustainability began working to improve the rate of recycling in our athletic venues, specifically our football stadium. After each game day, 40 students would partner with our custodial staff in picking up recyclable material from our stadium. The average tonnage diverted from the landfill and sent out to be recycled was 3.63 tons per game. All told, we recycled over 25 tons of materials during the 2012 home game season. From a financial standpoint, think about the tipping fees the university would have had to pay to send all of that waste to the landfill. Instead, we were able to recycle the tonnage and use that money to offset the cost to lease solar powered compactors for the campus.
Our partnership with Waste Management has allowed us to do assessments of our current trash and recycling efforts, and determine how we can improve them. We looked at our tailgating area where we hadn’t been capturing recyclables in the past. This past football season, we launched an intense marketing campaign to promote our tailgating recycling effort. For all eight home games we installed over 700 containers throughout the tailgating area to collect recyclables. It was key to communicate to the fans about what we were doing and why we were doing it. At the start of the season, we sent email communications to all ticket holders alerting them of our recycling initiatives and asked for total fan participation to help us reach our sustainability goals. At the stadium entrance, student volunteers distributed bags to incoming fans to collect recyclable material in the tailgate areas. In addition, the Students for Sustainability group set up recycling stations in the tailgating areas and were on hand to answer questions and educate fans on proper recycling.
When we began to green our game days, our first step was making sure we had the proper signage on all of our containers. That way people knew exactly what should be recycled and what could go in the cardboard boxes for general trash. We made sure advertising was taking place so that people knew things were different, that something new was happening that was good for the environment. We had signs up in our stadium and tailgating area, alerting fans of the initiative. We wanted to partner with the various departments and groups on campus. We wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. We communicated, took questions, solved problems, and utilized a wide variety of resources to achieve our goals.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.universitybusiness.com/ws043013