The UA Office of Sustainability is spearheading an effort to evaluate the environmental impact of Homecoming events in order to reduce costs for next year.
More than 100 students working with the office attend various Homecoming festivities to collect data about the direct and indirect environmental costs of the events.
They will also observe about 20 auxiliary Homecoming events, such as departmental receptions, dinners, lectures and exhibitions, as well as the Homecoming tailgate.
Students catalog the number of number of meals, water bottles, napkins and cans of beer at the events, along with other material expenses. Indirect costs, such as the electricity required to run the lights at events, are also being taken into account.
The Office of Sustainability is using software to calculate a life cycle assessment that takes into account all of the environmental impacts and costs associated with events.
Jake Knight, a graduate assistant with the office, said that not all strategies to reduce costs are created equal.
“We are looking at the pluses and minuses of different strategies,” Knight said. “For instance, one strategy might be less energy intensive and produce less carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases, but maybe it ends up producing more waste or more water use.”
Knight also emphasized what he believes is the “newness” of the effort. He said that large events like Homecoming have been analyzed before, but usually the approach is top-down and associates money spent with environmental costs.
“What we’re doing is trying to mix in some of the bottom-up approach,” Knight said, adding that “the main focus of this project is not to severely alter Homecoming, but it’s basically to reduce the costs associated with it. We want to keep the experience just as positive for everyone and keep everything the same that everyone likes about Homecoming.”
Leah Edwards, a junior studying environmental and water resource economics and political science, is one of six student managers overseeing the students who are on the ground taking data for events.
Edwards is also a NASA space grant intern with the Office of Sustainability, and she is responsible for collating the data gathered and forming long-term strategies.
“This is the first time something has been done for an event this large with this level of detail,” Edwards said. “This is a great contribution to research and to sustainable events at the UA.”
Natalie Lucas, a senior studying environmental science and philosophy, politics, economics and law and the executive director of Students for Sustainability, said she was anxious to see what would come of the research.
“I’m really excited to see where it will go,” she said. “It has a lot of potential to see where we can do new recycling efforts and make improvements.”