Homecoming is one of the biggest events of the school year at the University of Arizona, with the accompanying football game drawing thousands of fans. With each spectator, one can expect a couple of drinks and snacks during the game, and with that comes trash.
The UA Office of Sustainability and student organizations help solve the problem of removing trash from campus and the football stadium every year in the Green Sports Alliance Zero Waste Challenge.
Schools in the Pacific 12 Conference compete against each other to divert the most trash from their campus in a selected athletic event. This year's event was UA’s Homecoming football game.
“At the end of the game, all the compost and recycling gets weighted, and that percentage is compared to the other universities,” said Celeste Colmenares, chair of Greening the Game. “We came out in third place in the Zero Waste competition, and we are trying to increase our diversion rate. Instead of focusing mainly on the stadium, this year we will be focusing on tailgating.”
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Members of organizations like Greening the Game, Students for Sustainability and the Green Team volunteer to stay after the game to pick up whatever can be taken to a landfill, recycled or re-purposed.
“We are trying to get a lot of community involvement; we want to teach the community how to recycle,” Colmenares said. “This year we have an incentive: You get to win two football tickets for the next game if you bring a bag of recycling to our tent. ”
Greening the Game tents were stationed around the football stadium and were present during the tailgate as well.
Last year, UA came in third place with an impressive 70 percent of waste diverted for its Zero Waste Challenge. “We collected 2.97 tons of compost [last year]. In recycling we collected 2.31 tons, and what was sent to the landfill was 2.3 tons,” said Coordinator of Sustainability Programs Julia Rudnick.
According to Rudnick, clubs working in sustainability will not only participate in the Pac-12 competition, but have joined to compete at a national level.
“Game Day Recycling is a national recycling competition," Rudnick said. "We will turn in our diversion numbers for this, too. Out of 79 schools, we came in 10th place in that one last year.”
Rebecca Newton, operations manager for Greening the Game, said now is the time to act.
“We live in a time where it is ‘do or die’ when it comes to the environment,” she said. “I love my experience with Greening the Game because, as a society, we choose to work together and support each other in trying to keep not only our campus but our planet clean.”
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According to Rudnick, winners of these sustainability competitions earn bragging rights. However, for these students, keeping their campus clean and knowing they’re the best school at doing so is enough for them.
“I really hope that we win this year, but everyone else nationally and in the Pac-12 is stepping up their game just as we are,” Newton said. “I am hoping the motivation from Greening the Game, the Green Team and the student body in general gives us the edge to win first and top all of the other schools.”
According to Colmenares, the Office of Sustainability works with other UA departments to dispose of the gathered waste properly.
“Facilities Management takes all of our recycling material to the University’s recycling plant behind UMC [University Medical Center], then Compost Cats takes all of our compost,” Colmenares said.
Compost Cats also works with the Office of Sustainability in taking the gathered compost to a designated site, like the site close to the San Xavier Mission. Once there, the compost is disposed of and re-purposed.
The Office of Sustainability makes these events possible through the use of the Green Fund. According to Rudnick, the Green Fund is a tuition carve-out from UA’s Student Services fee given to the Office of Sustainability.
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