By Michelle Werts

Stadium trash
Credit: Sun Brockie (newyork808)/Flickr

I love sports. All kinds, from the insanely popular — college football and basketball — to the fanatical — hi, MLS and NHL — to the not-for-everyone, but awesome — I’m looking at you tennis and cycling. Basically, if it’s a sporting event, especially live, I’m there. Also, there is lots and lots of waste, hardly shocking considering sports venues hold tens of thousands of people, which is why the EPA decided some incentives were needed to combat the trash.

Enter the third year of the EPA’s Game Day Challenge. Last fall, 78 universities and colleges across the country generated waste reduction plans for one of their 2011 football home games in hopes of winning EPA bragging rights. As announced earlier this week by the EPA, the schools and their combined 2.7 million fans diverted more than 500,000 pounds of waste from landfills in the challenge, preventing nearly 810 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Which schools reigned supreme?

  • Central Connecticut State University (least amount of waste generated per attendee)
  • University of California, Davis (highest combined recycling and composting rate)
  • University of Virginia (greatest greenhouse gas reductions from diverting waste AND highest recycling rate)
  • Marist College (highest organics reduction rate)

Kudos to the winners and all participants because recycling is a big deal and equals a big environmental impact. As reported by the EPA, recycling one ton of paper saves more than three cubic yards of landfill space and reduces energy and water consumption, saving 7,000 gallons of water and enough energy to power an average American home for six months.

And luckily for the environment, many of the participating schools don’t see this as a one-time project: they’re busy with zero-waste plans. In 2006, Colorado University at Boulder voted to become a carbon-neutral campus. The first place for overhaul was the stadium, where they now divert 80 percent of waste on average. A few of the ways that they’ve found success include replacing all trash cans with recycling and composting containers, converting concession food and beverage containers into recyclable and compostable materials and creating a valet bike parking service. The University of California, Davis implemented a zero-waste plan when its stadium opened in 2007 and at a game in 2010 diverted a whopping 89-plus percent of waste. Last year, Big Ten-powerhouse Ohio State joined the zero waste party, with a 2011 goal to divert 75 percent of waste and 90 percent in 2012. Go teams for saving the environment one composting and one recycling bin at a time!