By Elisabeth Wall
Word is the Appalachian State University’s Mountaineer football team is headed for a super-strong second season in the Sun Belt Conference. 2015 marks the university’s Zero Waste Stadium’s second season, too.
A team of staff from the Physical Plant, Athletics, Food Services and Office of Sustainability plus 10 specially trained interns will be suited up and ready to rock this season’s zero-waste game – from the Chancellor’s Suite to a new Thursday-night student Green Zone.
Zero Waste means sending nothing to the landfill or incineration; all consumables are either recycled or composted. The zero waste goal, according to University Sustainability Program Specialist Jen Maxwell, is to “reduce our overall consumption as a university and to educate our campus community on its consumption habits. In doing so,” she said, “we can change the culture, change the world.”
To foster zero waste practices among the 25,000 game day attendees, five zero waste zones with recycle and compost bins will be set up inside the stadium for all home games. According to Physical Plant Recycling Coordinator Grant Powers, who manages the collection and distribution of the waste, this year there will be fewer but better outfitted stations. “Easy to understand and well-marked collection systems are in place so our workers can put more energy into the education part,” he said.
In its inaugural Zero Waste Stadium initiative last season, Appalachian netted a 74 percent waste diversion and took three out of five golds in the EPA Game Day Challenge Sunbelt Conference rankings: overall conference waste diversion rate, organic waste and waste minimization.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Maxwell said, “but we can’t rest on our laurels. A number of new initiatives for broadening waste reduction at the stadium are in place and we expect to see an increase in our diversion rate over last year’s. Long term, we want to reach 90 percent diversion campus wide by 2022.”
This football season includes two Thursday night games, Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, that will be broadcast to more than 62 million households — “a great opportunity to showcase the Appalachian way of life” regarding sustainability, Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Operations David Jackson said.
A new Student Green Zone will be staged behind the Touchdown Yosef statue for the Thursday night games, encouraging as many of the 9,000 students as possible who come to the games to take an Appalcart bus, bike or walk to the stadium. Because classes are in session, parking will be limited, Maxwell noted, “— one more incentive not to drive. And, if our students make the effort to opt for alternate transportation, what a huge statement that makes.”
The Green Zone will include:
“We will continue to work with our tailgating fans on the ‘Recycle at the Rock’ initiative, an effort we started in 2008,” Maxwell said. “To help increase our diversion rate, we give every tailgater bags for recycling and for landfill.”
Also, stadium suites, including Chancellor Sheri N. Everts’, will be zero waste:
“Our campus has a long and proud commitment to sustainability and I am pleased to support this tradition by hosting Zero Waste events in the Chancellor’s Suite this football season, “Everts said. “A sustainable future for all is a guiding principle for our actions and our efforts are making a difference now and for future generations.”
“The zero waste stadium expansion will significantly increase visibility around our campus sustainability efforts,” Office of Sustainability Director Lee Ball said. “The chancellor’s participation sets an outstanding example to students and visitors alike.”
Dr. Greg Taylor, assistant director of the physical plant and director of campus services, credited the 74 percent diversion success of the past season’s initiative to team effort. “The crew members were committed from the beginning and we hope this year will be even more positive. We learned a lot about logistics and effective collection site placement. We had six home games and were able to gather excellent data to support the success of the program.”
For measuring this year’s diversion rate, Powers said, “We have rolling plastic dumpsters in place for compost, landfill and recycle. We can place everything in dumpsters immediately after the game and have everything out of sight. When we come in to clean the stadium, we roll the dumpster up on the truck, take it to the station and weigh it.”
“We do our best to weigh every ounce of the trash generated during the games,” Maxwell explained. “We capture how much we divert through compost, how much through recyclables, how much has to go to the landfill. The university is able to quantitatively measure our zero waste success.”
According to EPA statistics released earlier this year, 91 colleges and universities participated in the 2014 Game Day Recycling Challenge and recycled or reused 1,098 tons of bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, food scraps, and other recyclables from their stadiums.
In addition to the three golds in the EPA Game Day Challenge Sunbelt Conference rankings last season, Appalachian also took second place for recycling and greenhouse gas emission reduction. For the challenge, colleges compete by conference. Appalachian was up against efforts at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Georgia State University and Texas State University.
74 percent waste diversion
3 out of 5 golds:
2nd place for recycling and greenhouse gas emission reduction
90 percent campus wide by 2022
In reducing Appalachian’s overall consumption, “we can change the culture, change the world.”
– Jen Maxwell, university sustainability program specialist