Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Going Green on the Gridiron
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It’s Easy Being Green: Going Green on the Gridiron

U.S. colleges and universities compete to reduce waste and increase recycling at their football games.

Trash left behind on campus after a University of Arizona football game. (Flickr/detritus)
Trash left behind on campus after a University of Arizona football game. (Flickr/detritus)

Read more from the “It’s Easy Being Green” series.

If you’ve ever been to a college football game, you know how much of a mess the fans can make. The game ends and everyone exits, only to leave a bunch of garbage littered all over the stands. It’s a sight that’s all too common. But a new program is trying to change that.

In 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency launched the “Game Day Challenge,” an initiative to encourage colleges and universities nationwide to reduce waste and increase recycling at their football games. Going into its third season, the challenge is gaining popularity across the nation; only eight schools participated in 2009 but a whopping 89 schools joined in for the 2010 challenge. Any U.S. college or university with a football team is eligible to participate.

In order to take part in the challenge, a school must first choose a home football game during their regular season schedule in which they want to institute a waste-reduction plan. After the school creates the plan for that game, it has to track and record data on the waste generated, recyclables collected, and the number of attendees.

The winners of the challenge will be crowned this December after the data are reported and collected. Ithaca College, a Division III school in central New York, came out on top in last year’s challenge, reporting less than one-tenth of a pound of trash per fan.

The challenge, sponsored by the EPA’s WasteWise program, has already started making a difference. According to the EPA, schools that participated in the 2010 challenge “diverted more than 500,000 pounds of waste, which prevented nearly 940 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released.” That’s the same amount of carbon dioxide that would be released from the consumption of more than 105,000 gallons of gasoline. Nice work!

Although the challenge is just for one game during the college football season, it’s a great start that will hopefully inspire schools to make their campuses more sustainable.

Registration for the 2011 Game Day Challenge ends September 30, 2011. Interested schools can submit a registration form here.

Read more from the “It’s Easy Being Green” series.

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