During Meliora Weekend this past fall, the University of Rochester participated in the GameDay Recycling Challenge, where college campuses across the country compete to reduce as much waste as possible during home football games. As a part of the challenge, schools must try to divert trash from landfills by recycling, composting, and engaging in other waste minimization activities. Competitors monitor disposal data and report results to the GameDay coalition, made up of Keep America Beautiful (KAB), EPA’s WasteWise , College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC), and RecycleMania. The event is designed to demonstrate to game-goers that sustainability can be achieved in all aspects of campus life, even outside of the classroom or office.
Each participating college in the challenge devises its own unique plan for waste reduction, using a variety of methods to do so. Some use volunteers to target tailgating areas; some recruit their team’s mascot to promote recycling; and others hand out plastic bags to attendants to encourage proper disposal. Here at the University of Rochester, a team was formed by University Facilities and Services with the support of Athletics and Recreation and Dining Services. Recycling Coordinator Amy Kadrie set up “zero waste stations” consisting of recycling, compost, and trash bins to help encourage the correct disposal of products. Each station was monitored by a knowledgeable volunteer to help guide patrons. Volunteer representatives from the EcoReps, University Mail Services, the Facilities Customer Service Center, Facilities Team Green, and even a couple of local high school students all pitched in to help divert waste, by picking up trash, working the stations, and separating recyclables. Volunteers also helped to “storm the stands” throughout the game to collect materials from fans and make the efforts more visible. The men’s baseball team played a big role as they cleaned up leftover materials in the stands after the game.
However, planning for the challenge started with source reduction. Kadrie worked with Concessions to avoid food waste from contaminating the recycling stream. To do this, organic materials were chosen for food items to be sold in at the stand. For instance, the nacho containers were switched from plastic to a fiber material so that the container and any remaining food waste could be composted together.
Proof that the efforts of the volunteers paid off was visible in the final scores. The results are separated by conference and measured in five categories: recycling, waste minimization, greenhouse gas reduction, and organics reduction, and diversion rate. For Division II and III, the University received 3rd place in recycling, 3rd place in waste minimization, 2nd in diversion rate and 1st in organics reduction! Not only that, but each person amidst the 2,229 people who attended the football game only created .04 pounds of trash through the event’s entirety while recycling .23 pounds per person. On its own this statistic is excellent, but more impressive is our own personal improvement! In 2013, our total diversion rate was 67.7% . This year, the total amount of recyclable and organic diversion was 510 pounds (450 pounds of compost and 60 pounds of recycling) generating a diversion rate of 85%! In total, that diversion reduced greenhouse gas reduction by 0.168 metric tons of C02 Equivalent.
Ultimately, the scores of the competition reveal that when colleges and universities ban together even in competition, the results are powerful. Below are some of the national winners across conferences that prove just that.
Diversion Rate champions:
- Humboldt State University – 86%
- The University of Akron – 84%
- Harvard University – 81%
Total Recycling champions:
- Clemson University – 60,724 pounds recycled
- University of Tennessee Knoxville – 47,560 pounds recycled
- University of Arkansas-Fayetteville – 46,300 pounds recycled.
For more details of the results, click here.
For more information on the GameDay Challenge itself, click here.
Be sure to check out some pictures on the UR Sustainable Facebook page here!
Written by Julie Elliot, Class of 2015