Preserving the Environment

Here’s How Colleges Are Leading the Green Revolution in Sports

July 8, 2014
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Here’s How Colleges Are Leading the Green Revolution in Sports
Thanks to efforts from the NDRC, you’ll see recycling bins at many college and university facilities. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Go Green! From coast to coast, there's a growing shift towards sustainability at the university level.

Here’s the beauty of sports: It unites people from every political, cultural and socioeconomic stripe. And when it comes to the environment, we also should be on the same team.

The amount of resources used to run a typical, large scale sporting event can be shocking. When thousands of people are gathered in one stadium, they consume a lot of food, create a lot of trash and use a lot of power. Of course, it’s all in the name of fun and games, but there’s really a better way.

With America’s green revolution taking off, the sports industry has also embraced this planet-friendly mentality. The U.S. Open recycles their tennis ball cans and has replaced all their virgin-fiber napkins with recycled ones. The Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and Seattle Sounders (MLS) are playing under the bright lights powered by solar panels. And the New York Yankees are composting.

MORE: Big, Bright Futures: These Universities Are Tapping the Power of the Sun

And now, the green movement in sports has passed the ball to the collegiate level. Thanks to efforts from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), which pioneered the movement in 2004, you’ll see solar panels, recycling bins and other green touches just as often as hot dogs at many college and university facilities these days.

As Sports Business Daily reports, the University of Colorado has a zero-waste program across its entire sports program. Ohio State seriously whittled its landfill waste from 15,000 pounds after an average home game to a shockingly small 447 pounds. Arizona State University has installed solar panels throughout its Wells Fargo Arena.

And the trend is only growing. Below, you’ll see some collegiate greening initiatives by the numbers (based on a 2013 survey by the University of Arizona via the NDRC):

At least 216 collegiate sports departments (97 athletics and 119 recreation) have installed recycling infrastructure throughout their sports facilities.

At least 88 collegiate sports departments (41 athletics and 47 recreation) have pursued LEED green building design certifications for new facilities, major renovations and/or existing facilities, with at least 24 certified sports venues to date.

At least 162 collegiate sports departments (68 athletics and 94 recreation) have installed bike racks and other infrastructure to promote bicycle commuting at their sports venues.

At least 116 collegiate sports departments (50 athletics and 66 recreation) have upgraded to water-efficient fixtures.

At least 83 collegiate sports departments (30 athletics and 53 recreation) have implemented an environmentally preferable paper purchasing policy that includes prioritizing paper with recycled content.

23 collegiate sports departments (8 athletics and 15 recreation) have installed on-site solar energy production systems.

And to encourage more colleges to get on board, Sustainable America announced in a blog post that NRDC has also released a free, first-of-its-kind online guide — called the Greening Advisor for Collegiate Sports — to improve sustainable programs and practices in collegiate athletics and recreation. It offers practical tips on how to start and fund recycling programs, engage students and create healthier environments.

College sports are helping us save the earth. Now that’s a winning formula.

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