AstroTurf won't be the only "green" feature of Richardson Stadium when Davidson's football team plays the Campbell University Camels on Nov. 23. The event will be Davidson's first-ever zero-waste "green" game, conducted with the goal of sending a minimal amount of waste to the landfill. The Office of Sustainability is organizing an effort to use 100 percent recyclable or compostable materials at the game.
"Anything that we can do to reduce Davidson's waste footprint is a benefit to the environment and the community," Sustainability Fellow Marcus Carson '13 said. "Waste that goes to the landfill can produce greenhouse gasses like methane, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide."
Carson said zero-waste initiatives have become popular at athletic venues at other universities, including The Ohio State University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In order to determine the best way to eliminate waste from Davidson's Richardson Stadium this weekend, Carson and Director of Sustainability Jeff Mittelstadt '99 conducted a "waste audit" of the garbage produced at a regular game.
Carson and Mittelstadt consulted the third-party vendors who are typically present at football games to urge them to use all recyclable and compostable materials. Restaurant X, for one, has agreed to make sure the catering for the Patterson Court Council student tailgate uses compostable plates and cups.
Carson acknowledged that it's currently infeasible to wholly eliminate waste material at the game. Some items sold by vendors, such as candy wrappers and chip bags, are non recyclable. "The primary goal now is to get folks to think about where their waste goes when they are finished with it," he said.
Student volunteers will serve as "Trash Goalies" at the zero-waste game, helping fans put their waste products in the proper bins, and talking with them about Davidson's sustainability initiatives.
The zero-waste game is part of the Office of Sustainability's Athletics & Sustainability Initiative. Another key component of the initiative is the appointment of sustainability representatives from each varsity team to promote initiatives and ensure their teammates properly recycle waste.
Varsity soccer player Steph Piperno '15 and football player Scott Holzwarth '16 lead the group of sustainability representatives. "Our representatives meet every two weeks to discuss issues," Piperno said.
Last spring the sustainability reps held a "cleats drive" for Davidson's athletes to donate used or unwanted cleats to the North Mecklenburg Soccer Club. The reps also helped install recycling bins in all varsity locker rooms, and will help ensure the receptacles are used properly.
The sustainability reps want to eliminate paper cups used by the soccer and baseball teams, replacing them with permanent plastic tubes that the football team already uses.
Piperno pointed out that the large number of students involved in varsity athletics makes it important to link the college's athletics program and sustainability initiatives. "Since 26 percent of students are varsity athletes, they can have a big impact in promoting sustainability to the student body and the broader community," she said.
Carson said the long-term goal is to establish a system that works well and makes sustainability seem easy, so that all athletic games will become zero-waste games. "Maybe some day Richardson Stadium and Belk Arena will permanently become zero-waste venues," he said. "Recycling and composting the garbage generated by athletics games creates a closed-loop system, which is the definition of sustainability."
In addition to the first zero-waste football game on Nov. 23, Carson and Mittelstadt plan to organize a zero-waste game for men's basketball on Jan. 25, when the Wildcats play Georgia Southern University in Belk Arena. Beyond that, they are organizing a national initiative called Next Play, which will engage representatives of NCAA "Big Dance"—bound institutions in a sustainability enterprise and entrepreneurship tournament April 10-12, 2014.