|Bins for recyclables and compost at UC Davis' Aggie Stadium are helping the facility to approach its zero-waste goal.
By Harry Mok
March madness came early to UC Berkeley's Haas Pavilion. No, it wasn't a bracket-busting basketball upset. It was trying to operate an 11,871-seat arena as a zero-waste facility.
During two basketball games and a volleyball match this winter, procedures for holding zero-waste events were tested. The goal was to send as little garbage as possible to landfills by using less, recycling or composting.
The trial was part of UC Berkeley's sustainability efforts and an example of athletic facilities at UC campuses turning fan exuberance for the Blue and Gold into green. By making sustainability a priority, these popular destinations can help educate the campus community on the virtues of resource conservation, composting, reusing and recycling.
At Berkeley and other campuses, sports facilities are doing their part to help the UC system reach its ambitious sustainability goals to reduce waste, cut energy use, conserve water and shrink its carbon footprint.
The Haas Pavilion test was sustainability preseason for a more daunting task.
When 63,000 football fans pour into retrofitted Memorial Stadium for its reopening on Sept. 1, they'll be cheering on the Golden Bears in a venue that not only is modernized and seismically safe, but striving to be zero-waste.
"What's really more important is what we do on a daily basis, 365 days a year," said Mike Huff, UC Berkeley's assistant athletic director for facilities. "Yet the large events, that is something attractive to everybody and it's kind of sexy. They act as a catalyst for everyone to get excited about sustainability, and they're fun."
UC Davis: WasteWise champion
While Memorial Stadium is getting its trash-cutting game started, Aggie Stadium at UC Davis is a zero-waste champion and model for sustainability. Aggie Stadium has won the EPA's WasteWise Game Day Challenge diversion rate championship two years in a row. The 10,000-seat venue was the first college stadium in the country to set a goal of zero waste when it opened in 2007.
Football games and other big sports events offer a captive audience for promoting sustainability on campuses.
"If I look at the amount of material for football and basketball games, it's not a huge percentage of the overall (campus) waste stream," said Lin King, UC Berkeley's manager of Campus Recycling and Refuse Services. "However, during these sporting events, we have a great venue to make a huge impact. At one time, there's a chance to educate up to 30,000 or 50,000 people."
Athletes can also help get people to join the green team. The UCLA men's basketball team starred in a video urging people to join the campus sustainability effort.
Competition is another way to promote sustainable practices.
In 2011, UC Davis beat 75 competitors from across the country in the EPA WasteWise contest by recycling or composting more than 93 percent of 955 pounds of waste created by 7,726 fans at Aggie Stadium on the challenge day of Nov. 12. The winning rate was the highest for the stadium, where typically more than 80 percent of waste is diverted, said Michelle La, waste reduction and recycling coordinator at UC Davis.
La's department worked with concessionaire Sodexo to sell food and other items with wrappers and containers that are recyclable or compostable. Drinks are served without plastic lids and compostable ones are offered if requested. Straws used also are compostable.
"We try to control that input and make sure that what comes out the other end is compostable or recyclable," La said.
Only recycling and composting bins are available in the stadium and, during the challenge, volunteers and members of La's staff helped fans use them correctly.
UC Berkeley is gleaning knowledge from how Aggie Stadium became a zero-waste champion.
"We're learning from what we did at Davis," said King, who had La's job at UC Davis when Aggie Stadium won its first EPA WasteWise title. "If we sell only what's recyclable and compostable, it's a lot easier for people buying it to recognize what to do with the material."
During the last event of the trial at Haas Pavilion, a men's basketball game on Feb. 4, about 85 percent of the 2,002 pounds of waste was diverted. Prior to the trial, there was no recycling or composting at the arena.
Just as at Aggie Stadium, part of the success at Haas was student volunteer "trash talkers" who helped educate fans about putting the right thing in the right place at recycling, composting and garbage bins. Student volunteers will do the same at Memorial Stadium in the fall.
"It's really a large collaboration with our corporate sponsors, student volunteers and the people in Campus Recycling and Refuse Services," Huff said. "There's a lot of people interested, and it's hard to go wrong with that much positive energy and everybody trying to do the right thing."
Old Memorial had recycling bins, and the stadium worked with waste hauler Recology to keep recyclables and garbage separate. When Memorial reopens, the Athletics Department will work with Recology and with the city of Berkeley in its waste reduction efforts to improve on the old stadium's diversion rate of about 50 percent, with the goal of eventually hitting 100 percent, Huff said.
"I applaud Cal's leadership in sustainability by adopting a zero-waste athletics plan," said Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak when the Cal Athletics zero-waste plan was announced. "To save our planet, we must lighten our collective presence in the world, and intelligent reuse will ensure more resources for future generations."
A key lesson learned at UC Davis and at Haas is working in advance with concessionaires and vendors to ensure items sold or given out during games have as much packaging as possible that is recyclable or compostable.
"It's working to create a mindset with vendors and concessionaires," Huff said. "Things are changing when we go back to Memorial Stadium. Our business practices are changing, and you need to move with us."
Cutting waste at recreational level
It's not just intercollegiate sports or big venues that can contribute to campus sustainability. UC sports and recreation programs also are helping set the tone for sustainability.
At UC Santa Barbara, the goal of sports and recreation facilities run by the Division of Student Affairs is to be zero-net energy, producing as much as they use through a combination of conservation measures and generating their own power.
A retrofit of the facilities is being done in partnership with Southern California Edison, and the three-building complex now has solar-panel arrays, energy saving features such as LED lighting and water-conserving measures such as low-flow showerheads and toilets. Additional improvements such as more photovoltaic power generation and thermal-solar water heating are planned.
"It sends a statement to our community," said Bill Shelor, sustainability planner for the UC Santa Barbara Division of Student Affairs. "We're pushing the envelope on zero-energy initiatives, and our students are leading that push."
At UC San Diego's Recreation, IntraMural Athletics Complex, all the lighting is undergoing a retrofit to make them more energy efficient as part of a campuswide effort. The Mission Bay Aquatic Center, a joint UC San Diego-San Diego State University facility, has its own solar-power system and is in the process of becoming certified LEED, the building industry standard for measuring sustainability.
Other campus events and programs include the UC San Diego Triathlon Team's Grove Run 5K, a certified-sustainable race, and the Geared Up Project, which takes donations of used athletic equipment and gives them to underprivileged students and inner-city youth programs in the San Diego area.
UCLA's John Wooden Center and Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, working with students from sustainability Action Research Teams, have installed energy efficient lighting, low-flow showerheads and have other resource conservation measures planned.
"Sports facilities have a huge impact in terms of waste and energy use," said Nurit Katz, UCLA's sustainability coordinator. "As a public institution, we have a responsibility for stewardship of resources. Sports facilities have a broad reach and are in a unique position to reach diverse community members on the importance of sustainability and the responsible use of resources."