Homecoming game aims to leave behind ‘Zero Waste’

Ellie Phillips

Like most universities, at Grand Valley State University, football is a big deal. And with this weekend’s game against Northwood University, there is no time more opportune for the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, Facilities Services and the Athletics Department to band together to hold a ‘zero waste football game.’

To decrease environmental impact at the game, the collaborating departments will provide recycling stations in tailgate areas as well as within the stadium for the game.

The Zero Waste Initiative, which is one of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ events as part of the October Sustainability Spotlight, aims to divert material from the waste stream. This endeavor has been carried out by the Student Environmental Coalition since last year and was inspired by other universities that have attempted zero waste games.

“Several large universities have held zero waste football games with varying degrees of success,” said Steve Leeser, facilities service operations supervisor for GVSU. “The homecoming game always draws one of our larger crowds and therefore will give us a greater challenge. The University of Michigan recycled less than 30 percent of their waste stream when they attempted this. I am hoping to exceed 50 percent at our game. Look for and use the recycling stations that will be located in tailgate areas as well as within the stadium.”

Students from the Honors College and the Student Environmental Coalition will team with individuals from Campus Dining, the Women’s Center, Meijer Holland Campus and the Office of Student Life to help out, educating the fans about composting and recycling.

They will also gather waste at the game, depositing it in the recycling and composting bins located at the entrances and seating areas of Lubbers Stadium, as well as the tailgate parking lots.

“Athletics is involved in a couple of ways, one being the football game and the tailgating in the parking lot,” said Jamie Schlagel, assistant athletic director. “Athletics is also assisting in advertising the Zero Waste Game on the gvsulakers.com website. The GVSU Laker Marching Band will also incorporate the initiative in their halftime performance at Saturday’s game.”

Bartels said last year the SEC collected 1,800 bottles and cans after football games, which was enough to fill 10 large bags. The deposit from the drink containers went to the SEC fund.
It has also composted 9,180 total pizza boxes—more than 200 of them from that single game—and kept them out of the waste stream, as they can’t be recycled because of the grease soaked into the cardboard.

“I am hoping to take this effort to a new level and bring attention to our recycling and sustainable practices here on campus,” Leeser said.

There are more than 100 students wanting to help with the initiative, though volunteers are still needed. To volunteer for the initiative, contact Bart Bartels at [email protected].

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