Auburn University and the University of Oregon squared off in the national football championship game in January, then lost to tiny Ithaca College in a game-day contest for top recycler.
With the 2011 football season starting this week, the Environmental Protection Agency is bringing back for a third year its “Game Day Challenge” aimed at getting schools to reduce trash and boost recycling by fans at the games.
Last year Ithaca, with about 7,000 students, generated less than one-tenth of a pound of trash per fan at its home games in central New York, besting 74 other colleges in the contest. Auburn, which had 25,000 students on its Alabama campus, generated more than 20 times as much trash per fan. Auburn beat Oregon 22-19 to become national champion.
At Auburn, more than 85,000 people fill Jordan-Hare Stadium, with thousands more flooding the campus for home game celebrations. Combined, the fans generate 80 tons of trash, said Donny Addison, the school’s manager of waste reduction and recycling.
“It’s like the Hoover Dam spilling over,” Addison said today in a phone interview, referring to the barrier that creates Lake Mead in Nevada. “You let it happen and deal with the cleanup the next day.”
In a bid to manage the challenge, students hand out recycling bags, Auburn posts 200 recycling bins and Addison recruits fraternity students the next morning to sort through the 2 tons of recycling collected.
“We created something, but now we’re thinking about how to expand it,” he said.
At Ithaca, a Division III school, games at Butterfield Stadium average 2,100 fans. Students in a class on Principles and Practices of Sustainability wear fluorescent green T-shirts and hand out color-coded trash and recycling bags to cut down on waste, according to an article in the Ithacan, the school’s newspaper.
Overall, 2.8 million fans at the participating schools diverted more than 500,000 pounds of waste last year, according to a statement by the EPA. That’s equal to saving more than 105,000 gallons of gasoline being used in vehicles.
Schools compete in five categories: least amount of waste; greatest greenhouse-gas reductions; highest recycling rate; most donations of food or composting; and combined recycling and composting rate.
The EPA set up a website to provide colleges and universities with information about how to recycle, and will hold an online seminar on the topic Sept. 22, according to the statement.