What would happen if we all came together, over the same passion towards the same topic? This topic being sustainability and zero waste. Lets get together the volleyball players, the football players, soccer, tennis, baseball etc. all of the sports teams and its players and decide on a way we can all get on the same level with waste! I feel that this topic of sustainability holds various meanings for different people. However, when we give it a definite goal of zero waste, I feel that it has to shift have a clear agenda on how to reach it. What has been clear to me thus far is that the University of Washington athletics department has definite ambitions towards zero waste. The head athletic directors have made efforts in order to show their push towards waste reduction in the facilities. There are now two stream waste and compost bins inside of the stadium, emphasizing the options for keeping waste out of the landfill. A green team has been set in place to help educate the fans about efforts towards sustainability. However, what can be done better in my opinion is opening the education up to the individual players of each and every sports team. I mean what is all of this hype going towards if our players aren’t even in the waste game? I believe they should be the primary target for more than one reason. First off to have the players of Husky athletics demonstrate clear goals towards waste diversion, then they will automatically spread their enthusiasm to the fan base. Sure, its been done, Kobe Bryant loves to recycle right? That is just one player out of a team of 20 and I agree that we at the UW have some enthusiasts, but some is not enough! If we are going to be a collective team here as a part of the athletics program, then we have to work as one. That means getting EVERYONE on board and not just saying they will reduce waste, but be excited about actually doing it!
My suggestions go as follows; I would love to see waste diversion training, and MRC (Master Recycler, Composter) certifications going on in the first week of athletic programs. I know teams come together pre-season to begin training and get to know one another and I think that in addition to on court training, there needs to be some off court training in sustainability. If you as a player are going to lead through your athletic abilities, why not lead in being environmentally friendly as well? Its not just an attractive thing to do, it is also a wise thing to do, and many will look up to you for being a part of the movement. Sure, coaches, this is not ideal for you, why spend an hour going over how to recycle and compost when you could be focusing on strength training? Its simple though, if you are going to be a part of the Husky Athletics, then you are going to be a part of the efforts towards sustainability and therefore you are going to want to understand what that means, and practice what you preach. After all, you wouldn’t say you could play football, and then get out on the field and not even know where the quarterback is. Or would you?
What a beautiful opportunity this new stadium has presented to everyone. The opportunity to take charge as a leading green campus, and come together to reach realistic and impressive sustainability goals. As David Muller from Green Sports Alliance put it “you already have a great foundation set, now all you need to do is continue in it, and get everyone on board”. Lets take a look at what that means shall we? We have a great foundation, meaning our infrastructure is in place, the ball is in our court so to speak, now all we need to do is come together. What does together look like? In my opinion together is all-inclusive. Lets not separate the different sports teams, or the IMA from the stadium, or the Arena from any other part of the athletics area on campus. Lets also not separate the club teams from the intramurals from the colligate teams. Together means all in one. We are all coming together over one goal; effort towards sustainability through zero waste practices, and together we will be. It just takes a commitment and an understanding on what this all means and why we are doing it in the first place.
Most would say it takes a level of responsibility being a college athlete. After all you are the face of the school in a sense. Kids want to be you, parents want their kids to be you, so why not add one more positive to your image. In meeting with some members of the athletics department I found that they have a decent understanding of where our sustainability efforts lie. However, I think that they feel there is more that can be done. For example, in the locker rooms of teams there needs to be available recycle and compost bins. Also what if we looked at instead of what to do with the materials after we’ve used them, but not even having those materials in the first place? Stopping the waste before it even has the chance to begin? Outfitting the locker rooms with refill stations that athletes can use with their reusable water bottle. Eliminating the plastic/paper cups that are one time use for a quick sip of water would be something entirely feasible. Now, in something like this, it would take the athletes being educated on the “why” of the change. From what I have gathered in class thus far, is it is going to come down to education and behavior changes working hand in hand for this to effectively work.
Another area of improvement that Karen Baebler of the Husky Athletics department suggested was getting the fans even more involved in zero waste efforts. I think by collaborating with the players to help establish an expectation towards waste diversion, fans will automatically respond. Outfitting the stadium with fully compostable products is going to help any confusion about what is and is not recyclable/compostable. This is something that I believe can be easily done, and has already been done on campus. In looking at the sustainability reports, our campus has an overall diversion rate of 57% and it is continuing to increase in hopes of reaching our 70% goal by 2020. The chart above emphasizes the consistent increase to diversion that the UW is seeing. In looking at some of the readings we have done, such as the 2009 Colligate Athletic Department Sustainability Report, I can see that compared with professional sports teams, NCAA Athletics have some work to do. That’s not to say that they are not on the right page, however, the numbers were significantly different. For example; in the survey results, one finding was that compared to professional teams at 26.6%, college teams were concerned or “very concerned” that environmental programs will distract from main goals of organization (43.5%). Another finding was that professional teams showed that key decision makers say that environmental programs will “slightly increase” or “significantly increase” profitability at 38% where as college teams were at 15.8%. I find this to be interesting in that you would think because there are more than one team in college athletics that the profitability would actually be greater. However, key decision makers view the opposite to be true.
Through discussions and readings, and overall brainstorming, I think that it is clear that there is work to be done! This class would not exist unless we knew that there was something we could do. I think that as a collective group we can bring together all parts of the athletics program to form a cohesive and well-balanced machine of sustainability advocates!
- by H. Johnson