The Pac-12 Conference announced April 10 that the University of California was selected as the overall winner of the Pac-12’s Zero Waste Competition for the 2017-2018 basketball season, with three other Pac-12 universities selected as winners of subcategories. Each Pac-12 institution participates in the competition with the goal of determining which university diverted the most waste from the landfill at a selected men’s basketball game, as well as which used the most innovative methods to expand reach and impact of sustainability education efforts.
The Pac-12 is the first conference to have all its member universities join the Portland, Oregon-based Green Sports Alliance, which is an organization dedicated to promoting healthy, sustainable communities where people live and play. The Pac-12 also became the first league to host a sustainability conference where it announced another first—the creation of a Pac-12 Sustainability Working Group, which includes representatives from each of the 12 athletic departments and the schools’ sustainability offices. The working group works to ensure the conference keeps pushing the envelope on sponsorships, fan engagement and overall awareness of the sustainability advancements in the conference.
The Pac-12 Zero Waste Competition provides a platform for Pac-12 universities to engage on best practices in athletics waste diversion and to learn how each campus strives towards zero waste goals. In addition to the overall waste diversion rate, the universities were scored on innovation, partnership and participation, and fan engagement.
Three judges selected one overall winner and one winner in three categories. The judging panel was:
- Bill Walton, Pac-12 representative, basketball legend and sustainability enthusiast
- Tyler Sytsma, sustainability coordinator at UNC Charlotte
- Mike Carey, sustainability coordinator at the Orange Coast College (zero waste/diversion expert)
Each school submitted a summary scorecard describing their efforts around the zero waste game upon which they were judged. The criteria was weighted in the following way: 25 percent participation and partnerships, 50 percent stadium diversion rate and 25 percent innovation credit.
2018 basketball zero waste competition winner: California (vs. Washington, Feb. 24, 2018)
California achieved a 95.7 percent game-day diversion, which included diversion of landfill garbage, cardboard and mixed paper recycling, bottles and cans, compost and food/recovery donations. The theme for the day centered around zero waste and sustainability, emphasizing reuse. Local elementary school students volunteered to “trash talk” with fans at the game, and other volunteers helped fans to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. Fans were also encouraged to donate used clothing in exchange for a repurposed Cal t-shirt.
Fan engagement winner: Arizona’s student-run campaign
Since 2015, Arizona has grown its program to engage the campus community and city of Tucson. The zero waste program is almost entirely run by student activists across several campus sustainability groups, including UA Green Team and Greening the Game. The student groups decided to adopt the entirety of the 2017-‘18 men’s basketball season. Students took over greater leadership roles to implement zero waste efforts which resulted in 27,580 pounds of recycling, 18,140 pounds of composting and 30,900 pounds of landfill materials for a full-season diversion rate of 59.7 percent.
Special recognition for exemplary effort: Arizona State (vs. USC, Feb. 8, 2018)
At this game, fans had the opportunity to win a zero waste swag bag. In order to participate, they had to take a picture or video of themselves recycling at the Green Game on Snapchat and use the unique geofilter that was made for the game. ASU also hosted a sustainability expo providing fans an opportunity to engage with sustainability representatives as well as to promote ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The high-profile nature of the expo helped to increase the exposure of zero waste and other sustainability initiatives at ASU. During the game, the 942 Crew student fan group dressed as the “bag monster” for the curtain of distraction.
Student-athlete engagement winner: Stanford for its student-athlete video
A Stanford field hockey student-athlete led her teammates to create promotional videos related to waste and recycling that showed the teammates juggling water bottles on their field hockey sticks and “scoring” by getting the water bottle in the recycling bin. The office of sustainability was able to use these videos to promote recycling and composting at the game by posting them to its social media channels.