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College Football: Who's Winning at Sustainability?

By Sharon Chen
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College football season is not just about winning football games – it’s also about using these football games as a way to spread awareness about sustainability, to increase landfill diversion through recycling and composting, and to implement clean energy in stadiums across the country.

Which football powerhouses are also sustainability winners? By looking at the universities in the Power Five Conferences (the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pacific 12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference), Ohio State University comes out on top. The university has an impressive sustainability record: last year, the university diverted ninety-eight percent of its game day waste from landfills, and achieved a waste-to-landfill rate of 0.001 pounds per person. All food from the stadium’s kitchen is composted. OSU is also aiming to be completely waste-free by 2030.

To see which other college football teams made the list of sustainability powerhouses, read on.

Recycling Powerhouses in College Football’s Power Five Conferences

Michele Nestor | | September 24, 2015

College football is in play. From now until the last bowl game, while the drama grows on the field, the locker room, and the press box, another collegiate competition will be running simultaneously.

No helmets or pads are needed. Alumni, students, concessionaires, and fans will compete in the stands, food courts, and parking lots. The objective is to recycle more during home games than your opponents recycle at theirs. The Game Day Recycling Challenge pits schools that opt-in to the competition against others in their athletic conference. It isn’t headline news, like when the Nitanny Lions were disciplined by Joe Paterno and made to clean up Beaver Stadium, but the results are more impressive. Schools submit the results from one home game. Metrics include diversion rates, total weight recycled, greenhouse gas reductions, and pounds per person recycled and landfilled.

The Game Day Challenge is short lived, and as such, only a temporary measurement of recycling performance. That made us wonder. Do participating institutions implement serious recycling programs beyond the competition? What do major universities invest in recycling and other environmental initiatives compared to their football programs?

For answers we looked to schools with strong football legacies. Therefore, we picked the top participating Game Day Challenge schools from each of the Power Five Conferences. Included are the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

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