Virginia Tech football games attract a massive amount of Hokie fans — and waste.
The university generates approximately 18.25 tons of waste at each home football game, most commonly bottles, cans, food, utensils and plates, said Denny Cochrane, Tech’s sustainability program manager.
To ease the amount of waste Tech students created “Starting from Scratch: Greening Your Game Day.” The document is a toolkit to assist universities nationwide in decreasing their amount of waste and implementing sustainability efforts on game day.
As part of the project, the Tech team created the Sustain Lane Initiative. They produced the Hokie stone rally towel, which is sold at the bookstore.
It is made of 100 percent recyclable materials and manufactured in a 200-mile radius of Tech. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it also creates local jobs in West Virginia and Tennessee. Moreover, all proceeds of this towel go directly into a fund that goes toward sustainability projects on campus.
Eventually, the idea is that Hokie fans purchase a towel and bring it to games to create a wall in the stadium. In the future, the towel will be available in different shades of gray, so when students hold it up in the stands it will give the allusion of a building.
“This is a creative strategy for everyone to directly contribute and have fun with it,” said Angie De Soto, Tech’s campus sustainability planner.
The idea for the main toolkit derived at the conclusion of the 2010 Game Day Challenge, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, when universities requested a resource on how to achieve sustainable game days.
This came to the attention of De Soto when she met Ron Vamp, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representative, at a conference in Denver, Colo. De Soto took on the challenge to develop a comprehensive document at Tech.
The students, working with other schools and organizations, conducted research to develop ways to tailgate in a greener fashion. They created a comprehensive survey of 100 questions that was sent out to the higher education community.
Financially, they found that taking a ton of waste to a facility costs $51, whereas taking a ton of recyclables only costs $26.
Some green ideas that are mentioned in the report from the research is putting recycling bins next to trash cans, giving tailgaters bags to collect their own recycling and giving fans an incentive to recycle.
Two different teams of students at Tech, totaling 13, were selected to participate in developing the toolkit. Erica Putman, a senior biology major and one of the students involved, became project manager her second semester working on the program.
“I’ve worked with environmental organizations before, but I wanted to take the next step and help do this huge project. Of course, given the chance to work with the EPA was also a big draw for me,” Putman said.
A technical experts panel, selected by Vamp, also assisted in the process. The panel included representatives from the University of Colorado Boulder, as well as Wake Forest, Ohio State, Penn State and Stanford universities. Each school shared perspectives on dealing with huge stadiums.
The College and University Recycling Coalition, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and Keep America Beautiful supported this project as well.