Game Day Sustainability

There are one and a half days left in August, pro football preseason is underway, and school is back in session. Oh yeah, one more thing: college football is back this weekend! It's still hot as balls outside (meteorological terms), but this time of year always has me ready for that transition to fall. And part of what I love about fall is football games.

But even more than the game itself, I look forward to the tailgating. While I'm sure it's a nationwide pastime, it feels like the south really embraces the spirit of tailgating, and it adds to the big event that is each Saturday's game. The spots are reserved, the food is prepared, the drinks are flowing, and the children are playing games. Okay, the adults too, probably.

And the waste piles up, both inside and outside the stadium.

But thanks to campus sustainability efforts, football games are going as green as the field! (Ohhh...sorry, y'all.)

For the third season, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Office of Sustainability is working to make Ragin Cajun football games more zero-waste. Check out their PSA here, and get a load of these stats:

In 2014, the diversion rate (amount of waste that went into the recycling bin instead of the trash) for the season was 28.94%.

In 2015, the diversion rate jumped up to 59.28%!

The office's goal for the 2016 season is the achieve a diversion rate of 70%. And it's up to all you Ragin Cajun fans to help them get there!

How can you do that?

Look for the recycling bins located literally ALL OVER Cajun Field. Every single tailgating space will have one trash can and one recycling bin. And the recycling bin has a guide on top of what can and cannot be placed in there. It's that easy! I mean, you're going to dispose of everything you use, right? I KNOW you aren't just going to litter the ground...


Inside the stadium there are divided bins everywhere to collect your recycling.

And, the office evaluated their efforts last year and realized the entrance gates needed the most improvement - so now, there will be more bins (where you can toss what you can't bring into the game), and zero-waste team members will be around each gate to remind everyone to recycle bottles and cans.

"But Caitlin...I cheer for the Tigers!"

Although I'm a Ragin Cajun alumni and season ticket holder, I love seeing the efforts from other state schools to reduce their waste as well.

LSU's campus sustainability also provides recycling bins around Tiger Stadium. And for the 2015 season, their recycling efforts earned the top spot in the Keep America Beautiful Game Day Recycling Challenge! They collected the highest amount of recycling among all participating schools, collecting 86,400 pounds last year. UL Lafayette also participates in the challenge.

I like to think my efforts of placing this lost beer can inside the recycling bin it was on top of last year is what helped LSU earn first place. I'm sure the person who drank this beer is happy to know that it DID find its way inside. I'm sure.

Back to the Game Day Recycling Challenge...last year, UL Lafayette, LSU and Tulane all participated, and this year UL Lafayette and LSU are registered for another season.

Now that we've got recycling programs and zero-waste efforts out of the way, let's talk about other ways YOU can be more sustainable when tailgating, no matter which school or team you cheer for.

  • Skip driving your car. Traffic is a mess and parking is already a hassle, so carpool with others, ride your bike or arrange to get dropped off. 

Beats parking in a field half a mile away, does it not?
Strategic bicycle loading system.

  • Don't use styrofoam cups for your drinks! They are not recyclable and not biodegradable. Bring a reusable plastic cup, or a stainless steel bottle (insulated keeps beer cold for a long time, just saying).
  • Leave the glass at home. If it breaks it can cause injuries or flat tires. And no one wants a shard of glass in their foot on game day. Beer cans are recyclable and safer than bottles.
  • Reuse the souvenir soft drink cups.
  • Pack a reusable ice chest instead of those cheap disposable styrofoam coolers.
  • Pack tailgating food in reusable containers instead of disposable. Reusable plastic containers are usually the perfect solution. Again, skip the styrofoam!
  • Bring napkins and paper towels made with recycled materials.
  • Choose disposable plates/silverware made with recycled materials. Many grocery stores carry options with a recycled material percentage. Or go for compostable, plant-based or bagasse plates! If you are committed to a reusable option at your tailgating spot, melamine is a great lightweight, unbreakable option, especially for children.

  • Don't litter! Whether you are inside or outside the stadium, put trash where it belongs. And on the ground is NOT where it belongs. The hundreds of bins are there so waste can stay off the ground.

Items that go in recycling: aluminum, paper (as long as it's not wet), plastic #1-#3 and cardboard.   


Items that don't go in recycling: food, styrofoam, plastic bags, wood, bottle caps, disposable plates/silverware.

Flashback from the 2014 season - I always shake my head at the irony of litter outside of a trash can.

Don't forget your tailgating sustainability for pro football as well. I wrote a post back in 2012 on how the NFL and some individual teams are going green, although it's probably due for an update this year!

Once Saturday is over, get ready to do it all again on Sunday for NFL football! Geaux Saints!

Zero-waste is a touchdown!

Okay, I am now more ready than ever for football season to start! These sunsets. The rewatching of Tim RigginsI meanFriday Night Lights for the fifth time. The smell of everyone's food during tailgating. Visiting with old and new friends. The marching band jams. The hint of cooler air.

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