Ragin Cajuns Kick Off to Composting

I obviously won't be making it out to many college football games this season, although I do plan on cheering on my Ragin Cajuns from home each weekend.

For the past few years, the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability has led a recycling initiative both inside the stadium and at every tailgating spot. A recycling bin would accompany every trash can, and the school would participate in the annual Game Day Challenge (which is now apparently defunct), where the season landfill diversion rates would be scored between all participating universities.

But this year, the Office of Sustainability is going for a new tactic: going zero-waste!

For the first time, compost bins will be located throughout the stadium, with recycling bins to accompany them. According to a UL Lafayette press release, trash cans will be removed. It's a bold move, but one that should result in a sustainable touchdown by the end of the season.

Student volunteers will help to direct visitors to the appropriate receptacle for their waste, which will help with educating everyone on what is compostable and what is recyclable.

If you'd like to volunteer, sign up at this form.

Now, Cajun Field will serve food on biodegradable plates or in reusable containers instead of plastic-lined paper products. Wooden spoons, forks and knives will replace plastic utensils. Fans will consume beverages from either aluminum cans or recyclable plastic cups, and they can request compostable straws.

The move is part of a larger campus-wide effort to produce zero waste. This summer, UL Lafayette approved a Sustainability Strategic Plan that calls for reusing, recycling or composting trash that otherwise would be bound for the landfill.

"Cajun Field is the first stadium in Louisiana to move toward a zero-waste goal," says Gretchen Vanicor, director of the Office of Sustainability. “With the changes we have made inside Cajun Field for this season, we believe more than 90 percent of the materials inside the stadium will be either compostable or recyclable.”

When it comes to tailgating spots, trash cans will remain for now, but tailgaters are encouraged to support the zero-waste efforts and minimize their waste, choose reusable containers when possible, and avoid using Styrofoam and glass.

After each of the home football games, recyclable materials collected inside the stadium will be sent to a processing and recovery facility.

The compostable material per game is expected to fill 20 cubic yards, filling roughly three dumpsters. It will be trucked to the University’s Experimental Farm near Cade, Louisiana. Discarded food, containers, straws, cups and other biodegradables will be composted, becoming organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.

Compost also reduces the need for chemical-based fertilizers and lessens methane emissions from landfills.

"In addition to the materials collected at Cajun Field, compost made in Cade will contain materials from local sugar mills," says  James Foret, an instructor in UL Lafayette’s School of Geosciences.

Those materials include bagasse, the dried residue left after juice is extracted from sugarcane, nutrient-enriched mud from filtration systems, and ash from boilers. Tree and grass trimmings from the Experimental Farm and the University’s main campus will be added as well.

So, as you attend a Ragin Cajuns home football game this season and use plates, utensils or straws, you can also cheer on the fact that you're contributing to eco-friendly soil that will be used at different campus sites to help plants and trees grow.

Plus, don't forget that with the new solar lab nearby, part of Cajun Field's power will be drawn from the sun. Who knew wearing red and white could be so green!?

UL's home game schedule is:
  • September 1 vs Grambling State University Tigers
    September 22 vs Coastal Carolina
  • October 13 vs New Mexico State for Homecoming
  • October 27 vs Arkansas State
  • November 10 vs Georgia State
  • November 17 vs South Alabama

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