Zero Waste football game waits to tally final numbers

By Austin Metz | 10/21/12 7:07pm

Grand Valley State University’s homecoming game against Northwood University marked the universities first attempt at a zero waste football game.

“We haven’t tallied the numbers yet but based on the fact that some items can’t be composted or recycled, we were pretty close to accomplishing our goals,” said Josh Lycka, member of the Student Environmental Coalition. “Everything that could be recycled was and we had volunteers catching everything they could. If an item could be composted it was composted and if it could be recycled it is was recycled.”

SEC president Gwen Gell contributed the success of the program to the practice that has been done at games in the past.

“We have been doing this for every game so we have had practice in the past,” Gell said. “It has been in a smaller scale in the past but it involved setting up bins and walking around during tailgating and asking people for recyclables and compost items.”

There were two sides to the zero waste program which started with centralizing trash reciprocals so volunteers could remind people what could be recycled or composted and what needed to be thrown away. By centralizing everything, it also forced people to look at where they were throwing things away. The other step was to go around and clean up litter following the game.

“We have a lot of waste that can be recycled or composted,” Gell said. “Following the game, we went around the stadium picking up trash and only collected one bag of trash. It was about correctly sorting and collecting that waste.”

Lycka felt that correctly sorting items can sometimes overwhelm individuals which is why volunteers were there to help.

“Most people, when they walked up, their eyes got bigger as they tried to process where everything had to go,” Lycka said. “We have had recycling bins around in the past but they didn’t know what went where so we were there to help.”

Both Gell and Lycka agreed that the overall response by the fans at the game was positive once they were shown where to put everything.

“I think that a lot of times we would stop people to show them what they were throwing away so it was a learning experience,” Gell said. “Overall, I think it was very postive.”

Steven Leeser,operations superviser at GVSU, helped organize the event with help from many student organizations.

“Hours of planning and organizing went into the event and that preparation was evident last night,” Leeser said. “Many thanks go to the Office of Sustainability, Campus Dining, Athletics, Facility Services, News and Information services, and Student Environmental Coalition.”

One of the more important things that was taken away from the event was that with a little encouragement, people are willing to help.

“Sometimes people walked up and didn’t even acknowledge us and threw everything in the trash,” Lycka said. “What we learned is that it only takes a little human contact to affect change. It only takes a little bit of a voice but we can never assume people understand something. People can and will change their behaviors if you approach them correctly.”

For the future, there is not to much that organizers would change except to make everything even more clear.

“One thing I would do is have the bins very clearly labeled,” Lycka said. “Maybe with colors and have a sign with what can go in each bin with pictures. If they don’t know where it goes, they will most likely throw it in the landfill.”

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