A student-focused eco-committee, particularly one which includes student-athletes, will help foster crucial buy-in from athletics leadership and will help attract participation from staff at all levels of your sports department. An eco-committee (sometimes referred to as a “green team” or “sustainability committee”) is a valuable component of your sports department’s effort to enhance its environmental performance because it is the primary source for project ideas and implementation.
Student eco-committees are often made up of a combination of varsity student-athletes, club sports student-athletes, students with majors related to sustainability, and other interested students. They are typically established with involvement from some combination of staff from the athletics department, recreation department, sustainability office, facilities and other relevant staff.
NAME YOUR ECO-COMMITTEE
Brand your student Eco-Committee with a unique campus-specific name created in collaboration with the athletics department, such as “Athletics Green Team,” “Sustainability SAAC,” “Sports Eco-Committee,” etc.
Other examples of student eco-committee names include Bowdoin College’s “Bowdoin Green Athletes,” Columbia University’s “EcoLions,” Yale University’s “Bulldog Sustainability” team, the University of Pennsylvania’s “Athletics Eco Reps”, Davidson College’s “Student-Athlete Sustainability Coalition,” and the University of Washington’s “Athletics Sustainability Committee.”
For more guidance on branding see the Branding and Outreach Strategy page of this guide.
HOW TO FORM AN ECO-COMMITTEE
Since all operations engender some type of environmental impact, and since often students and staff have the best ideas about how to make environmental improvements in sports facilities, eco-committees are ideally made up of student-athletes from varsity, club and IM sports teams as well as staff from all related offices. Involving these different stakeholders can contribute to the overall success of your greening program in many ways.
Keep in mind the following tips when forming your eco-committee:
- Involving students is crucial for broader stakeholder buy-in and effective engagement of the student body.
- The participation of upper management at the office of the athletics director is necessary to ensure that sustainability is a priority throughout the department.
- Involving facilities staff is essential to identify opportunities for resource conservation and financial savings in sports facilities.
- Involving custodial services staff is critical to ensure the maximum use of non-toxic cleaning products.
- Involving front office employees is essential to ensure that procurement policies, office recycling, and paper reduction efforts are carried out.
- Involving communications and marketing staff is important for integrating greening efforts into department outreach, both internal and external. This will improve the success of facility-wide programs like recycling, which rely on the participation of fans and employees.
- Linking your sports department’s efforts to broader campus greening initiatives can provide opportunities to combine resources, collaborate on setting and achieving goals, and harmonize messaging and branding.
An eco-committee should meet regularly to discuss progress, goals, and strategies. Staff members of the committee may not need to attend every meeting, but they should be available to assist students and staff leaders with relevant greening projects. The eco-committee should periodically provide progress updates to upper management.
IDEAS FOR RECRUITING STUDENTS:
- Offer students hands-on work experience that can benefit their resumes. Consider offering letters of recommendation.
- Align sports greening initiatives with academic programs in order to allow students to implement their areas of study in sports facilities and operations on campus. Sports greening can provide a living lab for academic sustainability initiatives.
- Offer students leadership and public speaking opportunities.
- Describe the skills students will be able to hone as an intern, such as public speaking, researching, writing, graphic design, coordinating a team of volunteers, or other skills.
- Describe any other career growth opportunities such as attending local events or conferences related to sports greening, meeting professionals in the field of sustainability or sports greening, or gaining access to other leaders in business innovation around sustainability.
- OPTIONAL: Hourly pay for student interns committing at least five hours of work to the eco-committee (some schools choose to pay their heavily involved students, but many have also found success with student interns volunteering their time).
IDEAS FOR ENGAGING BOTH STUDENTS AND STAFF:
- Distribute branded reusable coffee mugs, water bottles, or shopping bags along with a memo or brochure explaining the department’s initiative
- Offer a monthly raffle or prizes for participation in the department’s eco-committee, or for offering suggestions on how to improve environmental performance
- Offer incentives or rewards for modeling greener behavior such as using alternate transit methods like biking, public transit, or carpools
- Organize eco-committee social events to build interest and reward members
SAMPLE MEMO TO STUDENTS AND SPORTS STAFF
Feel free to excerpt the sample memo below to publicize the eco-committee opportunity to students and staff. Ideally this memo will be circulated by athletics and recreation leadership to the entire campus community.
I’m writing to let you know that [our athletics/recreation department] is launching a department-wide effort to improve our environmental performance and facility sports operations. As you might know, our day-to-day operations, from energy and water use to the paper we purchase, can have a significant impact on the environment. By carefully focusing on reducing these impacts, we should be able to improve our department’s efficiency and enhance our brand while helping the environment and our bottom line.
The strategic objectives of our Environmental Initiative will include:
- Conserving, recycling, and purchasing ecologically superior paper
- Energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy
- Promoting recycling and waste reduction
- Efficient water use
- Using less toxic products
- Reducing global warming pollution
- Protecting biodiversity
- Promoting fan and sponsor awareness and education
We’ll begin this effort by creating an Eco-Committee that includes students and representatives of various offices. This committee will lead a department-wide diagnosis of our current environmental performance and draft an Action Plan that supports campus-wide sustainability goals and reporting, complete with specific recommendations, for consideration by senior management. We will review the plan together, suggest changes or additions, and then begin implementation.
This is an important effort for the department, not just because it can save us money, but especially because it can benefit the environment for future generations, including our students, campus community, and sports fans. By reducing our own contribution to environmental problems, we can be better citizens and members of our community.
I believe our environmental initiative will also enhance student-athlete health and performance, boost employee morale, and benefit community relations. I hope that as we devise and implement our plan we will be able to foster a department-wide commitment to environmentally intelligent practices of which we can all be proud.
In short, I hope our environmental initiative will benefit our department and institution on many fronts, and I hope you’ll join in this effort enthusiastically.
ECO-COMMITTEE INTERNSHIPS & APPLICATIONS
If you have a large number of students expressing interest in your sports eco-committee, consider establishing a more exclusive internship program with an application process to select the eco-committee.
An application can be a valuable tool because it allows you to assemble a committee with students who are driven to be there, are passionate about sustainability, want to engage their peers, are ready to invest time to be involved, and are excited about the opportunity.
The application process allows you to steer the pool of applicants toward the type of member you want. An application process can also help increase student interest by fostering a perception of the committee as selective.
The graphic below provides an example of an ideal application timeline:
Items to include in an eco-committee application:
- Request the student’s name, age, class, major, and sports involvement (if any)
- Outline eco-committee commitments, such as “students are required to: commit two hours minimum per week (one hour to a weekly lunchtime meeting during the academic year and one hour outside work), assist in coordinating sports greening initiatives, and assist in coordinating greening work at sports events”
- Outline basic expectations, such as: experience using campus sports facilities, interest in sustainability, good time management skills, general knowledge of environmental issues
- Request a brief statement describing why the student is interested in the eco-committee internship
- Include one or two questions that allow students to offer creative responses, such as: “What do you think are the greatest opportunities for resource efficiency across campus sports facilities? How would you engage student-athletes in a water conservation challenge across all locker rooms?”
After you have selected student interns, identify opportunities for other students interested in the sports greening program to participate in other volunteer initiatives. For example, provide all applicants with detailed information about Recycling Green Team volunteer opportunities in addition to internship opportunities.
Offer a schedule of volunteer opportunities to any internship applicants you do not select for the eco-committee. Record their contact details for future events or other projects that might require additional help. Review the Recycling Green Team page of this guide for more short-term volunteer ideas.
If you request student interns to commit 5-8 hours of work or more to the eco-committee, consider paying them for their work, if funds are available or can be raised for this purpose. Some schools choose to pay their heavily involved students, but many have also found success with student interns volunteering their time.
*HELPS EARN AASHE STARS POINTS*
Engaging students in your athletics and recreation greening programs can help your institution earn up to 40 points within the “Curriculum” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.
EXAMPLES OF STUDENT ECO-COMMITTEES
University of Pennsylvania: Athletics Eco Reps
University of Washington: Go Purple. Be Gold & Green Husky Green Team
Yale University: Bulldog Sustainability
Columbia University: EcoLions
Bowdoin College: Bowdoin Green Athletics
Middlebury College: Greener Athletics
Indiana University: Greening Cream & Crimson