A Recycling Green Team is one of the best ways to promote fan participation in your sports department’s environmental programs. A “Recycling Green Team” is sometimes referred to just as a “Green Team” or “Game Day Recycling Team.” Its primary purpose is to enhance game-day recycling and waste diversion from landfill at your sports facilities. A Recycling Green Team can also be a valuable outreach tool for raising community awareness of your sports greening work and promoting recycling to your community.
Recycling Green Teams are typically comprised of students as well as volunteers from local community groups and other off-campus organizations (as opposed to an “Eco-Committee,” which is typically comprised of students and some campus-based staff).
Typical Recycling Green Team responsibilities on game day:
- Collecting recyclables from fans during the game
- Encouraging fans to recycle and/or compost by assisting in locating appropriate bins (sometimes team members are stationed next to bins throughout the facilities to teach fans about the bins and help them sort their waste correctly)
- Educating fans about your organization’s commitment to the environment
- Handing out wallet guides to fans with information about your sports greening initiatives and green tips for reducing their own daily environmental impacts
Benefits of a Recycling Green Team:
- Helping achieve your facility’s waste targets—such as increasing recycling rates
- Enhancing community awareness of your environmental commitments
- Providing a link between the campus, community, local organizations, and your internal sports department eco-committee
- Providing a source for new ideas and motivation based on feedback from students and fans at games
Recycling Green Teams are a great way for you to provide opportunities for the general public to connect with your organization and its values. They can help your organization to develop stronger community ties and give back to the community, all while establishing opportunities for positive press and benefiting the environment.
HOW TO FORM A RECYCLING GREEN TEAM:
Recycling Green Teams can include students, facility employees and/or volunteers from local environmental organizations, local student groups from high schools or middle schools, community organizations, and the general public. A diverse team will likely give you better feedback on your green initiatives, help you engage a broader demographic, and strengthen your community outreach programs. Also, the more groups you seek to involve, the more interest you are likely to attract for growing your team.
The number of Recycling Green Team volunteers needed can vary based on the task and on your event and facility size. For instance, if they are collecting recyclables from fans during a game, generally a range of 20-60 volunteers can effectively cover a facility. Volunteers collecting recyclables tend to work most efficiently in pairs. Your team should include a few team coordinators to determine shifts and allocate areas of the facility to cover.
Your operations staff should consult with Recycling Green Team coordinators to determine the best way to collect recyclables to maximize participation and minimize disruption. For example, it’s often best to schedule collections during predetermined breaks in the game so as not to block fan views or pathways, and to assign convenient drop-off locations for full bags. All other facility staff should be briefed on the presence of the Recycling Green Team volunteers and their collection protocols.
RECRUITING AND REWARDING RECYCLING GREEN TEAM VOLUNTEERS:
Provide all game-day volunteers with free access to the game and identify seats or standing locations for them to watch the game from when they aren’t working.
Recognize volunteers with in-game announcements and online shoutouts.
Consider distributing branded t-shirts, hats, reusable coffee mugs, water bottles, or shopping bags along with a memo or brochure explaining your athletics department’s initiative to reward volunteers.
Recognize a “Green Team Volunteer of the Day” with a picture of the volunteer and congratulatory post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other social media platform.
Organize Recycling Green Team social events, including a “Thank You” event at the end of the semester or year to thank all volunteers. Your events could include food, music, and/or speeches or small awards to recognize stand-out and dedicated volunteers during the season. Refer to the Events section of this Greening Advisor for suggestions on enhancing the environmental attributes of your event.
Post volunteer recruiting announcements on your athletics department’s website and around your facility, announce during games, and/or allow fans to sign up at the facility
Offer a monthly raffle for autographed items, game tickets, or other prizes for participation in your athletics department’s Recycling Green Team
Make announcements during games about the Recycling Green Team and recycling procedures, and provide clear and very visible signs at recycling bins, water fountains, and food stations facility-wide to promote compliance with the athletics department’s eco-practices
TIPS FOR RECYCLING GREEN TEAM OPERATIONS:
Successful volunteer Recycling Green Teams smoothly integrate into your existing event operations. Identify Recycling Green Team coordinators and designate one or two members of your own staff to be coordinators as well. Both types of coordinator are needed. All Recycling Green Team coordinators will need to work with facilities, event management, security, and custodial staff to determine the instructions for volunteers and the best methods for collecting recyclables in order to maximize fan engagement while minimizing disruption of the viewing experience. See NRDC’s Guide to Recycling Green Teams for additional guidance.
Here are the key steps to take to get your Recycling Green Team initiative off to a good start:
Assemble the volunteer list well in advance: Some events can require as many as 40 or 50 volunteers. It takes time to coordinate your volunteers’ commitments, so send an announcement requesting Recycling Green Team volunteers at least six weeks in advance of the start of the season or single game. Be sure to provide enough time to complete any necessary credentialing of volunteers before games, and to produce the shirts and bags that will identify them as Recycling Green Team members.
Brief volunteers before the game(s): A few days before the game, bring all volunteers together for a briefing in order to explain to them the importance and visibility of their work. Make sure to remind all volunteers that in doing this work they are representing the athletics department and institution. Explain that being part of a Recycling Green Team is an ecologically valuable undertaking, and that it is real work. Brief all volunteers on logistical details related to their arrival so they are not surprised to learn of requirements on the day of the game(s). Let them know they are expected to work during their entire time on duty, with the exception of one quick meal break. See NRDC’s Guide to Recycling Green Teams for a sample pre-event briefing memo.
Confirm items being collected and methods of collection: At the pre-event briefing, inform the Recycling Green Team what items they will be collecting. Typically, Recycling Green Teams collect only recyclable aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and plastic beverage cups. It can be helpful to show the team physical examples or pictures of all the types of items they will be collecting. Let the volunteers know that if fans want to give them other materials, they should feel comfortable suggesting that those other items be placed in the proper bins at the venue. To help prepare the volunteers for this, provide examples of items that will be used at the game(s) that they should NOT collect. Also, describe the collection gear that the volunteers will be given, including collection bags, gloves, T-shirts, and hats. Collect Tee-shirt sizes from all volunteers well ahead of the game(s). Recommend that all volunteers wear comfortable shoes and casual attire for the game(s).
Consider educating the volunteers about the venue’s environmental program: You might also choose to educate the volunteers about the venue’s environmental program in case fans ask them about what the venue is doing for the environment more broadly. If the Recycling Green Team is sponsored, inform the volunteers about the sponsor’s relationship to the venue’s environmental work. If the Recycling Green Team is currently your only method of public recycling, go to the Recycling page of this guide to learn about setting up a more robust recycling program at your venue(s).
Check in and brief volunteers on the day of the game(s): Instruct volunteers to arrive with enough time to receive their credentials and to attend a pre-game briefing. At this briefing, inform volunteers where they can store their belongings; distribute Tee-shirts, hats, and/or other gear identifying volunteers as members of the Recycling Green Team; and hand out plastic bags for collecting the recyclables. You should also conduct a walkthrough of the venue to point out where each volunteer will be working, identify drop-off locations for full collection bags, and indicate where volunteers should go to view the event when not working. Depending on the type of sports event, Recycling Green Team volunteers may be positioned only inside the sports venue (e.g., at a baseball, basketball, or hockey event), in the aisles and on the concourse, or throughout tailgating and food court areas around the venue and at the venue’s entrances (e.g., at a football or tennis event). Recycling Green Team volunteers should be instructed not to obscure views or interfere with fans going to purchase food and beverages during the game(s).
Ensure that venue staff, concessions employees, security, and guest services are informed about the presence and logistical needs of the volunteers: Your staff will need to brief guest services and security staff about the Recycling Green Team’s activities and responsibilities to ensure that team members can carry out their tasks and view the game(s) when not working. Supply volunteers with the mobile phone numbers of their coordinators so that they can reach out if they get confused or need additional guidance.
Remind all ushers about the Recycling Green Team’s work immediately preceding the start of the game(s): Depending on the size of the venue, one or two Recycling Green Team coordinators from the volunteer organization should constantly roam the venue to assure at all procedures are being followed and that the volunteers are performing their tasks correctly. The coordinators should make a point of introducing themselves to each usher in the venue, reminding them about what the Recycling Green Team shirts look like, when the Recycling Green Team members will perform their duties, and where the volunteers will be standing when not working to watch the game. Coordinators should introduce ushers to the volunteers working in their sections of the venue.
Collect recyclables: Generally, Recycling Green Team volunteers, working in pairs, should begin their collection by walking to the bottom of their designated section and collect recyclables while walking back up toward the concourse. Collections should take place at the most convenient regular breaks in the game. For example, for baseball games, collections should take place at every half-inning break, with the last recycling sweep occurring at the conclusion of the seventh inning. For arena events such as basketball and hockey games, we suggest that pairs of Recycling Green Team volunteers walk up the aisles during television time-outs and between period breaks. Ideally, one pair of volunteers should be assigned to sections of three aisles that connect to the main concourse. If you have a limited number of volunteers, we suggest assigning Recycling Green Team pairs to work only the lower concourse.
Drop off bags of recyclables: When a volunteer has a full bag of recyclables, she or he should tie the bag tightly and bring it to the designated location, or should give the bag to a roaming coordinator to do so. In no case should the Recycling Green Team member leave full bags of recyclables lying anywhere on the concourse.
Alert attendees about the Recycling Green Team: Use digital signs, audio announcements, in-arena videos, a PSA and/or a PA announcement to inform fans of the Recycling Green Team. For baseball events, we suggest at least two announcements during the game, with the first one made at the start of the first recycling sweep and the second one at the start of the fifth inning. At other games, we suggest an announcement at the start of each recycling collection. In addition, you can arrange to have an animation and announcement run across the digital signage and use the in-arena video to show enthusiastic fans and Recycling Green Team volunteers collecting recyclables. The in-arena video can also have a “recycle cam,” like a kiss cam, to capture people caught recycling on the digital sign.
Check out and process volunteers: When they are done with their shift, team members should remove their branded Recycling Green Team Tee-shirt and/or hat and meet with coordinators before departing.
RECYCLING GREEN TEAM BRANDING & OUTREACH:
Ideally, volunteers should be equipped with matching shirts and/or hats to identify themselves to fans while collecting. This can be a great opportunity to involve sponsors who might want to co-brand shirts, hats, and/or recycling bins to promote your environmental efforts.
Consider making public service announcements, scrolling notices on the videoboard, and/or posting signs near recycling bins to identify the team volunteers collecting recyclables and provide information about your recycling program. Also consider including short notices with recycling information in event programs.
Below are some sample announcements and instructions for Recycling Green Team volunteers.
SAMPLE RECYCLING GREEN TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT
[Our athletics department] has launched an department-wide effort to improve our environmental performance and sports facilities’ operations. To help with this effort, we are looking for Recycling Green Team volunteers from our campus community to help educate fans about our initiatives and collect recyclables during games.
The [department/Co-branded] Recycling Green Team is a group of volunteers that walk down the aisles during game breaks to collect recyclables and educate fans about our recycling/composting program and other environmental initiatives. Volunteers are asked to arrive at the facility 45-60 minutes before the game to receive instructions, pick up a Recycling Green Team t-shirt and equipment, and participate in a brief training session.
In exchange for your volunteering services, you will be provided with [OPTIONAL: a free meal and be able to watch the game in standing room only sections of the facility]. Collection will only occur during game breaks so as not to obscure the view of other fans. You will also be entered into monthly drawings to win select prizes, merchandise and tickets to upcoming games.
Please email _________ to volunteer. We hope you will join us in promoting environmental initiatives at our facility and in the community!
SAMPLE RECYCLING GREEN TEAM VOLUNTEER INSTRUCTIONS
Thank you for volunteering for [Our athletics department’s] Recycling Green Team. Please be advised of the following policies and instructions while volunteering [be sure to adapt these instructions for your sports facilities]:
[Instructions on what items to collect, and recycling/composting procedures at your facility] Collect plastic bottles (water, soda, beer bottles) ONLY. All bottles [and cups, if these are being recycled also] can be collected in a single bag. [If cups or other containers are compostable and not recyclable, add instructions like the following:] The beer cups are bio-based plastic which is compostable, and not recyclable. Guests should be encouraged to dispose of these cups in labeled COMPOST bins around the stadium.
[Instructions on when to collect so as not to obscure views or pathways – predetermine with appropriate operations staff] As soon as every half inning ends (every three outs) / there is a commercial break / break in the game, proceed to the bottom of the section and begin collecting. Return to standing room areas as soon as the game resumes. No collecting should be done while the game is being played in order not to block the view of fans. Introduce yourself to facility and security staff as part of the Recycling Green Team.
[Instructions on coverage areas] Make sure to rotate aisles. This will ensure that all sections receive recycling service throughout the game.
[Instructions for where to deposit recyclables] Once a bag is full, bring it to the central drop off location [located ____] or give to a runner or facility employee who can drop it off.
Please do not sit in the seating bowl at any time.
[Allotted shifts for volunteers] Recycling Green Team members will be expected to collect recyclables until [the 7th inning]. After this time, you may stay to watch the game, but please remove your Recycling Green Team shirt to indicate that you are off duty.
Please remember: By volunteering you are representing [our athletics department] It is our goal to create a safe, fun, family friendly environment and entertainment experience for all fans and guests by providing exceptional customer service.
PROFESSIONAL SPORTS GREEN TEAM EXAMPLES
The Boston Red Sox Poland Spring Green Team is a group of 30-50 local college student volunteers. The volunteers spread throughout the seating bowl at Fenway Park during the game to gather plastic bottles and cups. In 2008 the Green Team collected over 25 tons of plastics. In addition to the Green Team, fans are encouraged to use the Poland Spring/Waste Management recycling bins throughout the ballpark to dispose of their recyclable items. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.
The St Louis Cardinals Ice Mountain Green Team is a group of volunteers who walk down the aisles of the seating bowl between innings collecting recyclables from fans and promoting recycling at Busch Stadium. With the help of the Ice Mountain Green Team, 745 tons of recyclable materials were diverted from local landfills in 2010. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.
Beginning in 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates implemented a robust recycling program at PNC Park. At the end of each game, the Pirates have game day staff stationed at the exits of each section to accept any plastic bottles, which fans are encouraged to collect from their seating areas. A “Green Team” made up of members from the PNC Park cleaning staff walks through every area of the ballpark picking up all plastic bottles prior to the ballpark’s cleaning each night. All bottles are collected and recycled. Contoured bottle-shaped recycling receptacles with the “Let’s Go Bucs. Let’s Go Green” logo are placed throughout the park. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.