Students > Engaging Students & Student-Athletes

While many different people make college sports possible, from athletics staff and facility management to the campus administration and donors, students can be a catalyst for kickstarting or advancing a successful sports greening program. Students can help advance collegiate sports greening efforts in many ways. Encourage students to take ownership of the research and planning for sports greening initiatives.

WHY INVOLVE STUDENTS

  • Student involvement can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources.

  • Student involvement can help attract support from faculty, campus administration, and other departments. Students are a common denominator across all campus departments. Consider involving students in presentations to campus partners to help solicit program buy-in.

  • Students have valuable insights about the best ways to appeal to their peers. Students can help develop creative, perhaps humorous outreach that helps to keep fans engaged and prevent “messaging fatigue.”

  • Student-athletes are powerful messengers for environmental information both on and off campus as they play in front of tens of thousands, sometimes millions, of other students and fans over a season. They are often role models on campus and in their communities, so they have unique opportunities to model environmental stewardship.

  • Student-athletes have intimate knowledge of sports facilities. Seek their input when designing new facilities to develop a better understanding of users’ needs and help improve building performance.

HOW TO INVOLVE STUDENTS

Clearly communicate the variety of student benefits when recruiting students to help with your sports greening initiatives. Appeal to their interests and publicize the perks up front. Present a variety of volunteer options for students to make either short-term commitments (such as game day recycling staff or “recycling green teams”) or longer-term commitments (such as research interns).

Have more detailed information about volunteer opportunities available upon request so that students know what they’ll be doing and feel comfortable signing up for the workload.

Recruiting Game-Day 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 providing recycling “green team” gear (T-shirts or hats) 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.

  • Consider holding a “Thank You” event at the end of the semester or year to thank all volunteers. Your event 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.

Recruiting Interns for an Eco-Committee

  • 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.

Visit the sections of this guide on Student Eco-Committee and Student Recycling Green Team for more recommendations on developing successful sports greening student engagement programs.

MANAGING STUDENT TURNOVER

Students can help relieve pressure on staff time by managing the research and planning of sports greening initiatives. However, it’s important to have a plan for maintaining continuity and momentum of greening projects when students graduate.  

Establish a system for students to report about each project that they manage. These reports should include project dates, names of all staff and students working on the project, names and contact details for all on- and off- campus partners contacted about the project, project plans, progress made against those plans, strategies used, challenges faced, and future goals for the project.  

Ensure these project reports are accessible to incoming eco-committee members, which will help allow for smoother transitions from year to year as students graduate. Ideally this system will be a set of electronic folders arranged by academic year that can be easily accessed online by current and future staff and students affiliated with the sports greening program.  

“We keep projects active by transitioning leadership to another student when members graduate,” says Mary Beth Barham, former research assistant from Yale University’s Bulldog Sustainability program, varsity field hockey player and environmental studies major (class of 2013). “In order to do this and keep track of project progress from year to year, each member is responsible for creating a project summary for each initiative they are in charge of.”

*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.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

NRDC: College Green Sports Video Channel
Yale University: Sports Green Team Certification
University of Colorado Boulder: Ralphie’s Green Stampede
University of Florida: Florida Gators Sustainability
The Ohio State University: Zero Waste at Ohio Stadium
University of Michigan: Athletics Sustainability 
University of Washington: Go Purple. Be Gold & Green Husky Green Team
University of Pennsylvania: Athletics Eco Reps
Yale University: Bulldog Sustainability
Columbia University: EcoLions
Bowdoin College: Bowdoin Green Athletics
Middlebury College: Greener Athletics
North Carolina State: Wolfpack Athletics Training For A Sustainable Future
Indiana University: Greening Cream & Crimson
University of Georgia: Sustainable Athletics
The Ivy League: Ivy Green Initiative
Davidson College: The Next Play