Waste > Reduce and Reuse

The best way to cut down your waste stream is to reduce the amount of materials you need to discard.  Cutting down on unnecessary packaging and paper use, reducing the amount of disposable products your sports facilities use, and reusing materials can all reduce your waste generation.

For example, by reusing signs and banners, your athletics and recreation departments can avoid unnecessary printing costs and the environmental impacts of printing. Consider designing banners so that they can be easily reused, by avoiding listing dates or years, or ensure that the portions listing dates can be readily and cheaply altered.

Also consider producing signs from more durable materials, and ensure that these materials are ultimately recyclable. While they may cost more initially, they can save money in the long run by avoiding future printing costs.  Try to avoid purchasing banners made from PVC (vinyl), which is associated with toxic emissions in production, use, and disposal.

Many single-use products used at your sports offices and facilities might also be switched to reusable products.   For example, consider switching to reusable pallets and packaging, washable cleaning cloths/mops and dilution centers, dispensers for condiments instead of individual packages, and reusable water bottles and serviceware for facilities staff and sports department offices, to name a few examples.  Reusable products not only reduce waste, but can also save money.

Reducing paper use in department offices and events can also considerably cut down on waste and purchasing costs.  See the Paper Use Reduction section for more information.

Also consider reusable items when making purchases for concessions and merchandise.  See the Apparel & Souvenirs and Reusable Bags and Cups sections for more information.


The Portland Trail Blazers cleaning staff shifted from disposable paper products to reusable cleaning cloths, cutting a half-ton of cleaning waste out of the waste stream, and saving approximately $10,000 a year in reduced paper purchases.

Ghirardelli Chocolate, with the assistance of StopWaste, switched from shipping products in disposable cardboard boxes to reusable totes.  This switch eliminates 350 tons of waste associated with internal shipping annually, resulting in $520,000 in savings every year.


Student involvement in environmental initiatives can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Student involvement can also help attract support from facilities, athletics, recreation, campus administration, and other departments. The following idea is one example of a task for students to conduct in your sports facilities. This preliminary student project could help facilitate interest in switching to reusable materials across all sports facilities. Consider encouraging interested students to do the following:

Material Reuse Audit & Plan:

Identify any campus-wide reusable product purchasing policies or recommendations. Complete a walkthrough audit of all sports facilities to identify products that could be made with reusable materials. Some examples include banners, posters/signs, serviceware, water bottles, and hand towels in locker rooms. Identify any existing reusable products and flag opportunities for switching additional items to reusable materials. Consider writing up a business plan that identifies material alternatives (such as the ones listed on this page) and possible local vendors to help provide practical procurement alternatives and help encourage these product switches.

For example, Yale University students have written business proposals for simple athletics office changes such as investing in reusable mugs instead of disposable cups (one student calculated that an average ceramic cup is 60 times less expensive on a per-use basis than paper cups over its lifetime). More complicated initiatives such as upgrading recycling receptacles and mapping their ideal placement were also studied. Learn more by reading the full Yale University case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

Visit the relevant page in this guide for more ideas for Student-Led Project Ideas.

The Game Day Challenge

The Game Day Challenge is a friendly competition to encourage colleges and universities to reduce waste, recycle, and compost at their football games. During the challenge, colleges and universities implement, track, and report on their waste reduction and diversion programs at home football games. In 2012, the College and University Recycling CoalitionRecycleMania, and Keep America Beautiful took over administration of the Game Day Challenge, with ongoing support from EPA’s National Sustainable Materials Management Program.

Any U.S. college or university with a football program is eligible to participate in the Game Day Challenge. To join, schools are required to plan and implement a waste reduction program for a selected regular-season home football game. All participants must track and record data on waste generated, recyclables collected, composting collected, and attendance. Schools are then required to report their numbers within a week of the selected game via a form provided on the Game Day Challenge website.

Each year there are five award winners for the following categories: waste generation (for the school with the lowest amount of waste per capita), highest diversion rate (recycling plus composting), largest reduction in greenhouse gases, highest recycling rate, and greatest per capita reduction of organic waste.

Consider competing in the Game Day Challenge. The EPA offers free technical assistance to all Challenge participants by sharing case studies and “lessons learned” from colleges and universities that have implemented sustainable materials management approaches. The Game Day Challenge website also contains a variety of resources, including toolkits for how to set up and operate stadium and tailgating waste reduction programs as well as information about Game Day Challenge webinars.


Source reduction of waste is the most effective way to reduce your waste stream. By choosing products made with fewer materials or products that are reusable, your department and institution can help protect habitat, and save energy, water, and resources such as forests, fossil fuels, and metals. By reducing single-use products made from paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics, you can help reduce the harmful impacts associated with the extraction and processing of these resources, including oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.


Resource reuse and waste reduction at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Waste” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 5 points for the credit “OP 22: Waste Minimization.” 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.


AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
WasteWise – How to Start or Expand a Recycling Program
Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction
Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator