Who To Involve > Annual Conferences & Supporting Organizations

Annual Conferences & Supporting Organizations

Several national organizations can offer support by sharing information about successful greening practices in place at athletics and recreation facilities across the country. Learn from your peers’ experiences, and take advantage of conference events and existing nonprofit resources—including those provided by NRDC, AASHE, the U.S. EPA, the Green Sports Alliance, NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, College & University Recycling Coalition, Keep America Beautiful, and Recyclemania. Learn more about these organizations and find links to their work in the “National Supporting Organizations” section below.

These organizations and annual events offer resources that can contribute to your green sports strategies, data collection tools, technologies, and processes. Attend conferences where possible to gather information from other schools, athletics departments, staff members, and students. You can also learn from professional sports greening practices, such as those outlined in NRDC’s “Game Changer” report.


Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit

Since its founding in 2011 in the southeast, the Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit has become a national event, tripling in size, with the third annual event in 2013 comprising three days of meetings and attracting more than 105 attendees. The Summit’s organizing partners include EPA, Keep America Beautiful, the College and University Recycling Coalition, Green Sports Alliance, Coca-Cola Recycling, Georgia World Congress Center Authority, and RecycleMania. The 2013 Summit, hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, drew attendance from universities across the country and featured a keynote speech by Gene Smith, the athletics director for The Ohio State University. Attendees represented the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-12, Ivy League, and Sun Belt conferences, and Division I, II, and III colleges and universities.

Green Sports Alliance Summit

The Green Sports Alliance Summit serves as a platform for the sports community to unite around sustainability – bringing together more than 600 industry stakeholders to learn from 80+ leaders and engage their peers in meaningful dialogue around better environmental practices and proven solutions that help to advance the green sports movement. Each year, the program covers the day’s most critical topics in professional and collegiate sports greening with a mix of workshops, case study presentations, leadership plenaries, keynotes and venue tours.

AASHE Conference & Expo

With nearly 2,000 participants, AASHE’s Annual Conference and Expo is the largest gathering of higher education sustainability professionals and students in North America. Each year, attendees from around the world will come together at the AASHE Conference and Expo to network and share new innovations, activities, frameworks, learning outcomes, tools, strategies, research, theory and leadership initiatives that are changing the face of sustainability on their campus and surrounding communities. Sports greening is covered among various topics during the educational sessions at the annual conference.

NIRSA Conference & Expo

The NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo is the premier event for collegiate recreation professionals, students, and vendors. There are four days of educational sessions, networking, career-building, and an industry-leading exposition. More than 2,800 students and colleagues from collegiate recreation gather each year to advance the profession. Leaders in collegiate recreation facilitate over 100 educational sessions and roundtables, covering topics from across all areas of campus recreation.



An international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, NRDC’s lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. In 2004, NRDC launched its sports greening program, pioneering the field. NRDC is the principal environmental advisor to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, the U.S. Tennis Association, and the Ivy League and is one of the advisors to the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. NRDC’s work greening North American professional and collegiate sports is the most comprehensive and successful program in the world. In 2009 NRDC cofounded the Green Sports Alliance.

The NRDC Sports Project partners collaboratively with professional sports leagues, scores of professional and collegiate sports teams, venues, sponsors and organizations like the Green Sports Alliance and the Stadium Managers Association. NRDC works with these organizations to help green facility operations, procurement and the sports industry’s global supply chain, while educating millions of sports fans about environmental stewardship.

NRDC’s work has helped the U.S. sports industry — leagues, teams and sponsors — shift to ecologically preferable operations, while also saving these organizations millions of dollars. NRDC helps leverage the unique cultural and market influence of sports to reach diverse stakeholders and audiences about the importance of environmental stewardship. Thanks to NRDC’s free technical resources and outreach, the sports industry is helping to address the serious ecological issues we face and build more sustainable communities. Learn more at www.nrdc.org/sports and @NRDCGreenSports. Use NRDC’s free resources, including the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report, NRDC Professional Sports Game Changer report, NRDC Guide to Composting at Sports Venues, and the Guide to Solar Energy for Your Stadium or Arena.


As of August 2013, Green Sports Alliance members represent more than 230 professional and collegiate sports teams and venues from 16 different sports leagues, including 16 NCAA sports programs and one additional university. Green Sports Alliance members have made a commitment to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and eliminate toxic chemicals, among many other ongoing greening initiatives. They are integrating sustainability into their core operations, engaging fans, and saving money in the process.

Alliance resources include an annual summit, monthly webinars, monthly newsletters, and greening “playbooks” for operations, e-waste recycling events, and onsite solar installations (co-authored by NRDC) at sports venues. The Alliance’s “Operations Roadmap” helps sports programs develop plans to reduce energy and water use, minimize waste, and adopt environmentally preferable procurement, among other topics. The Alliance also works closely with organizations such as NRDC, the EPA, AASHE, NIRSA, the U.S. Green Building Council, and NCAA conferences to provide resources specific to the needs of collegiate sports programs.

Membership in the Alliance is open to any sports team, venue, league, or collegiate program. The Alliance helps its members reach their environmental goals by providing direct support, facilitating networking with recognized leaders in the industry, compiling better practices in venue operations and communications, and hosting workshops. It works with a wide range of stakeholders at universities, from athletics department staff to facility operators to sustainability and recycling coordinators, and helps to increase collaboration between departments in order to reach common goals. The Alliance has held discussions on the conference level with the Pac-12, Big Ten, and West Coast Conference.


Game Day Challenge

In 2009, the EPA launched the Game Day Challenge, 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.

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.

EPA College and University Green Power Challenge

Each year the EPA issues a Green Power Challenge that is open to all U.S. colleges, universities, and conferences. The agency’s Green Power Partnership tracks colleges to determine the conference with the highest combined green power use in the nation. To be eligible for the challenge, an athletics conference must have at least one school in their conference registered as a Green Power Partner and an aggregate green power purchase of at least 10,000,000 kWh.

The EPA concludes the Green Power Challenge each April, naming a champion conference as well as the largest single green power user within each participating conference. The combined green power use of the 20 largest users among higher-education institutions within the Green Power Partnership amounts to more than 1.7 billion kilowatt-hours annually. By using green power instead of conventional power, these institutions are avoiding an amount of carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to emissions produced by the annual electricity use of over 182,000 American homes.

NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation

NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation (NIRSA), founded in 1950, is a member-based organization devoted to collegiate recreation and comprised of nearly 4,000 professionals, students, and businesses serving approximately 7.7 million students. Sustainability is one of NIRSA’s core principles and is at the forefront of the value initiatives underlying the association’s envisioned future.

In December 2011, NIRSA formed a Commission for Sustainable Communities with the goal of developing a multi year plan for integrating sustainability into the association and all domains related to the recreation profession. The NIRSA Commission for Sustainable Communities has collaborated with thought leaders and engaged the association’s membership to develop a number of resources aimed at moving the culture of collegiate recreation toward sustainability.


The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is an association of colleges and universities in the United States whose mission is to promote sustainability in higher education. The organization, a member-based nonprofit founded in 2001, provides resources and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research.

One of AASHE’s most successful programs is the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System (STARS). STARS is a voluntary self assessment for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS recognizes sports greening initiatives within the operations category in areas such as waste, water, and purchasing. There is also an innovation category that gives points for work that is not otherwise captured in the STARS self-assessment that could include sports greening efforts. For example, in 2010, the University of Colorado at Boulder acquired an innovation credit for being the first NCAA football stadium to adopt a “zero waste” policy (see the University of Colorado Boulder case study).

The AASHE website also features Campus Sustainability Forums, online platforms that foster conversations within the higher-education community on a variety of greening issues related to sports venues, including turf management and recycling.


The College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC) is a membership-based non- profit organization facilitating the exchange of technical knowledge and best practices on recycling and waste reduction programs among institutions of higher learning. Originally formed in 1992, CURC became a technical council of the National Recycling Coalition in 1995 before branching off as an independent organization in 2009. The CURC aims to advance recycling and sustainable materials management at colleges and universities. It is made up of 900 campus-based recycling professionals with a steering committee of recycling and sustainability program managers from universities across the United States.

The CURC supports collegiate recycling programs through technical assistance, education, and training, including a webinar series, annual workshops, and the development of best-practices manuals and toolkits. CURC members connect with each other through an email network and at gatherings in conjunction with state and national conferences. CURC also nurtures innovative programs such as the RecycleMania® Tournament, which uses a friendly competition format to engage students and staff on college campuses in recycling and waste reduction issues.

Keep America Beautiful

Keep America Beautiful (KAP) provides tools and resources to guide people’s understanding and actions to reduce waste, increase recycling, protect the natural areas of our communities and ensure beauty is the lasting signature. KAP’s mission is to engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment. KAP was formed in 1953 when a group of corporate and civic leaders met in New York City to discuss a revolutionary idea — bringing the public and private sectors together to develop and promote a national cleanliness ethic. KAP manages the RecycleMania program and helps administrate the Game Day Challenge to promote waste reduction activities to campus communities.


RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an 8-week period each spring, colleges across the United States and Canada report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and are in turn ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita basis, as well as which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.  With each week’s updated ranking, participating schools follow their performance against other colleges and use the results to rally their campus to reduce and recycle more.

National recognition is provided to the winning school in each category on the RecycleMania website and in a national press release. Winning schools receive an award made out of recyclable materials, and win the right to host that category’s special traveling trophy for the coming year. RecycleMania aims to (1) motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation, (2) generate attention and support for campus recycling programs, (3) encourage colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity in their effort to improve their programs over time, and (4) have a fair and friendly competition.

The RecycleMania program is governed by a non-profit 501c(3) organization called RecycleMania, Inc. made up of a board of directors made up of recycling and sustainability managers from a variety of participating universities. Program management for RecycleMania is provided by Keep America Beautiful. Program support is provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program and the College & University Recycling Coalition. RecycleMania is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors, The Coca Cola CompanySCA TissueAlcoa FoundationAmerica Forest & Paper Association.