A successful sports greening program requires support from university/college leadership and diverse departments across campus.
Recognize that each campus department—athletics, recreation, facilities, construction, and sustainability, among others—has different staff, budget, expertise, incentives, and priorities. These factors influence interdepartmental interest in and support for sports greening efforts. Listen to the needs of all stakeholders. Take the time to learn how they do things and why. Tailor greening objectives and plans according to the challenges that different departments and facilities may face.
The following graphic provides a snapshot of the variety of on- and off-campus stakeholders that can contribute to a successful greening program within the athletics and/or recreation departments on your campus. As the titles, responsibilities, and organizational structure of these groups vary significantly from campus to campus, this is only an example of potential sports greening partners and the assets each may offer.
Consider mapping out your own network by identifying the various stakeholders that could benefit your campus sports greening efforts. These partners can bring resources to the table, such as funding, staff time and/or volunteers, expertise, legitimacy, connections, outreach and/or marketing support, sponsorship, infrastructure, and experience. Evaluate the value existing or potential partners could bring to your program.
ON-CAMPUS PARTNERS TO PRIORITIZE
While a successful sports greening program requires support from a diverse range departments across campus, there are a few on-campus partners that you should prioritize. Below is a list of the on-campus partners to prioritize with brief explanations of why they’re important for building a strong sports greening program.
Athletics/Recreation Department(s) – A staff champion (or group of champions, to help ensure continuity if there is staff turnover) within athletics and recreation is invaluable for advancing greening work. They will likely have valuable knowledge of existing facilities and systems. They can also help build support within their departments for environmental commitments and new greening initiatives.
Students/Student-Athletes – Students are an asset to any program. They can help attract further institutional support and buy-in from across campus. Their involvement can also help reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Student-athletes, in particular, can provide valuable insight into users’ needs during building renovation or new construction to help improve building performance. Engage the Student Athlete-Advisory Committee, student environmental groups, varsity team captains, student government and any other interested students.
Sustainability Office – Sustainability staff (and/or faculty) can help identify greening opportunities across sports facilities. They are also best equipped to educate sports staff about the importance of environmental stewardship and help draft environmental policies for sports, in concert with any campus commitments. They may also be able to point to successful initiatives at peer institutions, which can serve as a guide.
Facilities – Facilities staff can help commission energy, water, and waste audits to identify opportunities for resource conservation and financial savings in your sports facilities. Facilities staff may have the expertise to conduct these audits, which can result in recommendations for various infrastructure upgrades and improvements to building management systems.
Communications – It’s important to work with communications staff to integrate 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.
The following sections provide additional advice for how to engage representatives from these campus groups. Remember, before approaching potential campus partners or other stakeholders, do your homework. Understand the systems already in place and be prepared to build the case for sports greening. See the Making The Case page of this guide for additional guidance. This information will help you understand the current systems, motivations, objectives, and interests of the partners you seek to engage.
ATHLETICS & RECREATION
It is crucial to involve staff and students from across athletics and recreation departments to successfully enhance your sports department’s environmental performance. Consider convening a staff meeting or sending a memo to all staff members informing them of your department’s environmental goals. Also consider forming an eco-committee of interested staff members to help oversee and implement your department’s efforts and to provide new ideas and feedback to relevant departments.
RECRUITING GREENING CHAMPIONS WITHIN ATHLETICS AND RECREATION
Many athletics and recreation greening initiatives are launched by a single staff member or student motivated to implement change. These “champions” can be critical motivators in starting a greening initiative, though you will eventually need to include a wide range of staff and stakeholders to ensure that the initiative becomes an integral part of your operations.
A successful greening initiative is one that embeds itself in the culture of an organization. A greening initiative must be bigger than a single person, who may at some point leave the department. Make sure the greening initiative is supported by upper management to promote department-wide buy-in.
Identify athletics staff members and/or student-athletes who demonstrate a personal interest in protecting the environment to help spearhead change. Staff who make everyday green choices–like commuting by bike, using a reusable water bottle, or recycling–are likely to be interested in new opportunities to help green their department as well.
Reach out to a variety of stakeholders within athletics, such as administrative staff, coaches, athletes, marketing and development staff, and custodial and grounds staff. Approach these potential “champions” by applauding their current green initiatives and then offering them additional greening opportunities.
OFFER SUPPORT AND SOLUTIONS
Remember that sustainability is a confusing term. Provide athletics and recreation staff with concrete sports greening project examples. Point to successful initiatives at similar peer institutions. Present a menu of greening opportunities for athletics to choose from. Indicate available resources and partners on and off campus for successful implementation. Help identify the assets these partners can provide for sports greening work, including funding, expertise, infrastructure, project legitimacy, and outreach support. Don’t assume athletics staff will have the time or resources to run a new greening program. Offer ongoing staff support and/or help recruit student interns and volunteers.
STUDENTS & STUDENT-ATHLETES
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. This can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Seek student input when designing new facilities; developing a better understanding of users’ needs can help improve building performance.
Engage students majoring in environmental studies, sports management, and/or marketing to develop creative, perhaps humorous outreach and educational materials that can help to keep fans engaged. Students have valuable insights about the best ways to appeal to their peers. Student involvement can also help attract support from faculty, campus administration, and other departments.
See the Students section of this site for more information about involving students and strategies for how to engage them.
FORM AN ECO-COMMITTEE
One of the best ways to promote the participation of employees is to form an eco-committee composed of interested students and staff. An eco-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. An eco-committee should meet regularly to discuss progress, goals, and strategies. In addition, it should periodically provide updates to upper management.
See the Student Eco-Committee section of this guide for more information about how to develop a successful eco-committee.
It is crucial for collegiate athletics and recreation departments to work with any available campus sustainability staff when developing a sports greening program. Sustainability staff will likely have a most valuable expertise regarding identifying resource saving opportunities, deciding which greening initiatives to prioritize, integrating these plans with broader campus sustainability goals, flagging sustainability case studies from other campuses, identifying potential sponsors from the environmental products sector, and implementing these initiatives. Meet with sustainability staff and interested students studying sustainable business (or other related fields) to discuss these topics.
To encourage interdepartmental buy-in, sports greening initiatives should align with campus-wide sustainability goals. Start by researching institutional greening priorities, whether or not they are formal commitments.
Inventory existing on-campus resources. Identify opportunities for sports departments to support broader campus objectives, such as “zero waste” goals or greenhouse gas reduction goals. These initiatives should aim to be measurable, with clear plans for implementation. Quantifying the impact of sports greening projects can help attract institutional funding and build campus-wide support.
It is crucial to track environmental data such as energy and water use, waste generation, and paper use to assess facility performance and identify opportunities for resource savings. Consistent data tracking across all sports facilities also allows you to set short- and longer-term goals and compare ongoing performance with past performance. Partner with campus facilities or other staff to develop or enhance your measurement system and data analyses. Quantify successes to determine where your greening investments are making the most impact and inspire your department to make further investments.
Work with facilities staff to take advantage of their expertise and any existing campus-wide data gathering systems (including any submetering initiatives). If your campus hasn’t yet implemented an environmental measurement system, you can track your facilities’ resource use with tools like the EPA’s Portfolio Manager and WasteWise programs. Or you can develop spreadsheets specific to each facility with data supplied by utilities, vendors, and service providers.
Meet with facilities and operations managers to express your interest in identifying “low hanging fruit” upgrades for sports facilities, some of which they may have already implemented in other campus buildings. They will likely already have ideas for opportunities for saving resources. A sports greening program that begins with financially sound environmental initiatives—such as upgrading to more efficient lighting fixtures, double-siding paper copies, printing less frequently, or installing water efficient fixtures and appliances—will help the program gain momentum by cutting costs and help attract interest for other greening opportunities.
By effectively working with communications staff to communicate information about your department’s environmental initiatives, you can involve students and fans and encourage them to participate in these initiatives in the facility and improve their own behavior. If your department has achieved significant results, consider issuing a press release, and publicize your efforts through advertisements and announcements to inspire others to follow your lead.
Effective communication will also improve the success of facility-wide programs like recycling, which rely on the participation of fans and employees. Consider producing and airing PSAs at your facility during games to inform fans about your greening initiatives.
Consider providing general information, press releases, and regular updates about your environmental programs on a “green” page within your department’s website. You should also consider incorporating environmental messaging into your social media platforms, such as: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, or any others that your department uses.
These messages could include anything from quick facts about your environmental achievements to short video clips of fans getting involved in your recycling program on game days (perhaps alongside your mascot). Unique content about your green progress will enrich your existing social media material, strengthen your green brand, and provide fans with more incentives to follow your department on all social media platforms.
See the Outreach section of this guide for more information about how to develop a successful communications on your sports greening work.
COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT GREEN WEBSITES
Yale University’s Bulldog Sustainability
University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Eco-Reps
Columbia University’s EcoLions
The Ivy League’s Ivy Green Initiative
University of Washington’s Husky Green Team
University of Florida’s Neutral Gator