Why Be Green > Enhancing Campus Culture & Identity

As the “doorstep of the university,” athletics often has the greatest influence among campus departments on the visibility, culture, and brand recognition of a college or university outside the campus gates. Moreover, athletic and recreation facilities are often the centerpieces of college campuses, where students come together and school spirit is built. Consequently, college sports can serve as a valuable messenger promoting environmental stewardship, helping to cement it in campus culture and identity.

Campuses have long relied on sports achievements to help define and promote their institutional identity. Increasingly, environmental stewardship is also becoming part of a college or university’s brand. Sports greening can integrate sustainability into some of the institution’s strongest marketing and communications platforms.

Now collegiate sports industry leaders are enhancing how business is done and helping to expand students’ expectations about sustainability. This is helping to shift the environmental movement from scientific discussions of climate change or biodiversity loss to mainstream conversations about the future of our energy, food, and medical systems. The environmental crises we face are as serious for the future of our economy as they are for the survival of thousands of species, human cultures, and natural ecosystems around the globe.

Sports greening initiatives can help foster stronger working relationships between sports departments and an institution’s administration, faculty, and campus facilities by working collaboratively towards campus-wide goals. Specifically, greening programs help reduce the environmental impact of large sports venues, which can advance campus-wide environmental commitments to divert waste, reduce carbon emissions, and use more renewable energy.


According to Yale University Athletics Director Tom Beckett, Bulldog Sustainability capitalizes on Yale Athletics’ high visibility to influence the culture of the university. “Yale Athletics is pleased to partner with the university’s overall sustainability mission. Virtually the entire campus community, in some way, directly or indirectly, is connected to our teams, programs, and facilities; therefore we serve an important role in promoting the university mission to reduce Yale’s greenhouse gas emissions,” says Beckett. “We are committed to the mission of cultivating a culture of sustainability by integrating environmental and social values into our daily operations.” To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report

“Partnerships between the athletics department, the sustainability office, and the facilities management department are critical to successful sports greening at Bowdoin College,” says Bowdoin Green Athletes cofounder Alex Tougas, class of 2014. “Student sustainability groups are important for strengthening those partnerships.” Bowdoin Green Athletes, formed in the spring of 2012, is a group of student-athletes committed to developing and implementing projects to enhance the sustainability of sports on campus. The group includes an executive committee that manages student-athlete representatives from all 50 campus sports teams to help shift the culture toward supporting the college’s sustainability goals. “Our athletics department, campus community, and local environment have benefited considerably from the work completed by Bowdoin Green Athletes,” says Director of Athletics Timothy M. Ryan. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

The University of Florida Athletic Association is a national leader in green building practices. In 2009, the Gators’ Heavener Football Complex became the first building in Florida and the first athletic facility in the country to be awarded Platinum certification. The Gators now have five LEED-certified athletics facilities and a LEED Gold-certified recreation center. “Building green using LEED has become an important part of the operational and educational culture on our campus,” says Bahar Armaghani, assistant director of the university’s Facilities, Planning, and Construction Division, which houses UF’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

University of Minnesota Athletics is working to green its operations to benefit staff and students, while saving resources and money and reinforcing university commitments. “Gopher Athletics’ more sustainable practices reduce waste and pollution, minimize operating costs, and create healthier environments for fans, athletes, and employees,” says UM sustainability coordinator Shane Stennes. “Gopher Athletics communicates to thousands of fans the institution’s core value of sustainability and demonstrates how the institution is incorporating more sustainable practices into facility operations.” To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report

Sonoma State University set out in 2000 to build a recreation center that would become a model for sustainability. “Sustainable design and operations in collegiate recreation centers is not a fad. The case can be made for designing buildings that combine health, saving money, and a beneficial impact on the environment,” says Pam Su, SSU’s director of campus recreation. “Ultimately, it is the right thing to do, and the students and the campus benefit from going green.” To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.