Four years ago, Dr. Jonathan Casper, associate professor of sport management in the College of Natural Resources, had an idea. After hearing a keynote speaker at a conference talk about how all of the trash created throughout an athletic season could fill the entire bowl of a stadium, he began examining what universities are doing to create more earth-friendly sporting events.
Turns out, there’s room for improvement. He found that athletic facilities are replacing incandescent light bulbs and utilizing recycling bins, but are not including sustainable practices or long-term environmental planning in strategic plans. He also found no formal partnerships between athletic departments and other campus entities promoting sustainability.
So Dr. Casper brought together NC State’s Sustainability Office, Waste Reduction and Recycling, and NC State Athletics to form the Committee on Sustainability in Athletics. By connecting these groups, Dr. Casper created a dialogue that allowed for increased collaboration and coordination. The committee has since organized four zero waste athletic events as well as Ultimate Tailgating events to demonstrate sustainable tailgating options such as greener food choices and electric cars and grills.
Carter-Finley to Go Zero Waste This Fall
After the success of these smaller events, the committee is ready to go big. The goal now is to make Carter-Finley Stadium a zero waste stadium starting this fall. “Green games are great, but we want to make sure there is a green expectation all season long,” Casper said.
To do this, the stadium will be adding compost stations and volunteers to help educate fans about what can be composted or recycled and what must go to a landfill. To achieve “zero waste” the stadium must successfully divert ninety percent of waste from landfills. This means also working with vendors to ensure they use compostable cups, plates, wrappers and utensils.
“This is a big step for us, and it’s a big step for athletics,” Casper said. But it’s only the first step. Next, Dr. Casper has his sights set on University Recreation facilities and other large university events like Packapalooza.
“You can’t be an environmentalist and just tell people what to do. You can demonstrate what they can do and let them see the benefit. It’s all about showing, not telling,” Casper said.
In May, Dr. Casper will publish a book examining the unique social, economic and political space that sport occupies in society. Sport Management and the Natural Environment is the first book to introduce environmental theory and best practice in the context of sport management and explore the important advocacy role that sport organizations play in local and global communities.
Dr. Casper’s hope is that increased environmental conscientiousness in the Wolfpack fan base will extend beyond athletic events and campus. His research shows that fans want to know more, and that they will mimic what they experience at athletic events.
“We can leverage athletics, and next campus recreation, to look at how we can use new platforms to educate people and get them involved in sustainable practices,” Casper said.