UMass Amherst Sustainability Team Wins National Recognition from EPA’s Game Day Challenge

AMHERST, Mass. - Students and staff who work to make the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus greener and cleaner received a big pat on the back this month with national recognition for their efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling at the Minuteman football team’s last home game of 2011 in November.

Winners were announced this month in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s "Game Day Challenge," and the UMass Amherst Campus Sustainability Initiative placed in the top 7 in every category for all NCAA Division I-FCS schools for excellence in organics reduction, recycling, greenhouse gas reduction, waste diversion and low waste generation at the game. The campus competed against scores of other teams across the country to raise awareness of recycling and reduce waste at college football games.

All food, beverages and containers sold at the game were either compostable or recyclable to reduce waste and littering, says Ezra Small, campus sustainability manager. The event was a joint effort of the Physical Plant, Auxiliary Services, UMass Athletics and the Campus Sustainability Initiative. He says, "Our campus recycling rates are very high compared to other schools and we’re proud of our sustainability efforts, but football games generally produce a lot of waste. This event was a great opportunity to educate the community and improve on our accomplishments."

"We had compost bins and at least two student volunteers all around McGuirk Alumni Stadium throughout the entire game helping the onlookers decide what bins to throw their waste into. Everything was compostable, including the food, plates, cups and napkins. By the time the band came onto the field at the end of the game, our trash bins were pretty much entirely empty!"

UMass Amherst placed 4th in the nation for the largest per capital organic waste reduction rate, 5th best recycling rate, 5th best reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions, 7th largest overall trash diversion from landfill (includes compost) rate and 7th lowest in per capita waste generation, ahead of such schools as Yale, Brown and Central Connecticut State.

The game-day event combined the EPA challenge with "America Recycles Day," usually celebrated on Nov. 15. A national program of Keep America Beautiful since 1997, it is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling in the United States.