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Goal Zero Waste at FC Davis

By Rohan Baxi

Did you know that athletic events across the United States generate more than 40 million pounds of trash each year? Each attendee of a sporting event generates about 2.4 pounds of waste in a single day. Athletic events, if not organized with environmental sustainability in mind, can negatively affect the environment and worsen the climate crisis.

I am a high school student in Davis and the public address announcer for Football Club (FC) Davis, a semi-pro association football club founded in 2017 that plays in the National Premier Soccer League. I want to be a sports broadcaster who not only highlights sports statistics, athletes, and events – but also someone who makes a positive impact on our society and helps make our planet more sustainable. With this goal in mind, I interned this season with FC Davis’ owner and founder, Adam Lewin, to develop strategies to help get FC Davis to Zero Waste home games. Zero Waste is a term used to describe practices to conserve resources through recycling, reuse, and composting with the goal of diverting at least 90% of waste from landfills and incinerators.

Five key strategies that are the most effective are fan engagement, placing and monitoring sorting receptacles, volunteer engagement, buy-in from vendors, and Zero Waste communication. The first strategy, fan engagement, is effective due to the magnitude of its potential impact. Thousands of people can be involved in sustainability efforts thereby changing the culture of athletics. Ways to encourage waste management include bringing the “greenest fan” down to the field, highlighting them on the scoreboard, or playing fanfare music when a fan is seen recycling.

The goal of the second strategy of appropriately placing and monitoring sorting receptacles is to make waste diversion easy at stadiums. Placing clearly marked and color-coded waste disposal receptacles that are labeled compost, recycle, or landfill, and displaying posters with educational messages in highly trafficked areas in stadiums help attendees sort waste appropriately. I learned from Jennifer Gilbert (City of Davis’ Conservation Coordinator) and Lindsay Rotteveel (Waste Zero Specialist at Recology, an FC Davis sponsor) that collaborating with other community groups with resources and expertise is vital.

The third strategy of volunteer engagement is another effective way of getting to Zero Waste. Examples include creating a “Green Team” – volunteers who wear green tee-shirts on game day and walk through the venue to educate fans about waste diversion. They serve as bin guards to help fans discard waste in the correct bins, organize waste before it is hauled away, and collect unused food from concession vendors to donate to local food banks and shelters.

The fourth strategy of gaining buy-in from vendors can be a win-win situation for event organizers and vendors. Vendors can switch to compostable plates and cutlery, utilize reusable cups instead of single-use plastics and donate leftover food to food banks instead of disposing it in the trash or composting pile. In return vendors’ environmental sustainability efforts can be recognized and highlighted in event materials and on game day.

Finally, the fifth strategy of Zero Waste communication is crucial to ensure that messages are concise and memorable and that sustainability efforts are continued even beyond game day. Utilizing sports broadcasters to communicate Zero Waste messages is effective because they have an enthusiastic and engaged audience. This year I created game day announcements and social media posts that included the evidence behind Zero Waste goals. Next year we will use more digital media and signage in the stadium and around waste receptacles, so let us know if you have design skills that you would like to contribute.

With even 10 home games each season that bring in 200-300 attendees and athletes each, FC Davis’ sustainability efforts can divert more than 5000 pounds of waste each season! Over the past few years, we have seen how the sports community has raised awareness and brought about social changes in areas such as racial justice and gender equity. Zero Waste efforts in athletics are a critical opportunity to use sports to reduce the negative environmental impacts of human activity and make our world more sustainable for future generations.


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