Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium, home to the Nittany Lions football team, is the second largest university stadium in the U.S. It hosts seven home games each year with attendance for each game reaching anywhere from 110,000 to 150,000. Imagine the waste generated in the stadium and the surrounding parking lots, which together occupy 110 acres of land! Fortunately, Judd Michael, professor of business management for natural resources industry at Penn State, has been helping Beaver Stadium reduce waste on game days. He is also using his expertise to help other sports venues, such as Pocono International Raceway and NASCAR Green, find “green” solutions.
The University Network (TUN) spoke with Michael about his efforts to make sports venues more environmentally friendly.
Zero Waste Showcase at Beaver Stadium
Michael’s efforts to reduce waste at Beaver Stadium started in 2013 when he partnered with Green Sports Alliance and NatureWorks to make the President’s and Governmental Affairs suites section of Beaver Stadium a zero waste showcase. The initiative resulted in 95 percent diversion of landfill waste at the first home game in 2013 and 100 percent diversion by the last game. Diversion in 2014 was also 100 percent at each game. If the same initiative were applied to the whole stadium, over 50 tons of waste would be diverted after each game.
Michael also collaborated with various departments at Penn State, including the President’s Office, Office of Donor Relations, Office of Governmental Affairs, Hospitality Services, Intercollegiate Athletics, and Office of Physical Plant, to make the initiative a success.
He relied on more than 30 Penn State students as his zero-waste ambassadors at each game to educate and engage fans on the zero-waste goals. “I have had multiple undergrad and graduate classes working on the campus zero waste projects,” Michael told TUN. “This has been good experience for the students and they have made a tangible impact on operations while gaining valuable skills.”
The initiative introduced the use of eco-friendly cups, utensils, plates, and straws from Ingeo. “Packaging and foodservice items were the first step in achieving our zero waste goals,” said Michael in a statement. “Having Ingeo’s ASTM-certified products allowed us to have confidence that the materials we collected would be compatible with our university composting system. We were also confident that the suites clientele would not be disappointed in the performance of the foodservice items provided by StalkMarket.”
Compostable materials from each game were taken to Penn State’s own composting facility and converted into mulch over time, so it could be used on campus or sold to others. “We are lucky to have our own state-of-the-art composting facility where we can test various materials and send compostables with a very small transportation footprint,” Michael said. He credits NatureWorks and PepsiCo for their contribution to the university’s composting efforts.