By Lew Blaustein, GreenSportsBlog
With the American football in full kickoff mode, GreenSportsBlog is taking a look at two teams at different points on the “Green Gridiron” spectrum. Today, we talk with Lauren Lichterman who is helping to jumpstart the greening of The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Later this week, GSB will turn to the greening of Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, already a sustainability leader.
GreenSportsBlog: Lauren, when I think of Green-Sports leaders in college sports, my mind goes to the Pac-12 — all 12 schools plus the conference itself are members of the Green Sports Alliance — and Big Ten schools like Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, which all have been working towards hosting Zero-Waste football games. The Big 12, which basically spans Texas, the Plains states with West Virginia sprinkled in? Not so much, at least not yet. So I’m really glad to talk with you about the greening of The University of Texas. Did you go to Texas? And were you always an environmentalist?
Lauren Lichterman: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Not a very green area, I’ll admit. But we always recycled. So I was an environmentalist. And I loved sports. So when I did end up going to UT…
GSB: …Hook ’em Horns!
Lauren: Hook ’em Horns! I played intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee.
GSB: You were BUSY!!!
Lauren: Oh yeah! I thought I would be an international business major, but I started taking sports management courses and loved them. I always saw sports as a powerful forum for teamwork, equality and more.
GSB: So did you switch to sports management?
Lauren: I did. And I worked in the Athletics Department while I was in school.
GSB: What did you do for them?
Lauren: Anything they needed. After graduation, a position opened up in the facilities and operations department. Since planning, operations, and logistics had become my passion I jumped at the chance. In fact, I got the job offer on graduation day so my timing was quite lucky.
GSB: What was your role at the start?
Lauren: I wore a lot of hats. I handled customer service, fan surveys, ran information tables at football, baseball, volleyball and softball games. It wasn’t glamorous but I loved it!
GSB: How great is that? How and when did sustainability enter the mix?
Lauren: In 2010, which was my first year working full-time, the Office of Sustainability came to Athletics, saying they’d like to start a tailgate recycling program. The Athletic Director at the time, DeLoss Dodds, said “OK, sounds great. What do you need?” I became the main point of contact on the Athletics side for supplies and logistics. Sustainability brought two or three full-time people to the effort. We ended up relying on a lot of student volunteers, which was great.