For this month’s Membership Spotlight, we’re going to take a closer look at one of our most accomplished and innovative members—The University of Texas at Austin (Longhorns). The Longhorns have not only led the way in advancing the sports greening movement in the collegiate sector but have shed light on some new ways to engage stakeholders, students, and sports not traditionally mentioned in the greater sport and sustainability landscape.
2017 was a great year for the Longhorns as they made huge strides in their zero waste program, leading the charge in sustainability around baseball and softball. After successfully achieving zero waste during a “Zero Waste Weekend” series at both sports since 2014, the Longhorns successfully achieved an entire zero waste baseball season at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Lauren Lichterman, Operations and Sustainability Coordinator for Texas Athletics, explained how baseball and softball were a natural fit for sustainability programming and “a great start for best practice development.”
“Our baseball stadium has a capacity of 7,000 which is comparatively more manageable from a waste standpoint than our 102,000-person football facility,” Lichterman says. “We have the same concessionaire at both facilities and they have done a fantastic job over the years of switching their products to adhere to our zero waste standards. Being able to control the waste stream in this way is crucial to being able to achieve zero waste at any of our facilities.”
Of course, these successes don’t happen overnight, and while programs should strive for zero-waste seasons, patience is important. It took three years to achieve a zero-waste baseball season according to Lichterman. “We spent three years tweaking the system not only from season-to-season, but also from game-to-game. We worked with all stakeholders from fans to staff to sponsors to operational partners to take advantage of every opportunity to improve.” Creating success stories in sports like baseball and softball can build a proof of concept to legitimize your work, recruit sponsors, and have a functional model for approaching bigger sports like football.
They continued their success in zero waste at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium during the 2017 football season. Before the football season began, the school’s sustainability team set out a few goals in their quest achieve zero waste:
- Figure out a system to sort waste on-site during the game
- Increase the number of volunteers to help educate fans and sort the waste
- Create a food recovery program to donate unused food from gameday
- Develop a communications plan to share our sustainability story
While these weren’t their only goals, putting forth a strategic plan is a wonderful way to organize your stakeholder network around actionable objectives that can help track, measure, and guide your future sustainability efforts.
Their efforts were a smashing success, and they achieved many of their initial objectives, including:
- Recruiting almost 700 people to donate 2,700 volunteer hours over the course of the season
- Donating over 3,000 meals to Central Texas families in need through their food recovery program
- Decreasing landfill waste by over 200,000 pounds
- Developing a unique social media presence through @TxSportsSustain (twitter) and @bleedorangelivegreen (Instagram).
The Longhorns also increased their overall diversion to about 50%, which is no small feat for a stadium holding over 100,000 fans on any given gameday. They plan to continue their ambitious path towards zero was by targeting a 70% diversion rate next season.
2018 is sure to be another exciting year for the Longhorns, with ample plans to further expand their sport and sustainability success. Lichterman has taken us behind the curtain about what we may expect in the future, including “creating water and energy conservation programs which aim to close the loop in some of their current operations.”
We’re all thrilled to see these projects develop and support the Longhorns in their pursuit of Zero Waste and achieving other sustainability objectives.
To learn more about their efforts and how to get involved visit: