Penn State’s extensive capabilities in hosting sustainable events helped ESPN achieve its goal of presenting its “College GameDay” show previewing the Nittany Lions’ football showdown with the University of Michigan in a sustainable manner.
The event, held Saturday morning, Oct. 19, on the HUB lawn, was the seventh time ESPN brought its Sports Emmy-winning presentation to Penn State. The network strives to be environmentally responsible at its weekly visits to top football schools across the country while also providing exciting pregame entertainment for the huge crowds of fans who attend.
ESPN required a large crew to set up and manage its “College GameDay” program over a three-day period, and significant amounts of food and drink — provided by Campus Catering and local restaurants — were needed to keep the crew fed, according to Judd Michael, professor of agricultural and biological engineering in the College of Agricultural Sciences. But there inevitably were lots of leftovers that could have ended up in a landfill, he noted.
“The ESPN ‘GameDay’ operations coordinator had asked if Penn State would help to donate the leftover food and drinks,” said Michael, who is Penn State’s representative to the Green Sports Alliance and coordinated with that group to help ESPN achieve a sustainable “College GameDay” visit. “ESPN also wanted to make sure that recyclables left by staff and fans around the HUB lawn ‘GameDay’ stage would be diverted from a landfill.”
To accomplish the latter, the Tailgate Ambassadors program, sponsored by Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, provided a crew of 20 student volunteers to help fans recycle while enjoying the show on the HUB lawn. The ambassadors also make sure that tailgaters at all Penn State home games can enjoy the festivities in an eco-friendly way.
Michael, along with Marvin Hall, professor of forage management, and student volunteers, also picked up a truck load of food and drinks after the Saturday show for donation to local charitable organizations.
“ESPN had asked to donate the foods from Thursday and Friday, too, so we arranged to have those items picked up by the local women’s shelter, now called Centre Safe, for residents there to eat,” Michael said. “On Saturday, we had to drive in and get the food and drink since the shelters and food bank were not able to get access onto campus.”
Penn State is a leader in campus sustainability and puts special efforts toward greening its sports events, Michael pointed out. For example, the President’s Suite at Beaver Stadium has been zero waste for the past five seasons. And Pegula Ice Arena, where Penn State’s ice hockey teams play, has a comprehensive recycling program, including a zero-waste buffet hosted by Hospitality Services.
The “College GameDay” recycling efforts were just a small part of Penn State’s comprehensive waste management program that helps make the University’s special events more sustainable, Michael said, adding that Penn State leadership has committed the resources, ranging from support of student ambassadors to campus operations crews, to make sure materials are disposed of in a responsible manner.
“The ability of the Penn State community to come together so quickly — ESPN gives us only a couple day’s notice to organize waste management, food donations, and so on before arriving for ‘College GameDay’ — highlights how good our systems are at managing special events for sustainability and fan experience,” he said. “I heard from the ESPN bosses that Penn State does a better job of working with them on student volunteers, waste management and food donations than any other place.”