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ASU Sun Devils, ESPN Launch Full-Court Press on Waste at Sporting Events

Arizona State University (ASU) athletics and ESPN recently continued bold efforts to reduce waste and carbon emissions at their high-profile sporting events.

ASU’s Sun Devil Athletics was recognized for its participation in the 2014 Game Day Zero Waste Challenge as part of the Pac-12 Conference. The team scored first in the Challenge’s recycling and organics-reduction categories, recycling an average of 1 pound of waste per person. It also placed second in the conference diversion rate category and third in GHG reduction.

Data was reported from the Sun Devils’ 2014 home football game against Washington State, which gathered over 51,000 attendees. ASU reported 51,840 pounds of total recycling out of 67,020 pounds of total waste, representing a 77.35 percent conference diversion rate. It also reported a GHG reduction of 24.2 per metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

ASU’s accomplishments came as the Pac-12 Conference announced that it has joined the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), a group encouraging sports organizations to commit to measurable actions that enhance the sustainability of venue operations, influence the sports industry supply chain and mobilize fans. The Pac-12 follows the leadership of ASU and its other member institutions, which were already members of the GSA. The Pac-12 and its members will support one another, and additional GSA members, in their sustainability efforts.


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Meanwhile, ESPN announced this week that this year’s ESPYS, its annual award show, will be “virtually waste-free” and fully carbon-neutral. The ESPYS will strive for 90 percent waste diversion for every event surrounding the awards show. This includes two functions, each attended by more than 3,000 people; the ESPN Celebrity Golf Classic; and all the hotels.

The ESPYs will employ extensive recycling, waste reduction and recovery strategies, and pursue strategic partnerships to ensure proper lifecycle management of materials through careful procurement. In 2014, these efforts generated half the total waste of the 2010 event and achieved 85 percent of waste diversion from the landfill.

For the seventh year in a row, carbon neutrality will also be a focus of the ESPYs in 2015. ESPN says it will apply energy-conservation strategies to minimize the use of fossil fuels and prevent pollution. After reducing energy consumption wherever possible, the remaining greenhouse gas emissions will be mitigated through carbon offsets.

The event will employ hydrogen fuel cells to supply power to red carpet lights, and employ solar to power its press center and vehicles on the golf course. It will also use bioplastics instead of petroleum-based plastics for all disposable foodservice products, and turn waste grease collected from venue concessionaires into biodiesel.

ASU’s and ESPN’s commitments to waste reduction accompany a growing movement amongst sporting organizations to send less industrial waste to landfills: In 2013, the Cleveland Browns began diverting all stadium food waste away from landfills for conversion by anaerobic digestion into biofuel to power the city; in August, the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team to join REPREVE’s #TurnItGreen program, which supports stadium-based recycling efforts and a consumer education campaign to encourage fans to recycle bottles during games, with a goal of achieving a 100 percent recycling rate throughout the 2014 NFL season; and in November, the San Francisco 49ers teamed up with Levi Strauss and Goodwill on a “Field of Jeans” initiative to highlight progress on both waste diversion and job training.

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