There are certain things that are synonymous with the college experience. There’s the feel of a large lecture hall full of students, and the professor writing an imperceptible jumble of complex mathematical formulas on the chalkboard. There’s the fraternity party, and the questionable decisions made over kegs and terrible pop music. There’s the parents’ weekends, with the fancy restaurants packed with kids trying to impress those paying their tuition with the breadth and depth of their knowledge. And most iconic of all, there’s the college football game. These events bring together a packed stadium of tens of thousands of rabid fans, their faces painted, all cheering for their alma mater at ear-splitting decibels. But while college football games are a ton of fun, and one of the reasons why some students choose a school in the first place, they aren’t the greenest affairs. In fact, the games and their aftermath are usually incredibly wasteful. Here are a couple options for reducing waste at colleges with major football programs.
One of the longest running collegiate football traditions is the balloon release at the University of Nebraska. At every home game balloons are let go once the Huskers score their first touchdown. Not just one or two mind you, but more than 2,500 of the red, helium-filled beauties. It’s an amazing sight, but also completely unsustainable. So what can be done about it? The university has enjoyed this tradition for nearly three quarters of a century, but environmental experts are concerned that naturally-occurring deposits of helium will disappear over the next seventy or eighty years. The university is looking for options, each of which involve drastically reducing the number of balloons released. They’ve agreed to stop the tradition completely until they come up with a permanent solution. As of now they plan on choosing one child attending a game to be their touchdown balloon mascot.
New York State’s Syracuse University takes its sports quite seriously. This is a nationally-renowned program that competes in bowl games frequently. But all of that success comes with a price, in the form of burnt cleats. After negative practices the Syracuse Orangemen burn their cleats, therefore requiring brand new ones. The manufacture of sports footwear creates a significant carbon footprint, no pun intended. The school has turned their back on this cleansing act during the tenures of several different coaches, but it always seems to come back. Syracuse may have to choose its own individual mascot for this tradition, to reduce the waste. Or better yet, have the students discard ‘unlucky’ cleats by donating them to local high schools. With a good cleaning they’ll be good as new, and absolutely useful for athletic programs struggling for cash.
Finally, there’s the silliness enacted at Auburn University. Every time the Tigers win a game, two beautiful oak trees in the downtown area are toilet-papered. The tradition has long received the seal of approval from the university, even though a massive amount of paper is wasted each season with these juvenile efforts. You don’t want these kids to stop having fun, but are they doing this at Pepperdine or Harvard? If Auburn wants to continue this tradition, the school must create some sort of carbon buyback program to reduce its waste.