Penn shoots for waste shutout versus Harvard

Penn is shooting for a shutout on Friday, Feb. 21, when the men’s basketball team battles Harvard at The Palestra. The University’s Green Campus Partnership (GCP) has been practicing to make the contest a Zero-Waste Game in which all leftover materials will be diverted into compostable or recyclable waste streams.

GCP staff and Penn Eco-Reps began scouting the game during the fall semester, conversing with key stakeholders at Facilities and Real Estate Services, Penn Athletics, The Palestra, Waste Management, which handles the trash at The Palestra, and Aramark, the gymnasium’s food-service provider.

Julian Goresko, sustainability associate at the GCP, says they will run a suffocating full-court press against waste, eliminating the entire garbage stream for the game.

“Everything at the event will be either biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable,” he says.

Aramark will alter its packaging and sourcing materials, rejecting non-green products such as Styrofoam, using paper instead of foil, and subbing condiment packages with bulk condiment dispensers.

“All of the small packets at the end of the game have to go into the trash,” Goresko says. “They’re small materials but they add up.”

Waste Management will haul the organic waste to a composting facility in Wilmington, Del., where it will be turned into fertilizer and agricultural products.

Eco-Reps and Green Team volunteers will take charge at the game to assist fans with placing their waste in the proper buckets. Prior to the Feb. 21 showdown, the GCP held three waste awareness games at The Palestra to educate fans about where to dispose of their garbage.

“One of the biggest things that we’ve been pushing is fan and student engagement because no matter how comprehensive our infrastructural plans are, if people don’t know what to put where, then we can’t succeed,” says Sara Allan, student coordinator of Penn Eco-Reps and sustainability intern at the GCP.

Allan says zero waste technically means diverting at least 90 percent of waste from a landfill, but because they are replacing trash bins with compost bins, the GCP is aiming for as close to absolute zero waste as possible.

At the game’s conclusion, the total amount of trash will be measured to determine how much waste was composted and recycled.

Goresko says the Zero-Waste Game is an opportunity for the Penn community to continue to be sustainability leaders.

“Sports is one of the things that people really respond to in terms of role models, whether it’s the athletes themselves or sports teams,” he says. “If you go to a game for a popular team that you care about and you see that they are composting or recycling, it’s more likely that you can count on the [fans] to do it in their own time.”

Originally published on February 20, 2014