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Penn Athletics Shoots for Zero Waste

April 6, 2011

Over the past two years, the Department of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics (DRIA) and the Green Campus Partnership have collaborated to successfully integrate sustainable practices into the daily operations and long-standing traditions of Penn Athletics. The latest effort was a “zero-waste” game, held on Saturday, February 26, as the Men’s Basketball team faced off against Ivy League rival Cornell.

Thanks to extensive planning and collaboration with Penn Athletics food service provider Aramark and Waste Management, the event featured the collection of compostables in addition to recyclables, and served as a “zero-waste” pilot to determine best waste minimization practices for future large-scale events and athletic contests at Penn.

Student volunteers and Penn Eco-Reps were on hand to assist spectators with separating their recyclables and compostables at collection stations.

Although some non-recyclable items such as candy wrappers still had to be disposed as trash, their weight was insignificant compared to the vast amount of waste that was recycled or composted. Overall, approximately 900 pounds of waste from the event was diverted from landfills. Compostables accounted for more than 75 percent of the waste, and would have otherwise been disposed as trash without the zero-waste efforts.

“In all, I think the event went very well and gives us an idea of what we can accomplish in terms of reducing waste at our athletic events in the future,” said Keith Maurer, Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations for Penn Athletics.

Penn Athletics and Green Campus Partnership staff will now turn their attention to improving recycling at the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the country. 2010 marked the first year a large-scale recycling strategy was laid out for the event, which typically attracts over 100,000 spectators over a three-day period.

“Anytime you’re dealing with that many people in one place, there’s always a substantial amount of waste generated,” said Maurer, “but we’re confident we will continue to increase our recycling rate at all of our athletic events by applying what we learn from initiatives like the one we organized here at the Palestra.”

Fact

The average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles.

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