Opinions, Column

All that Glitters Isn’t Maroon and Gold: Waste at Athletic Events

Ah yes, the return of Boston College football, or rather, the return of fans to BC football. The early Saturdays and tailgate atmosphere were dearly missed last season by current students, alumni, and parents. Of course, missed most was the crux of game day: actually being in the stadium. As BC’s Athletics Director Pat Kraft told the Chicago Tribune in January, “good times are coming,” with “full stadiums,” and “campus being abuzz” for games. Kraft’s words rang true during BC’s first football game of the season, as it seemed almost everyone attended either the tailgate, the game, or both. With the return of fans to Alumni Stadium, however, comes the return of thousands of pounds of waste production.  

Many would describe the return to games as a sort of homecoming. Others, however, feel the anxiety of having thousands of people in the same place. For reference, BC recorded an average of 34,185 people in Alumni Stadium per game in 2019, and I would not be surprised if attendance was up considering a number of factors this season for the Eagles. One of those factors is the team itself. This is the first year that students can see Coach Hafley’s work in person. Add this on to the fact that students are much more eager to attend games post-pandemic. In the normal college experience, it was common to miss a few games, but now, after the 2020 fanless season, students will be making every effort to see home games. 

High attendance at football games increases campus unity and is profitable for BC. A new coaching staff with a so-far undefeated season has reinvigorated the BC football atmosphere. So, what’s the catch?

Trash. 

I mean, think about it. In comparison to last year, how much more waste are you making being at a football game than not being there? What about all the tailgates and the items that go into just one tailgate? Think about all of the concession stands selling not only beverages and food but also napkins and food containers. And, think about all the concessions that are not sold—what happens to those items?

This question of waste is not unique to just football in Alumni Stadium, though. Conte Forum hosts men’s and women’s basketball and hockey games, all of which bring in sizable crowds. To figure out the amount of waste produced at athletic events, three students in the environmental studies department performed a waste audit of Conte Forum in 2016. 

They found that at a typical sporting event at Conte Forum, which can hold 8,606 fans, .0525 pounds of waste were produced per person. This waste ends up in a landfill, emitting greenhouse gases. This means that the total measured food waste at Conte Forum during the 2015-16 season created 2.388 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

I’m not telling you not to go to games, or even to not purchase anything at games. But rather, I’m trying to emphasize that there are things we can do on a community level to ensure we are minimizing the amount of waste—and eventually greenhouse gas emissions—produced at those games.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field established their Go Green program in 2003 to create an environmentally friendly stadium, diverting 99 percent of stadium waste from landfills and operating on 100 percent clean energy.

Stadium sustainability is not just confined to the professional level. The University of Colorado Boulder’s Folsom Field proves stadium sustainability is attainable at the collegiate level. In 2008, Boulder started working toward its goal of a zero waste stadium. Since then, its annual diversion rates—measuring waste not dumped in landfills—have been consistently higher than 50 percent. 

Compare the aforementioned waste diversion figures to those of BC, measured in 2018: 38.3 percent

Important to decreasing our stadiums’ waste is ordering the right amount of food to start. An algorithm that would accurately predict the number of students that would attend any given game was suggested by the BC students who conducted the waste audit and would allow vendors to purchase the right amount of food, ultimately minimizing waste. BC staff currently estimates crowd attendance and orders food accordingly, but an annually updated, sport-specific algorithm could decrease the margin of error and therefore decrease the total amount of waste. 

As always, as individuals, we can do more to purchase less and waste less in the process. As for our athletic stadiums, looking into more sustainable waste management and prevention would be not only economically beneficial but also put BC’s stadiums among the few college stadiums that are doing the same.

It is only right that BC’s athletic facilities reflect the same values held on campus toward the environment, those being sustainable energy practices, waste management, and environmental consciousness. In the meantime, let’s keep up BC’s winning football record, sing “Mr. Brightside” as loud as we can in the stands, and recycle our cans on the way in.

Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau/ Heights Editor

September 26, 2021
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