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USC sustainability program a true game changer

by Shirley Shin
The zero-waste tailgate sustainability program kicked off last year during home football games. (Photo/Dennis Hammond/Long Photography)
Photo: The zero-waste tailgate sustainability program kicked off last year during home football games. (Photo/Dennis Hammond/Long Photography)

Think of it as winning the ultimate game of trash talk. The Collegiate Game Changers: How Campus Sport is Going Green, a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), recently spotlighted USC’s “zero-waste tailgate” sustainability program.

The partnership between USC Athletics and the USC Office of Sustainability kicked off last year during home football games.

The 115-page report highlighted the varied efforts taken by schools across the country to minimize the environmental impact of college game days. According to the NRDC website, “As teams and venues promote a public commitment to ecological stewardship, environmentalism becomes a mainstream issue — one that resonates with loyal college sports fans across the country.”

USC’s zero-waste tailgate program has worked to educate students, alumni and football fans about the ways in which they can ensure ecologically friendly pregame festivities. It made use of a humorous meme campaign to do so, a tactic praised in the NRDC report.

The university’s efforts have largely paid off, having diverted more than 11,500 pounds of recyclable material — including more than 23,000 plastic cups — during the 2012 season.

Early success for the program hasn’t tapered interests in going even further this football season.

“We are reaching out to larger, more organized tailgates to assist them in coming on board as ‘zero-waste’ tailgates,” said Halli Bovia, manager of USC’s sustainability program. “We will continue to look for fun and engaging ways to create a cultural shift regarding waste on campus.”

The team’s first home game will be played Sept. 7 against Washington State.

Other schools mentioned in the report included the University of Washington, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.