Game day program promotes recycling at tailgates
Andrea Vale | Friday, October 9, 2015
This Saturday, as fans crowd the parking lots surrounding Legends and Notre Dame Stadium for tailgates, they may encounter some environmentally conscious companions.
Immediately before the home game against Navy, dozens of students will be walking through the parking lots, distributing blue recycling bags and answering questions about recycling as part of the Office of Sustainability’s Game Day Recycling program.
Linda Kurtos, Notre Dame director of sustainability, said the practice started in 2008.
“At the time, there were no good opportunities to collect all of the recyclable material that was being generated by fans during tailgating, so all of it was going to the landfill,” Kurtos said. “The Office [of Sustainability] initiated the program to make recycling at home football games possible and convenient for our fans and visitors.”
According to Kurtos, the Game Day Recycling program involves a lot of logistical planning, starting before the football season begins.
“To make as many recycling bags available to our fans and visitors, we also have recycling bag dispensers secured to light posts throughout the Joyce, Legends and Library parking lots,” she said. “The dispensers are refurbished newspaper vending boxes that hold additional blue recycling bags that visitors can use as needed. Prior to the start of the football season, we have each of the bag dispensers cleaned and distributed throughout the tailgating parking areas where they will stay for the entire football season.”
Kurtos said the sustainability efforts themselves start the day before the game, during football Friday events.
For the past two years, Kurtos said, senior Max Ducey has worked as the program’s intern, in charge of recruiting and managing volunteers. Volunteers are students from University-authorized groups or clubs, which are compensated by the Office of Sustainability for the total number of hours that members work during the game.
“Max and other interns and staff go around the parking lots to check to make sure that all of the bag dispensers in the parking lots are fully stocked with recycling bags,” Kurtos said. “They also put up lawn signs around the stadium to help provide additional information about recycling.”
Kurtos said the Game Day Recycling team will start early on Saturday. Max Ducey will meet with student volunteers and assign them to certain areas on campus, particularly focusing on tailgate-heavy parking areas and White Field.
“Each student group is asked to provide four students from 10 a.m. to noon,” Kurtos said. “On night games, we usually add an additional shift of student volunteers from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to make sure we get bags to some of the later arriving fans.
“The student volunteers are not involved in any pre-, during or post-game clean up. The University hires an outside group to do the actual clean up. Instead, the student volunteers focus on increasing recycling activities during pre-game activities. The volunteers walk around the tailgating areas and pass out recycling bags and information on what can be recycled on campus. Max and the office staff spend the morning making sure that all of the tailgating areas are adequately staffed and getting the bags that they need.”
Senior Charlie Ducey has volunteered in the Game Day Recycling program on behalf of the creative writing club Mustard. (Editor’s note: Charlie Ducey is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.)
“Game Day Recycling is actually one of my favorite things to do on game day,” Charlie Ducey said. “I get to tour the whole range of tailgates for two hours, handing out bags and riding on a golf cart. So long as it isn’t raining, it’s an exceptionally pleasant experience.
“Volunteering with Game Day Recycling helps me to get a feel for the amount of material that gets used during game day while also curbing the amount that goes to waste. Though helping the environment is a reward in itself, volunteering also raises funds for my club or student organization of choice.”
Kurtos also said the program has added a new practice to expand sustainability efforts.
“In a partnership with NDSP, Athletics and the Office of Sustainability, we now hire additional temporary parking lot staff to hand out recycling bags and trash bags to each car as it enters the Joyce lots and other busy tailgating areas,” she said. “This new practice helps ensure that we are able to get bags to even more fans and visitors as soon as they arrive on campus. In an effort to help keep the campus looking good, this is also the first year that we are passing out trash bags in addition to recycling bags. Each guest gets two recycling bags and one trash bag as they enter the parking area.”
According to Kurtos, volunteers last season distributed about 3,000 blue recycling bags per game and 6,000 for the night home game, for a total of approximately 21,000 bags distributed during the entire season.
With this year’s distribution of recycling bags and trash bags to incoming cars, Kurtos says the Game Day Recycling team is distributing more bags than ever, with more than 35 tons of recycling already collected during the first two home games of the season.
“We are very proud of the program,” Kurtos said. “Not only has it increased recycling on campus and diverted more material from landfills, it has helped keep Notre Dame clean and beautiful during football games.”