Among the Rebel red and blue hues in the Grove on game day, tailgaters may spot volunteers sporting T-shirts dotted with recycling signs and toting green bags. Their goal is to promote recycling and educate fans about keeping their Grove green.
This year, the Green Grove Initiative has received some new volunteers. Instead of paying fines for violations during formal sorority recruitment, chapters found to be in violation of recruitment rules must volunteer with the Green Grove Initiative during football games.
“The idea for using Green Grove as a sanction for recruitment violations came about several years ago,” said Caitlyn Clegg, the president of College Panhellenic. “College Panhellenic Council has made an effort to make our sanctions constructive and beneficial to the community rather than impose monetary fines on our organizations.”
Though specific violations are private, Clegg said sanctions are determined on a case-by-case basis. She said constructive sanctions like Green Grove prove to be more beneficial and effective than monetary fines.
“Green Grove was chosen because it provides a productive environment for chapters to learn from their mediation while also positively impacting the community,” she said.
Though some participants have griped about having to give up tailgating time to promote recycling, others think College Panhellenic is taking steps in the right direction.
Olivia Vanderleest, a junior biology major, volunteered at the Oct. 28 Arkansas game, as a result of recruitment violations.
“Having sororities help with Green Grove makes everyone’s organizations look good,” Vanderleest said. “Sure, we were being punished, but it benefits the university and not just Panhellenic, which is what being in a sorority should be all about.”
She said the Green Grove volunteer process seemed to move smoothly with additional volunteers.
“They say it takes two hours to hand out the bags, but because of the number of people volunteering, I thought it took significantly less time.”
Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability, said sororities have been volunteering for several years.
“We have definitely had more volunteers for some games than others for this reason, which always happens when a large group volunteers at one time,” she said.
Abernathy said student volunteers have a large impact on sustainability at the university, no matter why they choose to volunteer.
“Even though they may work with the program for just a couple of hours, their overall impact is significant and is a team effort involving many students working toward a common goal,” she said.
The Green Grove Initiative was created in 2009.
“It has grown to be one of the Office of Sustainability’s most popular and visible programs among students,” she said.
It is a collaborative effort between the Office of Sustainability, Landscape Services and Athletics. Volunteers can work before football games or participate in sorting sessions after recycling is collected.
Before tailgating begins, Landscape Services sets up recycling bins in addition to the red and blue trash cans Rebel fans know and love. On game day, Green Grove coordinators, ambassadors and volunteers pass out bags to tents and let tailgaters know what they can recycle.
“One important piece of information that volunteers work to communicate is that the recycling bags are hand-sorted by students,” Abernathy said. “That’s one reason it’s so crucial that food, glass and non-recyclable items are not placed in the recycling bags. Students will sort through these later.”
Landscape Services picks up the recycling bags and takes them to the Oxford Recycling Center. On the Monday and Tuesday following a game, student volunteers sort through the bags.
Abernathy said the number of volunteers depends on the game, with those versus SEC opponents often drawing larger numbers of volunteers.
“We had 70 volunteers total, for game day and sorting combined, for the LSU game and 28 total for South Alabama,” she said.
She also said the amount of recyclable material collected is affected by the time of the game and the opponent. Though numbers for the 2017 season aren’t finalized yet, Abernathy said the initiative recycled 14,110 pounds of material during the 2016 season, nearly 3 percent of the 485,000 pounds of waste collected.
Though sorority participation is currently required as a consequence for recruitment violations, Clegg said she hopes more students will get involved.
“There are many Greek members that are passionate about sustainability and making our campus more green, and I would love to see even more students get involved in this effort,” Clegg said.