In all the excitement and pure craziness on game days, the University of Mississippi’s Green Grove Initiative and their volunteers work. Their job? Educating tailgaters about recycling.
Before kickoff, Green Grove volunteers inform tailgaters what they can and cannot recycle and why waste reduction is important. On the Mondays and Tuesdays following games, volunteers head to the Oxford Recycling Center to personally sort all the materials collected on game day.
As football season rolls on, so does the heavy load of trash that compiles throughout game weekend festivities. The Green Grove Initiative aims to take the inconvenience out of recycling during game day. To ensure recycling becomes a tradition to those in the Grove, they are incorporating it into the game day experience.
Kelli Coleman, a biology major and Green Grove’s game day coordinator, is one of the people working to achieve this.
“[We’re hoping] that it becomes something that people don’t think about,” Coleman said. “They just automatically see the recycling bins, choose to use them and use them correctly.”
The initiative is constantly working to decrease the diversion rate, or the amount of waste diverted from landfills to recycling centers.
Tailgaters can help Green Grove Initiative by recycling, and the first step is knowing what can be recycled. The Green Grove Initiative takes No. 1 and 2 plastics, like water and soda bottles. Plastics can usually be identified by a small triangle on the container’s bottom. They also accept aluminum and No. 6 plastic cups, or SOLO cups. The No. 6 plastic cups are not usually recycled on campus, but on game day they are. The Green Grove Initiative collects the cups, packs them up and sends them to a company called TerraCycle in New Jersey.
“Smaller games yield anywhere from 15 to 20 tons of waste and the larger games can produce up to 60 tons,” Grace Sullivan, a senior social work major and Green Grove coordinator, said.
After the first game of this season against Wofford, Grove participants and game-goers had produced 15.94 tons of waste in the Grove and 15.5 tons in Vaught-Hemingway. Attendants at last year’s game against Texas A&M, the game with the highest attendance, created 69,800 pounds of waste.
“It’s really so much more than anybody realizes,” Sullivan said.
That number does not include the 2,000 pounds of waste recycled.
“It’s hard to fathom that in one day we accumulate that much trash,” Sullivan said. “That’s something that our sorting volunteers learn a lot about, because they only see the 2,000 pounds of recycling instead of the 69,000 pounds of waste.”
However, progress has been made in the diversion rate over the last four to five years, which means more is getting recycled and staying out of landfills.
Green Grove is always looking for more student volunteers for game days. They want not only to make the environment for tailgaters easier and more exciting, but also fun for those who choose to help.
“A good amount of volunteers would be 60, and that is probably the maximum we could handle in a calm fashion,” Coleman said.
For the game against Wofford, 30 volunteers participated. Coleman said this was a good number for the 10 Green Grove ambassadors who led volunteers throughout the day.
This year, sophomore international studies major Hailey Strother is participating in Green Grove sorting with Lambda Sigma, but she has previously volunteered with game day education.
“The most difficult aspect of recycling on game day might be informing all the tailgaters about the recycling option presented to them. After all, there are thousands of people,” Strother said.
Problems the organization face are people incorrectly using the bags they provide for recycling.
“People are putting a lot of food, glass, paper and stuff that we can’t recycle in them, and it becomes really messy because we have to sort it ourselves,” Coleman said.
The Green Grove Initiative and their volunteers face their share of challenges from those who are negative or refuse to use the recycling bags. Coleman says getting people to change their minds about recycling and incorporating recycling into the spirit and tradition of the Grove are some of their main issues.
“I think it would be very beneficial if everyone participated,” said senior Spanish major Mary Katherine Nesmith. She often attends the Grove to participate in the game day experience and is sure to use the recycling bags provided.
Using Green Grove’s recycling collection bags, looking for no. 1 and 2 plastics to recycle and keeping used SOLO cups are all small ways to give the Initiative a hand in making the Grove a cleaner and more environmentally friendly place.