Last Monday, three members of the Sustainability Office and two student athletes who are a part of the Beaver Athletics Sustainability Team (BAST), represented Oregon State University at the PAC-12 Sustainability Conference in Sacramento, CA. This conference focused on incorporating sustainability practices into the PAC-12 athletic programs. There were about 150 attendees who represented the PAC-12 schools. Oregon State University was recognized as being the only school with a student athlete sustainability group. Way to go OSU!
The conference was hosted at the Golden 1 Center, an indoor arena located in downtown Sacramento. The Golden 1 Center was the first indoor sports venue to receive the LEED Platinum certification. Sacramento is the farm-to-fork capital of the world, therefore they source 90% of their ingredients within a 150-mile radius. The leftover food is given to local food banks, green waste turns into soil at local farms through the California Safe Soil program, and leftover fryer oil is converted into biodiesel by a local business. It was fitting that the conference was hosted at such an environmentally friendly location!
Throughout the day there were various sessions about how to implement sustainability practices into the different areas of athletics, such as the athletics staff, marketing and sponsorships, sustainability professionals, and student engagement. For each topic, there were different speakers. The speakers came from the different schools, or were industry professionals from companies such as IMG, NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee, ESPN, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. It was interesting to hear their perspective on each subject, as well as how they were implementing sustainability into their professions.
During one of the sessions, the attendees broke up into smaller groups based on their profession. The students discussed how they can engage their peers into implementing sustainability practices during athletics events and in their daily life. These practices could be as simple as recycling and composting. One of the reasons it’s challenging to implement these techniques is because sustainability isn’t a top priority for many schools. That’s not to say sustainability isn’t valued, but other issues take precedent. Adding recycling/composting bins at the athletic events is an extra step, and the waste must be sorted at the end of the events. Currently, universities don’t have the bandwidth to implement this at every game. In order to have recycling and composting, OSU would need volunteers to help sort. Luckily, OSU has the Beaver Athletics Sustainability Team who is working on executing this. Hopefully in the next couple years OSU will have recycling and composting at every event!
Bill Walton, a former UCLA student athlete, NBA player, and ESPN and PAC-12 Networks on-air talent, attended the conference. Walton, who is passionate about sustainability, was interviewed by Yann Brandt and Jamie Zaninovich. He talked about his history and how he leads a sustainable lifestyle. It was inspiring to hear how he built his career, as well as how he is able to reduce his carbon footprint. He replaced the lights in his house with LED lights, and added solar panels to his roof, drastically reducing his monthly energy bills.
A few takeaways from the conference were that the students have the power and ideas, but how can we show students that they have the power? If students work with athletics, these ideas can be put into action. Student groups should become more involved in sustainability, and want to feel a sense of ownership over their projects. Students also want to see leadership and buy-in from the school. The most asked question at the event was, “how can athletics be used to empower change?”
How do you think OSU can become more sustainable? Leave your ideas in the comments below!