How collegiate sports can score with sustainability

At the College Sports Sustainability Summit held in June, the Natural Resources Defense Council released our NRDC Greening Advisor for Collegiate Sports, a free online guide to greening collegiate athletics and recreation.

This free tool aims to help any college or university interested in greening its sports facilities and operations. NRDC’s guide provides information about implementing environmental initiatives at collegiate athletic and recreation departments. It offers the first compilation of collegiate sports greening resources in one place and showcases a wide variety of success stories, including case studies profiled in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

The NRDC Greening Advisor for Collegiate Sports includes sections on how to build a sports greening program, where to start, who to involve, funding, tracking progress and outreach strategies. It also includes technical environmental guidance relating to sports operations infrastructure such as energy, water, waste, chemicals, buildings and travel.

The guide is endorsed by the Association for the Advancement in Higher Education, the Green Sports Alliance, NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation and the Stadium Managers Association.

“The NRDC Greening Advisor is an indispensable tool for campus recreation professionals and departments looking to become more energy-efficient, reduce waste, conserve resources and apply other smart operations,” says Pam Watts, executive director of NIRSA.

NRDC published the first Greening Advisor in 2008, in partnership with Major League Baseball. The NRDC Greening Advisor was awarded the EPA's Environmental Merit Award in 2008 for being the most comprehensive greening resource compiled. Each major professional sports league now has NRDC Greening Advisors.

"The NRDC Greening Advisor for Collegiate Sports is another example of NRDC's invaluable environmental guidance, as founding technical advisor to the Green Sports Alliance, available to help all collegiate members expand their sports greening programs," says Martin Tull, executive director of the Green Sports Alliance. 

In addition, the guide provides tips for incorporating vendors into greening programs and ideas for student-led projects.

“We are very excited to expand our sports greening projects at Columbia with help from the NRDC Greening Advisor,"  said Emma Tuzinkiewicz, EcoLions founder and varsity athlete at Columbia University, class of 2015. "It provides really valuable practical advice and compiles all collegiate sports greening information in one place."

Many campuses rely on AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System to guide their greening efforts. Many topics covered in the Greening Advisor include a STARS section, which describes how each greening initiative can help improve an institution’s STARS rating.

The NRDC Greening Advisor for Collegiate Sports supports the growing movement of college athletics and recreation departments that are developing high-performance buildings and practices that help mitigate climate change, protect ecosystems and conserve resources. On many colleges and universities, sports are central to campus identity. Millions of students and sports fans live and breathe college sports. So when campus sports adopt greener practices, people notice.

“At the most fundamental level, we need a stable climate, clean air and fresh water to enjoy the sports we love. Greening college sports also makes good business sense,” said Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League. “By engaging students in putting environmental solutions into action, collegiate sports has the potential to empower and inspire our future leaders to build a more sustainable society.”

This piece originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog and is reprinted with permission. Top image of soccer field by iconspro via Shutterstock