Green Programs Gain Ground in College Sports Departments

Green Programs Gain Ground in College Sports Departments

Like major league sports teams, college athletic departments are putting more muscle into energy efficiency, recycling and other environmental programs at their facilities, according to new research by ProGreenSports.

Decision-makers involved in sustainability initiatives or athletics department facilities for 73 of the 119 large NCAA sports departments responded to the survey that ProGreenSports conducted in spring.

Fifty-two percent said their departments are making environmental initiatives a high or a very high priority, compared to 44.3 percent in 2009. Slightly more than 38 percent said their departments have formed or are "firmly planning" to form a green team, compared to 21.7 percent in 2009.  And 36.1 percent said their department has developed or is "actively considering developing" a strategic sustainability plan, compared to 24.8 percent in 2009.

In releasing the survey results, ProGreenSports President Mark McSherry recognized the University of Colorado at Boulder for having "best-in-class" zero waste and energy reduction programs at Folsom Field and noted the efforts have attracted sponsorship.

 "College athletics can leverage their brand and develop a profitable green business model that attracts sponsorship and green advertising while expanding their environmental programs and impact," McSherry said in a statement.

ProGreenSports also compared the responses from the NCAA survey to those from the company's survey of pro sports teams last September. Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and the NHL have all launched environmental programs with great fanfare in recent years. GreenBiz.com reports of league and team progress include coverage of NBA efforts this spring, the Minnesota Twins' new LEED-Silver certified stadium and a roundup league efforts by Eric Meliton of Frost and Sullivan.

Of the 54 pro sports teams responding the ProGreenSports survey last fall:

  • 59.2 percent said they are making environmental initiatives a high or a very high priority.
  • 78.4 percent had said they had formed or are "firmly planning" to form a green team.
  • 50 percent said their department has developed or is "actively considering developing" a strategic sustainability plan.

Attitudes about environmental programs are positive in collegiate and pro sports organization, the surveys found. Highlights include:

  • 79.5 percent of the NCAA sports departments and 92.5 percent of the pro teams said key decision-makers have a positive perspective of environmental initiatives.
  • 83.6 percent of NCAA respondents and 79.6 percent of the pros believe that emphasis on environmental programs will increase.
  • 43.8 percent of the college departments and 69.8 percent of the pro organizations said key decision-makers think their environmental programs will have a positive effect on fan or brand loyalty.
  • 48.2 of the pro teams said the programs will have a positive effect on their bottom lines, although just 16.7 percent the NCAA sports departments felt the same.

The surveys also looked at what NCAA and pro teams say are barriers for environmental programs:

  • 26 percent of the NCAA sports departments and 31.5 percent of the pro teams said that the economic downturn is causing them to curtail some environmental plans or programs.
  • 51.4 percent of the NCAA sports departments and 66.6 percent of the pro teams said unclear returns on investment is among the concerns about implementing sustainability programs.

Although identified as concerns, the following responses could bode well for further adoption of environmental programs by NCAA athletics departments and sports teams:

  • 34.3 percent of the NCAA respondents and 50 percent of the pro teams said they are concerned about keeping up with the competition.
  • Just 14.3 percent of the collegiate sports departments and 7.5 percent of the pro teams spoke of concerns that "green programs are passing fad."

The full results of the surveys are available from ProGreenSports.com.

Image of Folsom Field courtesy of University of Colorado at Boulder.