Though Davidson’s basketball teams did not make this year’s “Big Dance” – the NCAA Championship Tournaments – the college had a championship of its own as it celebrated sustainability efforts in athletics.As most sports games wrap up play, the trash cans spill over with hot dog wrappers, cups, napkins and other garbage. Sports arenas are among the biggest venues for accumulated waste, something the students at Davidson College hope to change, said Jeff Mittelstadt, Davidson’s sustainability director. Davidson recently rewarded efforts by students to develop business plans focused on sustainability during the inaugural pitch tournament for sustainability in sports: The Next Play Venture Tournament. When Mittelstadt introduced the idea of sustainability at Davidson a year and a half ago, many student athletes showed interest. Out of that interest, “The Next Play” initiative, a five-month effort to introduce sustainability in athletics, was born. “The Next Play” aims to use the wide-reaching influence of sports to inspire conversation and innovation around sustainability, Mittelstadt said. “Sports is the lens we’re using to illustrate the issue,” he said. “It’s a good way to engage people and increase our reach.” Davidson’s “The Next Play” initiative was made up of a number of on-campus initiatives, including the creation of a Student-Athlete Sustainability Coalition and two zero-waste athletic events, in which students removed waste at two basketball games. Through composting and recycling, Davidson students were able to re-route 90 percent of the waste at the Jan. 25 men’s basketball game away from landfills, Mittelstadt said.Davidson’s five-month sustainability initiative closed with The Next Play Venture Tournament.Held on Davidson’s campus April 10-12, the tournament featured entrepreneurial teams from 108 schools whose men’s and/or women’s basketball teams made this year’s “Big Dance.” The teams pitched business plans concerning sustainability and sports to a panel of judges from a variety of organizations.The teams’ business plans had to incorporate Davidson’s “triple bottom line” approach to sustainability, which combines the social equity, environmental integrity and economic prosperity aspects of sustainability, Mittelstadt said.Taking that approach highlights all areas of sustainability in athletics, including the facilities, equipment and nutrition products used by athletes, Mittelstadt said.The students whose plans survived six rounds of the tournament emerged as winners on Sunday, claiming prize money and in-kind support worth a total of $35,000.The Next Play Venture Tournament winner among for-profit enterprises, ReQwip, is an online marketplace devoted to selling new and used cycling and triathlon equipment.Developed by students at the University of Texas–Austin, ReQwip hopes to create a marketplace that makes it easy for people to buy and sell equipment in their home towns, said founder Dan Driscoll.“We want to put more quality gear in the hands of people who want to use it and grow the sporting goods market,” he said.A former soccer coach for inner-city youth, Driscoll saw how hard it was for some people to afford the equipment they needed, he said. Recycling sporting equipment helps reduce the environmental impact of packaging, shipping and manufacturing new equipment and helps make sports accessible to more people, Driscoll said. “We wanted to create a profit model tied to the ability to make an impact on peoples’ lives,” he said. “It’s important everyone has the opportunity to play the sport they love at a price point that fits their budget.”Focusing on hyper-local markets, Driscoll said ReQwip hopes eventually to expand across the country and connect people with their neighbors. “Building relationships within your community is really important to us,” he said. ReQwip plans to launch a test site in Austin in June. Fast Track 901, an intervention program designed to engage at-risk urban youth in the field of motorsports, took home the top prize for nonprofits.Developed by University of Memphis students, Fast Track 901 introduces participants to the world of professional driving, develops leadership skills and provides technical and job-skills training.Team member Rebecca Fowler said the program aims to tackle three issues in the Memphis community – urban blight, poverty and unemployment, and the low graduation rate in public schools – by providing an outlet for the city’s youth.“Kids have a choice where they spend time after school,” she said. “The kids would come for the racing and stay for the relationship.”The program would encourage academic success by inviting students who do well to participate, said Fowler, who has a background in youth intervention and nonprofit development. The environmentally friendly go-kart facility would be the only one in the Memphis area, Fowler said. “Winning (the Next Play tournament) is the first step toward making that happen,” she said. ReQwip and Fast Track 901 were awarded $8,000 each. Runner-up teams received $5,000 each. Sponsors included Duke Energy, Ingersoll Rand, the Project for Innovation in Energy and Sustainability, the Green Sports Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council.Whether people are playing sports or going to sporting events, those events are accompanied by consumptive behavior, Mittelstadt said.“Sports is a big driver for sustainability moving forward,” he said.
Monday, May. 05, 2014
Davidson College spurs sustainability in sports
For information on “The Next Play,” visit www.davidson.edu.
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