At UNC Charlotte, the waste motto is: “Go green or go home.”
Senior Ellen Payne said that’s the goal she and the Charlotte Green Initiative, a student committee, are working toward at the 49ers’ new McColl-Richardson Field.
“We saw what Ohio State University was doing to transform their stadium to zero waste,” she said. “We thought it was something that had to be done at our stadium, too.”
By zero waste, Payne means the stadium won’t produce any waste that has to go into a landfill. Instead, everything purchased at the stadium will be recyclable or compostable.
Payne, a psychology major and environmental studies minor, said the easiest way to get people to recycle and compost is to train them early.
“If you study human behavior, you see that if you plant an idea early enough, it will carry on for a long time,” she said. “At the stadium, we will be teaching people how to recycle and compost by not giving them any other options.”
Steven Marques, who does marketing for the committee, said there won’t be any trash cans at the stadium, except in the restrooms.
“We’ll have signs up, and volunteers that will help people understand what to recycle and what to compost,” he said.
All the compostable material will be sent to Earth Farms, a composting site in Dallas. Eventually, Payne said, she’d like to have the compost come back to the university to be used for gardens.
The committee spent the past two years developing the zero-waste plan, working with UNCC student government, the campus recycling center and Chartwells, food distributor for the university.
“They’ve all been so incredibly helpful getting this off the ground,” said Payne. “Luckily, Chartwells hadn’t ordered any of the items or chosen any vendors for the stadium yet. When we approached them about providing recyclable and compostable materials for food and drink, they were excited and wanted to help us.”
The committee’s work cost $20,000 and was paid for by the Green Fee Fund, which receives $2 of each student’s tuition. Of that, about $3,000 will go toward water bottle filling stations to be set up across the stadium.
“The water will be free, and it’ll hopefully encourage people to reuse bottles instead of just tossing them,” said Payne.
The policy was to be tested April 20 at the university’s first football scrimmage. After the game, the committee planned to review how things went and make changes if necessary.
“Hopefully, people will take what they learn at the games and apply it to the rest of their lives,” said Payne. “This generation is cleaning up the mess the last generation made, even if they didn’t know they were making a mess of the environment. It’s our responsibility to take care of the planet. Otherwise, we will all die with it.”