Green College Sports

Scene Setter: The 2014 Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit


Long time followers of GreenSportsBlog have no doubt read some or all of Elyssa Emrich’s posts on the greening efforts of select Big 10 Athletic Departments (5 of the 14  so far–yes there are 14 Big 10 schools. That is an issue.) It is no surprise, then, that Elyssa is attending the 2014 Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit next week in Boulder, CO. She pens this scene setter.


Intercollegiate athletics are going green in a big way these days. A large number of college athletic departments have joined the Green Sports Alliance in the last couple years and the NRDC just last year released its 2nd “Game Changer” publication dedicated to the greening of college athletics.

Another sign of this shift is the growing number of participants at the annual Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit. Over 45 college athletic departments showed up last year and it will be interesting to see if and how much that number grows to at the 4th annual Summit, which is being hosted by the University of Colorado-Boulder next week from Wednesday, June 25th to Friday, June 27th. My guess is the number grows significantly.

Launched in 2011, the Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit, has been held in the Southeast until this year with its move to Boulder. University of Colorado-Boulder Athletic Director Rick George will give the opening speech.

If you’ve followed my GreenSportsBlog series on “Greening Big 10 Athletics”, you’ll know that I’m a proud Wisconsin alum and Big 10 booster. But, even though they’re in the Pac 12, I have to give credit to Colorado as a leader when it comes to green sports (maybe the Big 10 should’ve invited them instead of Nebraska!). This beautiful campus is recognized, year after year, as one of the greenest in the country. The football stadium, Folsom Field, has become zero-waste for all home games. So you can see why the Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit came to Boulder.

Folsom Field
Sunset over Folsom Field in Boulder, home of the University of Colorado Buffaloes. The University will host the 4th annual Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit next week. (Photo Credit: University of Colorado)


The goal of the Summit is to share ideas about how to improve the greening of intercollegiate athletics and to better integrate the efforts of campus sustainability offices with athletic departments. At many universities, the two groups, despite being on the same campus, don’t interact much. But, in each of my blog posts about the Greening of Big 10 Athletics I found the most successful green-sports programs involve an active collaboration between the two departments.

They include green initiatives such as Ohio State’s Zero-Waste program, Michigan’s student-athlete-led sustainability organization (Michigan Student Athletes for Sustainability or MSAS),  LEED certifications for the University of Minnesota’s new stadiums and Penn State’s focus on fan sustainability engagement.The main reasons athletic departments in the Big 10 and beyond are investing in sustainability are simple yet powerful: Students are passionate about it, the general public benefits, and, last but certainly not least, because it helps the top and bottom line.

The Summit has become a meeting place for college athletic department executives and other industry professionals to share success stories while collaborating to find ways to overcome challenges to becoming greener such as higher upfront costs and being able to overcome some fan skepticism (i.e. does greening come at the cost of winning on the field?). This collaboration is one of the main reasons I find green sports at the collegiate level at once paradoxical and fascinating.

One the one hand, collegiate athletic departments are hyper-competitive with each other. On the other, they can, for the right cause (i.e. greenness, sustainability) can come together and help each other. Of course, the schools do compete with each other on greenness—which, if they bring the same level of drive to sustainability as they do on the court, the country will be the better for it.

I am very excited to be a part of the Summit next week. If you cannot make it, be sure to check out my GreenSportsBlog posts about the Summit and also follow me on Twitter (@eemrich33) for updates from Boulder.



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1 Comment

  1. Usually I do not read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do it!
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