By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Practicing environmental sustainability is a responsibility that can be shared by all. This past season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC made significant efforts as a professional sports franchise to improve the recycling and composting of solid waste at home matches.
During the Whitecaps men's and women's doubleheader at Swangard Stadium on June 12, 'Caps fans were introduced to the GreenZone Sustainability Kick pilot program. In what was a partnership between the Whitecaps, Metro Vancouver, and the City of Burnaby, GreenZone Sustainability Kick helped raise environmental awareness by providing a means to recycle or compost most of the materials from snack and beverage purchases at home matches. Before the launch of the Swangard pilot project, Whitecaps fans were responsible for three-quarters of the material that was taken post-match from the stadium to landfill as garbage.
The aim of GreenZone Sustainability Kick was to educate and encourage both fans and food vendors to not only recycle or compost materials in designated 'Zero Waste Stations' around Swangard, but also reduce the amount of trash coming into the stadium by using things like reusable containers, serving items in bulk instead of single-serve packets, and only buying things that are necessary. Over the course of 14 match days, the amount of total waste generated went from almost 450 kilograms per game down to an average of 297 kilograms per game. The amount of solid waste that was diverted (recycled or composted) went from 10 per cent up to 70 per cent, with approximately 196 kilograms of solid waste material (two-thirds of the total solid waste produced) being successfully diverted from landfill per match.
Evergreen Sports Programming Ltd. undertook the organizing of GreenZone Sustainability Kick, with program director Leon Denenfeld expressing his delight at the efforts and feedback both he and his colleagues received during the season. "I remember the Whitecaps match-day volunteers coming up to us and thanking us for introducing such an initiative at the stadium," Denenfeld told whitecapsfc.com. "It showed that there was a willingness and need for such an initiative on game days at Swangard. We hope we can carry this forward towards our goal of continuing to reduce the amount of solid waste coming into Swangard each game and diverting 95 per cent of solid waste from the landfill."
It was hard for fans not to be made aware of the program when they arrived for a Whitecaps game at Swangard. Billboard signs around the pitch, above the entrance and exit tunnels to the main grandstand, and in the public washrooms reminded people of the importance to recycle or compost all of their solid waste items. Whitecaps men's and women's players also assisted in educating fans about environmental sustainability through public service announcements on television and at the stadium.
For Evergreen Sports Programming co-founder Julian Radlein, GreenZone Sustainability Kick provides a model by which other organizations can attain similar environmental goals. "The Swangard program went smashingly well," said Radlein - a former fullback with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats. "The Whitecaps were fantastic in their commitment to the project, because it not only provides a huge business opportunity, it is also a huge departure from how solid waste is normally handled at sporting events. Instead of looking at waste as waste, the Whitecaps and their partners looked at waste as a resource. During the season, the fans were excellent at taking their waste out of the stands and putting them in the right bins. People were also willing to reuse their plates and cups as well, with the best example being the patrons in the BMO VIP Club. Overall, what people did at Swangard this past season was nothing short of outstanding."
Metro Vancouver will be encouraged by the results of the Swangard pilot project, as they aim to draft guidelines for waste reduction in stadiums and arenas throughout the region's 22 member municipalities. It has also given the Whitecaps the chance to broaden their sustainability drive beyond their in-stadium efforts for next season. "Our goal is to become the best environmentally sustainable small sport franchise in the world," said Whitecaps director of event management Hillary Campbell. "The success of GreenZone Sustainability Kick at Swangard has given the club the opportunity to integrate the initiative in all Whitecaps programming areas in 2010. This would include W-League and Premier Development League home matches, as well as Whitecaps camps and clinics."