UMass kicks off Sustainability Month with Game Day Cleanup Challenge

By Stuart Foster

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

In a parking lot teeming with people at Saturday’s UMass football tailgate, Steve Amorin attempted to drive his golf cart through a massive crowd of students and alumni.

Minutes before, Amorin had managed to part a sea of people so that he could drive through, as tailgaters threw their empty beer cans into the trash cans placed on the back of the golf cart.

This time however, Amorin had no luck. Confronted with a mass of unmoving people, the most he could do was convince some of the crowd to move back, just enough for him to put the golf cart in reverse and turn around.

“It’s a bit of a mad house,” the senior natural resources and conservation major said.

At every home football game held at McGuirk Stadium, the University of Massachusetts takes part in a Game Day Challenge, in which it competes with other schools in the Mid-American Conference to see which school can recycle the most at tailgate events.

Last year, UMass placed second in the conference per capita, collecting 2,170 pounds of recyclable material. However, Benjamin Aufill said that ranking highly in the competition is not the major incentive for UMass.

“It’s more the act of doing things to encourage recycling than winning an award,” Aufill, the sustainability communications and marketing manager of UMass, said.

After last year’s Homecoming game created huge amounts of trash, UMass started participating in the Game Day Cleanup Challenge. Amorin said that volunteers kept the parking lot spotless last year and that the positive results were an incentive to hold more events this year.

On Saturday, approximately 25 volunteers participated in the Game Day Challenge, mainly by driving golf carts with trash cans placed on the back through large crowds, allowing people to throw away recyclables. After the crowd cleared out, the volunteers moved in again to collect all the trash they couldn’t clean up during the Tailgate.

“We are encouraging people to recycle,” Aufill said. “Encouragement is not an order, its better if the people want to do it.”

As Amorin drove the golf cart through the crowd, it seemed that students enjoyed the process. Most of them looked on at the cleanup with bemusement, asking if they could throw away empty alcoholic cans in the bin. A couple of students even threw a football through the golf cart, with Amorin’s permission.

“I think it’s a really good idea. Kids throw their bottles in there instead of on the ground,” said Victoria Griswold, a sophomore majoring in natural resources and conservation. “They’re being practical about the littering situation.”

Aufill, who said that students inherently wanted to recycle, was backed up in his efforts by students who wanted to prevent pollution and keep their spaces clean.

“I think it’s a great thing for the environment and also a great thing because the tailgate was really gross last year,” said Stephanie Murray, a sophomore journalism major.

The Game Day Challenge was one of the first events in the new Sustainability Month at UMass, through which UMass has already held a “zero waste” event with the College of Natural Sciences.

Upcoming events include a sustainable Halloween costume sale Oct. 22-23 and an annual Eco-Rep Trash Sort which will be held Oct. 13. In addition, there will be many discussions regarding Sustainability topics as the month goes on.

Looking to the future of the Game Day Cleanup Challenge, Aufill was optimistic.

“I’d like to see another zero waste event at something this big,” he said. “We’re already doing so much in terms of recycling, but we can always look to the future and do more.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster