As if students needed any more reasons to be excited about UNC Charlotte Football kick-off Aug. 31, 2013, there may be another big one for students and faculty concerned about the environmental impact of a stadium this large.
While the plans are currently in their early stages, ideas to make the McColl-Richardson Field a completely zero-waste facility are in the works, UNC Charlotte Secretary for Sustainability Ellen Payne spoke of during a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 25, with the Student Government Association Executive Cabinet.
The petition for the zero-waste stadium was already passed through the student senate. The wheels will not be put into motion for official planning once UNC Charlotte gains full ownership of the stadium, which Payne explained should be late October to early November.
The new stadium may provide compost and recycling bins. Students will be permitted to bring in empty water containers, but no other items.
Payne wants to assure that the fountains in the new stadium embrace features that allow stadium visitors to use a secondary water-spout similar to many of the water fountains that are located around the university’s campus.
These spouts are specifically designed to encourage students to refill their water bottles by allowing them to place their bottle on an upper level of the fountain, using laser sensory that will automatically fill the bottle up without spilling.
The Charlotte Green Initiative (CGI) will be funding the water-bottle stations. CGI’s budget comes from every student at UNC Charlotte enrolled in 12 or more credit hours. Each one of these students pays $1 towards the green fund.
This created the 2012 budget of about $104,052. Payne expects the CGI to fund about eight water fountains, which will cost about $20,000 total.
Right now, there are already water fountains installed in the building. But they are neither chilled nor the ones that are used to fill up bottles, which Payne feels will encourage students to be more eco-friendly.
Additionally, venders at each game, which is currently only Chartwells Dining and Barnes and Noble, will be required to use only products such as plates and utensils that produce a waste that is either compostable or recyclable (called ecoware).
Staff would be trained to inform students about which items belong in the trash can, the recycling bin or the compost bin, which may also give the university the chance to educate students about how to be more eco-conscious.
“Every initiative that we do, I want there to be an educational side to them,” Payne said.
One eco-friendly initiative involves selling UNC Charlotte “game day” cups that can be re-used at home or recycled. This will potentially boost Chartwell sales and create less waste.
Another idea involves students from nearby Charlotte high schools volunteering to help with the recycling efforts after games with the incentive of being able to go to the game for free, which is something that Ohio State University does.
“This idea may seem farfetched,” Payne said. “But many other big universities use this ordinance, Ohio State being one of them. I think it’s realistic for UNC Charlotte to implement this, especially before the stadium is even open.”
The phrasing “zero-waste” can be misleading to some. To Ohio State, “zero waste” means having most materials recycled, a smaller percentage composted and less than 10 percent trashed and taken to landfills. But Payne may want that last percentage to slim down to zero.
But how farfetched is the idea? The concept is relatively new; Ohio State just made its stadium zero-waste last year. It all began by people in the community voicing their concerns about the environmental impact the Ohio State stadium had.
Staffers of Time Warner Cable Arena (TWCA) in Charlotte already understand that there are no shortages of green initiative advocates in the Queen City, which is why the arena already implements a set of similar (if not exactly the same) green initiatives.
Green initiatives implemented at Time Warner Cable Arena include:
• All building lights at TWCA are controlled with a low voltage control system, allowing lighting groups to be controlled at specific times and usage.
• Currently, chemicals being used to clean surfaces in the arena are approximately 85 percent green or green certified, with a goal of becoming 100 percent green.
• All food service areas use earth-friendly plates, bowls, napkins and utensils. Free range organic chicken and grass fed beef is used, all food items are free of any trans fat and the zero-trans fat fryer oil utilized in food is recycled after each use.
Payne wants this on a similar scale for the UNC Charlotte football stadium, and she doesn’t think the costs will out-weigh the benefits in the long run in terms of energy savings and minimal environmental impact.
“The zero-waste stadium is an awesome idea that I hope excites people as much as it does me,” said Payne.
Payne will continue to meet with officials in charge of maintaining the stadium in weeks to come to make sure officials know that a zero-waste initiative is something that the student body wants. The next big step is to meet with Chartwells to discuss plans on creating recyclable and compostable goods.
Though the focus remains on the environmental impact of the stadium, Payne explained it made financial sense.
“Although it is green and it is good for the environment, it also saves money. Initially it is going to cost a lot. But down the line, you’re saving money and resources,” Payne said. “[We would be] making compost, instead of sending everything to the landfill. It’s not just green, there is a sustainable economic side to it all.”
Payne believes that this will be the ideal opportunity to show the community that UNC Charlotte cares about the environment. It may lead to other departments at UNC Charlotte following this example and working to become more eco-friendly. Payne sees the Student Activity Center becoming no-waste eventually.
According to Payne, it all starts with students showing that they care enough to see these initiatives happen.