Diverting waste with basketball: Zero Waste Game Day

This Saturday, March 8th at 3:30 pm, Cal Men’s Basketball Team will play Colorado — but that’s not it: the game will be zero waste. Kristen Klein, a member of the Zero Waste Research Center, and Sarah Zou, the project coordinator for SPROUTS (Student Projects Redefining Our Universities Trash Sustainably) have organized another Zero Waste Game Day: Cal Men’s Basketball Team versus Colorado. This event is meant to educate students and other attendees about UC Berkeley’s efforts towards zero waste by 2020, and how one can get involved.

The basketball game will aim to have zero waste going towards landfills.

But what does “zero waste” imply? And is it possible?
Klein described “zero waste” as “zero waste going to the landfill…[achieved] by composting, recycling, and reusing, along with minimizing overall consumption.” Effectively, zero waste is achieved through diversion, which means waste is directed away from the landfill to the more sustainable waste streams.

The entire University of California has agreed to a “Zero Waste by 2020” goal, yet UC Berkeley is currently at a diversion rate of only about 67%. When asked if she thought this was a feasible goal for the university, Klein responded with an air of hope: “It is undoubtedly an ambitious goal but efforts, like the Zero Waste basketball game, are excellent steps to get the campus involved and minimize our waste to the landfill.”

Klein has been working with Cal Athletics and Cal Dining on numerous waste reduction projects for Haas Pavilion and Memorial Stadium, as well as other facilities, throughout the past year. For this event, Klein has mainly been working to get bins and signage for these facilities, organize volunteers to “Trash Talk,” the ‘colloquial’ term for educating people on where their waste goes, in addition to assisting Cal Dining in finding reusable, recyclable and compostable alternatives to their current landfill products. Sarah Zou, SPROUTS coordinator, has been working closely with Cal Athletics to create a kid’s zone event, a half-time game, as well as prizes for fans.

Last year, UC Berkeley came in first nationally in the Game Day RecycleMania Competition with a diversion rate of 96.85%. RecycleMania is a friendly competition between about 500 schools in U.S. that rallies students around sustainability, and provides a forum for keeping track of diversion numbers. The prize was a national recognition of UC Berkeley’s sustainable practices, as well as a trophy made entirely out of recyclable materials.  This year, Stanford is challenging Berkeley to see who can reach a 100% diversion rate.

Klein, Zou, and other volunteers, will collect all the waste from the game, sort it and individually weigh the recycling and compost waste that ends up in the landfill. These landfill numbers, along with the weights from the compost and recycling from the game, will allow them to calculate the overall diversion rate and report it to RecycleMania.

Klein hopes that the game will be an entertaining and engaging way to “educate people about how to properly dispose of their waste and how to actively work with [the campus] toward the Zero Waste goal.”

If you are interested in volunteering at this game for a FREE ticket, contact Kristen Klein, kklein92@gmail.com.

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