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Alice Henly’s Blog

University of Pennsylvania Launches Student Athletics Eco-Reps Team

Alice Henly

Posted February 6, 2013 in Green Enterprise, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably

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Last week the University of Pennsylvania held a kickoff event for their newly formed Athletics Eco-Reps team in collaboration with Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The celebration was a big success, with over 150 student and staff attendees, and featured special guests from the Ivy League, Green Sports Alliance, Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, Penn State and Swarthmore College. 

penn event 2.jpeg.pngThe NRDC Sports project, as the leading environmental advisors to all professional sports leagues as well as the Ivy League athletics conference, was invited to make the keynote speech at the event. It was an honor to attend and the enthusiasm for sports greening—amongst students, coaches, faculty and other staff—was contagious.  

The Athletics Eco-Reps team, comprised of 13 student-athletes, first met at the beginning of academic year in September 2012. It’s led by Dan Schupsky, assistant swim coach and pool facilities manager, and is part of Penn’s Green Campus Partnership that works throughout the University to promote better environmental practices and policies.

Dan explained to the Daily Pennsylvanian that the Athletics Eco-Reps aim “to act as an internal consulting group and comb through each athletic team to find out how each can be greener.” They also plan to tackle Penn’s recreation facilities.

The student-athletes, who were required to apply for the opportunity to be an Athletics Eco-Rep, each choose an environmental topic to research and develop practical solutions to help enhance the environmental profile of Penn Athletics’ operations. Topics include energy conservation, waste and recycling practices, water conservation strategies, alternative transportation and environmental education. 

The Athletics Eco-Reps engage other students, staff, and faculty throughout the University and work to develop inter-team programs that help athletics and other student-athletes adopt more sustainable behaviors.

ATT55744.jpg“Identifying issues and benchmarking were crucial to getting the program off and running,” said sophomore gymnastics Eco-Rep Sara Allen (center of photo) about the program, “and I am really looking forward to moving forward with the projects we set up this semester.”

Each Athletic Eco-Rep was honored at the kickoff event, which served as a catalyst for further environmental awareness and action by a broader group of students and staff throughout the University. The event helped prove the value of using sports as a platform for communicating important ecological messages like recycling, energy efficiency and saving water to thousands, even millions of sports fans and members of the local community.

The event not only talked the talk but also walked the walk, by employing greener practices. These included:

  • Serving only locally sourced food for the dinner, provided by Bon Appetit.
  • Using only compostable dinner serviceware.
  • Placing composting and recycling containers throughout the room.
  • Encouraging Attendees to donate used shoes in boxes available during the event, which were repurposed and donated to places of need.
  • Encouraging attendees to take home uneaten, prepared food to reduce waste.

Penn’s Athletics Eco-Reps team is an important next step in Penn’s overall sports greening program, which also boasts an impressive LEED Gold certified weights training center (called Weiss Pavilion) and an organic, chemical-free Compost Tea turf maintenance system.

Penn’s sports greening initiatives are helping to move the Ivy League’s broader environmental stewardship goals forward. In fact, the Ivy League is the first athletics conference to partner with NRDC to make a formal commitment to greening. The League is working with NRDC to enhance the environmental profile of Ivy Championships and provide greening resources to all Ivy Athletic Departments to help improve the environmental footprint of their operations.

And thanks to Penn’s event, other nearby campuses, including both Penn State and Swarthmore, are looking at establishing a sports greening program of their own.

Watch the highlight video of the kickoff event.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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