As the fans crowd the 53,613 seats at Folsom Field to cheer on the “Buffs,” and the team takes to the SportGrass stadium floor, you would think game day would be the only thing on most people’s minds. But at “America’s Top Green University,” a ranking given by Sierra Magazine to the University of Colorado in 2009, fans, students and staff alike are also constantly thinking about keeping Folsom Field a zero-waste facility and making sure the venue is as green as possible. In daily operations, during games, and into the future, provisions made now will hopefully ensure that the pristine views of the foothills of the Colorado Rockies that can be enjoyed from the stadium are still there for future Buffs to enjoy.
The University of Colorado’s first game was played in 1924, and Folsom Field, as it was named after legendary coach Frederick Folsom in 1944 after Coach Folsom passed away, has been home to the Buffs for 88 seasons since. In that time, the venue has undergone a host of changes, transforming from a stadium with creosote-dipped California redwood bleachers set over cement to the state-of-the-art facility with several million dollars worth of renovations it is today. Although the addition of video display Buffvision, suites, and club seating make the stadium a technologically advanced and comfortable place to watch the team play, the achievements the University is most proud of are the green ones. Since 1970, when UC-Boulder became the first university with a student-led environmental center, and then in 1976 with the beginning of the nation’s first student led recycling center, UC has kept “being green” at the forefront of everything they do. Programs, events, policies, and upgrades to facilities are some of the ways the University ensures that their title of “Top Green University” is earned every day.
The University’s most ambitious program is “Ralphie’s Green Stampede,” their initiative to reuse, recycle, and compost materials at the stadium. The hope is that the program can help Folsom Stadium move closer to its goal of becoming a zero-waste stadium, and puts them at the forefront of all other major collegiate and professional sports programs in the U.S. In 2006, the University created the Blueprint for a Green Campus, which included steps for UC to take in order to move toward a waste-free campus. The goal was to recycle or compost 90% of all materials and eliminate product and packaging waste completely. The program has been implemented at Folsom Field in a big way, with the addition of 25 zero-waste stations instead of trash containers, assisted by ROTC squads who volunteer to help patrons with their separation of materials and with stadium cleanup after games.
Ralphie’s Green Stampede relies heavily on the recycling and composting component to move them toward their waste-free goal. Items such as cans, bottles, foil, cardboard, and paper are collected and sorted after each game at the on-campus Intermediate Processing Facility, then picked up by Boulder’s Eco-Cycle to be taken to the city’s recycling facility. Composting is done in a similar manner, with the University able to use an industrial strength composting process that allows for materials such as used napkins, food, meat, bones, paper cups, and paper towels to be collected. The University also uses items with compostable packaging, which are made from organic materials. Everything compostable is sent to a composting facility in Boulder and is then sent back to the University for use as a soil amendment that helps reduce water and fertilizer needs and also helps prevent erosion and the production of greenhouse gas.
In order to keep their green efforts at the forefront of all they do, the University participates in events and competitions such as the EPA Game Day Challenge, in which they won several categories, including greenhouse gas reductions and composting, against 70 other participating U.S. colleges and Universities. CU is also one of the 12 charter members of the Rocky Mountain Greener Venues Partnership, where they promoted a public service announcement at Red Rocks Amphitheatre featuring major sports mascots. CU has also won numerous accolades for their green efforts, including the White House Task Force on Recycling’s “Model Campus Recycling Program,” the LEED Gold Certification of the campus’s ATLAS building, and the designation as the first University in the nation to earn the gold ranking for environmental leadership from STARS – the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System.
The next time you take to the bleachers at Folsom Field to cheer on the Buffs at one of their home games, you may not have just football on your mind. From the moment you enter the stadium until the moment you leave, you can't help but be thinking of the numerous green policies and procedures that are in place as you move through the stadium, and the lasting effects all that green effort will have on the University, the natural beauty of the Boulder area, and our planet as a whole.
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