Recycle Rice-Eccles: Hoping for a waste-free future

Story and slideshow by LAUREN BERG

The members of Recycle Rice-Eccles have taken big steps toward helping the University of Utah continue to go green. With one person’s dedication, the organization has gone from almost non-existent to a big part of the U’s athletic events in less than a year’s time.

Recycle Rice-Eccles started in 2010 as a petition. It sought to encourage the crew’s responsibility for cleaning the university stadium to recycle the leftover cups and cans, but the petition failed. “It was never going to succeed and I wanted a program that covered every potential area to recycle at the games,” Seth Crossley said.

Crossley is one of Recycle Rice-Eccles’ associate directors of sustainability. He is also the person whose dedication changed the organization into what it is today, and described the organization in the beginning as “loosely defined and unsuccessful.”

“Volunteers would be the best way to bring awareness to recycling,” Crossley said. “I knew we were always going to need volunteers and that we needed to work with the university instead of changing their contracts.”

The volunteers, who Crossley said numbered only about five to 10 in the beginning, would ask the fans for their plastic cups and cans to recycle. Since it didn’t seem like fans were being proactive about recycling the volunteers made it an effort to do so.

“It’s a challenge educating people about how and what to recycle,” said Allison Boyer, another associate director of sustainability and Recycle Rice-Eccles’ volunteer coordinator.

Boyer and Crossley both noticed that the number of  volunteers would decline during the course of the football games. About 10 people would help at the beginning of the games, but by the end, when it came time to clean and recycle trash, there would only be about three volunteers.

It wasn’t until the 2010 Utah vs. TCU football game, when the volunteers saw an ESPN College GameDay booth, that they realized what their organization could really be about.

According to an article published at ESPN MediaZone, the booth was there to promote going green and to create “an eco-friendly student gathering.” The article also explained that the students will spread the word about what their groups do on campus while helping ESPN collect recyclables.

The fans at the Utah vs. TCU game, along with Crossley’s volunteers, responded positively to the ESPN College GameDay Goes Green booth and the recycle initiative. They “were really excited about it,” he said. “It was really cool.”

Crossley and his crew became inspired to do something more for Recycle Rice-Eccles, and that’s exactly what they did.

He then decided to drop every single one of his 2011 summer classes in order to concentrate solely on the organization and how it could grow. He started out by making a PowerPoint slide show, and would go from department to department at the university to try to gain their support.

Crossley asked some departments for financial support. The staff in each department was willing to contribute as much as possible, but it wasn’t enough support to get Crossley where he needed to be. He was eventually told to go to ASUU, the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

He got the majority of his financial support to start funding the Recycle Rice-Eccles “make over” from ASUU, college departments and the Office of Sustainability.

One of his main goals was to get people more involved and proactive about recycling, so getting a spot to set up a recycling booth in the tailgating lot at football games was a big priority.

Crossley then had to go through a series of many approval processes.

He knew he would need the support of the top people in the departments in order to give the organization a new look and to get it up and running.

Crossley said that Gordon Wilson, vice president for Administrative Services, wanted to help support the changes that were being made at Recycle Rice-Eccles.

Because Wilson is in charge of plant operations, stadium services, stadium security and more, his support would also mean the support of everyone under him. He was also a big financial supporter as well, Crossley said.

He then needed the approval of the Crimson Club and CBS Sports Properties to set up a booth at the tailgating lot and to use logos at the booth, since the club owns the rights to market on athletic properties and sells all those rights to CBS Sports Properties. He also needed approval from the Athletic Department to set up a booth on school and athletic grounds.

After everything was approved, Crossley was then able to promote the sponsors for Recycle Rice-Eccles, including the MUSS, the campus bookstore and the Crimson Club.

Crossley decided to make bright green “Green Police” shirts for his volunteers to wear that display some of the sponsors’ logos on it.

Once the football season started Crossley continued to get companies and groups to sponsor the organization and get more volunteers to help. His main goal was to “make it fun for people,” he said, so he got fans and his volunteers involved by doing things like handing out or setting up drawings for field passes, and by doing “giveaways.”

In such a short amount of time Recycle Rice-Eccles now has its own mascot, the “Green Men,” that is seen running around at football games, a Facebook page, and sponsorships by businesses like Ford and Coca-Cola.

After only the first five games in 2011, Crossley said Recycle Rice-Eccles saved 17,000 pounds of recycled materials from being thrown away with the help of over 330 volunteers.

“It was surprising to see how many people were in favor of the organization, and how many people said it was long overdue,” said Chris Pavel, a junior at the University of Utah and Recycle Rice-Eccles volunteer.

Still continuing to try to grow, Crossley explains there will be more things to come for Recycle Rice-Eccles in the future, such as improving the “The Green Minute” at football games, getting the “Green Men” more involved, and just doing more to get fans and volunteers excited about recycling.

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