NRDC Blog Highlights Cornell's Sports Greening Efforts

Cornell hosted two events to advance its work in athletics sustainability...


By Alice Henly via the NRDC, 2/16/13


It was a big weekend for sports greening at Cornell. The University hosted two impressive events to advance Cornell’s work in athletics sustainability.

cornell.jpgFirst, the University held a panel discussion featuring two-time Pro Bowl NFL player and eco athlete Ovie Mughelli and the NRDC Sports project to help educate students and staff about the huge impact greening athletics and recreation can have on campus sustainability.

Second, Cornell’s facilities department teamed up with the athletics and sustainability offices to divert from landfill 100% of the waste produced at the Saturday night varsity basketball game against Princeton.

Both events were a success and are just the beginning of Cornell’s growing involvement in sports greening. In addition, the weekend’s athletics greening waste diversion successes were integrated into Cornell’s broader sustainability goals as part of the  campus-wide “Compete 2 Reduce” competition.

Ithaca City-20130223-00709.jpgOvie Mughelli spoke from the perspective of an athlete, father and sports fan about the urgency of the environmental challenges we all face. “Why does an NFL star care about the planet? Because we need a healthy climate, clean air and clean water to play sports,” he explained. “Even more than that, protecting the environment should matter to all of us because we rely on it every day to stay healthy and live well. I have to do everything I can to leave a healthy planet for my kids, otherwise how could I sleep at night?”

Ovie’s passion for the environment led him to create the Ovie Mughelli Foundation, an environmental foundation with the tagline “Our Future Is Green,” to help spread the word about people being at the heart of environmental issues. “Environmental degradation is a people problem. It already impacts or will impact all of us in some way. But it can also be a people solution.”     

Ithaca City-20130223-00704.jpgStudents, including the sustainability interns pictured here, were excited to get the opportunity to hear from inspirational speakers like Ovie. They were also proud of the variety of green components of the panel event, including:

  • Compostable serviceware
  • Recycling and composting stations (organic waste collected was composted on campus)
  • Paperless event promotions
  • Readily available campus shuttle buses to the lecture hall

The panel took place before the evening’s varsity basketball game against Princeton, which also featured composting and recycling stations. The University’s recycling center, R5 Operations, stationed staff members throughout Cornell’s Newman Arena to help guide fans on how to properly dispose of their waste.

cornell compost.bmpThe compostable serviceware—paper plates, napkins, cups and popcorn bags—were also pictured on signs attached to all compost bins. The recycling bins featured permanent Cornell-branded signs listing acceptable recyclables.

A post-game sorting of all collected refuse was the last step in achieving Cornell’s first zero landfill game. Achieving a zero waste goal helps protect habitat, save energy, water, as well as resources such as forests, fossil fuels, metals, while helping to mitigate climate change.

Composting reduces the amount of waste directed to landfills by transforming organic waste into useful fertilizer. It also prevents the emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses because when organic compounds decompose in a landfill, they generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Recycling paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics, also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as the harmful impacts caused by the extraction and processing of these resources, including oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution. Manufacturing products from recycled content is less polluting than producing the same products from newly harvested or extracted materials. Making paper from recycled fibers, for example, uses less energy and less water, produces less air and water pollution, and conserves trees and landfill space.

Congratulations to Cornell for successfully achieving zero waste, defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance as diverting over 90% of all waste from landfills and incinerators, for Saturday night’s basketball game. The final overall diversion rate was 96% from landfill, with 65 pounds of recycled materials, 17 pounds of compost and 3 pounds of landfilled waste.

Cornell_Columbia_Basketball_BURBANK-20120128-0026.JPGCornell’s growing sports greening initiatives are also helping to move the Ivy League’s broader green goals forward. In fact, the Ivy League is the first athletics conference to partner with NRDC to make a formal commitment to environmental stewardship.

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. Find out more about NRDC’s sports greening resources at

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.