Students positioned around Goodman Stadium donned green vests and handed out recycling bins and trash bags to attendees at Saturday’s football game against Merrimack to educate game-goers about how to reduce food waste effectively.
Eco-Reps and the Office of Sustainability joined forces to partake in Game Day Challenge, a national competition between participating colleges and universities to see who can divert the most waste during one home football game.
Student volunteers worked in shifts all day, from the first tailgater early in the morning until the final whistle, helping to ensure people recycled correctly. At the end of the day, the trash and recycling quantities were measured and the waste diversion percentage was calculated.
Recycling monitors Vaishali Bajracharya, ’23, and Chloe Wilcox, ’23, said any cardboard that has been contaminated with food or grease has to go in the trash, and bottle caps should be thrown out.
“It’s nerve-wracking to just stop people in their tracks as they’re walking toward the trash can, and be like, ‘Hey, take off that cap!’” Wilcox said. “I’ve noticed even when I’m standing here, people kind of sneakily toss (trash) behind my back.”
The Eco-Reps staff at the event emphasized the importance of keeping the recycling load as clean as possible. On campus, ABM, a local facility services company, handles Lehigh’s waste management. A load is rejected if it is more than 0.5% contaminated.
“Over the years here, lots of our recycling has been rejected, because it’s been too contaminated with food waste,” Eco-Rep Courtney Giardina, ’20, said. “That’s why we’re trying to help people understand… just make them take a step back and realize what’s going on.”
Brian Denofa, a game attendee, said the recycling efforts by the GameDay volunteers were working effectively both in the stadium and in the parking lot and tailgate areas.
Eco-Rep Jane Le, ’20, ran a stand by the entrance, handing out stickers and reusable straws. On a large poster draped in front of Le’s table, dozens of signatures pledged to make a greater effort to recycle.
Le found spectators had diverse reactions to the Eco-Reps efforts, and noted that older game attendees showed more interest in the program by asking questions.
Eco-Rep Clarissa Chun, ’22, said she thinks even though people realize sustainability is a big issue, many people aren’t educated on how to make a positive difference. Chun said she participated in the event because she believes change needs to happen now.
“Some would just throw their trash away without really making eye contact with us or asking us what we’re here for,” Le said. “But we do get more positive reactions — people are generally interested in what we’re doing and are open minded to learn.”