GVSU's work earns sustainability honor from national organization

Volunteers from Grand Valley collect trash from a Grand Valley football game as part of the Zero Waste Touchdown Challenge.

Grand Valley’s efforts to reduce waste generated by fans at home football games received national recognition from the National Wildlife Federation.

Since 2013, an initiative among the Office of Sustainability Practices, Facilities Services, Athletics, the Office of Student Life and Campus Dining has been working to reduce landfill-bound trash at Lubbers Stadium as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s GameDay Football Zero Waste Touchdown Challenge .

This year that work bore fruit, as GVSU was honored with the challenge’s Waste Minimization Per Capita category, the only Division II school recognized this year. Grand Valley joined the University of Colorado Boulder; the University of Minnesota; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and the Georgia Institute of Technology as this year’s category winners.

“The most uplifting thing I’ve learned from this experience is that people genuinely care and want to help with waste minimization,” said Yumiko Jakobcic, director of the Office of Sustainability Practices. 

“We often have people stopping by and asking us to teach them. A lot of folks have also said that they didn’t realize we do all of this and that they’re happy to see Grand Valley’s commitment to the environment.”

GVSU volunteers, who are collecting trash from a Grand Valley football game for the Zero Waste Touchdown Challenge, pose for a photo

President Philomena V. Mantella recognized the initiative’s success during the February 23 Board of Trustees meeting, congratulating the campus partners on their mission.

“I'm proud to say we join some of the biggest names in college football on the winners list, which shows that our work in this space is second to none,” Mantella said. “Thanks to all of the leaders and students who worked to sort, measure and recycle waste items from the game. This accolade is another example of our leadership and commitment to sustainability.”

Students, faculty and staff collected trash from fans during the Lakers’ game against Assumption University on September 16. More than 280 pounds of mixed recyclable materials were collected from the announced crowd of 15,844 fans. 

"It can be challenging work sometimes,” Jakobcic said. “All of the facilities crew, athletics, the folks from Laker Food Co., our student volunteers and so many others across campus — they work incredibly hard to make this happen. 

“It doesn’t always feel like the most glamorous work, but when you see how crowded the game is and how little we’ve sent to the landfill afterward, it’s very fulfilling.”


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