Green State Of Mind

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Posted Wed, Mar 18, 2015

The Pepsi Center is one of many venues across the US attempting to initiate greener policies. (Photo provided by Pepsi Center)

The Pepsi Center is one of many venues across the U.S. attempting to initiate greener policies. (Photo provided by Pepsi Center)

DENVER — The United States have recently made it a priority to go green. Since Barack Obama became our president, America is producing more oil, gas and renewable energy, and the U.S. is becoming more energy efficient overall.

“Recycling not only preserves our environment by conserving precious resources and reducing our carbon footprint, but it also contributes to job creation and economic development,” Obama said in a press release on June 25, 2013.  “This billion-dollar industry employs thousands of workers nationwide, and evolving our recycling practices can help create green jobs, support a vibrant American recycling and refurbishing industry and advances our clean energy economy.”

A prime location for improving our greener habits is at major arenas, such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and others across the United States, or in our own backyard at the Pepsi Center in Denver and the Colorado Convention Center. These venues draw in thousands of people on a nightly basis with sporting events, concerts and other forms of entertainment.  And when many people gather in one for entertainment, they generate mountains of garbage.

So how do these facilities handle their recycling? Each venue starts with a common first step: people.  Venues across the nation have mostly switched garbage receptacles to multi-use receptacles, separating the garbage into compost, landfill and recyclables. Each receptacle gives instructions on which items go where, which aids the venue operators in doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint, but this isn’t nearly as  effective as the arenas would like to be.

A prime location for improving our greener habits is at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo Provided by Krista Ballard)

A prime location for improving our greener habits is at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo Provided by Krista Ballard)

“I’d say that less than 2 percent of guests coming here actually recycle properly,” said Mike Tierney, executive director of venue operations at the Pepsi Center.

Because of this low number, venues take extra steps to better their recycling percentages. The Staples Center trains employees to monitor guests and point them in the right direction to throw away their garbage.

“We have an Extensive training program to know when to catch guests and help them with recycling,” said Krista Ballard, sustainability programs manager at the Staples Center.

Along with the green programs that the Staples Center employs, corporations they partner with, like ABM Janitorial and Levy Restaurants which have their own green programs. The Staples Center also partners with L.A. Conservation Corps, a program that sends three to five at-risk youths to work an event, depending on ticket sales. These volunteers receive incoming bags of garbage and sift out recyclable material. The combined efforts of all these programs have helped the Staples Center recycle about 50 percent of their garbage, according to Ballard.

Pepsi Center Employee, George Heath gets ready to walk down the aisles to get peoples recyclables. (Photo by John McMinn)

Pepsi Center employee George Heath gets ready to walk down the aisles to get peoples recyclables. (Photo by John McMinn)

While the Pepsi Center doesn’t follow the same practices as the Staples Center, they have other methods. Premier Facility Services, a corporation partnering with the Pepsi Center, employs two methods. The first was referred to by Tierney as “double picking” where an employee will check a bag of garbage for potential recyclables and place them in the proper receptacle before it is collected, then another employee will check the bag again before collecting it. The other method is to send employees around the stands to offer to take the garbage from fans during a certain time of an event, both as a service to the fans attending and a method proper trash disposal.  The Pepsi Center has taken other steps in their efforts in the green initiative by designating a number of preferred spaces in their parking lots specifically for hybrid cars. Additionally, they have posted signs in front of the box office which promote a “No Idling Zone” to reduce emissions from automobiles.

Some venues attempt to go above and beyond. For example, the plans that the Colorado Convention Center have in place have had a positive impact on the environment. The sustainability programs put in motion by the Convention Center focuses on energy conservation, air and water quality and conservation, procurement and stakeholder engagement as well as waste management. These sustainability programs divert 57 percent of waste from landfills. Of these materials the center donated 307,739 pounds for reuse or re-purposing. Readers of Trade Show Executive Magazine named the Convention Center as having the “Most Innovative Green Initiatives by a Convention Center.”

The Convention Center uses single-stream recycling throughout the facility as well as a “back of house” compost collection program. This means that there is a recycling bin next to every trash can. People can place any paper, aluminum, tin,glass and plastic containers. The compost collection consists of food waste, paper towels and yard waste.

Green Volunteers is just one of green initiatives that the Colorado Convention Center has in place. (Photo provided by CCC)

Green Volunteers is just one of the green initiatives that the Colorado Convention Center has in place. (Photo provided by CCC)

The Convention Center offers two options to potential clients, the first being a manned compost bin at each trash and recycling bin, ensuring that only compostable materials are placed in them. Clients can work with a company called Centerplate to ensure all food items are compostable.  In addition, it has an advanced program donating unused and leftover conference materials. Nearly 30,000 pounds of materials were donated to the local community in 2007, the first year of the program.

Other venues making strides in sustainability are the American Airlines Arena in Miami and the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. The American Airlines Arena was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification — the rating system put in place by U.S. Green Building Council for designing and constructing the world’s greenest and most energy-efficient high performing buildings — in April 2009. They were able to achieve this certification by implementing such practices as using green roofing materials and reducing energy consumption by using off-site chilled water on top of their recycling practices.

The Moda Center has taken the lead of the American Airlines Arena and gone a step further. According to a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council: A New York City-based, nonprofit international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing, the Moda Center became the first professional sports arena in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification USGBC’s Existing Buildings standard in January 2010.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and director of the Sports Greening Project Natural Resources Defense Council said, “The Portland Trail Blazers are indisputably among the most progressive and accomplished teams in the world of sports when it comes to environmental initiatives. Not just in the NBA, but in all sports.”

Hershkowitz went on to say “they were the first professional sports arena to achieve LEED Gold Certification and they co-founded the Green Sports Alliance. Through their leadership in recycling, energy efficiency, transportation, and ecologically smart purchasing the Trail Blazers have helped move the entire NBA toward a deeper engagement in the environmental issue, and in so doing, the Trail Blazers are leading one of the most important collaborations, sports and environmentalism, in our society.”

Not all arenas can achieve the recycling numbers that the Moda Center does. Some cannot due to the size of the venue, and others due to when the venue was built. One example of both constraints is the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. This venue was built in 1993 — under the original name The Pond of Anaheim — and was not built on a green initiative standard. A source at the Honda Center said their venue is too small to collect and sort recycling on site.

However, the Honda Center still practices green standards. They have formed a relationship with Waste Management to recycle all they can from their events. Waste Management has full responsibility to recycle all they can from the waste generated from these events (plastic, aluminum, paper, banners and lighting) and the Honda Center also recycles all glass and cardboard for a monetary return. The Honda Center has also used environmental friendly methods of food purchasing and preparation, using locally grown produce, bulk condiment dispensers and recycled materials to reduce waste.

The Honda Center also partnered with Bloom Energy to install “Bloom Boxes” in 2013, clean electro-chemical fuel cells which generate 80 percent of the venue’s base load power and 25 percent of the power used during Ducks games or concerts. On average, the Bloom Boxes will offset 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco getting ready for its inaugural season. Summer of 2014 (Photo by Dylan Palm-Trujillo)

Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco getting ready for its inaugural season. Summer of 2014 (Photo by Dylan Palm-Trujillo)

Like the Pepsi Center, many arenas and stadiums across the country are attempting to do more with green initiatives. From older arenas like the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., which is partnering with programs like AEG 1 Earth to implement environmental policies, to newer venues like the recently built Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, which was built using recycled products, venues across the nation continue their efforts to have a “green state of mind.”

Highlights of venue’s recycling efforts

Pepsi Center

  • 1,081 tons of solid waste 2014
  • 45 tons of recycled cardboard
  • 30 tons of mixed recyclables
  • 55 tons of used fryer oil
  • 70 tons of recycled material 2014
  • 4 percent recycled from solid waste

Staples Center

  • In 2011, rolled out mixed recycling and landfill waste bins
  • 2012 suites no longer have trash containers mixed recycle/compost
  • $ in cardboard waste audit doubled cardboard amount
  • Video with Lee Zeidman and Luc Robitaille educating on recycling every game
  • Over 50 percent is recycled overall

Convention Center

  • All office paper is 5o percent post-consumer content.
  • All toilet and tissue paper is 30 percent post-consumer content
  • Fifty-five percent diversion rate for facility in 2013
  • Environmental Preferable Purchasing policy with a focus on bulk packaging
  • In 2014 diversion dropped by 10 percent
  • Average between 40 and 60 tons total waste per month.

Honda Center

  • Averages about 5-9 tons of trash depending on the venue
  • Waste Management handles all recycling duties
  • Averages about 95 employees per event focused solely on trash collecting (30 during event, 65 after)
  • Recycles all glass and cardboard for monetary return
  • Installed “Bloom Boxes” to greatly reduce CO2 output.
John McMinn Co-Author This Story
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About Dylan Palm-Trujillo

Dylan Palm-Trujillo is a Freelance Writer/Photographer for the Metropolitan and Metro Post -Telegraph. He has had work published by Westword Denver and Johnstown Breeze while being a student at Metro. Moreover, he has done a PR internship as well as a reporting Internship. Further, he is a Metro State Student currently studying Convergent Journalism and expects to graduate in the fall of 2015.

View all posts by Dylan Palm-Trujillo

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