Overproduction of Cups at Games

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

NAU has become more sustainable over the years by improving its waste management and using alternative options for cups. Sodexo, a company that provides meals for schools like NAU, contributes to this success.

Football games at the Walkup Skydome can be difficult to make environmentally sustainable. With thousands of fans attending to support NAU, food venues in the arena sell a large amount of food and drinks during the games.

Sodexo provides food for the Skydome during games and has discoverd different strategies to make events more sustainable. One strategy includes upgrading to compostable and reusable cups.

“All the cups we [sell at the Skydome] that aren’t reusable are all biodegradable,” Casey Fisher, the director for strategic planning and marketing for Sodexo, said. “Over the last 3 or 4 years, we have leaned on Pepsi, our vendor that provides our product, and we’re really only taking the products that they can supply that are biodegradable.”

The only beverages that can be bought at the games that are not biodegradable are the water bottles. This is why Sodexo does recommend fans lean toward the reusable cups, also known as loyalty cups, that people can buy for $3 at games.

These cups are similar to the reward cups offered at Harkins Theatres. People can bring these cups back to the game and purchase a beverage for $1. Gaby Galvan, the Skydome sustainability specialist for Sodexo, said promotion for these cups isn’t necessary, because they sell themselves.

“So even if people aren’t thinking about the sustainability, they are going to do it because it’s cheaper,” Galvan said.

In addition, Sodexo holds special events throughout the year to promote differently designed cups.

“We have the family game coming up,” Fisher said. “And we have a special commemorative cup for family weekend that is a reusable cup. We will have one for homecoming, too.”

The family weekend football game will be Oct. 5 against University of Northern Colorado. The homecoming football game will be Oct. 26 against Portland State University.

Fisher said the Sodexo team is acknowledged by the community because they compost. They are able to use the organic material from different waste products to produce a soil conditioner.

Sodexo has its own large-scale compost program it developed themselves. A dish return machine for both of the food courts on campus was created, which composts almost all food waste produced. In addition, they were able to go strawless at the beginning of last year and stopped using plastic bags in 2009.

One of the student leaders within NAU’s sustainable communities graduate program, Tyler Linner, said there have been some tensions between NAU and environmental activists in Flagstaff. NAU is growing quickly and Linner said he has some ideas on how to repair the relationship.

“If athletics partnered with the same people doing the community events, then it would send a message that NAU is trying to improve and be a part of the community,” Linner said. “NAU is like an island, and it would be good to see it and the community come together and become one.”

An advantage that athletics has is knowing nearly the exact data that comes from these types of events. They are able to break down the percentage of what material was used during certain events. This knowledge is very valuable because it can give event planners an understanding about what materials they use the most, and they can partner with groups within the community to find waste management solutions.

An event that NAU football has done over the years is the Green Game. This is a game where they don’t use any type of waste throughout the entire game. Over the years, they have been striving to have this standard for every game.

“The Green Jacks are really good at going to games to facilitate recycling to help people,” Galvan said.

The Green Jacks and the NAU Green Fund are sustainability programs that Sodexo works with to make the university more sustainable. Both groups are mostly comprised of students who help with a number of sustainability related projects. Galvan said the Green Jacks focus more time on athletics than the rest of the programs on campus.

These programs have constantly tried to upgrade NAU’s sustainability.

With programs and projects, they will try to improve the Flagstaff lifestyle and make the city and campus as environmentally friendly as possible, one simple act at a time.