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Green Light

GREEN LIGHT: Columbus

Columbus Clippers honored in fifth annual SWACO Emerald Awards

River Cats

A recent study released by ProGreenSports reveals that more than 60 percent of professional sports teams say they are placing a moderate or high emphasis on recycling at games and office facilities. With the opening of its new stadium, Huntington Park, the Columbus Clippers wanted to become a part of this trend and reduce the more than 200 tons of recyclable materials simply being thrown away annually during home games.

The organization started off on the right foot by including several "green-focused" amenities in the development of the stadium. These included energy efficient lighting, construction materials and the installation of open air corporate suites with ceiling fans instead of the traditional air conditioned rooms.

To continue this momentum throughout the year, the Clippers partnered with Rumpke, one of the nation's largest private waste management and recycling companies, to develop a ballpark recycling program involving both stadium operations and fans.

Based on best practice research, the Clippers and Rumpke developed a dual-pronged approach to implementing the program - one prong internally focused, the other externally focused.

To integrate the program into its own operations, the Clippers worked with Rumpke to devise a system for more thorough recycling in its waste management room. Based on the plan, each evening trash is now separated from recyclable materials like cardboard, paper, plastic and glass.

In addition to the waste management room, recycling spread to other areas of the ballpark including the recycling of grass clippings from the baseball field and the use of more recyclable materials for food and beverage sales.

To get fans involved, the Clippers and Rumpke took a multiple touch point approach to make recycling as easy as simply disposing of trash. Trash and recycling receptacles that resembled baseball caps were designed and placed throughout the park.

Accompanying the large recycling receptacles were drink rail signs tagged with verbiage that promoted recycling to engage fans while they watched the game. Additionally, exit signs were tagged with the same verbiage to re-enforce a consistent message about the importance of recycling to fans as they exited the stadium. The team also scheduled PA and videoboard announcements each game promoting the program.

The dual-pronged approach worked tremendously in the program's first season as the Clippers and Rumpke identified the following data on materials that were diverted from the waste stream at Huntington Park as a result of the joint 2009 recycling program:

  • Cardboard and other mixed recyclables: 97 tons (194,000 lbs)
  • Grass clippings: 13 tons (26,000 lbs)
  • Total tons diverted: 110 tons (220,000 lbs)

TOTAL = 220 tons (440,000 pounds)

According to data provided by Rumple, on average, it costs just $30 per ton to recycle trash versus $50 to send it to a landfill and $65 to $75 to incinerate. By this measure, the Columbus Clippers and Rumple saved approximately $2,200 during the 2009 season by recycling waste, not to mention the large environmental impact the program demonstrated.

Moving forward, the Clippers and Rumpke plan to replicate and grow the program, with the hope that each year the program will gain more traction and participation from fans. Consideration is being given to multiple recycling-themed promotional nights to spike awareness of the program. Additionally, the two organizations are researching additional ways to capitalize on internal recycling opportunities as it relates to the Clippers' corporate offices.