Sustainability Competition Greens Up Game Days

by Stephanie M. McPherson

The future of Eagles game days is looking greener. The team named “The City Council of Boston College” gave the winning presentation at the inaugural Eagles Sustainability Competition, convincing the room of judges that their ideas and implementation approach will help Boston College reduce the carbon footprint left behind by fans attending games at Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum.  

“Students today want to be able to make a difference,” says Dr. Laura J. Steinberg, Seidner Family Executive Director for the Schiller Institute. “There's no reason that they need to wait until they've graduated. With this competition, we're giving them a voice in how to address a very real situation at the university.” 

Game days are an important part of the Boston College culture, but they make a significant impact in terms of food waste and greenhouse gas generation. On average, fans generate two dumpsters-worth of trash and two of recycling per football game. Conte Forum game days produce 0.625 tons of food waste, which equates to 4600 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Eagles Sustainability Competition asked students to form teams and come up with ideas that will address these issues surrounding game day. Teams proposed their solutions in 15-minute presentations aimed at senior BC leadership that addressed stakeholder, financial, and ethical considerations, as well as how to encourage students to take part in a new way to celebrate their favorite teams. 

The competition guidelines required that teams be interdisciplinary, ensuring students consider all aspects of the issue and develop creative solutions. Teams were evaluated on creativity, content, feasibility, organization, presentation, and delivery.  

Many of the solutions involved transitioning to compostable containers, increasing the availability of composting bins, and engaging student volunteers to help fans sort compost from trash and recycling. But the winning team’s well-researched and confidently delivered presentation took a deep dive into the feasibility of these actions and outlined a realistic plan in which to implement changes.  

“The way The City Council of Boston College really broke it down with their three skill sets, it just told a full story,” says Jamie Di Loreto, Associate Athletics Director of Marketing & Fan Engagement. “They tackled the inside of the stadium, the outside; they each had their own expertise, they did the real research. It was a really reasonable five-year plan. To me it all made sense, the way they laid it out.”   

The City Council team consisted of junior Fran Hodgens, Accounting for Finance and Consulting, Business Analytics, CSOM and sophomores Charles Neill, Human Centered Engineering, MCAS and Faith Drescher, Elementary Education, Applied Psychology, Lynch. Their proposal combined their skills in interesting ways. Neill called for the eventual weatherization of the concessions areas of Alumni Stadium in order to reintroduce fountain drinks served in compostable cups. Drescher outlined behavioral models that could be harnessed to encourage fans to comply with new, green measures. And Hodgens’ business expertise tied everything together with financial details and risk analyses.  

“Before this, we only really knew each other in the context of being friends,” says Hodgens. “When we had to come together to brainstorm an idea, it was really interesting to see us all in the work setting, and how our academic backgrounds played into it. It was kind of like we got the yin and yang of each expertise where we could balance each other out when we got a little too ambitious.”  

Working on a multidisciplinary team was an important experience for the students to have as they look toward an ever more connected future.  

“I want to become an elementary school teacher abroad and teaching is so interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary,” says Drescher. “I’ll have to work with many different people all the time to have the best plans for future leaders.”  

The first place City Council of Boston College was awarded $3,000. The strong marketing plan of the Green Queens (Natalie Sill, Finance, CSOM, Hanganh Vo, International Studies, MCAS, Maureen Kelly, Geoscience, MCAS) earned them second place, and $1,500. Third place, and $500, went to the Greening Eagles (Lauren Dadekian, Management and Environmental Studies, MCAS/CSOM, Sancia Sehdev, Biology, MCAS, Anisha Kundu, Finance, CSOM, Tyler DiFiore, Economics and Political Science, MCAS), who impressed the judges with their inclusion of how game day food is sourced.  

“It was awesome to see the ideas that the teams put together,” says Elizabeth Healy, a member of the Environmental Sustainability team of UGBC and a student organizer of the competition. “It was also great to see that we had students from all schools across the university, and that interdisciplinary work created some of the best presentations.” 

The competition brought together faculty and staff from across the whole university as well. Judges included: Beth Emery, Director, Dining Services; Jamie Di Loreto, Associate Athletics Director, Marketing & Fan Engagement; Wade Brown, Head of Strategy & Research, Bristol Myers Squibb, Alumni (MCAS '99); Bruce Dixon, Sustainability & Energy Management Specialist, Office of Sustainability; Doug Olsen, Carroll School of Management Librarian; Matt Conway, Associate Athletics Director, Facilities & Operations; Tara Pisani Gareau, Director, Environmental Studies Program; and Cal Brokcamp, Assistant Director, Procurement & Vendor Relations. 

“It’s been nice to be a part of this process. I’ve been here for less than a year and half and I’m in the library 99 percent of the time. So, it’s really great to meet other people in other roles at the university,” says Olsen.  

The Schiller Institute plans to make good on its promise to pursue some of the ideas presented by the winning team.  

“I would love to get the group of judges and winners together again in the near future to talk about potential implementation,” says Greg Adelsberger, Director of Finance and Operations at the Schiller Institute and an organizer of the event. “There were components of first and second place that we really like, so maybe we pull in both teams to work on that.” 

And game day is only one aspect of campus life that could use a green overhaul. The Eagles Sustainability Competition will be back next year with a new prompt and a new group of students ready to tackle sustainability options at Boston College. 

“This is the inaugural year for this case competition and we hope that this will become a tradition,” says Josephine Xiong, Associate Director, Undergraduate Program, CSOM, and a partner with Schiller for the event. “We would love to have this every year for students to engage on sustainability and climate change in other ways that will really have an impact on campus.”