Class is engaging fans on zero-waste initiative through innovative MLB partnership
For most people, a spring-training baseball game means hot dogs and sunshine, but for a group of ASU students, the games mean thousands of empty bottles, slimy yogurt lids and handfuls of noodles.
The monthlong season is an economic boon to Arizona as fans flock to the 10 stadiums around the Valley. But along with enjoying baseball, they generate tons of waste.
A class from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University is working to not only divert some of that garbage to be recycled, but also to engage with fans about sustainability in a way that’s positive and helpful, according to Colin Tetreault, a faculty associate in the school and a senior sustainability scholar in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
“The power of sport and sustainability is a unique one,” he said. “When you’re at a stadium, it’s this esprit des corps. People are there to support the team. All of our social barriers go away — we are one team.
“So by using the power of sport, which people have a great love and affection for, meeting them where they’re at and speaking their language, you can actually take sustainability, make it real to them in a very approachable manner and give them something to take home after the game.”
Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
The zero-waste project is a first-of-its-kind partnership among ASU, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies and Salt River Fields at Talking StickThe 11,000-seat stadium opened in 2011 and is LEED gold certified., the spring-training facility that is owned by the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and shared by the two teams in March. At the end of the semester, the students will deliver a report to MLB and Salt River Fields on how to get fans more enthusiastic about sustainability.
Eleven undergraduate and graduate students are taking the four-credit capstone class with Tetreault this semester in which they’re each attending at least 10 games. During the games, the students don green MLB caps and walk around the stadium surveying fans about their attitudes toward recycling. During the eighth inning, they run the “Recycle Rally” with the stadium's guest service attendants — collecting empty drink containers from fans in their seats.
The students are learning to work with people to make change in the world and not just lecture them, Tetreault said.
“No one says, ‘Yeah, I want to live in trash,’" he said.
So, for example, the Recycle Rally is presented as a service.
“It’s ‘I’ll take your cup so you can buy another drink and have a better fan experience,’" he said. “You get the same outcome but now you have affection and not animus.”
Senior David Salzetti, one of the students in the class, has found that while many fans embrace recycling, not all do.
“In our classes, we learn about social behaviors and social change, which is a big part of sustainability. The whole idea of collective action is the only way to make it work,” he said.