Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress….
Updated: May 24, 2021
…At least when it comes to launching a sustainability effort.
Many sports organizations and venues hesitate to dive into a green program - they worry they will not get it ‘right.’ Sustainability can seem very daunting since there are many complicated and complex issues. As I advise them, no one can perfect every aspect of sustainability right out of the gate. But you can’t let that stop you.
“As the cliché goes, if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.”
In my experience, the best and the easiest path forward is to strategically select one or two low-hanging fruit. Find projects about which you are most knowledgeable, and/or over which you have the most control. You’ve hit a home run if said projects can also result in significant cost and/or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions.
Waste reduction is often the lowest hanging fruit at a stadium or arena.
A good place to start is by working with your waste hauler to audit your waste stream. The goals should be to:
Identify the biggest contributors to your footprint (most likely cardboard, food waste or construction waste), and
Study your operations to determine how to reduce that waste stream most effectively through changes in your ordering practices and/or usage patterns. For example, you can find opportunities to order in bulk to reduce packaging.
After making those reductions, the next step is to consult with recycling and composting vendors to maximize the amount of waste that gets diverted from the landfill. Composting food waste from your kitchens can reduce your impact considerably.
Facilities managers often ask me if getting to “zero waste” is worth the time and expense. The answer is ‘it depends’. Factors include potential sponsors, cost-benefit, interest in engaging fans and other stakeholders in the greening efforts, and more.
One thing for sure: Diverting that last 10% takes the greatest effort and expense.
Instead of seeking perfection, i.e., “zero waste,” a more effective way to start a waste reduction effort is to work to divert a large percentage (up to over 50%) of your waste. Then you can move on to another low-hanging fruit project with a big impact, like improving energy efficiency. As your program matures, you can circle back to your waste diversion program and perhaps move to zero waste.
The biggest mistake you can make with a new sustainability program is biting off more than you can chew. Buy-in from all corners of your organization is key, and the surest way to turn people off is to make sustainability too complicated, too cumbersome, or too confusing.
Start simple and move at a moderate pace. Once your program starts making progress in improving waste diversion rates, reducing electricity use, or increasing green cleaning, then report improvements back to your team. Demonstrating progress is the best way to build enthusiasm and engage your team to tackle more difficult sustainability projects.
eco evolutions, with our expertise, can work with your team to guide you through your sustainability journey or help enhance one or two aspects of your current program.