College football starts tonight!

While it’s hard to know exactly how tailgating originated, many believe that the first tailgating party occurred in 1861 prior to the First Battle of Bull Run. It’s said that people arrived in wagons with whiskey, wine, and food to watch the battle unfold.

Since then, our entertainment tastes have (thankfully) changed — tailgates are now heavily concentrated around CFB and NFL games — but there’s still plenty of food and alcoholic beverages to be found at most tailgates.

For anyone who’s attended a tailgating party, whether it’s for a college or NFL game, it’s clear that energy efficiency or sustainability isn’t really at the top of everyone’s mind.  Despite this fact, many organizations and groups are trying to bring more attention to the energy or green related issues that stem from tailgating parties. The best part is they are doing it in a way that is easy for everyone to participate and get involved without having to give it much thought.

College Tailgating Energy Programs

Throughout the United States, tailgating parties of any size are common occurrences before any football game. In the last few years, many colleges have come to understand the significant impact these parties can have on the environment as well as the cost of the cleanup effort for the campus. As a result, many colleges are taking matters into their own hands, creating different programs to generate a culture that better understands the impact of their energy choices.

University of Southern California (USC) – Zero Waste Tailgate Certification Program

USC has an Office of Sustainability department that focuses on ensuring all campus events, buildings, dorms, etc. are as energy efficient as possible. Their goal is, ‘Zero Waste’ which means that the college tries to avoid sending a minimum of 90% of their end-use material to an incinerator or landfill.

For students or campus committees looking to organize a tailgate party, the program helps to ensure that it is a ‘Zero Waste’ event. They achieve this through advising the group in several energy efficient areas including,

  • Reducing material used
  • Use of reusable items
  • Recycling waste into new material

The program offers two levels of certification for tailgate parties: Gold and Cardinal. The difference between the two is that a Gold certification means that the party focuses on both the reuse and recycling of materials instead of just recycling.

Virginia Tech – Tailgate Toolkit

Virginia Tech, together with the Office of Energy and Sustainability created a document or toolkit called, “Starting from Scratch: Greening your Game Day”. The purpose of this toolkit is to help universities and colleges improve or put into place recycling and energy sustainability processes for tailgating parties. It is a comprehensive toolkit that not only helps users to develop a program, but also information for those who want to keep improving on existing programs.

Colleges and universities all over the United States indicated a need for a toolkit such as this one. The project also allowed Virginia Tech students to apply what they had learned in the classroom to challenges faced by many campuses.

Green Northern Arizona University (NAU)

NAU has been hard at work implementing more energy efficient programs for their college campus. These programs also include ‘Green Games’, which first started in October of 2015. The focus of ‘Green Games’ is to increase the amount of recycling during tailgating parties as well as to recycle and composite waste generated during the game within the stadium.

Through this program, NAU and its Waste Minimization Acton Team believes that it can get its college campus to better understand that working together will help to reduce large amounts of waste (especially landfill waste). To help, a Waste Minimization Intern has been hired to assist in the coordination and execution of related sustainability events.

Collegiate Game Changers: How College Sport is Going Green

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conducted a study on many different college campuses within the United States to determine the key elements in changing their existing processes into more energy efficient or sustainable processes. Based on the information the NRDC collected, they came up with a list of key elements that make up effective sports ‘green programming’, which also apply to tailgating parties. These elements include,

  • A sustainable committee made up of a combination of staff and students from the recreation, athletics and campus sustainability departments.
  • Develop and engage leadership as early as possible within senior administration and other related departments.
  • Develop partnerships with other departments across campus and the community.
  • Learn more about green programs at other colleges.
  • Set sustainability goals, standards and programs that apply campus-wide.
  • Complete an audit to help track energy and other waste generation and continue to monitor this data throughout the year.
  • Look into and apply for subsidies at the local, state and federal level.
  • Come up with a mission statement that matches the campus-wide energy goals.
  • Conduct regular meetings with related staff, student and groups.
  • Try to incorporate student academic projects with goals and programs.
  • Develop short and long term energy saving ideas.
  • Once plans are in place and running, create outreach opportunities for all related parties.

NFL Tailgating Energy Programs

When it comes to NFL tailgating parties, it’s a bit more difficult to streamline or lower the amount of energy used because NFL tailgating is usually an extension of the “game day package” offered by the team..

Unlike college football teams, many NFL organizations put a lot of money into encouraging and hosting their own tailgating events — some inside or directly connected to the stadium.  For example, the Cincinnati Bengals have JungleZone. Sponsored by Bud Light, fans are invited to participate in family friendly events, enjoy food, and more. For San Diego Charger fans, they can attend the Power Party where they can meet the Charger Girls.

To compensate, many NFL stadiums focus on energy efficiency in general in order to reduce costs and impact on sustainability. Some of the top energy efficient NFL stadiums in the country include (in no particular order):

  • Lincoln Financial Field: Philadelphia Eagles
  • CenturyLink Field: Seattle Seahawks
  • Levi’s Stadium: San Francisco 49ers
  • TCF Bank Stadium/New Vikings Stadium: Minnesota Vikings
  • MetLIfe Stadium: New York Giants and New York Jets
  • Gillette Stadium: New England Patriots
  • FedEx Field: Washington Redskins
  • AT&T Stadium: Dallas Cowboys
  • Lucas Oil Stadium: Indianapolis Colts
  • Georgia Dome: Atlanta Falcons

Do you want to know more about these stadiums and what they have done to be more energy efficient? Take a look at a list of the top 24 energy efficient NFL stadiums.

Energy Efficient Tailgating Products

When you attend a tailgating party, you an also do your part to reduce your impact on the environment and sustainability including purchasing products that are more energy efficient. Some of these products include:

Preserve – this tableware is stronger than other products, which means you can bring them to all your tailgating parties instead of throwing them away after one use.

Solar Powered Portable Outlets – There are many of these products on the market as people are starting to want to take cleaner energy with them wherever they go. The outlet gains its power from the sun, which you can then use to charge your various appliances.

Energy Efficient Generators – When you need a little more power, you an always invest in a generator that’s powered by the sun. Check out the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator for one of the many great options currently on the market.

In addition to energy efficient products, there are many other basic things that you can do to ensure that your tailgate party, or the tailgate party you attend is better for the environment including:

  • Car pooling to the destination
  • BBQ with gas instead of charcoal
  • Provide appropriate recycling and waste bins
  • Prepare food ahead of time
  • Don’t let your vehicle run for long periods of time
  • Buy bulk to reduce packaging waste