One Team, One Campus, One Planet: Connecting Athletics and Sustainability

By Erik Schneider, Greening IU Athletics intern

24 sports, one team. This is the guiding principle of Indiana Athletics. While the basketball and tennis teams each work toward success in their distinct sports, they both play for Indiana University. In the same way, the Athletics Department is a member of the IU team, so when the University sets campus-wide goals, the various departments have to work together to achieve success. Taking the analogy one final step, the department, like every one of us, is part of this one planet, in which we must be unselfish teammates so that we can all be better off. The spirit of sustainability certainly resonates well with the athletic spirit.

One study of athletic departments, however, reveals that there have been challenges in making lasting sustainable changes within these departments. Though the ethos resonates, the goals of sustainability can seem disconnected from those of winning games, attracting fans, and fostering athletic growth. But when you connect the department to the concentric circles of Indiana University, which has adopted sustainability goals, and the planet, which is in dire need of team players, as well the circles in between these two, including Bloomington, the state, and the nation, the rationale for sustainability is more clear.

For this reason, Indiana Athletics has already taken important steps toward sustainability, including the LEED-certified new baseball complex, a successful tailgate recycling program, local food purchases, and water conservation measures. But there is great opportunity for continued progress. This may include moving toward zero waste operations by adding food waste composting to facilities, energy efficiency upgrades, and purchasing standards for products such as recycled paper.

Because the Athletics Department has such a large infrastructure, the potential for positive environmental impacts is tremendous. The scale of the department and the disparate nature of the 24-team organization makes it a challenge, but effective preparation, coordination, and implementation can make it successful, much like last year’s basketball season, and the many legendary teams we’ve produced over the years.


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