The Department of Athletics and Recreation, Office of Sustainability, and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Chicago launched a project this fall to enhance the environmental sustainability of the campus athletics program. Through a series of experiential learning courses in environmental studies and public policy, students are researching the behavioral and operational aspects of energy use, water use, and waste management to develop recommendations for reducing the environmental impact of athletic events and operations. A student-athlete sustainability council will implement the sustainability recommendations in collaboration with faculty, staff, facilities operators, University administration, and external partners. The year-long project will culminate at the University Athletic Association’s Outdoor Track and Field Conference Championship Meet on Earth Day 2017, for which students will design and lead a “zero-waste” event by implementing initiatives to divert recyclable and food material from landfills.

Professor Sabina Shaikh led a class this Fall focusing on Environmental Management in which students were given the opportunity to conduct research necessary to develop a detailed plan for implementation, measurement and communications for sustainability improvements, and a waste-reduction effort for a Spring Athletics event, coinciding with Earth Day. Part of this class used a grant from Course Connections to explore the sustainability efforts going on at Soldier Field. Below are some comments from students about the event.

"I did not know that Soldier Field was the first NFL stadium to achieve LEED certification. As a season ticket holder at Levi’s Stadium, I have followed the green features that were built into the stadium. It was interesting to hear how much more difficult it was to replace inefficient aspects of the stadium instead of having the luxury of building them into the stadium in the beginning." -Will Scolinos

"I found Soldier Field’s dedication to sustainability extremely admirable, and was surprised by the team’s attention to detail when implementing environmentally-friendly practices." -Lily Ting

"I found it interesting that the green policy changes taking place at Soldier Field do not always come from management, they can come from the people actually doing the work on the ground." -Madison Hetzner

"It was interesting the way that Brendan Daley talked about the importance of leveraging the parks across the city as an economic entity... As people’s investment and interest in environmental issues grows, more environmentally friendly attractions will continue to bring the city tourism revenue." -Maya Grever

​"Because Soldier Field is a part of the Chicago Park District, it serves as a unique example for other stadiums across the country, especially since it was the first LEED certified NFL stadium. I was impressed with all of the initiatives that Soldier Field takes on sustainability, like focusing on creating a cleaner waste stream and having energy saving appliances and lights." -Maya Scheidl