Game Day and Everyday: University of Texas Athletics Sustainability Program

Merrick MyCue
Staff, Special Events and Stadium Operations
Intercollegiate Athletics

Over the past two years, the University of Texas Athletics Department (UT Athletics) has undertaken comprehensive initiative to improve the sustainability of its operations and facilities. These efforts include the following:

  • Initiatives to expand recycling and composting on football game days and at other UT sporting events.
  • Investments in equipment and infrastructure structure for a sustainable stadium.
  • Daily operations and management in the UT Athletics Department, including cardboard recycling and demand side energy management.

These efforts both directly and indirectly make significant contributions to sustainability. Directly, these initiatives have reduced the carbon footprint of UT’s sports program. Additionally, the highly visible advertising for recycling and composting at the stadium is likely to foster positive behavior changes among members of the extensive UT Sports community.

Football Game Day: Recycling and Composting in and around the Stadium

Starting in the 2010 Football Season, UT Athletics undertook a bold new effort to promote recycling throughout all game-day activities, including concourse areas, the food court, hospitality areas, main gates, grandstands, and tailgating areas. This year, UT Athletics is expanding the initiative, both by increasing the number of recycling containers, and through initiation of its first composting campaign. UT Athletics’ commitment to football game day recycling has also expanded to operations for baseball games and the Texas Relays.

Concourse Areas and Food Court

During the 2010 season, UT Athletics increased the number of recycling containers in the concourses and general public areas of the stadium, giving patrons more opportunities to recycle. In addition to increasing the total number of containers used for recycling, we also greatly increased the ratio of recycling containers to trash cans and deliberately paired each trash receptacle with a recycling container, particularly near concession stands. All recycling containers in the stadium are labeled with “Plastic Cups and Water Bottles ONLY” and display our Longhorn Recycling Round-Up branding. We have partnered with our concessionaire to ensure that every plastic cup and water bottle sold is recyclable (accomplished in the 2010 season), and that patrons are aware of this change. In 2010, we informed patrons that they could recycle all cups and water bottles through table tents placed on all concession stands. For the 2011 season, this message will be relayed through decals located near the point of sale. Additionally, after observing the need to order and add more recycling containers in the 2010 season, we decided to add thirty more for the 2011 season.

As an additional strategy to encourage recycling, throughout the 2010 season the video board and closed circuit TVs located in the concourses displayed recycling slides and vignettes to promote recycling inside the stadium along with public address announcements aired to inform fans of our recycling initiative. This will continue for the 2011 season.


New for the 2011 season will be a recycling and composting hub set- up in the food court located in Red McCombs Red Zone and staffed by volunteers from Keep Austin Beautiful. The composting element is new this year, with the main goal being to collect non-contaminated material in a four-yard dumpster. If the program succeeds, Athletics will look into expanding composting locations and concessionaire composting materials.

Hospitality Areas

The 2010 football season was the first year for a sustainability initiative in the hospitality areas of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. This initiative included promoting recycling within the 114 football suites, as well as the Club areas located throughout the Stadium. The capacity for a DKR football suite is 24 people which totals approximately 2,712 people per game. By multiplying that amount times the six home games for the 2011 Football season, we estimate that there will be approximately 16,272 people recycling within this one section of the hospitality areas. To encourage and promote recycling, signage is strategically placed throughout each suite. This includes laminated signs placed in front of the sink asking guests to empty their containers before recycling. There are also clearly labeled signs encouraging proper recycling placed above the regular and recycling trash cans and on the refrigerators.

Other areas included in the recycling initiative within DKR’s hospitality venues are the Carpenter-Winkel Centennial room, the 6th Floor Terrace Club, the Red McCombs Red Zone 8th Floor Club and the new 5th Floor Club in Bellmont Hall. The capacity on Game-Day for each venue respectively is 300, 500, 2,200 and 500 people. Within each of these Club locations, recycling trash cans and signage are clearly visible and deliberately placed throughout the space. For the upcoming 2011 football season, we estimate that approximately 21,000 people will be recycling plastic, glass, and aluminum specifically from these hospitality areas. In total, an estimated 37,272 people will be recycling specifically from the hospitality areas within Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium alone.

This season we will collect glass in addition to plastic and aluminum in the hospitality clubs and suites.

Main Gate Cluster Points

Cluster points were added during the 2010 season, which were organized by Campus Environmental Center (CEC). These cluster points focused on the main entry gates of the stadium block and targeted patrons arriving to the gates with their beverage containers, which are prohibited from taking in and can be recycled. More containers for the cluster points will be added for the 2011 season.

Grandstands Post-Game Cleanup

There is a strong focus on plastic recycling collection in the grandstands during the Sunday post-game clean- up. Since most patrons purchase concessions and take them to their seats, there is a large amount of plastic volume in the grandstand. This collection is where the majority of recycling material is collected and picked up by our waste management partner.

Tailgate Recycling

Athletics partnered with the CEC in 2010 on a game day tailgate lot recycling pilot program. Collection for the first year was 1,330 pounds of plastic and aluminum cans. Only certain lots were focused on since this was a pilot program. CEC/Athletics is expanding this program for the 2011 season to increase collections, as well as raising expectations on the lots targeted during the 2010 season.

Baseball and Texas Relays

Game day recycling efforts have transitioned over to Texas Relays and home baseball games. At both venues, recycling containers were strategically placed and patrons were informed through videoboard slides and PA announcements of our recycling program. The only items focused on at these events are plastic cups and plastic water bottles. Recycling of glass obtained from the baseball suites and hospitality areas will begin with the 2011 season.

Sustainable Stadium Capital Investments

Stadium Lighting

After the 2010 season, all DKR stadium lights were replaced with Musco’s Smart Lamp System, which maximizes bulb efficiency through its service technology system. Average constant light levels are now guaranteed with reduced energy consumption. With this lighting upgrade, we were able to decrease the amount of bulbs used, which directly impacted the amount of energy consumed to power the lights. Additionally, by decreasing the number of bulbs, we decreased waste. Similar light upgrades were conducted in the Bubble (Indoor Practice Facility) and the Penick-Allison Tennis Center during the summer of 2010. Additionally, Mike A. Myers Stadium (Track & Field/Soccer), McCombs Field (Softball), UFCU Disch-Falk Field (Baseball), and Frank Denius Fields (Football) have all undergone lighting upgrades between 2009 and 2011.

Ground Cover

Fieldturf also replaced the stadium grass prior to the 2009 season. The change has saved thousands of gallons of water, chemicals, and paint per year. The playing surface is partially made out of recycled tires, requiring only limited water for occasional hygiene of the playing surface.

UT Athletics Day-to-Day Sustainability

Athletics has focused on recycling in offices, training rooms, weight rooms, and common areas such as the Red McCombs Food Court located in the North End Zone of the football stadium. Currently the only items being recycled are paper, plastic, and aluminum. Plastic and aluminum collection is located in our loading dock and is picked up by our waste management partner. Paper recycling is handled through the University.

Any leftover sports programs are recycled by Campus Environmental Center on an as needed basis.


Throughout the year, including both the football season and non-football operations, we collect a large amount of cardboard. A baler is used to package the card board in bundles, after which we contact our waste management partner for pick up and recycling. Athletics is recycling approximately 30 tons of cardboard a year.

Demand Side Energy Management

In 2009, Athletics participated in a campus wide DSEMC project (Demand Side Energy Management & Conservation). Consumption is monitored daily at all our facilities. A daily email is also sent to inform staff of our energy usage, cost and consumption. Energy can be controlled and scheduled through the Internet in most facilities allowing us to shut it down when events, etc. are not using certain spaces. Stadium lighting, water, steam audits and fixture upgrades took place at our basketball practice facility, Moncrief, Longhorns Dining Hall, TSF, TTC, and DKR Stadium.


Indeed, game day and every day, UT Athletics is committed to putting principles of sustainability into practice. Since 2009, UT Athletics has succeeded in establishing a bold sustainability program including significant changes in game day event management and facilities (e.g., waste reduction through expanded recycling and composting infrastructure and outreach), capital investments in the football stadium (e.g., energy-efficient stadium lighting and water-efficient ground cover), and day to day operations (e.g., demand-side energy management).

Looking forward, UT Athletics will focus on increasing recycling collection numbers by educating patrons and staff on recycling collection and by increasing the number of recycling containers for game day and daily operations. We will continue to work with campus groups (e.g., Campus Environmental Center) to enhance the sustainability of our programs and the University at large.