A student sustainability initiative encourages Virginia Tech tailgaters to “green their tailgate” when they visit Blacksburg for home football games.

Now in its second year, the green tailgating program was the brainchild of Office of Sustainability student intern Bridget Acland. Acland is a senior majoring in sustainable biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources and Enivornment.

With help from fellow interns Chloe Sikora and Serena Emanuel, the program was developed and implemented at the start of the football season in August 2015.

Sikora is a junior majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences with a minor in environmental policy and planning. Emanuel is a junior majoring in biological systems engineering, which is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, while pursuing minors in green engineering and watershed management.

Today, Emanuel runs the program with help from more than 150 undergraduate student volunteers.

About 30 of those students come together at each home football game to walk through the Coliseum, Stadium, West Stadium, Track and Field, Chicken Hill, and Litton-Reaves parking lots handing out blue recycling bags to tailgaters and talking with tailgaters about what to recycle and what to throw away.

"This program brings our community together in support of a common cause and allows students to educate and encourage thousands of tailgaters to live green in a very simple way," Emanuel said. "Our hope is that we're creating an awareness of how little actions can make a big difference that will extend beyond tailgating." 

After the game, a team of facilities employees collects the bags from designated locations across campus. On average, the team collects about 2,000 pounds of recycled material each game.

“It’s really exciting to see that our tailgaters are embracing the programming and taking the time to be good stewards of our Earth,” said Karlee Siepierski, campus sustainability planner for the Office of Sustainability who also supervises the office’s internship program.

Siepierski said that last year students and employees collected about 550 pounds per game.

The green-your-tailgate program is one of many recycling programs in place at Virginia Tech that are helping the university reach its goal of a 50 percent recycling rate by 2020, as outlined in the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment. The university has increased its recycling rate from 36 percent in 2009 to 44 percent in 2015.

Learn more about some of the university’s recycling initiatives.

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