Green living

Eco-Friendly Football Fan Habits

An American football in the grass


How To Win At Being Sustainable at the Stadium or at Home This Football Season

Fall sports, especially football, are a fantastic reason to get together with friends and family and take part in your community. Whether you host a watch party at home or prefer to tailgate to support your team, the ways you partake in watching sports tend to impact more than just your wallet.

Events like watch parties or tailgating produce a lot of trash. According to a study by Clemson University students, only 2 tailgating events produced an average of over 5000 pounds of trash, most of that coming from single-use items. Between the 131 college football teams playing about 12 games a season and the 32 National Football League teams playing about 17 games a season, that's a lot of football-related waste generated both in the stadium or outside of it.

Here are 8 ways you can reduce waste and be more eco-friendly at your next football event.

1. Reach for Reusables

One could argue that food is the most important part of the watch party or tailgating experience. However, what that food is dished up in often causes a problem for the planet. The plastic cups, straws, and cutlery generally used to serve and eat your tailgating treats and party platters take between 200 and 1,000 years to decompose. That is a long time for an item to sit and emit toxic chemicals into our environment in exchange for a few hours of enjoyment.

Treehugger offers a list of cost-friendly reusable cutlery for you to take to your next football event. These safe and durable utensil sets made out of bamboo, steel, and other eco-friendly materials will last you years - so your wallet will thank you as well as the planet.

If you are looking for something to help you sip your favorite drink, Wired compiled the best travel mugs to keep drinks hot or cold, while The Strategist offers a list of reusable straws made from a variety of materials such as silicon or stainless steel. Several of these straws can also be bought in bulk for you to share the benefits of eco-friendly party items with your fellow tailgaters or watch party guests.

2. Grab Compostable Containers and Cutlery

If bringing along reusable cups and cutlery cramps your style (don't worry, green is back in fashion), try compostable utensils instead. Green Paper Products offers a variety of compostable cups, plates, bowls, and cutlery from different brands. They also offer biodegradable food containers and trays to take your food to the game or lay it out on your buffet table.

Using compostable cutlery at your game-day event helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste, the same way using reusables does. However, if you are an avid supporter of food waste reduction, you can take it a step further and bring home that used compostable cutlery to add to your compost bin (or start one, if you haven't already). For more information about how to start a compost pile for your home and garden, check out our Sour Scoop Blog article: From Trash to Treasure - Composting.

3. Consider What (And How) You Cook

What you cook is almost as important as what you serve it up for large parties and tailgating events. Not only for the taste of your treats but also for their environmental impact. Research by eventIMPACT, an organization providing insight into how outdoor events affect the environment and economy, says that event food impacts the environment for a number of reasons including "the quantity of food and drink that visitors consume, but also the type of food and drink, the method of production (i.e. organic versus conventional), its origin (i.e. local versus non-local), how much ends up as waste, and whether or not it is composted".

Essentially, the way your food is produced and ends up at your table will determine its environmental impact. Knowing how your food affects the environment should hopefully impact how you buy. Martha Stewart's Guide to Eco-Friendly Party Supplies suggests going plant-based, using local organic produce, and pre-planning how much food to make so as to minimize food waste. For more information about food waste, check out our blog post on food waste statistics.

Going a step further, if you can't stray away from your game-day burger, we get it. Try purchasing freshly ground meat from a local butcher or directly from the farm. Or, even better, go "Beyond" or "Impossible" with meatless meat options. Many plant-based “meats” have similar tastes and textures to steak or chicken patties, especially when seasoned with your favorite flavors! We promise they are worth a try. You may even see yourself introducing these meat alternatives into your weekday dinner menus.

Also, when getting ready for grilling, know that using a propane grill releases the least amount of VOCs and other particle pollutants compared to other non-electric methods of grilling such as using wood or charcoal.

4. Choose Deteriorating Decorations

When thinking about parties, most people think about the entertainment, the food, and the decorations. Given that this is football, the entertainment is covered, and we already discussed the impact of food. That leaves us with the decorations. Many team or football-themed decorations one would use are made of single-use plastics that take a lot of time to break down and emit toxic chemicals like VOCs while doing so.

But do not fret, it does not mean that your football parties need to be dull and decoration-less. There are a number of alternatives to make your party presentable and your tailgate tasteful.

Firstly, shop around for sustainable decorations you can use, you'll probably be surprised by what you find! For example, Amazon has an eco-friendly section dedicated to offering a selection of 100% sustainable party decorations for any occasion. You can even choose to shop by color so you have everything you need to show your team spirit with either compostable, 100% recycled paper, or felt-cloth decorations. Some of their products can even help you grow plants and herbs, with seeds built in so all you have to do is plant your decorations when you are finished using them.

Also, look in places you wouldn't normally check, like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, or Craigslist, for some locally sourced pre-loved decorations you can upcycle or use as-is. This option is also a great money-saver, as you can likely negotiate already low prices.

5. Support the Sustainable Stadium

If you are going to the game in person, remember to play by the stadium rules for sustainability. Many stadiums, both professional and collegiate, have been showing more effort in making their game days more planet-friendly. The financial news and opinion company, 24/7 Wall Street, issued a special report about the most sustainable stadiums in the NFL, showcasing how stadiums have incorporated green designs and practices.

Essentially, remember to actually put your recyclables in the recycle bins and use any stadium-provided paper straws and napkins (if you don't have your own silicone straw ready). If your team's stadium does not support sustainable practices, or if you're just not sure, take your trash back home with you when the game is over. This prevents waste from being improperly disposed of, as you can do more to ensure trash is sustainably recycled, composted, or otherwise discarded from your own home.

Also, if available, try to find the greener options from your concession stands, like vegetarian or local favorites. A stadium snack that is specific to your area most likely had less of an environmental footprint during cooking and transportation.

6. Love Leftovers With Washable Wrapping

What you wrap up your leftovers in, whether you are at home or on the road, also contributes to your environmental impact. Grove Collaborative, a sustainable homeware subscription service, has made a list of tips for your outdoor parties, including ways to wrap and store your food. It suggests that when wrapping your leftovers, consider using common plastic wrap alternatives like beeswax wraps and recycled aluminum wrapping. The beeswax wraps are especially a money-saver as they can be washed and reused for up to a year.

If you are concerned about the amount of food you have left over from tailgating or having a watch party, here are a few ways you can have your treats without waste. Try pre-portioning food so that people can grab and go with your game-day treats. Also, make sure to have some biodegradable food containers to disperse leftover dishes to your fellow football fans.

7. Sport Second-Hand Gear

Another aspect of football season that you might not have known can be made sustainable is what you wear to the event. Buying second-hand clothes or hats reduces your impact on the environment (and gets you some sweet deals on your fan gear!) According to Panaprium, a company devoted to educating about sustainable eco-friendly fashion, “[second-hand clothes] reduce carbon emissions, save lots of resources, water, and energy. They also prevent old clothing from ending up in landfills or incinerators.” For more information about the environmental impact (or lack thereof) of second-hand clothes, check out their blog post about second-hand clothes.

Don't know where to get your pre-owned gear? Don't worry, Sideline Swap has you covered for all of your second-hand sportswear needs (not just football). This website gives you the option to sort your new and used sportswear by team, size, and fit so you can get exactly what you are looking for. If you are more than a spectator, don't worry about the environmental impact of your equipment and uniforms, Sideline Swap also offers new and used equipment for you to use in the game. Are you a hardcore fan? The company has also got you covered for vintage memorabilia at affordable prices. Essentially, it can be your one-stop shop for all of your sustainable sport fan needs.

8. Lastly, Remember to Have Fun!

Football is supposed to be a fun fall sport, let it be! If your football watch party isn't 100% eco-friendly, that's okay. Not everything has to be; you just have to want to actively engage with eco-friendly and sustainable purchasing habits. You may not be able to control the score, but you can take small steps toward greener fan habits, and know that each one of your efforts is contributing to a greener playing field.

If you want to learn more about living an environmentally friendly lifestyle and creating lasting sustainable habits, check out the rest of our The Sour Scoop blog posts - they make great half-time reading.

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