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Pac-12 Team Green

Uniting all 12 universities
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USC wins third overall Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge, presented by Eco-Products, for 2021 football season

Feb 17, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO – As fans returned to Pac-12 stadiums in 2021, the annual Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge, presented by Eco-Products, also returned with universities, athletics departments and sustainability offices collectively competing in the pursuit of a zero-waste home game.  USC was selected as the overall winner of the challenge for the 2021 football season, the Pac-12 announced today. The Trojans have now earned the overall recognition three times, including the 2017 and 2016 football seasons. Also earning recognitions in the 2021 Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge were Cal (best fan engagement), Arizona State (rising star) and Colorado (best use of innovation).

For Pac-12 Team Green, the 2021 season marked the return of the Zero Waste Challenge after the 2020-21 campaign featured events without fans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 season also introduced a new subcategory winner with the “Innovation” honor as well as the “Rising Star” award, formerly referred to as the “most-improved” category.


About the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge, presented by Eco-Products

A core pillar of Pac-12 Team Green, the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge is held annually during both football and basketball seasons. Each university selects one home football and one home basketball game to compete and provide a platform for engaging on best practices in waste diversion. As part of the competition, each competing university submitted a scorecard detailing the efforts around its Zero Waste game. Criteria is weighted as such: 25 percent participation and partnerships, 25 percent innovation credit and 50 percent stadium diversion rate.

A total of three judges selected one overall winner and one winner in three categories. The judging panel consisted of:

  • Bill Walton – Pac-12 Team Green Champion, sustainability advocate & basketball legend
  • Mike Carey – LEED Expert & sustainability coordinator at Orange Coast College
  • Monica Rowand – Waste Management, Energy and Environmental Services

More information on the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge is available at

Overall Winner – 2021 Football Season: USC (Sept. 25 vs. Oregon State)

  • Achieved 90% diversion rate for their Zero Waste game with over five tons in recycling and over three tons in compost.
  • USC established its first “Green Week” leading up to its Zero Waste Game, highlighting campus sustainability efforts all week long through events held by student organizations, researchers, staff and members of the communications team.
  • Included University President Dr. Carol L. Folt in their campaign, with a special video message in stadium prior to the Zero Waste Game that was also distributed across university and athletics digital and social media platforms, as well as additional video materials featuring student-athletes.
  • USC AD Mike Bohn welcomed the Trojans’ new Chief Sustainability Officer, the first ever for USC, during their Zero Waste game.
  • To engage student-athletes, USC partnered with Trojans QB Mo Hasan to use “Second Spoon,” a nonprofit organization he founded which collects and distributes surplus food to individuals in need, as Second Spoon collected and distributed approximately 400 lbs of surplus food from the Zero Waste game.

Best Fan Engagement – 2021 Football Season: Cal (Oct. 23 vs. Colorado)

  • Achieved 70.37% diversion rate for their Zero Waste game, including nearly two tons to compost, over one ton to recycling and nearly one ton in bottles and cans.
  • Cal Zero Waste worked with First Choice Custodial Services to ensure every area of California Memorial Stadium had bins with three material streams (bottles and cans recycling, compost and landfill).
  • The team also partnered with volunteers from the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) Sustainability Commission, Housing and Dinning Sustainability Advocates (HADSA), Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC), Zero Waste Coalition and PlateUp to help with a variety of game day responsibilities.
  • Cal Zero Waste also conducted various fan engagement efforts with educational pop-ups and outreach tables throughout the stadium, teaching fans about zero waste.  

Rising Star – 2021 Football Season: Arizona State (Sept. 25 vs. Colorado)

  • Achieved 81.06% diversion rate for their Zero Waste Game, including nearly eight tons in recycling, over two-and-a-half tons in compost and over two tons in reuse.
  • With over 44,000 fans in attendance for its Zero Waste Game, Arizona State conducted a variety of messaging campaigns across Sun Devils platforms to inform and educate fans.
  • Keeping with social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU Zero Waste created a native plant and tree display at a main student and fan entrance that featured a large QR code to direct fans to a Sun Devil Athletics webpage that highlighted ASU’s sustainability achievements.
  • The team also utilized social media and in-arena scoreboards to promote sustainability campaigns across campus for the #GreenGameASU.

Innovation – 2021 Football Season: Colorado (Nov. 6 vs. Oregon State)

  • Achieved 86.49% diversion rate for their Zero Waste Game, including nearly three-and-a-half tons in compost, over one-and-a-half tons in bottles and cans and over one ton in cardboard.
  • For Colorado, all home games are structured and organized to be as close to zero waste as possible, including various tailgate events. After each game, at the stadium and the on-campus recycling center, students separate compost, cardboard, chipboard, aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, pallets, fryer grease, film plastics, scrap metal, and hard-to-recycle items.
  • All food & beverage at Colorado football games are served in a compostable or recyclable foodservice vessel, while all guest waste stations contain only a compost/recycle bin to reinforce participation in the program. This included the Buffs move from a compostable beverage vessel to the Ball Aluminum cup, which set off a wave of media and public relations reactions that is helping reduce single-use non-recyclable plastic beverage cups for Colorado. The Ball Aluminum cup has now made its way to stadiums and venues across the country.
  • Colorado collaborates with Levy Concessions and Ralphie’s Green Stampede to give each concession stand information on how to participate in the contest and become a zero waste champion. Every concession stand receives a zero waste training prior to the game and is graded after halftime. After each home game, the stand grading is evaluated and the top 3 groups are awarded an incentive reward.

Other highlights from around the Pac-12 for the 2021 football edition of the Zero Waste Challenge, presented by Eco Products, included:

  • Stanford – For its home games, among many efforts for Stanford, the Cardinal hands out tailgate kits, sponsored by TQM, to all cars as they park as well as other tailgaters. The kits include one compostable bag, one clear bag for recycling and one black bag for landfill, as well as a map of the dumpsters where fans can drop their tailgate waste and a small sorting guide to demonstrate what items should go in each bag. A total of nearly 1,000 tailgate kits were distributed.  
  • Washington – Diverted nearly three-and-a-half tons of recycling during its Zero Waste game, thanks to messaging campaigns across digital and social media platforms as well as in venue. The Huskies included football student-athletes for in-stadium videos that played during the “Green Minute” in the third quarter, among many other efforts and activations.