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USC repeats as overall winner of Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge for 2021-22 basketball season

Jun 16, 2022

SALT LAKE CITYFollowing their overall win of the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge for the 2021 football season, USC was again selected as the overall winner of the challenge for the 2021-22 basketball season, earning the Trojans a sweep of the 2021-22 campaign. The Trojans have now earned the overall recognition four times, also including the 2017 and 2016 football seasons. The announcement was made during a special awards ceremony at the 2022 Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, hosted by the University of Utah. 

Rounding out the 2021-22 basketball season Zero Waste Challenge awards were Washington (best fan engagement), Cal (best use of innovation) and Washington State (rising star).

About the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge
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 & Senior Sustainability Coordinator, CR&R Incorporated
  • Monica Rowand – Waste Management, Energy and Environmental Services 

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

Overall Winner – 2021-22 Basketball Season: USC (men’s basketball vs. Cal, Jan. 29, 2022)

  • Achieved 91.8% diversion rate for their Zero Waste game with 662 pounds in recycling and 500 pounds in compost. 
  • In an effort to establish the Zero Waste game as part of the campus’ larger effort to prioritize sustainability, USC implemented a pre-game awareness and engagement campaign for fans and provided waste disposal tips and instructions.
  • USC President, Dr. Carol Folt, recorded a promotional video to raise awareness for the Zero Waste game, advocating for support from the Trojan community and connecting the green efforts from the men’s basketball and football programs. 
  • Facilities Planning Management partnered with the Office of Sustainability to hold a social media takeover to educate fans on proper waste disposal and reduction practices. 
  • Auxiliary Services partnered with the SC Garden Club and allowed students to man a gameday engagement table and provide education pertaining to the university’s larger sustainability goals. 

Best Fan Engagement – 2021-22 Basketball Season: Washington (men’s basketball vs. Arizona, Feb. 12, 2022)

  • Totaled over 800 pounds of recycling and over 450 pounds of compost waste at their Zero Waste game. 
    Partnered with Starbucks for the Zero Waste game, providing fans with limited edition, reusable espresso cups to students and fans.
  • Executed a clothing and shoe donation drive that allowed fans to practice sustainability while also benefiting the community.
  • Sustainability volunteers at the drive educated fans on the green efforts of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice on the campus of the University of Washington.
  • Washington Athletics’ apparel partner, Adidas, had a booth at the Zero Waste game to promote its “Give Back” program, which encourages customers to return old Adidas gear to be reused or resold.

Best Use of Innovation – 2021-22 Basketball Season: Cal (men’s basketball vs. Stanford, Feb. 26, 2022)

  • Achieved 84.7% diversion rate at their Zero Waste game and collected 289 pounds of compost and over 200 pounds of recycling.
  • Cal Zero Waste worked with First Choice Custodial Services, Cal Athletics staff and Facilities Services to ensure that all areas of Haas Pavilion had waste bins with three material streams: bottles and cans recycling, compost and landfill. 
  • Partnered with Berkeley Events and Conferences and Best Beverage to have paper popcorn bags that were compostable, rather than single-use plastic tubs. 
  • Cal Zero Waste utilized student staffers to educate fans on environmental justice issues and how they relate to sports and the Bay Area with a scannable QR code that redirected to a list of environmental justice principles.  

Rising Star – 2021-22 Basketball Season: Washington State (men’s basketball vs. Oregon State, March 3, 2022)

  • Collected over 200 pounds of recyclable cardboard, bottles and cans at their Zero Waste game. 
  • Washington State gave away over 1,000 shirts made of recycled shirts to fans and encouraged mindful disposal of products as spectators entered Beasley Coliseum. 
  • Implemented a halftime “speed sorting” competition, which allowed participating fans to compete to sort an array of waste products as quickly as possible. 
  • A variety of signage was posted around the Washington State campus, including electronic screens with Zero Waste game information in the student union and study spaces, as well as a large banner placed at the main road intersecting campus. 
  • ​​​​​​​Strong emphasis was placed on the importance of sustainability on the Palouse, particularly how WSU Waste Management addresses green issues and local water conservation efforts in the Palouse Basin.​​​​​​​

​​​​Other highlights from around the Pac-12 for the 2021-22 basketball edition of the Zero Waste Challenge included:

  • Stanford - The Cardinal continued to promote sustainability at basketball home games all season. Stanford’s staff provided numerous opportunities to join the zero waste movement, including over 50 “trash trios” around the outer concourse, court level and upper bowl of Maples Pavilion. Each trio allows for landfill, recycling and compost waste disposal.