Thursday, February 4, 2010

5 Steps to Divert Your Super Bowl Waste

Over 100 million Americans and international viewers will gear up to watch this year's Super Bowl featuring Peyton's Colts versus Payton's Saints, the two best NFL teams from this season, both possessing tricky offenses and superior defensive capabilities, going head to head in a brutal, four hour match up that could be one of the best Super Bowls ever (although the last two are pretty hard to beat). This grand fiesta de football Americain may qualify as a national holiday, yet no matter what team you're rooting for, everyone involved must realize the huge environmental toll Super Bowl parties place on the Earth.

Like a lot of other holidays, consumption increases. Americans drink around 10.5 million barrels of beer that Sunday (Oregon Department of Agriculture). 14,500 tons of chips are consumed ( To compliment those chips, twelve million pounds of guacamole is devoured (California Avocado Commission). TV sales rise 60% in the week before the game ( The Super Bowl as a national marketing event and all the man-hours going into it grosses nearly $10 billion, a good thing for our rebounding economy.

To balance this increased consumption, hosts and attendees should strive to make their Super Bowl parties zero waste events. Here are some tips to consider to help you with this effort.

1. Set up recycling bins and compost bags throughout the party. Depending on the size of your house, you may only need one of each or several.

2. All beverage containers should be recycled! This is a no-brainer. If you don't have curbside collection in your municipality, collect the cans and bottles and drop them off at your nearest recycling facility. Buying bulk containers like two liter sodas and mini-kegs (full kegs if you're gnarly) and serving in glasses is even better. Some red Solo cups claim to be made of recyclable plastic, but make sure your local recycling center takes these before you buy them. Reuse plastic as much as possible.

3. Try to avoid buying anything with plastic in it or around it. The only trash you should have at the end of the night is empty food bags. One of Eco-Cycle's clients is a sub shop in Boulder called Cheba Hut that gives us chip bags as their only waste. If they can do it, you can too!

4. Make as much fresh food as possible like chili, dips or casseroles. Compost all food waste if it can't be saved for later. Similarly, if you're buying disposable plates and utensils, try to buy those manufactured with recycled content. Most paper plates can be composted, but a lot of the ones with painted designs have an oily layer on them that can't be recycled/composted. There are compostable plastic utensils made out of biodegradable corn stock; try to find these at your local supermarket. Of course, the better option is to use washable plates, utensils and bowls.

5. To offset the enormous energy all those big-screen HD TVs across the nation use, turn off as many lights in the house as possible. Turn off your computers and other appliances that may require lots of power.

Following these tips should boost your waste diversion rate to 80-90%, which qualifies as zero waste ("or darn near!"). Remember to have a designated driver or couch to crash on if you're going somewhere and plan to drink a lot. Watch those commercials but don't believe everything you see. Pepsi's hyped their decision to forego their usual tacky Britney Spears spots with some green messages. There will probably be some other companies that decide to do the same. While many of these green initiatives are well-intentioned, a lot just want you to buy their product because you think they are changing the world. Until our consumption rate goes down, and our reuse and waste diversion rates go up, the environmental health of our world will continue to worsen. As Margaret Mead put it, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens watching the Super Bowl can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Go Saints!

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