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sustainability squad members at the ncaa women's basketball final four

UF Students Join NCAA Final Four Sustainability Squad

By H. Hopper and C. Lanzone
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County interns

TAMPA – As events go, they don’t get much bigger than an NCAA Final Four.

University of Florida student-interns volunteer at the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four, in Tampa.

University of Florida student-interns volunteer at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, in Tampa. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

So, when Randy Penn, waste reduction agent at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, and members of his Sports and the Environment internship team, had the opportunity to volunteer at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four event at Tampa’s Amalie Arena, they jumped in.

The management of the Amalie Arena places a high emphasis on a commitment to environmental sustainability, and the arena is one of the country’s leaders in sustainable building and design. Through this volunteer opportunity, my University of Florida student-interns were able to become more involved in sustainability initiatives outside of the immediate university community ,and to learn how sustainability can be applied to the sports industry.

Our volunteer roles had us join the “Sustainability Squad,” which had us encouraging fans to recycle as a way to reduce the amount of waste generated at Amalie Arena. By educating the sports fans on what items could and could not be recycled within the facilities, the Sustainability Squad made a huge impact on the recycling rates at this Final Four event.

An important component of the Sustainability Squad’s goal was to create lasting impacts on the recycling habits of the fans who attended the games. To achieve this goal, the volunteers were given sunglasses and other gifts to award to fans “Caught Green Handed” by correctly disposing of their recyclable waste.

By engaging fans directly, Randy and his Sports and the Environment team helped make an impact on the sustainability practices of many fans at the Final Four,much like the firsthand experience of attending the event made lasting memories for many.