Two USC students strive for carbon-neutral sporting events
Imagine attending a South Carolina football game with no carbon footprint. That's what Erin Fedewa and Nicole Rheinlander are hoping to see in the near future. Fedewa, a fourth-year marine science student, and Rheinlander, a fourth-year international business and accounting student, are on track to provide USC with its first-ever "carbon neutral" sporting event.
Their idea started after learning of the University of Florida's efforts to produce an entire carbon-neutral football season, which has been in effect since the fall of 2007. Through Fedewa's involvement with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, both Fedewa and Rheinlander established what they call the Green Initiative Committee, which began recycling athletic shoes at various sporting events.
Last spring, the two students applied for the Carolina Leadership Initiative, which was formed by USC President Harris Pastides in the hopes of providing a greater environment for the development of leadership skills among students. The initiative, headed by Kevin Elliott, allowed them a $9,000 grant to continue their Green Initiative Committee and work on their own research to bring a carbon-neutral sporting event to USC.
Fedewa and Rheinlander are devoting the fall semester to researching just what such an event would entail by working with various sports facilities around campus to determine energy consumption. In addition, they are surveying people to come to an estimate of what kind of transportation they're using to go to and from games, how far they are traveling and what they are consuming while at the games.
When the research is pulled together, the two teammates hope to be able to offset all of the carbon emissions from the particular event chosen, which would be accomplished through the involvement of athletes. A student-athlete herself, Fedewa said she would like to see a more "personal approach" to the project.
"Our hope is that student-athletes will be engaged in the process through the participation in carbon offsets, such as CFL light bulb distributions in the community and tree planting around campus," Fedewa said.
Michael Koman, the director of sustainability at USC who has been working with Fedewa and Rheinlander on their project, said that the initiative is just one example of students taking on sustainability issues.
"Erin and Nicole's project will not only result in a carbon-neutral sporting event but will provide us valuable information on how we can conduct future events cost effectively with the hopes of future games, graduations and other events being carbon neutral," Koman said.
Both Fedewa and Rheinlander hope to bring a sense of awareness of the impact that athletic events have on the planet. Fedewa said she hopes that a high-profile event can "ultimately promote change, challenging both the USC campus and the community of Columbia as a whole to integrate sustainable values and environmentally contentious decisions into their everyday lives."