Homecoming features Big Ten’s first ‘carbon-neutral’ football game

Oct. 15, 2008

by Dennis Chaptman

As part of a campuswide commitment to reducing our environmental footprint, the Badgers' Homecoming game against the University of Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 25, has been designated a "carbon-neutral" game.

The game, the first of its kind in the Big Ten and one of the first in the nation, will offer a chance to raise awareness of environmental issues, such as the damaging effects of carbon dioxide and the benefits of conservation and recycling. The event will also provide information on ways fans can take action in their daily lives to become more environmentally friendly.

The game is also a way to highlight the Athletic Department's plans to implement a recycling and sustainability plan during the next five years.

"We're hoping this game will stimulate more awareness of environmental issues on the part of Badger fans everywhere and demonstrate the many ways in which athletics and the rest of our campus are making meaningful commitments to sustainability," says Chancellor Carolyn "Biddy" Martin.

The project has two aims: to offset carbon dioxide emissions generated directly by activities surrounding the game, and to make a continuing investment in a healthy environment by planting trees.

The project will involve the planting of thousands of trees at the Arington Tree Farm near Cambridge, beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16, when Bucky Badger, UW-Madison student-athletes and university officials will be on hand for the planting of the first seedlings.

The university's commitment also involves the purchase of carbon credits — made possible by an anonymous donor — to offset estimated game-day carbon dioxide emissions.

"Every game day, a crowd larger than many Wisconsin cities gathers at Camp Randall Stadium to watch Badger football," says associate athletic director Vince Sweeney. "It's important for us to be environmentally conscious in what we do and to spread the word about how everyday actions can lead to a cleaner environment."

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps sunlight in the planet's atmosphere and contributes to global warming. It is produced whenever we burn fossil fuels, such as coal or gasoline, for electricity, transportation or to produce products. Most scientists think the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is one of the prime reasons our climate is changing.

Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. So planting trees or preserving forests helps offset the carbon dioxide produced by all the other things we do that consume energy.

An analysis done by a student working with faculty in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences estimates that a typical game day generates the emission of more than 1,170 tons of carbon dioxide. The vast majority of emissions come from fans traveling to and from the game, but the analysis also took into account electrical use, production of concessions and hotel stays by fans.

The university will work with the nonprofit Delta Institute Carbon Offset Program, and credits will be purchased on the Chicago Climate Exchange to offset those emissions. When credits are purchased on the exchange, the money is invested in other projects that offset emissions by a corresponding amount.

In addition, about 4,000 seedlings obtained through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are being planted on a 4-acre site at Joe Arington's tree farm in Cambridge. Another 16 acres will be planted with thousands more oak and walnut trees, with the seed provided by Arington.

The Homecoming game will also feature displays and information about ways that fans can reduce their environmental footprint.

It will also showcase information about the Athletic Department's "Wear Red, Think Green, Badgers Recycle" campaign. The sustainability effort, announced earlier this year, has so far resulted in the recycling of a ton of plastic water and soda bottles at Camp Randall Stadium. The department's effort encourages expanded recycling and conservation initiatives during the next five years. The program is a joint project of the Athletic Department and ReThink Wisconsin: Students for Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.

The "carbon-neutral" game is being held in the same week as the Bioenergy Summit, which runs Thursday and Friday, Oct. 23 and 24, and will also feature university experts, state policymakers and innovators from Wisconsin's private sector. Talks and discussions will focus on ways to build a better energy future, while highlighting Wisconsin's leadership in the emerging bioeconomy.