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Pac-12 Team Green

Uniting all 12 universities
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California crowned overall winner of Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge for the 2022-23 basketball season

Jun 6, 2023
Courtesy of Arizona State, California, Colorado and USC Athletics
SAN FRANCISCOCalifornia was selected as the overall winner of the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge for the 2022-23 basketball season, while Colorado (Fan Engagement), Washington (Innovation) and UCLA (Rising Star) rounded out the Zero Waste Challenge awards.
The Golden Bears have now won five of the last six basketball challenges, posting a diversion rate of 92% or higher in each of the victories. This is Colorado’s eighth honor, with the Buffaloes most recently winning the 2022 Zero Waste Challenge for football, and Washington’s second-straight award after taking home Best Fan Engagement for the 2021-22 basketball season. UCLA has now earned overall recognition three times, including the 2016-17 and 2018-19 basketball seasons.
California, Colorado, UCLA and Washington will each be honored at the 2023 Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, which is set to take place on June 21-22 at Stanford University and registration information is available here.
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.
More information on the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge is available at
Overall Winner – 2022-23 Basketball Season: California (men’s basketball vs. Arizona State, Feb. 11, 2023)
  • Earned a 95% diversion rate for their Zero Waste game with 550 pounds in recycling and 97 pounds in compost.
  • Cal Zero Waste worked with First Choice Custodial Services and Cal Athletics to ensure Haas Pavilion had the necessary bins and signage to help fans sort refuse.
  • Student volunteers and Cal Zero Waste Staff ran an educational table, letting fans know about UC Berkeley’s Zero Waste goals and encouraging people to switch from disposable to reusable products. Prizes were handed out to encourage engagement.
  • Cal Zero Waste coordinated with Levy to ensure that all of their concessions packaging was either compostable or recyclable, and worked with Pepsi to provide compostable cups.
  • “Trash talking” was implemented, in which Cal Zero Waste would stand next to high-traffic receptacles throughout Haas Pavilion to help guide fans on how to sort their waste and be more mindful of ways so they can support campus goals.
Best Fan Engagement – 2022-23 Basketball Season: Colorado (men’s basketball vs. USC, Feb. 23, 2023)
  • Achieved a 85.2% diversion rate with over 770 pounds of compost and over 1000 pounds of recycling at their Zero Waste game.
  • The Ralphie Green Stampede (RGS) team tabled at the “Women in Sports and Green Game” this season, engaging fans through environmentally-focused sponsor pledges and a zero-waste bean bag toss, which educated fans on composting and recycling. Prizes included water bottles, cutlery or an upcycled "Zero Waste Team" shirt.
  • Fans learned about the RGS program, sustainable waste options for the home, information about the Environmental Center, and sustainable sponsor projects in their communities.
  • The RGS Volunteer team consisted of 125 people covering over 25 games this season for a total of 350 hours of service.
Best Use of Innovation – 2022-23 Basketball Season: Washington (men’s basketball vs. Oregon State, Feb. 18, 2023)
  • Collected 0.46 tons of compost at the Zero Waste Game.
  • Representatives from Washington Athletics and other campus departments tabled on the concourse to provide information about sustainability.
  • Fans were asked to answer sustainability questions to receive a prize, and in-game sustainability activities occurred during game breaks.
  • Various groups and organizations at Washington were in attendance to share their sustainability efforts. UW Surplus, which has a retail store selling unneeded items from Washington departments, promoted their services and talked about how the reuse of equipment keeps items out of the waste stream. Other exhibitors included the U District Food Bank, which serves the neighborhood around the UW campus, and the student food coop.
Rising Star – 2022-23 Basketball Season: UCLA (women’s basketball vs. Oregon State, Feb. 10, 2023)
  • Achieved a 55% diversion rate with over 300 pounds of recycling and compost at their Zero Waste game.
  • The student-athlete organization BELT (Bruin Environmental Leadership Team) led efforts at the Zero Waste game. A total of 18 student-athletes participated in the sorting/waste audit, and BELT chair Maddie Wright wrote portions of the in-game script for marketing, and organized campus and local groups to participate in the Sustainability Fair. 
  • UCLA partnered with our campus waste hauler, Athens, to have special bins placed outside the arena for in-game and postgame sorting. Athens had activation on the concourse at the Sustainability Fair, which featured both campus and local organizations on the concourse educating and interacting with fans.
Other highlights from around the Pac-12 for the 2022-23 basketball edition of the Zero Waste Challenge included:
  • Arizona State - Announcements were made throughout the Zero Waste game about the sustainability efforts throughout campus. The student fan group, “942” did a sustainability-themed Curtain of Distraction, as well as a "green out" of the student section. The Sun Devils collaborated with LandCorp, Sodexo and the Well to help sort and divert recyclable and compostable materials from the game.
  • Stanford - The Office of Sustainability engaged with fans, hosted games and gave away sustainability-minded prizes at the Zero Waste game. Stanford’s Fan Experience team ran promotional language and graphics throughout the event, and threw giveaway items out to the crowd.
  • USC - Assignment: Earth, USC’s sustainability arm, had signage and branding throughout the Galen Center during the Zero Waste game. A video was used on social media to promote the organization’s efforts and share everyday sustainability habits for fans.
  • Utah - The Sustainability Office and the Sustainability Board of the Associated Students of the University of Utah introduced a waste-reduction mascot called “Recyclops,” who attends all recycling-related events and hands out prizes to fans who answer sustainability-related questions.