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Innovation

Home Field: Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium

Erin Doering

Since 2015, the Clemson Tigers have been one of college football’s best teams. They played four times in the NCAA championship game, winning the title twice. Over those same years, Clemson has been a champion at the GameDay Recycling Challenge, winning the national competition in 2014 and 2018 while tying for the top spot in 2017 (and finishing first in the Total Recycling category). Additionally, Clemson finished second in the Challenge in 2015 and 2016. A look at the numbers reveals the positive effect resulting from GameDay participation. Clemson recycled more than 123,000 pounds of materials during the 2013 football season and collected over 60,000 pounds of recycled material for the 2014 GameDay game alone. The 2013 season’s recycling total was entirely eclipsed by the 2018 GameDay Challenge recycling numbers

Photo Courtesy Connor Witt

However, Memorial Stadium’s successful recycling campaign really got jump-started in 2009 through a partnership with Coca-Cola, when the company donated 100 recycling bins, which were situated around the campus parking lots.

To encourage recycling, a contest offered fans the opportunity to win gift cards if they were filmed putting bottles or cans into a bin (made from recycled Coke syrup containers). During the 2010s, the recycling campaign continued to improve, with the Stadium’s diversion rate rising from 20% in 2011 to 52% in 2016. 

Volunteers have played a vital role in the stadium’s recycling success. Clad in neon yellow shirts, they hand out green recycling bags to fans during tailgating time and collect trash bags and recyclables after games. Dave VanDeventer, Clemson’s recycling manager, has high praise for the Tigers’ fans. “Clemson fans are great because they clean things up. When they’re done with their tailgate, they organize things in a way that when we come by, it’s easy to tell what’s recycling and what’s trash,” Dave said.

Solid Green (a name inspired by Clemson’s Solid Orange spirit campaign) started as an anti-litter group, but now it is the term generally used for Clemson’s sustainability efforts. The annual Solid Green Day was first held in 2006 as a campus clean-up following Homecoming Weekend, but it has grown. Meanwhile, Solid Green Day in 2021 included a Sustainability Fair that involved campus environmental groups and local like-minded organizations. “Solid Green Day is an opportunity to help make Clemson greener as we learn and engage together,” said Marcus Curry, Solid Green Committee chair.

The 2021 event also was part of a month-long initiative, which featured the Mascot Recycling Challenge (a plastic bottle recycling competing where Clemson competed against other universities in the Carolinas) and the Your Bottle Means Jobs campaign (a regional effort to remind the public about the importance of plastic bottle recycling).

Upgrading the sustainability situation of its sports facilities has also been the focus of Clemson’s attention. A 2015 Memorial Stadium renovation included the installation of VRV (Variable Refrigerant Technology) systems. By serving luxury suites, press areas, and coaches’ boxes, VRVs significantly increase energy efficiency because of their very precise climate control capabilities and deliver heating and cooling simultaneously inside a building. This is important since South Carolina weather during football varies considerably. VRV also has the valuable ability to recover heat in one area and utilize it in another.

In 2018, the university earned a Silver LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for its new Reeves Football Complex and renovated indoor practice facility. The project team was able to divert 86% of the construction waste. Installation of state-of-the-art plumbing and electrical systems achieved a reduction of nearly 40% of potable water consumption and over a 25% drop in energy use compared to 1992 baselines. Furthermore, the Athletic Department works with Clemson’s Grounds Staff to recycle grass clippings and repurpose sod removed from football practice fields for use on intramural fields.

Clemson’s new Tennis Center was built with numerous sustainable features. 

Recycled materials were used in the building’s construction, and it was built on an east/west axis to maximize natural sunlight. The facility also contains insulated metal panels that are easy to recycle, LCD lighting, and drought-resistant landscaping. These pro-environment elements earned the Tennis Center two Green Globes certifications from the Green Building Initiative. This achievement stated the University Facilities project manager Tommi Jones, “demonstrates (Clemson’s) commitment to best practices in sustainable design, construction, and operations.”

Photo Courtesy Clemson Tigers

Clemson’s Soccer Operations Complex also garnered a pair of Green Globe certifications. 

The Complex, which opened in 2020, earned this double honor for its responsible use of materials, energy and water conservation, ecological stewardships, and providing a healthy indoor environment for those using the facility. “This level of sustainability is an outstanding accomplishment and you can be proud of the design and construction of this facility,” asserted L.L. “Buddy” Humphries, the engineer who recommended the Complex to the Green Building Initiative. 

These green buildings fit in with Clemson’s Sustainable Building Policy. Established in 2004, it stated new and extensively renovated buildings needed to meet LEED Silver standards.  

Clemson now boasts 21 LEED-certified buildings, and eight of those are Gold LEEDs.  

Additionally, Clemson is home to the Lee Hall III building, which contains 42 geothermal wells and has been described as one of America’s most sustainable buildings. The university’s commitment to sustainability stretches back to its early days when the school helped pioneer the teaching of sustainable agricultural practices, and this commitment will undoubtedly continue to stretch into the future.

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