Football field

What happens when you get 92,000 people together in one place on a Saturday before a football game? Tailgating is one of the most fun parts of watching a football game (both college and pro), but it isn’t one of the most environmentally friendly. Have you ever seen what those parking lots and lawns look like after a game?

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Even when trashcans are provided, trash is littered everywhere. The residents, cities and schools end up spending lots of time trying to clean up the trash from the event. Even with recycling programs in place, all the recyclables never seem to end up in the right collection bin.

However, there are some practical ways that fans can green their tailgating and still have fun. Ready to find out how? Green 32, green 32 … set … hike.

Green Tailgating

1. Reusable plates, utensils and cups

Even the red Solo cup has a reusable cousin. Recycled plastic plates, reusable utensils and cloth napkins can be used for tailgating, and you can save them and use them again at the next game. These products are more durable than the traditional disposable products and can be tossed in the dishwasher when you get home.

2. Recycle at home

Keep a bag or box in your tailgate area and take your empty cans and bottles home to recycle, or drop them off on your way out of town at the local recycle center.

3. Low-waste or zero-waste food

Avoid individually packaged foods, buy in bulk and bring fresh food whenever possible. This will cut down on the amount of waste that you have to dispose of at the end of the day. Food scraps can be composted; just toss them in a bag to take home and compost.

4. Take an extra trash bag and share with a neighbor

Perhaps a neighboring fan forgot to bring their own trash bag. By sharing, you are helping keep the area clean. Before you leave for the day, perhaps you could pick up just a few pieces of trash from the surrounding area for any fans who may not be as tidy (or may be too intoxicated to realize what they’ve done).

5. Leave only footprints, take only memories

It’s a pretty easy concept, really — take everything you brought with you. Don’t leave any games, broken chairs, tables or trash behind. When thinking about souvenirs for the day, consider the items carefully and make sure they are durable.

It amazes me just how bad these parking lots and lawns can look after a game. We all know better, so let’s enjoy the football season sustainably.

What “green” tailgating tips do you have to share? Leave them in the comments.

Feature image courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil

By Calley Pate

A self-described eco-junkie, Calley Pate is the owner and editor of The Eco Chic blog covering eco-friendly living, cloth diapers, parenting, photography, and life in general. Her passion growing up was the arts and the ocean. After working as an environmental contractor, Calley took the leap into blogging full time in 2011. Calley is also Marketing & Social Media Manager for Kelly’s Closet cloth diaper retailer.