The UA has, for years, initiated programs and projects intended to reduce the University's amount of waste and its carbon footprint.
This year, a team of UA students is focused on those sustainability goals during the University's largest annual event, Homecoming.
Involving UA students and partners both on and off campus, the research-driven Project Pawprint team produced a life cycle assessment (LCA) following last year's Homecoming to evaluate, among other things, the number of travelers who came to town for the celebration, the amount of energy used, how many hot dogs were consumed and how many gallons of drinks were sold.
"We have three goals: to make events even better, to reduce environmental impact and to promote how the UA and other organizers are doing smart, sustainable things," said Jake Knight, the team's project manager and a graduate research assistant working with the UA Office of Sustainability.
Ultimately, the team intends to establish best practices in event sustainability not only for the UA, but other agencies and organizations that host large-scale events.
Based on research gleaned from last year's Homecoming, the team found that transportation and consumption have the greatest impacts during Homecoming. The team has since initiated and promoted a number of sustainability efforts around this year's events. Among them are the following:
- Vehicles with four or more people can park for free in the UA's Tyndall and Highland Garages.
- Tailgaters are encouraged to use recyclable and compostable products and purchase grass-fed, all natural beef, lamb and pork products from the UA Agricultural Center or a Tucson area farmers' market. Also, they are encouraged to recycle and compost.
- The UA Compost Cats will be on site during Homecoming and will have bins located on the west side of the UA Mall.
- Two partners, the Tucson Marriott University Park and Aloft Tucson University Hotel, in collaboration with Project Pawprint, are encouraging enhanced sustainability efforts for their guests in response to the UA student-led campaign. For example, both hotels are posting digital notices to remind visitors to conserve water and energy when possible.
- Relying on Project Pawprint data from 2012, Marriott staff learned that the hotel could reduce the carbon footprint of meals served during Homecoming weekend by more than 50 percent by relying on locally sourced food. The UA team connected hotel staff with the UA's Agricultural Center, and the hotel will have a special menu during Homecoming with food items sourced from the University's farm.
- The team is promoting the Cat Cruiser, the UA Alumni Association's shuttle service between Phoenix and Tucson, during Homecoming. Visitors also are encouraged to rely on the Cat Tran shuttle, Sun Tran buses, Zimride ride sharing service and bicycles.
- Project Pawprint will host a tent during Homecoming. There, visitors can learn about the team's initiatives and help power audio-visual entertainment through the use of bicycle power generators. The UA Cycling Club and UA TriCats will compete against each other to generate power at the tent, and several other bikes will be available so the general public can join.
"These are things that people can be doing without feeling like they are being forced," said Knight, a master's student studying hydrology and water resources at the UA.
"We may not make monumental changes in one year," Knight said. "But the LCA gives us many options at various stages of the event, which may not always be visible, that change the system as a whole to reduce impacts."
Project Pawprint has numerous partners both on and off campus. They include: the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, the College of Fine Arts, the Graduate College, UA Concessions, ASUA Students for Sustainability, Arizona Athletics, the UA BookStores, the Honors College, the UA Cycling Club, UA Dining Services, UA Facilities Management and Aloft Hotel.