While I may consider it to be the best atmosphere in the whole country, others fear the cheers and jeers of the over 107,000 white-clad diehards screaming their lungs out on any given football Saturday. And no matter which side one may fall on, there is little doubt that Penn State’s Beaver Stadium provides a raucous and unique environment for college athletics, one that has drawn millions of people to central Pennsylvania over the years.
But in speaking about environments, there are many who are also concerned about how fan behavior not only generates an exciting sports scene but can also negatively affect the Earth. Do alumni waste an exorbitant amount of gas making their trips back to Happy Valley during football weekends? Is too much electricity consumed to turn the borough of State College into a bustling city in anticipation for the big game? Can anything be done to balance good times and good practices? A discussion of intervention strategy on individual’s behaviors, along with some current efforts by the Penn State community, may provide perspective in to what actions can be taken to promote future environmental sustainability.
One approach to shaping desired outcomes amongst society is the use of antecedent strategies during interventions. These schemes promote identifying the factors that cause behavioral issues, and then using goals, educational tools, and information to target the negative behavior before it has been committed (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012). These devices “prime” the subject to make the necessary changes identified when formulating a solution to a problem, but do not necessarily require that the actual change takes place (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 307). Essentially, a proactive approach to eliminating adverse influences before a problem arises.
Here is an example for my football fans out there. Let us say that a certain football coach may hope to prepare his Nittany Lions to beat the University of Illinois next week but is concerned about his players losing focus as they look a week ahead to the Ohio State matchup. During the time prior to this week’s game, he may take to Twitter and repeatedly use the term “Illinois” to remind his team of where their concentration and goals should lie. Next, he will instruct the coaching staff to review film of only the Illini football team’s games and then also directs them to not use the words “Ohio” or “Buckeyes” all week. The entire team is provided with a scouting report on only Illinois’ strengths and weaknesses from the coaches, and there is no mention of any schools that may be located in a bordering state. In removing some the interfering elements, the team dedicates itself to focus solely on winning at Illinois. Likewise, similar interventional avenues can also be used to persuade others not to commit environmentally-hazardous behaviors.
With an overabundance of trash left after football games, Penn State is leading an effort to determine how to promote less waste by visitors to Beaver Stadium. In conjunction with the university’s Sustainability Institute, Tailgate Ambassadors have descended upon the stadium in recent years with the goal of promoting efficient recycling practices at football games (Tailgate, 2018). To intercept poor habits before they occur, these student volunteers spread out amongst the tailgating lots during the season, interacting with fans and providing educational information about how and where to dispose of waste. Fans are encouraged to presort their recyclable cans and bottles in to blue bags, and other waste is disposed of in similar clear containers. During just one home game against Michigan last season, Tailgate Ambassadors communicated with 80,000 fans, handing out 3,600 bags, and capturing 62,000 pounds of recycling (Tailgate, 2018). In using the antecedent strategies of setting goals and providing education and information before the problem arises, Penn State students are tackling the issue of environmentally-damaging behaviors.
Interventions program can be implemented to address the different factors associated with changing individual’s behaviors, as evident by organized volunteer initiatives at Penn State. Based on their adaptation in a variety of situations, antecedent strategies are currently being invoked by the university’s Sustainability Institute in providing student Tailgate Ambassadors who make a considerable difference in recycling efforts at Beaver Stadium. Prior to the disposal of trash, these volunteers educate fans about the correct methods for managing recyclables and waste, and in doing so, make a positive impact on the environment.
What else can be done to make the Penn State football experience an environmentally-sustainable one. Can all of those used vinyl pom-poms be repurposed into something more beneficial? Are concession stands currently operating at 100% compliance in using recycled foodservice plates and cutlery? Are there options for more energy efficient stadium lights? It remains an important endeavor to continue to seek new ways to make Penn State not only a great football atmosphere, but an environmentally-friendly one as well. Something everyone can cheer about!
Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Tailgate Ambassadors. (2018). Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.pennstatecsl.com/tailgate-ambassadors.html