I had high expectations for Marian University's first home game at the newly opened St. Vincent Health Field. The football did not disappoint. The Knights trounced Grandview University's Vikings 34 to 16 after pulling ahead at the end of the second quarter. Ryan Ferguson caught the pre-half-time 65-yard pass as the 3,000-plus crowd, some of whom were painted in school colors from head to toe, surged with excitement.
But it wasn't the football that had me looking forward to this game with such optimism. This game was billed as a Green Initiatives Football game, and I, being the Al Gore loving tree hugger that I am, was enthralled by the concept.
I walked through the gates expecting a flurry of green activity: trees growing, flowers blooming, petitions to save the rainforest. Instead, I was greeted by the usual concessions and merchandise.
Marian's press release had promised information booths. I later found out that they were actually located closer to the tailgating areas then the field. According to Andrea Fagan, director of marketing communications for Marian, people in the information booths were generally pleased with working with Marian.
I tracked down Beth Wall, advisor of the Green Life Club, which was spearheading the recycling initiative at the game.
I asked if the crowed seemed excited to recycle.
"I haven't seen plastic bottles in trashcans... I'm not ready to go dumpster diving just yet," said Wall.
The Green Life club went through the stands and picked up recycling from the cheering crowd during the third quarter. In the past, the club has sponsored events like fair trade coffee night, organic smoothie night and a fair trade chocolate feast. Members of the club, proudly wearing shirts of green, seemed as preoccupied with the game as they were with the recycling.
Other green activities were on hand. Wall informed me that The Booster Club was selling buttons with the proceeds going to purchase trees from the Arbor Day Foundation. This did not happen as planned because of technical difficulties.
"I've seen a lot of recycling bins," said former Marian University student Paul Washington. He seemed surprised at the fact that he was attending a "green game." He felt that watching a football game at the field did not have a negative impact on the environment.
"We had to change the [recycling bin] liners a lot. That means people were using them often," said Fagan. The University used only recycled paper and no Styrofoam to serve food.
There were other green initiatives: Charcoal grills were not allowed on campus, and many people car pooled to the game. I myself was shuttled to campus by one of the several buses going to and from a nearby parking lot.
Marian University is no stranger to environmental-minded activity. The campus has fully endorsed recycling since last year, and is responsible for building and maintaining Ecolab, 30 acres of functioning wetland habitat. Ecolab is home to a large variety of plant and animal life, and is a natural wonder located in the middle of Indianapolis.
Fagan reported that the students were excited about the efforts, and that Marian plans to continue bringing environmental stewardship to university events. "This is a trend that we wish to continue."
Is there a more effective way to market environmentalism to a crowd of screaming college kids?
It's no wonder the topic of environmentalism cannot compete with the excitement of a football game. And, if you throw in a Michael Jackson tribute by the marching band, all bets are off.
A cheering crowd of its own fans is what the green movement really needs. This idea seems preposterous, a crowd of screaming fans cheering "recycling" instead of "defense" in short broken syllables. But if we don't start cheering now, the home team might not be able to pull out of what could be a crushing defeat.