Going green on game day: App State’s Physical Plant and keeping campus clean

Jackie Park, Editor-in-Chief

With all of the preparation that goes into football game day tailgates — food, tables, cornhole and so on — an important element is often forgotten in Peacock Lot: trash.

Chris Erickson, assistant superintendent of landscape services, hasn’t forgotten about this step in the tailgating process after 11 years of working at App State.

“We’ve got the receptacles there; we’ve got them in place. They’re just not choosing to use them,” Erickson said. “I think they do a good job at first, and then as the day goes on, they’re not doing as good.”

Erickson and his team of 12 to 14 Physical Plant employees ensure that trash cans and recycling bins are readily available in prime tailgating spots before a home game. 

On game days, Erickson said every lot has two two-person teams handing out bags to fans, taking liners from trash and recycling bins and trying to keep things clean. After people start heading into the game, Erickson said that’s when his team really starts cleaning, though it can be a challenge with everyone still parked.

“Trash gets everywhere. It gets under the vehicles; it gets in places you can’t get to, and they also leave trash. If they’ve got a truck, they have beer cans in the back of the truck…so once they leave, they throw it all out on the ground,” Erickson said.

After tailgaters leave, Erickson said most lots are in good shape by the end of the day, though clean-up in Peacock Lot often continues into Sunday.

“We’ll come in Sunday morning with a sweeper that goes through, and it’ll sweep all the loose stuff that’s left. If there’s broken glass we didn’t get the day before or it was under a car, it cleans that,” Erickson said.

Erickson said his team works closely with the University Sustainability office, both in and outside the stadium.

Jennifer Maxwell is University Sustainability program manager. She said when the Recycle at the Rock began in 2008, trash pickup greatly improved, but not in Peacock Lot.

“It’s never truly helped in that lot,” Maxwell said. “There’s containers, and we also put out recycling and trash containers everywhere and hand out the bags.”

Maxwell and her team also hand out trash bags to tailgaters on game days, though she said trash can be found along waterways in Todd, about 12 miles from Boone, harming streams and wildlife along the way.

App State’s Physical Plant also helps sort trash and different kinds of recycling at tailgates and in the stadium, and the lack of organization by tailgaters can make that task very difficult, Maxwell said.

“It becomes such a huge problem for our landscaping crews to clean up, so it doesn’t necessarily get sorted properly because they don’t have time,” Maxwell said.

Erickson said a majority of tailgaters do a great job and are very grateful, but both he and Maxwell wonder what a solution to this looks like.

“Hopefully somebody’s got an idea,” Erickson said. “If we can get some like-minded students that could spread that kind of idea of ownership and that this is their campus and to be proud of it.”

Maxwell said App State students and fans should have fun on game days, but also be accountable for themselves.

“We can put all these programs in place, but everyone has to participate, change their behavior and act responsible,” Maxwell said.