Students provide sustainability solutions for NCAA triathlon

Triathlon RunnerAt Arizona State University, successful results often come from collaborative action, especially when making events more eco-friendly. Thanks to ASU students and the work of two ASU sustainability leaders, Colin Tetreault and Lesley Michalegko, the NCAA Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships that took place at Tempe Town Lake on November 4, 2018, was a more sustainable endeavor. Tetreault is an instructor in the School of Sustainability and Michalegko is a program manager for University Sustainability Practices. Through mutual effort and the support of students, they made the NCAA triathlon a place where functionality met sustainability. They found ways to reduce waste, save money, and increase the fan and competitor experience while simultaneously driving revenue. Within the Corporate Sustainability Programs class (SOS 498/594) taught by Tetreault, a group of five graduate and undergraduate students consulted with Sun Devil Athletics to improve the triathlon’s sustainability practices. Participating students were Kaela Swanson, David Faught, Brian Boyle, Joshua Bradley and Trevor Pittman. The students helped identify and measure a variety of sustainability best practices that helped to inform this event and future ASU and City of Tempe events. The team also assisted Sun Devil Athletics staff to not only make the operations of the triathlon more sustainable, but also to identify ways to engage the athletes and fans in sustainability practices. ASU Associate Athletic Director Bill Kennedy stated: “Sun Devil Athletics wins on and off the field when we incorporate sustainability into our events and athletics. The efforts at the Triathlon National Championships illustrate that we can create a great student, athlete and fan experience that also leaves a positive impact for the future.” In order to achieve their goals, the students were tasked with several deliverables, including identifying baseline measurements for waste and carbon footprint, delivering sustainability tools and best practices to event vendors, and identifying ways that lessons learned from this event could be applied to other Green Game events hosted by SDA. According to Tetreault, the students partnered with DC Solar to take at least 50 percent of the energy use of the event entirely off-grid. The solar generators powered several key components of the race. Instead of using diesel generators to run equipment, the solar generators provided power — all without the fumes and smells of traditional generators. This provided “a more enjoyable racing experience” for fans and athletes, Tetreault said. Furthermore, the students also recommended an integrated transportation plan that could make the athlete and visitor experiences more pleasant while reducing emissions. The triathlon location is well-suited for public transport since the Valley Metro Rail connects the airport with downtown Tempe and the ASU Tempe campus. It’s a seamless experience that reduces the need to rent cars and travel far distances once at the race city. Both Tetreault and Michalegko encourage the integration of similar practices in the years to come, with increasing efforts to challenge each triathlon to be more sustainable. In fact, one goal is to find a way to use 100 percent solar power at next year’s triathlon. On an even more encouraging note, learning to implement sustainability practices into the triathlon has paved the way for SDA to value sustainability when planning events of all kinds. “To keep the sport of triathlon thriving across the country, our athletes and race directors rely on clean air, water and open land for training and racing,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “USA Triathlon is committed to ensuring a healthy environment for future generations by promoting sustainable event management practices for race directors nationwide, as well as by minimizing the environmental impact of USA Triathlon National Championship events.”