Football season is upon us and for many, that means the start of tailgating season. But tailgating parties can generate a lot of waste, ranging from empty bottles to piles of pizza boxes. For example, the University of Georgia home opener against South Carolina in 2009 produced more than 70 tons of trash. What's an eco-loving football fan to do?


The Environmental Protection Agency wants to help. As part of its WasteWise program, the EPA promotes recycling and waste reduction through its annual Game Day Challenge. Any university or college can participate and compete against other schools to reduce the environmental footprint of home football games. At the end of the program in December, the EPA will recognize the schools with the highest recycling rate, the lowest amount of waste per game attendee, and the biggest greenhouse gas reduction.


It's too late for new schools to sign up for this year's challenge, in which 81 schools will participate. Last year, according to The Washington Post, the 75-plus participating schools kept 500,000 pounds of trash out of landfills.


A toolkit generated by some students at Virginia Tech offers tips for any school that wants to reduce its game-related waste. Among the tips: put out bins for trash, recycling and composting; get the fans involved in collecting their own recycling; and make it easier for fans to bike or carpool to games. The toolkit also encourages the participation of schools' athletic departments, which can mean getting them involved as much as a year early to put programs in place.


For tailgaters who want to make a difference outside of the Game Day Challenge, the website Earth911 offers several great tips on greening your game, including buying disposable cups and flatware made from post-consumer recycled plastic, buying local and organic food, using solar power to charge electronics, and using propane instead of charcoal grills.


The website Tailgateideas has a few more ideas, such as using a hand-cranked radio, buying food in bulk and driving a hybrid vehicle to the game. Mother Nature Network local correspondent Miranda Omer offers some additional tips, suggesting that fans ditch disposables altogether and bring silverware and cups from home — and, of course, turn off all of lights before leaving home for the game.


This program for college football may leave NFL fans wondering about the eco-friendliness of their local stadiums. Last year PETA ranked NFL stadiums on vegetarian-friendliness. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, took the top slot for their use of solar and wind power and availability of veggie dogs and faux-chicken sandwiches.


Also on MNN:

College tailgate parties go green with the EPA's Game Day Challenge
Schools are competing to generate the best recycling rates and the lowest levels of waste.