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On May 15th I had the opportunity to represent the Environmental Paper Network as a panelist for an online event organized by the Green Sports Alliance. It was a great forum to speak to stadium operations executives and other managers and consultants in the culturally significant world of professional sports on topics of waste reduction, waste paper recovery and responsible paper product sourcing.

Best of all, it was exciting to be inspired by the conservation leadership of my co-panelists on the call representing the Saint Paul RiverCentre, the Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League.

These premier facilities and the Minnesota Wild are leaders in purchasing wind energy and reducing water consumption. They are taking aggressive actions to check their large volume of waste. And they are reducing the environmental impact of what’s in their paper as well.

Paper sourcing, recycling and reduction is part of what began as a two-year campus wide program to reduce trash by 50% and increase the total recycling rate to 50%. It has now been almost four years and the efforts are continuing well beyond the original goals.

In that time they have reduce trash by 67%, equally a total of 1.6 million pounds per year less. They have increased annual recycling to 56.2% and climbing. And they recently composted their one-millionth pound of material.

2013-Sustainability-RC-Recycling-Center_640x480Their campus wide recycling program collects ten different types of waste. And when it comes to paper they’ve chosen the “dual-stream” approach to extract the higher market value that can be earned for wastepaper that is cleaner and less contaminated by other recyclables. In addition to reducing the costs of waste disposal, creating a dual stream system increases revenue. Its a smart way to improve the economics of the program. And in their first year of these efforts, paper recycling increased by 50%.

When it comes to the products they need for the stadium and offices, they’ve created a green purchasing playbook for staff. The playbook breaks purchases into categories and each category gives guidance on product traits and/or logos that are credible and qualifying indicators of responsible sourcing.

Their playbook also directs staff to preference  products such as food service items and office products that contain minimum content of post-consumer recycled fibre or are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. To meet their goals for copy paper purchasing and preserve their relationship with a local printer, they rolled up their sleeves together to find a cost-competitive solution and now use only 30% post consumer recycled paper.

These facilities and the Minnesota Wild have publicly committed to measuring and reporting on the status of their efforts and sharing what they have learned with others in the NHL and throughout professional sports. You can learn more about their strategies and progress toward these goals at xcelenergycenter.com/sustainability.

The Environmental Paper Network and our members have worked with hundreds of companies on responsible paper sourcing policies. We’ve seen what can make them robust, and what can make them a bust. A few of the common keys to a successful and leadership policy include:

1.  Creating shared ownership and integration into the company and employee culture

2.  Stating clear goals, then measuring and reporting progress

3.  A holistic approach that reduces waste, increases economic value of the wastestream, and specifies products utilizing a screen for social and environmental responsibility.

By including these principles in their approach, the Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota Wild are succeeding. And by their success they are demonstrating the power of large institutions to be a positive force for conservation and in creating markets for innovative product solutions. The bonus: an even better, positive experience for the fans at the game.

Learn more at WhatsInYourPaper.com and the website of the Green Sports Alliance.