Marketing and Communications

Old sneakers are steps to new basketball courts

Bowling Green State University is going for the record at this week’s football game, but not in touchdowns or field goals. The University is trying to collect thousands of used sneakers to create the world’s longest chain of shoes tied together. The competition will be held at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Everyone —students, staff, faculty and community members — is encouraged to donate their unwanted, untied athletic shoes. You can bring them to the Oct. 27 game and drop them in bins, or to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union all week. A bin is located by the large stairway near the bookstore.

More than possibly earning BGSU a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, the athletic shoes collected will be recycled into basketball courts – a win-win in which material is diverted from landfills, less new material will need to be produced for the courts, and the overall carbon footprint is reduced.

To accomplish all this, BGSU is once again partnering with young Erek Hansen of Curtice, Ohio, a 12-year-old environmental champion known as EcoErek who has been featured in National Geographic Kids and other national media. He received honorable mention from Action For Nature as part of its International Eco-Hero Award.

BGSU has collaborated with EcoErek previously to donate jeans and shoes from the University’s “When You Move Out, Don’t Throw It Out” annual collection, and again last summer for its financial literacy camp for middle-schoolers. The campers worked with EcoErek to develop their own strategy for collecting used blue jeans and tennis shoes. The denim is converted into insulation for Habitat for Humanity houses and the shoes are recycled into components of sidewalks, running tracks and playgrounds.

“He’s a great partner for us,” said Jane Clinard of the BGSU Office of Admissions.

This is not the only time the football game has been the site for recycling. Thanks to the Office of Sustainability and its student and staff volunteers, BGSU employs “green tailgating” for its home games. Thousands of pounds of aluminum cans, glass bottles and plastic are collected in special containers.

Athletic events “bring large crowds of people who generate a lot of waste,” observed Dr. Nicholas Hennessy, campus sustainability coordinator.

For the last couple of years, BGSU students and staff, with help from the Athletics Department, have been pitching in to encourage and enable “green” tailgating at football games and other events. Volunteers provide special recycling bags and additional containers, which were part of a grant last year from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. From 15 to 30 student volunteers help with each game.

During last year’s football season, almost 12 tons of cans, bottles and cardboard were collected, and the goal this fall is to exceed that.

The green athletic events are very cost-effective, Hennessy said. “The more recycling, the less trash there is to be picked up and the less we have to pay to the landfill, in addition to the labor cost-savings.”