Hockey fans to try for a ‘perfect sort’

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College ice hockey fans will face a different sort of challenge this weekend.
As the men’s team faces off against longtime rival Plattsburgh State in Chip Kenyon Arena this Friday evening and the Panther women take on Endicott College on Saturday afternoon, fans will be challenged to improve their performance on a somewhat obscure but nonetheless very important statistic: the sort.
They will be looking to perform a perfect sort — a perfect sorting of potato chip bags, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, half-eaten hotdogs, squashed cocoa cups and every last bit of trash tossed into bins marked for compost, recycling or landfill.
The Perfect Sort Gamedays are part of the Green Panther Challenge, a collaboration between Middlebury College’s Office of Sustainability Integration and its Department of Athletics, to see if athletes and fans, working together, can improve sustainability practices.
JACK BYRNE, DIRECTOR of Middlebury College’s Sustainability Integration program, left, Athletic Director Erin Quinn and Sustainability Outreach Coordinator Eva Fillion are working to organize this weekend’s Green Panther recycling challenge at men’s and women’s ice hockey games at Chip Kenyon Arena. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
This year’s Green Panther Challenge focuses on getting teams and fans to reduce waste sent to the landfill.
“We in Athletics have worked with our Sustainability Office for a number of years on various projects,” said Director of Athletics Erin Quinn. “We decided for this current year that sorting of recycling, trash and compost would be an excellent area of focus. We host quite a few events over the course of the year that are attended by faculty, staff, students, parents and community members. These events are an opportunity to achieve quantifiable improvements in how our waste is sorted at our contests, which is an excellent benefit in and of itself.
“They also create an educational opportunity for our fans and show appreciation and respect for our employees who sort the waste,” Quinn continued. “All Panther teams are being challenged to set their own goals on how to generate less trash.”
Goals for the men’s ice hockey team include:
•  Opting for reusable water bottles.
•  Making sure to recycle on road trips.
•  Putting recycling bins in the locker rooms.
The women’s ice hockey team’s goals are:
•  Reducing shower time to less than eight minutes.
•  Eating at least 95 percent of the food on their plates.
•  Putting recycling bins in the locker rooms.
Athletes across all sports around campus are committed to engaging with fans through events such as the Perfect Sort Gamedays.
At this weekend’s hockey games, student athlete volunteers dressed in bright green Perfect Sort T-shirts will staff an information table near the entryway and stand next to waste containers around The Chip and help fans figure out which bit of detritus goes into compost bins, which into recycling and which into garbage containers destined for the landfill. Signs will be posted on all bins, which will also be color-coded, said Green Panther Challenge coordinator Eva Fillion of the Department of Sustainability Integration.
The first Perfect Sort Gameday took place Oct. 17, at the Middlebury vs. Williams football game. This weekend’s Perfect Sort Gamedays will be the second and third.
Rather than pitting fans of one sport against fans of another — say football fans against hockey fans — the Perfect Sort Gamedays ask fans within each sport to improve their own record and reach for a personal best. Before each Perfect Sort Gameday, the Office of Sustainability Integration chooses a game at which to run a baseline count. That baseline count shows how correctly that sport’s fans sorted their trash when given no assistance whatsoever. Trash stats from the Perfect Sort Gameday itself then show how much fans can improve their hustle, with a little coaching from student athlete volunteers.
Football fans at the football baseline gameday got 15 percent of their trash correctly sorted, according to Fillion. Then on football’s Perfect Sort Gameday, as the Panther team on the field whupped Williams, 36 to 14 — their largest margin of victory for the season — fans coordinated their own offense and upped their Perfect Sort quotient to 45 percent correctly sorted, a huge improvement.
Fillion said that organizers are hoping for an even greater improvement among hockey fans. Challenges at the football game, she said, were the larger area and large numbers of tailgaters.
“At the hockey games, we’re hoping that everyone being in a contained space, we’ll be able to reach everyone here,” said Fillion.
However, compared to football fans’ baseline trash sort, hockey fans have farther to go. At the baseline men’s and women’s hockey gamedays held in November, fans sorted only 5 percent of their trash correctly.
“In the hockey arena, the trash and recycling bins look identical and you have to pay pretty close attention,” said Fillion. “It says on the lid of the bin (what kind of trash goes there), but if you’re just passing by you wouldn’t necessarily notice. They’re these big round metal containers. We’re taking them out for this coming weekend and putting in the ones that match the color-coded ones on campus.”
With students back on campus this week for the start of J-Term, Perfect Sort Gameday organizers are putting together a new roster of student athlete volunteers to staff the bins around The Chip and to serve at an information table posted just inside the arena.
Most volunteers will be off-season athletes, said Fillion, including football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Twenty student athletes volunteered for the October Perfect Sort Day.
For the athlete volunteers, training for the upcoming Perfect Sort Gamedays will consist of a crash course in what and how the college recycles. For example, unlike most home composting systems, the college can compost meat safely. The college recycles plastics of the types marked one through seven, along with clean cardboard, paper and metal. By the end of the training, student volunteers will know where to sort a half-gnawed chicken tender, an empty Gatorade bottle, or an empty carton of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. And the athlete volunteers will be able to give fans the right plays for a Perfect Sort Gameday, as they face the compost, recycling and landfill bins.
Fillion said the Perfect Sort Gamedays are also designed to be fun and to give fans and student athletes an opportunity not just to learn more about sustainability but a chance to interact one on one.
“We did this for football and people seemed really into it,” said Fillion. “Students were great. They were really engaging with fans and chatting with them. And it was just kind of a nice icebreaker and a way for fans to learn a little more about how we recycle and compost and deal with trash on campus. So we’re hoping that that same thing will happen this weekend.”
Email reporter Gaen Murphree at [email protected].

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