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Tennis Serves Up Eco-Challenge

March 23, 2007 12:37 PM

Nation’s First Zero Waste Tennis Tournament Breaks Tradition

With an elevated consciousness about preserving the environment, it is no surprise that this initiative has moved into sports. The Boulder Tennis Association (BTA) in Colorado is set to host the nation’s first Zero Waste tennis tournament April 28 – May 5, 2007 on Colorado University’s South Campus Courts. Tournament organizers hope that by taking these first steps and raising awareness, other organizations around the country can jump start their sport toward sustainability.

Zero Waste means the recycling and reuse of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment (zerowasteamerica.org.). The goal is to keep “waste” out of landfills and instead reprocess the trash for other uses. The Environmental Protection Agency states that about 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is just 28%. What does this have to do with Florida?

Boulder Tennis Association past-president and co-director of this effort, PJ Trask, is a former resident of Florida who has spent the better part of his life on the tennis courts in Lakeland.  After serving as team captain of Santa Fe Catholic High School’s tennis team for four years, PJ moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida.  During the summers, he returned to Lakeland and taught with local tennis professionals Dave Beerman and Ray Schick at the Beerman Family Tennis Center, assisting with recreation tennis leagues and lessons.  PJ graduated from the University of Florida in 2002 and moved to Colorado shortly after, where he is currently pursuing his Master’s degree at the University of Colorado.

“I knew I wanted to stay involved with tennis when I moved to Colorado,” he said. “I quickly became involved with the Boulder Tennis Association and the idea for the Zero Waste tournament grew from brainstorming with the city to create a completely green tennis complex holding indoor and outdoor courts.”  Using solar panels for electricity and rain water for toilets were a few ideas on how to make the facilities more eco-friendly.

“The idea then manifested through meeting up with Brandon and his environmental vision.”

Brandon Walton, tournament director for the nation’s first Zero Waste tournament, sees tennis as having the potential to be an environmental leader among traditional sports.

“When you think about the demographic of tennis, it’s easy to see the potential the sport has regarding environmental sustainability,” he said. “Currently, the tennis industry and its governing organizations are focused inward on growing the sport. Someday, though, they may feel a responsibility and see the potential for promoting sustainability within tennis.”

This year, the 41st Annual Austin Scott Memorial tennis tournament will bring more than 400 competitors and the emission of over 35,000 miles of travel to the weeklong event. It is one of the longest and largest tournaments in Colorado, and breaking typical tournament traditions has been a challenge.

“One of our goals is to not only encourage, but to reward environmentally sustainable decisions made by our players,” said PJ.

Tournament organizers have developed ten different environmental initiatives to accomplish a Zero Waste tournament. Rather than give out non-recyclable water bottles to every competitor, or tennis t-shirts (most tournament players have a closet full), the group has decided to give players gifts in other, more environmentally friendly ways. Competitors will be offered organic food throughout the tournament, a chance to recycle their old tennis shoes, balls and cans, and will be awarded prizes for choosing to carpool, bike, walk or utilizing mass transit to the tournament. Instead of trophies, functional gifts will be awarded to the winners. And all paper used at the event will be post consumer recycled paper.

The Boulder Tennis Association has teamed up with Eco-Cycle, a non-profit organization that will help the tournament reduce the amount of waste generated through reuse. This relationship developed because in addition to his role as a tournament director, Brandon just happens to be an employee of the organization. Recycling and collection bins will be on-site, and the tournament expects to recycle and compost 90% of its waste that would have otherwise entered a landfill. The event is also working with the Boulder non-profit organization, Driven by the Wind, to achieve Carbon Neutrality. This will help offset both the tournament’s electricity and carbon dioxide emissions from cars at the event.

PJ admits that this is just the first step to achieving complete conservation at a tennis tournament; however, a step will eventually turn into big leap. Spreading the word about ways to save is half the battle, and actually getting people to follow through is the other fight. There are many organizations committed to sustaining the environment, and PJ advocates using those resources.

The Boulder Tennis Association has broader goals than to “green” one local tennis tournament in Colorado. Help turn tennis into an environmental champion by spreading the word and asking the USTA, Community Tennis Associations, tournament directors, and the tennis community to be more environmentally aware in Florida.

For more information on the 41st Austin Scott Memorial Tennis Tournament, visit: www.bouldertennis.org/AustinScottZeroWaste.htm.






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