Update - The newsletter for the University of Memphis
More September Features:

Research aided by Fellows program
Professors introduce local election
U of M tailgaters recycle
Theatrical group
Cash builds a firm foundation
Chando sees 'different' side of U of M
Lockhart locks in honor
Wright-Savage lauded
Adopt an Angel
Names in the news


September 2010 Briefs

Washington Monthly magazine has listed the University of Memphis among the top 100 schools in its 2010 universities rankings. The U of M comes in at No. 100, right behind the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Connecticut, and ahead of the University of Massachusetts, Boston University and the University of Tennessee. 

Dr. Joan Thomas, associate professor in the University of Memphis’ Loewenberg School of Nursing, has received a grant of $787,696 from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to prepare future nurse executives. The three-year award is one of the largest HRSA grants ever received at the U of M. 

For More Information:
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e-mail: grussll@memphis.edu
Trash Talk: Researchers help U of M tailgaters recycle

By Sara Hoover

Legions of football fans look forward to fall and the beginning of their favorite team’s season. The Blue and Gray faithful are no different as they support the Tigers, especially at home games at Liberty Bowl Stadium. Tradition dictates that to have a true football fan experience, one should arrive hours early and enjoy tailgating: camaraderie, burgers and beverages.

With “green” being the word of the day, a group in the U of M’s health and sport sciences department began a research project to find out to what extent tailgaters were recycling, and where the plastic bottles and other recyclable items wound up after games. The goal of the study was to change the knowledge and behavior of tailgaters in regards to recycling activities.

It started in fall 2008 with a brainstorming session that included health and sport sciences, the Ecological Resource Center and the biology department.

“It originally had its antecedents in what might we do to enhance the environmental experience for what’s happening at Shelby Farms,” said Dr. Nate Martin, assistant professor of health and sport sciences in the College of Education. “From there, (we figured out) how we can focus it in terms of the sport industry and the environment. We developed this concept around enhancing recycling at tailgating events.” 

Preliminary data was collected at several football games. Eighty-four percent of tailgaters for Memphis games at the Liberty Bowl felt there was a lack of recycling during tailgating.

“We knew game-day recycling was a great baseline because there was nothing other than self-initiated efforts that existed,” said Dr. Richard Irwin, professor of health and sport sciences. “There might be a bag over here or there, but there was nothing proactive in terms of the Liberty Bowl or any of its tenants.”

The North American Society for Sport Management awarded the team of Martin, Irwin and Dr. Sally Ross, assistant professor of health and sport sciences, a grant to support the intervention study that was implemented last fall.

The study consisted of U of M students and student-athletes who educated tailgaters about recycling benefits. Tailgaters signed commitment cards and received stickers to remind them to recycle. Recycling bins were placed throughout the tailgating areas, and the amount of recycling was weighed after four games to determine if there was any impact from the education effort. Students also returned for a follow-up visit to see how tailgaters were doing with their pledge to recycle.

Approximately 30 students received a day of training to prepare them for their task of educating tailgaters about the benefits of recycling.

The students included sport and leisure management majors and members of the Environmental Action Club, a “green” student organization at the U of M. Student-athletes from men’s soccer, women’s basketball, women’s tennis and other sports also took part in the effort.   

“There is research that suggests you can change somebody’s values, thoughts and knowledge and it doesn’t ever translate to actual action,” said Martin. “So we did a lot of things with the stickers, T-shirts, commitment cards, all of these socially-based marketing tools to get them to actually do that.”

Students wore T-shirts that read, “We can talk trash,” as a cue to bring up recycling. The back of the shirts listed recycling benefits and facts.

Students wear �We can talk trash� shirts to engage tailgaters in the benefits of recycling. (photo courtesy of Sally Ross)
Students wear “We can talk trash” shirts to engage tailgaters in the benefits of recycling. (photo courtesy of Sally Ross)

Sport and leisure management major Guy Hudson said the day at the Liberty Bowl consisted of a well-orchestrated educational effort.

“We split into groups of about four or five people,” said the senior from Boston. “One person was in charge of starting the conversation and giving people the general idea of what we were doing. The second person talked about recycling and how in previous years people weren’t recycling much. The third person gave out and explained the survey. The last person collected the surveys, gave them a sticker and talked about a chance to win a T-shirt.”

Student Chris James, a sport and leisure management major, got to see a range of behaviors from the tailgaters.

“It really did open my eyes as to how unaware people were about the recycling project,” said the senior. “I learned that some people are really just lazy about recycling.”

The intervention study was a learning opportunity for the students as well. Pre- and post-tests revealed that all students’ behavior, knowledge and values about recycling changed for the better.

“It bears itself out for students to see the implication of theory and that they’re actually a part of it,” said Irwin. “They were a part of the action team as opposed to us telling them. It’s action learning as much as it’s action research.” 

Collaborators included the U of M’s life skills program, the City of Memphis and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Memphis, which donated the recycling bins. 

When the students returned for a follow-up, they saw improvements.

“We went back to another game to see if they were still recycling, if they took our advice,” said Hudson. “We noticed definitely that people started to recycle more because we had the bins all around the parking lot area and we were checking those. A lot of people remembered us. We had a lot of friends, people who felt comfortable talking to us. People really did take our advice the first time around.”

With the opening of the new Tiger Lane at the Liberty Bowl this fall, the team hopes they’ve made an impact.

“That was our dream – that we would have a favorable impact,” said Irwin.

The student volunteers who helped educate tailgaters at the Liberty Bowl on the benefits of recycling included sport and leisure management majors and student-athletes. (photo courtesy of Sally Ross)
The student volunteers who helped educate tailgaters at the Liberty Bowl on the benefits of recycling included sport and leisure management majors and student-athletes. (photo courtesy of Sally Ross)

The most surprising result from the study was the behavior did not necessarily transfer to home or other aspects of a tailgater’s life.

“Our data suggested their behavior while tailgating did change, but their behavior at home remained the same,” said Martin. “This intervention was very location or situational specific. When somebody goes to travel or when in somebody else’s home, they’re going to behave differently.” 

The study can serve as a model for other organizations that may want to put a similar recycling initiative in place.

Whether or not the findings will be duplicated remains to be seen; however the study benefited not only the environment and tailgaters, but also students.

“It just really opened my eyes to a lot of different things, like how much more useful and effective I can be when it comes to recycling efforts,” added James, whose team signed up 100 tailgaters. “When the new University Center opened, it made me happy because there were recycling bins everywhere. The project really made me appreciate recycling more.”

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