July 14, 2022

By Kevin Coss  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

When Viktor the Viking ran out onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium this spring, it wasn’t to hype fans up for kickoff. Instead, the Vikings icon huddled with fellow mascots from other local teams to generate excitement around a different subject — recycling and organics at sporting events.

“Large events and venues generate massive amounts of waste, most of which has traditionally ended up in the landfill,” says Carla Inderrieden. “By bringing organics and recycling options into venues, we can dramatically decrease the amount we throw away without giving up the event experience.”

Inderrieden and colleague Susan Heffron, the MPCA’s coordinators for the Minnesota Sustainable Sports and Events Coalition, recently partnered with Century College students and area mascots to bring this message to fans. Together, the group coordinated production of a video to play at sporting events. It will show fans how to sort items into the recycling, organics, and trash bins.

Viktor gathers his fellow mascots — TC Bear (Minnesota Twins), PK (Minnesota United), Nordy (Minnesota Wild), Mudonna (St. Paul Saints), and Goldy Gopher (University of Minnesota) — to teach them which items belong in the recycling, organics, and trash bins. The video will play at each team’s sporting events starting this summer.

Lights, camera, antics

Students in Century College’s Narrative Video Production AAS degree program worked this spring on scripting and producing the video as part of their coursework.

“The students in the program produce several different types of videos for clients we partner with, allowing them to gain real-world experience as they complete their degree,” says Mike Eddy, video production instructor at Century College. “This particular video is a public service announcement intended to help attendees make informed choices when throwing away items at venues.”

First, students wrote the video’s script and designed its props. Then, on the day of filming, they worked with stationary and hand-held cameras to get the footage they needed, even piloting a drone to explore other filming angles. They demonstrated where the mascots should move and how they should act in each shot. Proper body language was crucial, as mascots don’t speak. Between shots, the mascots were up to the same playful antics fans see on game day, striking poses, making jokes, and playing tricks on one another.

Making sustainability a team sport

While venues can make organics and recycling bins available, it’s up to fans to follow through and make sure the correct materials make it into each bin.

“Our professional sports team facilities have invested money and effort into getting compostable service ware and recyclable bottles and cans at their games, along with bins to collect these items,” Heffron says. “If fans throw these items in the right bin after use, it is an opportunity for these materials to be made into something new instead of being landfilled or incinerated.”

The potential impact is huge. At U.S. Bank Stadium, for example, a large event like a football game will generate as much as 35 tons of trash, recyclables, and organics. That’s enough to fill two full-sized garbage trucks. The more of this material that makes it into recycling and organics bins, the more fans can help cut down on overall waste.

Recycling and organics help:

  • conserve the natural resources required to produce new materials, as well as energy and water
  • prevent the pollution associated with manufacturing those materials
  • reduce greenhouse gas contributions to climate change

The activities also support jobs in their respective industries.

Together, fans and venues can make a significant impact in reducing waste from events, Inderrieden says. She hopes the video inspires fans to follow a few simple steps and sort their waste correctly.

“The future is in reuse, recycling, and composting,” she says. “We hope everyone is inspired to participate and transition to this model of working together to conserve our natural resources.”

Keep an eye out for the mascot video at sporting events this summer. Learn more about recycling and composting.