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Colorad By University of Colorado Boulder
September 30, 2020

Ralphie's Green Stampede

As the 1st place winners in the PAC-12 Zero Waste Challenge during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Buffaloes at the University of Colorado Boulder have become leaders in sustainable athletics. Their program, appropriately dubbed Ralphie's Green Stampede, was the NCAA's first Division 1 sustainable athletics program, developed in 2008. Since 2008, the Buffs athletics program has achieved a zero waste program in all venues, zero net carbon emissions in all facilities, zero net water use in all facilities, a zero net-energy football practice facility, 1.4 MW of installed solar PV power, 4 LEED Platinum buildings, a zero waste car-free tailgating zone, pesticide and fertilizer reducing turf management, environmental leadership and professional training programs, and award-winning fan engagement programs.

In addition to leading the PAC-12 Zero Waste Challenge, in 2019 CU athletics signed the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework. Athletics Director Rick George committed to a single-use plastic-free Athletics program in 2020 and convened the RGS Strategic Task Force to set the next decades' strategy for sustainability in CU Athletics. In 2011, RGS earned a top ranking in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Game Day Challenge. CU is also a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance, leading a wave of environmentalism in the sports industry. In 2017, RGS hosted a nationwide Sports Sustainability Think Camp to create a Fan Engagement Playbook used to influence fans toward more sustainable actions.

CU Athletics is on a mission to create a system where every trip to the game makes the world a better place and encourages fans to adopt sustainable behaviors at home, work, and play. One way to encourage fan participation and normalize sustainability has been the Tailgater of the Game initiative. In 2016, Ralphie’s Green Stampede established the nation’s first car-free, zero waste tailgate on Franklin Field. Every tailgate party gets a bag prepared with compostable and recyclable cookware from Eco Products and Ball to reduce plastic use. The RGS Zero Waste team manages waste on the field and engages fans on how to adopt more sustainable behaviors at tailgates. The RGS Zero Waste team is made up of high school and college student volunteers.

As part of the zero waste tailgate initiative, tailgate parties on Franklin Field will have a chance to be named Ralphie's Green Stampede Tailgater of the Game. One tailgate tent each game is named the Ralphie’s Green Stampede Tailgater of the Game. Tailgaters are judged based on their Buff spirit, willingness to learn and improve Zero Waste practices, their use of reusable, aluminum, or compostable items, and the sustainability of their food options. As Tailgater of the Game, winners receive a Ralphie’s Green Stampede Tailgater of the Game flag to display for the rest of the season.

Partnerships have been beneficial for the University of Colorado Boulder athletics department to further their sustainability initiatives:


Since 2011, Pepsi Recycling has worked with RGS to significantly increase the recycling rates of Aquafina beverage bottles through their innovative Bring Your Bottle Back To Life campaign. Custom 100% recycled shirts are thrown to the crowds every time the Buffs score a touchdown in football or make a 3-point shot in basketball.

Ball Corporation

CU Athletics and RGS partnered with Ball Corporation to introduce a new, infinitely recyclable aluminum cup in Folsom Stadium. 

Wells Fargo

Since 2010, Wells Fargo has partnered with RGS to promote water conservation. The Water for the West campaign has helped restore over 11 million gallons to the Colorado River. The campaign includes:

  • Text-in campaign, every time a fan texts in 1,000 gallons of campus water use is offset by donating to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Change the Course

  • Water-bottle handouts

  • River bank restoration projects

  • FLOWS (Foundations for Leaders Organizing for Water and Sustainability): In partnership with Wells Fargo and Koehler, FLOWS students installed low-flow plumbing fixtures in hundreds of Boulder low-income homes to help offset CU water use.


Since 2009, the support of the world’s leading producer of biopolymers used in compostable products has steadfastly supported RGS’ zero-waste program. BASF is a founding sponsor of RGS, supplying compostable trash bags to expand and enhance Zero Waste efforts.


Google partnered with RGS to promote Sustainable Transportation around the Boulder area and beyond. By supporting alternative transportation options for the campus and city, Google supports and shares our culture of sustainability. RGS partnered with Google to engage fans where a new B-Cycle docking station should be built. 


The nation’s largest producer of compostable food ware has provided the Buffs with supplies and support for the RGS zero-waste program.

White Wave Foods

With the support of White Wave Foods in 2008, recycling collection begins at CU Football Games and Ralphie’s Green Stampede was founded as the first NCAA D1 sports sustainability program, rolling out a Folsom Field zero waste program.

Native Energy

The CU Environmental Center and Student Government partners with Native Energy to fund renewable energy and carbon offset projects sufficient to offset CU Athletics’ and student government’s carbon footprint.

Solaroo Energy 

CU Athletics partnered with Solaroo Energy to launch Buffs Community Solar, offering discounts to residential solar installations.
Eco Products

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