Clemson University may have won the football championship last weekend in Tampa, but there was more than one winner off the field where the Playoff Green Team and local community partners exemplified teamwork for a big victory!  I was fortunate enough to be there to witness the off-the-field heroics which will leave a positive and lasting impact on Tampa and the surrounding area.

From recycling temporary banner installations downtown at the Tampa Convention Center to repurposing temporary flooring at the Championship Tailgate near the stadium, the Playoff Green Team left no stone unturned in an effort to leave a light ‘footprint’ but also a big impact.

After months of preparation, the weekend started with an urban forestry themed project at Bailey Elementary where Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful helped coordinate a ceremonial planting event to beautify the campus. Two 5th grade classes participated in the fun, which culminated with a few “dirty glove” photos, and the campus will benefit for years to come thanks to a project designed by the faculty of the school which included planters to be used for class projects and new benches.  Nine other Hillsborough County schools in low income neighborhoods also completed environmental projects and received grants, thanks to event sponsor Gerdau, to improve their campuses.

The next day we found ourselves at the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability to meet volunteers from the college as well as the local Sierra Club chapter.  These volunteers would later join us on game day in the stadium to serve as Recycling Ambassadors to enhance the fan experience through recycling.  This was an amazing group of engaged difference makers who educated fans about the Playoff Green projects and engaged fans in recycling.   And what a game it was – entertaining and exciting down to the last minute, just like the weekend with the Playoff Green Team!

I should also mention that before I arrived in Tampa, my esteemed colleagues had already coordinated renewable energy offsets for the Raymond James Stadium and the downtown Championship Campus.  They also had already been working with Feeding Tampa Bay food bank to ensure food recovery was coordinated at all CFP events.

Now, I have always been a pretty big football fan and I have always practiced a ‘sustainable lifestyle’ so I may be a bit biased, but I feel that when sports and sustainability meet, there is unique potential to make an impact on peoples’ lives.  Sports have traditionally been a platform for people to come together and leave their worries at home, but the playing field is also a place where we cheer each other on and celebrate victories.  Sports have the power to be influential, and when sustainability is mixed in, everyone wins!

Thanks to the Playoff Green Team’s projects, the legacy of the big game will leave the Tampa community a better place for generations to come.  Local partners were connected on projects and shared new ideas, urban forestry projects will clean the air and enhance the environment, and I am lucky enough to be walking away inspired to play another day!

-Nathan Gassmann, Senior Director