You are serving as the 2019 Women's Final Four Sustainability Coordinator. Why do local companies and organizations have a corporate responsibility to adopt or maintain sustainability efforts?
Today's consumers are more mindful. They value authenticity and demand transparency from the companies. Sustainability benefits companies and the communities they are in by encouraging them to allocate resources efficiently and minimize the effects of any threat they might face. For instance, local companies can help their community become more independent and self-sufficient by providing products sourced from their own community. These things make a local community resilient.
Most importantly, companies influence consumer behavior. By offering sustainably sourced materials and sustainably produced products, organizations meet consumer need while helping the environment. Companies can also empower consumers with tools that allow them to recycle goods and minimize waste. These efforts can have significant influence and the potential to cause a chain reaction which strengthens the local community and beyond.
You've got a big job ahead! What are some of the efforts that Tampa Bay will undertake to earn its sustainability certification?
Tampa Bay is looking to minimize the environmental impacts of the NCAA Women’s Final Four by tracking waste produced during the event and having a waste diversion plan in place to divert 60% or more of waste from landfill. There will also be a compost collection area for food and other organic waste.
We will be working with TECO Energy to calculate the carbon footprint of the event and offset it through the use of renewable energies. We will also be working with local vendors that provide access to sustainably produced food and partnering with companies such as hotels that have made commitments to energy efficiency, recycling and water conservation.
You are a 3-time Final Four champion, including your second at the 2015 Women’s Final Four in Tampa. Now you’re helping to head up sustainability efforts for the 2019 event. How does it feel to come full circle and how does your experience at previous events lend itself to your work now?
In 2018, Columbus became the first NCAA Women’s Final Four host city to be certified. So, for me to have the opportunity to participate in helping Tampa Bay pursue certification for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four is very special. I never expected for two of my worlds to collide-- basketball and sustainability. Now they have converged in Tampa Bay, and I have the opportunity to make them work together. It’s great to be back in Tampa in another role, being able to plan out ways to make the event more sustainable. Having an arena filled with 20,000 people requires many resources and could potentially generate a lot of waste, but it doesn’t have to. Our waste management plan will help us divert 60% or more of our waste, recycle and even compost.
Your focus was on Food Sustainability. Is there anything that you hope to achieve in Tampa through the program’s efforts and in conjunction with partners like Feeding Tampa Bay?
We hope to provide event attendees with access to locally grown and/or sustainably produced food and drinks. We will be partnering with Feeding Tampa Bay, a local nonprofit that fights hunger by providing food to families in need. Tampa Bay Women's Final Four events will include food collection opportunities that allow attendees to give back to the community. Amalie Arena's hydroponic garden will also be a part of our sustainability efforts – something which I am very pumped about. It takes advantage of vertical space to produce different varieties of herbs and vegetables. I hope that there may be opportunities for guests to tour the garden and learn about hydroponic gardening.