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Survey finds fans more likely to go to games, concerts if trash is recycled

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Have you ever wondered how much trash Americans leave behind at stadiums and arenas after sporting events and concerts each year? The answer is 16 million cubic feet. That is enough trash to fill Denver’s Sports Authority Stadium and leave 2 million cubic feet on the parking lots and streets all the way over to the Pepsi Center and Auraria.

What happens to that trash? That is a good question, and it depends on the venue and the locality. Sadly, most of it goes into landfills.

A new survey released today by the Shelton Group asked fans what they think about it and the results were somewhat surprising. Over a third of Americans said would be more likely to attend a game or concert at a stadium if they learned that all of the trash was recycled or composted, according to national survey results released today.

One in five would also buy more concessions if they knew the trash was disposed of in an environmentally sound manner, the survey found.

Nearly one out of five Americans said they would be less likely to attend another concert or game if they learned all of the trash left behind went straight to a landfill. One quarter said they’d buy fewer concessions. Stadium operators, vendors and politicians should read this survey. Fans are now watching you.

“A significant number of fans care about the environment, and they’ll vote with their feet -- and their beer cups,” Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO of Shelton Group said at the survey’s release. “With more than 200 million American going to go sports events every year – and some 50 million attending concerts -- this has major implications.”

Those implications are not chump change. At stake are tens of millions of dollars in ticket and concession sales, as well as tons of wasted resources. Dumping this trash in landfills consumes valuable land near cities; it poses risks to water tables; and it potentially could result in methane from the decaying trash leaking into the atmosphere further impacting climate change.

The Shelton Group asked 2,015 Americans: “How would you react if you learned that all of the trash left behind after a game or concert you attended was sorted… with recyclables and compostable being diverted away from landfills?”

  • 46 percent said it would improve their opinion of the stadium or venue owners.
  • 32 percent said they would be more likely to attend another game or concert at the stadium or venue.
  • 22 percent said they would be more likely to buy concessions at the stadium or venue the next time.
  • 22 percent said it would improve their opinion of the team or band.

Then they were asked: “How would you react if you learned that all of the trash left behind after a game or concert you attended went straight to a landfill, without any sorting, recycling or composting efforts?

  • 42 percent said they would blame the stadium or venue owners – and it would tarnish their opinion of them.
  • 26 percent said they would be less likely to buy concessions at that stadium or venue.
  • 17 percent said they would be less likely to attend another game or concert at the stadium or venue.

The survey has a 2.18 margin of error.

“We know Americans feel a lot of ‘green guilt,’ and walking up the steps of a stadium littered with trash going to the local landfill just stirs that internal guilt pot,” Shelton said. “Stadium owners, teams and bands have an opportunity to be the absolvers of the guilt—by not only serving concessions in compostable and recyclable serveware, but also in publicizing their system to properly dispose of all that trash left behind."

The Shelton Group, based in Knoxville, TN, is the nation's leading marketing communications firm entirely focused in the energy-efficiency and sustainability space. It studies Americans and tracks their shifting attitudes and motivations around all things green. It uses those insights to help some of America’s most progressive companies define and leverage their sustainability stories to gain a market advantage.

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