When is the last time you saw a college basketball player dodge trash on the court or a football player leap over litter on the playing field? Most likely you’ve also never seen baseball or softball players dive through toxins as they slide into home base.
But for collegiate sailors, the quality of the water they sail on isn’t always as predictably pristine. Poor environmental practices directly impact rivers, lakes and oceans, contributing to build up of litter and pollutants.
“As sailors we’re keenly aware of the fragility of the environment and rely on a clean and healthy environment to support our sport,” said Dana Magliola, the volunteer head coach and faculty advisor of NC State’s student Sailing Club. “If we’re not stewards of our environment, there will be no place left to sail. Things like water quality and the health of the maritime ecology is very tangible for us as sailors.”
That’s why interest in sustainability has been on the rise in the global sailing community, as well as among NC State student sailors. The Sailing Club, which has been on campus since 1954, is one of more than 40 officially-recognized club sports at the university.
“When we first started getting involved in advocacy for sustainability, our students really got excited about it and it’s been important to our program ever since,” said Magliola, who has been coaching the club since 2011 and also serves as director of Poole College of Management’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.
Sailing Club members host lake cleanup events at nearby Lake Crabtree County Park and Lake Wheeler City Park, where the team sails, trains and competes. The team has also integrated sustainability in all club-organized regattas and events.
At the SailPack Oriental Intercollegiate Regatta in April, the largest collegiate sailing regatta ever held in North Carolina, the Sailing Club earned Wolfpack Certified Sustainable status at the Champion level for integrating sustainability into event planning. The club appointed a Green Team that arranged for event composting and recycling bins, refilling stations for reusable water bottles, sustainable food options and informational tables about environmental conservation. The regatta also featured sustainably-sourced awards, toxic-free boat cleaning, oil spill prevention efforts and paperless event management.
The event’s 18 different sustainability practices also earned national recognition from Sailors for the Sea as a certified “Clean Regatta” at the gold level. Sailors for the Sea also featured this regatta in their promotional communications.
“Care for the environment is a natural fit with sailing, but it’s especially important when we host an event to reinforce our commitment to sustainability,” said Matthew Dockstader, a former Sailing Club captain and regatta Green Team co-captain. “As a team, we are all committed to this effort.”
The Sailing Club’s emphasis on sustainability mirrors a growing trend toward sustainability in recreational, collegiate and professional sports.
“It’s important to recognize where our activities offer opportunity to make improvements on how we do things to be more sustainable. Then, we can take active steps to do those things,” Magliola said. “It’s a process however, so taking small steps is a good start.”