Trailgate: A sustainable tailgate for Homecoming

Students, family and alumni all pour into the courtyard to celebrate Homecoming in a sustainable fashion. As an organization, Trailblazers seeks to make sustainability functional and accessible. // Photo by Tyler Parker Student Publications

In the midst of traditional Homecoming activities over the past week, such as the Freshman Cake Race, Mini 500 and the Wreck Parade, Trailblazers, a student-run environmental service organization at Tech, introduced its inaugural “Trailgate.”

This event occurred prior to the Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., aiming to put a unique twist on the conventional pregame tailgate. Gavin Baker, fourth-year ME and one of the event’s organizers, spoke on the event’s goal.

“Trailgate is tailgating while encouraging people to recycle and be sustainable. To accomplish this, we have been showing a mix of funny and serious posters that say stuff like ‘Only UGA fans litter’ and ‘one can recycled = half gallon of gas saved.’ We also bring recycling bags and bins in high-traffic areas for easily accessible recycling,” Baker said.

The Trailgate event aligned with the overarching objectives of Trailblazers and how its members strive to protect local environments, highlighting their focus on environmental conservation.

“Trailblazers is an organization dedicated to hiking and service. We primarily help local areas around Atlanta through litter pickups, trail maintenance and invasive species removal. We have events every Saturday morning off-campus,” Baker said.

The concept of Trailgate emerged from a simple brainstorming session Baker organized alongside the President of Trailblazers, Gehrig Harris, fourth-year BA, with the objective of promoting waste reduction during Tech’s football games.

“Trailgate started when my friend Gavin and I were tasked with finding a creative new way to encourage recycling during football games. Steve Place, who’s the Zero Waste coordinator here at GT, had a very elaborate idea for a skit we could all put on, but no one but Gavin and me signed up to participate. Gavin and I got together, made a few simple signs, and the rest is history. Trailgate started out as nothing more than a clever pun; now it’s an event!” Harris said.

In tandem with the event’s goals, Trailgate T was not limited to promoting recycling as participants also included information about preventing the mishandling of recyclables, which can undermine the entire recycling process.

“Football games produce an overwhelming amount of litter and recycling contamination. We want to mitigate general litter and raise awareness of the issue since if too much trash is put into a recycling bin, the entire bin is thrown away,” Baker said.

The name “trailgate,” created by combining the organization’s name “Trailblazers” with the word “tailgate,” was chosen to promote environmental justice in an enjoyable and inclusive manner, encapsulating the essence of the event.

“The idea for the event came from wanting to improve recycling before the game while doing something fun so members would come. So, we combined Trailblazers and tailgates to get trailgate. We want to expand the event to make it more similar to tailgating with drinks and food,” Baker said

The Trailgate event involved participants encouraging recycling and sustainability while fostering a sense of community.

This event not only raised awareness but also offered an opportunity for students to engage

with the cause and make a positive impact on the community.

“During your average Trailgate, we stand around with signs encouraging people to recycle, and we take with us a recycling bag or bin to allow people to recycle their cans or other recyclables,” Harris said on their operations.

For Harris, organizing and participating in such events offered a way to combine social interactions with Tech’s natural environment, providing other interested students with the same opportunity to serve and network.

“It’s important to me to find time to get out and be social, while appreciating the peace and calm that comes with breathing fresh air and helping improve the environment. Trailgate is an extension of this — I want to keep Tech’s campus clean and beautiful, and so I owe it to myself and others to do something,” Harris said.

Trailblazers’ Trailgate event served as a reminder to all of the importance of acknowledging environmental issues that are often overlooked during large-scale events. This event was more than just a gathering; it was a powerful statement about the importance of environmental care even during moments of celebration.

“Trailgate represents an attempt by Georgia Tech students to shine a light on issues of sustainability during big events like football games. We love a good tailgate as much as everyone else, but the environmental impact of un-recycled cans and pound after pound of litter can only be negative. We hope to encourage environmental stewardship even in times of fun,” Harris said.

As traditions continue to evolve at the Institute, Trailbalzers is just one of many new innovative organzations shaping the future. To learn more about Trailblazers and participate in future events, students can follow them on Instagram @Gttrailblazers or on Engage as Trailblazers.