While most eyes were on the Eagles and Patriots during Super Bowl LII, Tim Trefzer was watching attendees from all corners of the country rush to recycle, compost and embrace other sustainability measures. As the man in charge of sustainability at the Georgia World Congress Center Authority for the past eight years, Trefzer has helped move the ball forward on making major events eco-friendly.
Sparkfund: Describe your role at your company.
Tim Trefzer: I work for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The Authority is a State of Georgia organization that owns and operates major event venues in Atlanta and Savannah. Our 220-acre campus in downtown Atlanta includes the Congress Center itself, Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the former Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Falcons play.
Two of the biggest projects I’ve worked on were getting the convention center LEED certified, which we did in 2014, and building the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium with LEED principles. It’s LEED Platinum certified. My role is heavily external, working to make the events we host more sustainable.
What are some unexpected things you’ve done to meet your goals?
Part of the Authority’s mission is to enhance people’s lives, which we fulfill through our environmental and social impacts on our community. We have a major impact on our immediate neighbors and decided that we wanted to become a neighbor of choice rather than a neighborhood disruptor.
We do that in a lot of ways, like donating materials and food after events. We also had that impact extend to the Atlanta Falcons, who made a major investment in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium is adjacent to the historic West Side of Atlanta, which is where Martin Luther King, Jr., was born and lived. The community has not been thriving in recent years, and the Falcons promised to invest millions into the community to revitalize it alongside the new stadium.
What are some examples of the events industry’s influence on environmental sustainability?
The sports industry is doing more than the convention industry in a lot of areas. The Green Sports Alliance is one example. In just eight years, integrating sustainability through sports has mushroomed as a result of that group. It’s exciting to see.
It’s also really fun to see how you can integrate sustainability into mega sporting events. During Super Bowl LII we had a recycling ambassador force — volunteers standing at almost every waste station wearing “Rush 2 Recycle” shirts — educating fans on how to separate waste into compost, recycling and trash. We got great feedback from that. We took advantage of having that captive audience and exposing them to that message so it’s something they can take back home.
What’s an industry trend you think flies under the radar?
It drives me crazy that sustainability conferences serve food that’s really well known to be bad for the environment, like red meat and food that isn’t local. We’re not practicing what we’re preaching in this regard.
What’s one small thing you do every day to be environmentally friendly?
Food has so much to do with sustainability. I’m a vegetarian and I have been for nine years because it’s generally better than eating meat. I have a garden at home and grow some produce, and I use rain barrels at my house to water those plants. I also compost in my garden.
I also use my own food containers, water bottles and reusable grocery bags. I’m really cognizant of disposables, so I do a pretty good about of minimizing my impact in that way.
If you couldn’t work in this field anymore, what career would you pursue?
I think I would become a real estate professional and work in urban planning, development or social spaces. I’ve always been fascinated by development, and that’s what led me to this profession to begin with. I was studying commercial real estate at Florida State and was introduced to green building through a program there. I hadn’t considered putting those two together before. So I took that concept and ran with it for my career.