In 2010, the Allstate Arena in Rosemont amassed 73 tons of recyclable material, generating 50 percent less trash for landfills than it did in 2009.
Because of that and several other "green" initiatives, the Allstate Arena has earned the U.S. EPA's 2011 WasteWise Gold Achievement Award -- the first major public events venue in the Chicago area to do so.
The EPA award, given for outstanding environmental sustainability practices and objectives, puts the Allstate Arena in an elite group of past recipients -- the Walt Disney Company, FedEx Kinko's and Kohl's Department stores.
"People don't always think 'environmental' when they think about Rosemont," said Mayor Bradley Stephens. "But Rosemont prides itself on providing open space for our constituents and being conservative with our resources."
Stephens will accept the award at the monthly Rosemont Chamber of Commerce luncheon, 11:30 a.m. today at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road.
To be considered, the arena had to establish three new waste prevention initiatives, expand or improve current recycling efforts, and purchase or manufacture products with recycled content.
"By improving the efficiency of waste management we were able to not just divert from landfills and reduce the carbon footprint, it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels from the transportation," said Stephanie Katsaros, the arena's sustainability manager.
"It also reduces operational cost," she added.
Allstate developed the ambitious Green for a Reason campaign to raise recycling awareness among performers, athletic teams and patrons.
The arena -- home of the Chicago Wolves, Chicago Rush, Chicago Sky and DePaul University men's basketball -- hosts hundreds of entertainment events and seats nearly 20,000 fans.
"We increased the number of recycling bins, brought in a sponsor who helped with messaging and printing of posters," Katsaros said. "It sounds really simple, but that's the key. If you tell someone in simple terms what they should be doing, the likelihood of them doing it increases."
The Green for a Reason logo is plastered throughout the arena and on the side of each soda cup sold. Concession employees and security personnel sport recycling buttons. Rosemont's website also promotes the green campaign increasing its visibility with show organizers.
When the Black Eyed Peas played the Allstate Arena in August 2010, the band encouraged fans to "reduce, reuse and recycle," and sold T-shirts made from recycled plastic.
The arena and the Wolves collected athletic shoes from fans to be recycled -- the rubber soles are turned into playing surfaces for tracks, basketball courts and parks.
"If we can educate the public and the fans, we can foster change in the consciousness of the fans and of the community," Katsaros said.
A significant part of the arena's green initiative is the cup recycling program, launched in July 2010, which resulted in more than 3,000 pounds, or 81,000 individual plastic containers, being recycled by December. The use of souvenir cups also increased, and helped reduce waste, Katsaros said.
Before July, a variety of disposable soda cups made of different kinds of resin were sold at the arena. Today, there's only one kind and the roughly 500,000 cups sold yearly are either reusable or recyclable, Katsaros said.
The green philosophy is being incorporated into other aspects of arena operations such as purchasing recycled maintenance and office supplies, and recyclable office, maintenance and concession materials.
In 2010, Allstate completed a $2 million remodeling of its concession stand.
The old metal, brick, concrete blocks, wood, paper, cardboard, drywall and ceiling tiles were recycled.
The arena also employs garbage and recycling compactors, and a baler to compress cardboard and plastic waste into 1,000-pound bales that are recycled.
For more information about the Allstate Arena's "Green for a Reason" program, visit allstatearena.com.