Taking Every Opportunity to Make a Difference
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  04/25/2013

April 25, 2013

By Taylor Dutch '13

(Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of the Cal Sports Quarterly).

Being a student-athlete at Cal means many things. It means accomplishing comprehensive excellence in both academic and athletic pursuits. It means constant growth towards one's full potential. But one of the most important qualities that makes a Cal student-athlete is the ability to create a positive, lasting impression on the community. With her zero-waste initiative, senior Annie Goransson of the women's tennis team exemplifies what it means to be a true Cal student-athlete.

"There are just small things, little things you can do everyday for the community, for the environment, for other people that are really important," said Goransson, "and it can make a big difference in the long run."

In September 2012, Goransson led a zero-waste program for the Cal Nike Invitational at the Hellman Tennis Complex and Channing Tennis Courts. The goal for the weekend was to promote zero waste, meaning all discarded materials are recycled, composted or reused, and nothing is sent to the landfill.

In order to accomplish the goal for the tournament, Goransson applied for a grant from Campus Recycling and Refuse Services in the spring of 2012. The CRRS accepted her ap-plication and gave Goransson funds to set up bins for compostables, recyclables and waste, as well as bring in student volunteers to identify what product goes where.

"You just have to start thinking and being a little bit aware of it and once you're aware of it, you notice how wrong it feels to put something that is recyclable in the trash," Goransson said. "It's good to increase some awareness, which eventually changes behavior."

Goransson's passion for environmental issues started in the fall of 2011 with a simple question asked by her landscape ar-chitecture professor: how can we make the campus more sustainable? It was this query that prompted Goransson to consider how the Cal tennis program, and tennis worldwide, could be more sustainable as a sport.

Goransson has since expanded her approach this year by conducting research on the reuse of tennis balls since 300 million of them produced worldwide eventually end up in landfills. She explored whether the material used to make tennis balls was recyclable, and eventually found that the material is in fact reusable, prompting another question: why are there no programs to recycle them?

"It would be interesting to send this report to some organizations in the U.S. like the USTA and maybe get the word spread since it's possible (to recycle)," said Goransson, pausing in thought. "I think it's important that at (tennis) clubs they have a place to throw old tennis balls away, because so many people just don't know what to do with them and they end up in the trash can."

In the four years she has been a Golden Bear, Goransson has certainly made her mark at Cal. Although she will be graduating in May, Goransson wishes to continue to explore and create more opportunities for sustainability. In June, she will travel to Tanzania to work with African Immigrants' Social and Cultural Services to help build solar panels and give the local school electricity.

"I'm so grateful," Goransson said. "I feel like with what I got here (at Cal), I have an obligation to take these opportunities when they come, because not that many people have these opportunities."

Spoken like a true Cal student-athlete.