Mom on a Mission

by Melanie Weiss

Elizabeth Holland is a mom on a mission.

“I want to make our swim team a green swim team,” says Holland, who has two teenagers who have been swimming with TOPS – the West Cook YMCA Swim Team -- for a number of years. Holland is currently chair of the TOPS Parent Advisory Council. TOPS hosts two regional swim meets a year, and she has worked to ensure these meets are as waste-free as possible.

Committed to reducing its environmental impact

With Holland’s leadership, TOPS has committed to reducing its environmental impact in three important ways. 1. To Ban Single Use Water Bottles in favor of using reusable bottles 2. To decrease the use of paper used to print swim meet “heat sheets” 3. To increase recycling receptacles at all swim meets.

No single use water bottles sold or distributed

The program has met with great success since the requests TOPS makes to other teams who will attend these meets are being heeded. “We tell teams there will be no single use water bottles sold or distributed at swim meets and ask every single person to bring a reusable water bottle. We have containers around the facility with water for people to refill their bottles.” TOPS also sells reusable water bottles for a discounted $5 but even with these sales, “our team is taking a hit financially” since the team does not allow the sale of single use water bottles during meets, which has been a conventional way for teams to raise funds.

Cut paper usage by more than 50 percent

Another change is that instead of selling multi-page “heat sheets” to all participants and their families, TOPS prints enough for the teams’ coaches and meet officials and then has these heat sheets posted around the facility. “Swim meets are hugely paper intensive,” said Holland. She estimates that a large swim meet may use 20 reams of paper. “We cut our paper usage by more than 50 percent.”

See also, a sample communication that Holland has used to educate the players' families and the visiting teams about the new practices.

Not had a single complaint!

Adds Holland,” I have to say several hundred people attend our swim events and I have not had a single complaint. Tons of people have said what you guys are doing is fabulous.”