USA Women’s Sevens athlete Alena Olsen is driving sustainability efforts at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center (EATC), where she organized and participated in several events this week to celebrate Earth Day. In partnership with the City of Chula Vista’s Office of Sustainability, Olsen helped promote food waste recycling to help make it a permanent fixture at the EATC.
Passionate about increasing efforts to help the environment, Olsen recognized an opportunity to promote sustainability in EATC athletes’ everyday lives: in the cafeteria. Working closely with Sustainability Specialist Robert Coleman from the City of Chula Vista’s Office of Sustainability, Olsen organized a composting event during lunch on Wednesday, April 19. City staff hauled out 30 gallons of food waste from the lunch period, which all went to composting. Meanwhile, Olsen and Coleman operated a booth to educate athletes on the importance of food waste recycling at the Center.
“We spend so much of our lives here at the Center, and it’s so much easier when the places that you live and work are already thinking sustainably for you,” Olsen said. “So, you can make choices much easier on a day-to-day basis as an athlete. Part of Wednesday’s event was a little of an education on how you can take part in a small action each day.”
From witnessing the impact just one lunch period can have on composting waste, Olsen is optimistic that it will become regular practice at the EATC. Everything collected will be processed into a compost that will be used by the landscaping and agricultural industries at city facilities.
“Alena demonstrated strong initiative in starting the food waste recycling process for the Chula Vista Elite Athletic Training Center,” Coleman said. “Her understanding that CV EATC is positioned to be a community leader in this important and state-mandated effort is of key importance … Alena has persevered to educate the Center’s food services management on this issue and her efforts are paying dividends. The Office of Sustainability looks forward to working with Alena and the Center’s staff to continue our relationship Alena established to make food waste recycling an everyday activity.”
To continue celebrating Earth Day, Olsen and the rest of the USA Women’s Sevens squad will spend their Friday afternoon doing a neighborhood cleanup around the EATC and surrounding natural area to pick up litter and beautify the area.
Olsen has always had a passion for sustainability, and while she plans to continue pursuing environmental efforts in her future post-rugby career, she is focused on maintaining efforts in her everyday life. Three years ago, 27-year-old joined EcoAthletes, an organization that helps athletes build momentum behind environmental issues and find opportunities to use their voices. Since then, Olsen has helped organize a number of Earth Day events, spoken on panels about climate change, and has quickly risen to become a champion of the issue in the sports world.
“A big part of our team is that we talk about being Highwomen, and that’s more than just being rugby players,” Olsen said. “It’s who we are as people, it’s how you want to leave the jersey in a better place, how you want to leave your program in a better place, and we are all constantly thinking of that. We also know that these sorts of things can help us in the future.”