Abby McNeal“I just try to leave a place better than I found it – I try to make a difference,” Athletics Turf Manager, Abby McNeal said. In McNeal’s case, that means making the world a little greener, in more ways than one.

McNeal manages all of the athletic fields on campus as well as BB&T field. She maintains the lush, green turf that stands up to a beating game day after game day from the scorching heat of August until the first freezes in November. She tends to the special needs of the artificial playing surfaces too in order to keep them safe, sanitary and professional looking.

When asked how the soft-spoken red-head became involved in turf management – she smiles. There is no good story here, she confesses. “I chose to study turf management more than 20 years ago. I found a passion and I stuck with it. That’s it.”

As if her official job – which often keeps her on campus from 7 a.m. until far into the evening (and on weekend game days too) – were not enough, when the opportunity to jumpstart the university’s Game Day Recycling program presented itself to McNeal, she jumped at it. “I preach a lot of customer service and this is just an extension of that service,” she said.

Not only do her customers – Demon Deacon and rival team fans alike – enjoy the opportunity to recycle, but her team has started to feel a sense of pride and ownership, she said.

When she’s not working on an athletics Green Team initiative, brainstorming ways to expand Game Day Recycling or caring for turf, McNeal carries her personal commitment to sustainability home to her 3-year-old twins. “If we can reuse something, we reuse it; if we can recycle something, we recycle it. It’s simple,” she said. “My twins fight over the chance to recycle at home, they love helping out with the recycling.”

To McNeal, excitement about recycling is a first step to incorporating sustainability more broadly into daily life. “Make sure that you understand that sustainability is more than just recycling. Then think simply about your life. There are always ways that you can do things even simpler than you are. The simpler something is, the more routine it will be. When something is routine, it becomes the norm. There are so many ways to make sustainability the norm.”

By Caitlin Brooks-Edwards, Wake Forest Fellow