Sir Ben Ainslie, Eco-Athlete and America’s Cup Contender, In His Own Words on Climate Change

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time, an America’s Cup winner in 2013 while on the crew with Oracle Team USA, and is now the skipper of Land Rover BAR, the team attempting to win Great Britain’s first America’s Cup in 2017 in Bermuda. He also is arguably the most well known Eco Athlete in the world, making the fight for clean oceans and against climate change a core part of Land Rover BAR’s DNA. GreenSportsBlog has featured Sir Ben and his sustainability leadership several times (click here, here, here, and here for links). He recently told his sustainability story in the first person in The Huffington Post and GreenSportsBlog is proud to repost it here.

The world gathered in Morocco recently for COP22, the first meeting since the Paris Agreement – the first truly global and binding agreement on climate change with implications for the global economy and businesses everywhere.

I thought I had a reasonably good understanding of the environmental and global issues surrounding climate change. But after a recent visit to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the British Antarctic Survey with my team Land Rover BAR and some of our Partners, it has all become a lot more immediate, more frightening and obvious that the need for action is urgent.

We spent two days at the University of Cambridge for a programme of talks and meetings called Inspiring Sustainability through Partnership. It was sponsored by our Sustainability Partner 11th Hour Racing, co-founded by Wendy Schmidt, and delivered by CISL.

Chicago IL. USA. 12th June 2016. The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series. LandRover BAR the British America's Cup team skipperd by Ben Ainslie. Shown here celebrating taking 2nd place in the event (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Land Rover BAR, the British America’s Cup team skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Lloyd Images)

The scariest thing that resonated the most with me was the impact that climate change will have on the next generation. In the last 30 years climate change has accelerated and we have lost the equivalent of a third of the size of Europe in Arctic sea ice. The impact of this change is an infrastructure breakdown in some parts of the world, with increased conflict and migration as people are displaced in their efforts to survive; and agriculture and food supply are lost through extreme weather events, such as huge droughts or severe flooding.

We have already seen a one degree global temperature rise since pre-industrial levels. I’ve got a 3-month old daughter and if we continue to do nothing then in her lifetime she will see a further three degree global increase. It will lead to a sea level rise of almost a meter and potential loss of over 24 per cent of the mammals and half of the plant species currently on the planet.

In that scenario we can anticipate massive disruption to society as individuals and nations struggle for the resources – water, food, energy – required to survive.

It reconfirms to me the fact that we need to act, and we need to act fast. Aggressive mitigation policies to limit this impact could keep the temperature rise down to just over one more degree of increase. There will still be very serious consequences, but we can limit the damage. A total two degree overall temperature rise is regarded by scientists as a tipping point, with the pace of the negative impact accelerating around this point.

It’s a bleak picture, but mankind has been incredibly innovative in solving problems over the past couple of centuries, and this is another challenge that we need to meet – but clearly time is running out.

It was Wendy Schmidt who really instilled in me the responsibility and the opportunity that we have to make a difference. At Land Rover BAR we now have a dedicated sustainability team, and with 11th Hour Racing we set ourselves the goal to be the most sustainable sports team in the country.


Aerial view of the Land Rover BAR home base, with “The Wrap” covering the lower left portion of the building. (Photo credit: Shaun Roster)


Since we launched two and half years ago, we’ve been getting our own house in order, minimizing our operational impact and driving innovative research in a number of areas, from ecosystem restoration to reuse and recyclability of composite materials. A couple of our achievements include gaining the Olympic-inspired international standard for sustainable events management, ISO 20121; and BREEAM Excellent standard for our purpose built 74,000 sq. ft. waterfront home on Camber Quay in Portsmouth. These are both firsts for a professional British sports team.

We can find solutions by harnessing the power of our partnerships with Land Rover, BT, 11th Hour Racing and Low Carbon. For example, through working with Land Rover we are creating a new life cycle model for the marine industry for carbon fibre re-use and recycling. We have also already engaged the other America’s Cup teams who have come together to publish a ten-point Sustainability Charter for the Cup.

We look forward to sharing our experience for the benefit of the marine industry, and to working with all our partners to set about making a difference; furthering this agenda within our sport and out to the wider world. There is so much more that we can and must do – we are just scratching the surface, and the lesson I learned in Cambridge is that time is running out.

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GSB News and Notes, Eco-Athlete Style: College Hoopster and a Danish ex-Soccer Star

One of GreenSportsBlog’s biggest goals for 2016 was to highlight eco-athletes wherever we could find them. In today’s GSB News & Notes, we feature two such athletes: 1. University of Wisconsin basketball star Bronson Koenig experiences the Standing Rock pipeline protest in North Dakota first hand—and plays a leading role while there. 2. Ebbe Sand, who played for Denmark in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, and who currently lives in Dubai, is leading the charge behind the development of the world’s first eco-sports hub. A TGIF, eco-athlete, activist GSB News & Notes: I love it!



In his first three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, senior shooting guard Bronson Koenig (KAY-nig), played a leading role in the greatest era in Badgers basketball, which included two Final Four runs. When he traveled to Standing Rock, ND this September to join the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is slated to run below sacred Sioux burial grounds and, many believe, will threaten the quality of the water supply, Koenig took on two new roles: Native American leader and eco-athlete.

Koenig, whose mother is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, wrote in a gripping account, “What I Found in Standing Rock,” published Thursday in The Players’ Tribunethat he’d come to “join the protest, and also to give a free clinic for the local kids. As a college basketball player, I felt that it was the best way I could show my support for the protests…I’ve played basketball my whole life, and a lot of pickup ball. I thought I’d seen every type of basketball court, but this dirt court was unlike anything I’d ever experienced [yet] I was surprised to find a group of 50 or so kids waiting for me at the outdoor hoop, ready to play.”

Playing outdoors on a dirt court was one thing to Koenig; doing so in the midst of a standoff with police was quite another: “In basketball, you strive to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Running through drills out there on the dirt and the prairie grass, my eyes kept wandering to the horizon — to the hills just a mile north where the bulldozers were. I’d never played basketball surrounded by police and blockades.”


Bronson Koenig and protesters shoot hoops at an outdoor basket at the Standing Rock, ND camp. (Photo credit: The Players’ Tribune)


If the star guard, who is most well known for hitting the buzzer-beating 3-point shot to knock off Xavier in March to send the Badgers to the Sweet 16, didn’t see himself as a Native American role model before he arrived at Standing Rock, he certainly does so now: “I didn’t grow up with any Native American role models…I knew that if I could be someone who even one kid from Standing Rock looked up to, I’d be prouder of that than of anything I had ever done — or might ever do — on the basketball court. Looking out at the kids, I was proud that they were seeing someone succeeding who looked a little like they did.


Bronson Koenig leaves the court after hitting the buzzer-beating three pointer to knock off Xavier in the Round of 32 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.


What Koenig may not yet realize is that he is also establishing himself as in important eco-athlete. I’ll let Koenig’s own words, a manifesto and a call to action of sorts, from the closing section of his Players’ Tribune piece, demonstrate how his is a voice we will hopefully hear from at the intersection of Green + Sports in the years to come: “On the road [back to Madison], I wondered what the future would bring for the Standing Rock Sioux…Would the oil company continue to ignore the warnings of climate scientists?…Would the government that had confined Sioux warriors like Sitting Bull and his descendants to reservations have a change of heart and protect the water resources of Native Americans?…Now it’s December [and] I’m seeing reports that police have used high-pressure water cannons on protesters — men, women and children. In the subfreezing North Dakota winter, that’s a potentially deadly combination…I can’t help but think about the cruel irony that water is being used as a weapon against Native Americans who are trying to protect their own water supply…Today, the target may be Standing Rock. But Native people aren’t the only ones who are affected by threats to the environment. Clean water is a precious resource. It belongs to all of us, whatever our heritage. We must all protect it.”



Imagine, if you a will, the world’s first sustainable sports hub/recreation center. It would feature, on the sports side, a myriad of fields, tennis courts, swimming pool, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, zip line, skateboard park and the requisite state-of-the-art sports academy.

Sustainability-wise, it would include solar panels, recycling and composting, smart grid electricity management, as well as water preservation and re-use systems. Add on a climate lab and research center and you’ve really got a great sustainability imagination!

As for location, I’m sure you would imagine it in Portland, or maybe Boston?

Maybe you would but Ebbe Sand, formerly of the Danish national soccer team—he played for Denmark in the 1998 and 2002—not only imagined it, he is developing it—in Dubai of call places.

The Green Sports Hub by Ebbe Sand will be developed at Jumeirah Golf Estates and is slated for completion by late 2018.


Artist’s rendering of The Sports Hub by Ebbe Sand in Dubai. (Credit: Jumeirah Golf Estates)


Designed to accommodate local and international sports enthusiasts and fans, plans for the Hub also include a sustainable boutique hotel and meeting facilities. Sand, who lives at Jumeirah Golf Estates, is now in talks with local and global operators and anchor tenants eager to lease the space.


Ebbe Sand, formerly of the Danish national soccer team and founder of The Sports Hub in Dubai. (Photo credit:

Sand, the project founder, told Chris Nelson of The National, a leading daily in the UAE on November 1 that, “Through the Green Sports Hub, I look forward to bringing extensive and varied sporting facilities to Dubai, as well as to creating a vibrant and multi-functional sustainable attraction that is used as a social and educational resource among local and international visitors. The Green Sports Hub will be a community that inspires a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.”

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The GSB Interview: Dr. Jennifer Vanos, Biometeorologist, Working at the Intersection of Green, Sports and Weather

Human biometeorology, the study of the effects of weather on human health, is growing in importance in this era of urbanization and climate change. Dr. Jennifer Vanos, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas Tech University, specializes in weather’s effects on athletes, specifically extreme heat. Her work is a marriage of two of her abiding passions; weather and sports. GreenSportsBlog caught up with Dr. Vanos to gain a deeper understanding of human biometeorology and to get a sense of what sports and academia are doing to lessen the impacts of extreme heat on athletes.


GreenSportsBlog: I have to say I knew nothing about human biometeorology before doing some research before our talk. What a fascinating area of study! It seems to firmly be in the world of climate change adaptation—figuring out how humans can better deal with the effects of climate change that are already here or will soon be—vs. mitigation—the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to lessen the impact of climate change. Most of the attention given to—and work on—climate change focuses on mitigation. GreenSportsBlog is no exception. So I am glad to talk to you about your work and about climate change adaptation. How did you find human biometeorology?

Dr. Jennifer Vanos: You’re absolutely right about human biometeorology being in the adaptation section of the climate change fight. I became interested in the weather during my days as an undergrad at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). In fact, I was a subject in a human heat-balance experiment (i.e. how we cool ourselves during exercise in different hot weather conditions), and I was able to build upon this work with new studies in my own graduate research, also at Guelph. Many of my studies focus on weather’s dynamic effects on humans, including athletes, during physical activity in hot urban areas. My work is a marriage of my passion for weather and my love for sports. I ran varsity track in college, with a particular focus on the 800m and 2000m steeplechase.


Dr. Jennifer Vanos, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas Tech University. (Photo credit: Texas Tech University)


GSB: This is a GreenSportsBlog first—the first time we’ve talked to a steeplechaser!

JV: That was my event. In 2005, I ran the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 2005 Junior PanAm Games in Windsor, Ontario and the 2000 meter steeplechase at the Canada Summer Games in Regina, Saskatchewan…



Jennifer Vanos (Ontario, #379 in red), running the 2000 meter steeplechase at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, Saskatchewan. (Photo credit: Canada Summer Games)


GSB: Another GSB first—the first time we’ve talked to a Junior PanAm Games participant! Human biometeorology is a natural field for you! What does your work focus on currently?

JV: A lot of my work centers on how small-scale design changes, such as areas within or surrounding a park or field, can reduce the heat load on people during exercise in urban areas. Doing so means that someone could exercise in a safer thermal environment over a longer period of time. I’ve recently turned my attention towards children given their vulnerability to heat stress and the fact that significantly less is known about children than adults when it comes to heat stress during physical activity.

GSB: That makes a lot of sense, and important. Back to something you mentioned earlier: What does heat balance mean?

JV: Well, heat balance is like a bank balance, where a neutral (or $0) balance would be ‘comfortable’ (or in balance), but if you have a very positive balance, you will feel warm/hot, and a negative balance means you feel cool/cold. A human’s heat balance is measured through a combination of weather and physiological parameters. We lose heat through evaporation and convection, and we gain a lot of heat through radiation and metabolism. I am largely interested in radiation exposures from the sun among active individuals and what actions can be taken to reduce them, as they can significantly influence heat stress.

GSB: What actions can be taken?

JV: We look at the effect on human heat balance of the introduction shade, often with a shade sail or trees. Meteorological data and data from personal sensors have shown that shade sails significantly reduce the human heat balance on hot days, as well as harmful UV radiation; thus children are less likely to experience heat stress. From both a heat balance and thermal comfort perspective, this means that children can be more active for a longer period of time in safe thermal conditions.

GSB: What other variables impact the effect of heat on athletes?

JV: Switching from artificial turf to grass has been shown to reduce air and surface temperatures on playgrounds and on sports fields/in stadiums. Our goal with all this is to generate evidence for policy change for youth sports—i.e. to say that artificial turf or rubber-based turf is not safe for use in kids’ fields in very warm climates, and that access to shade is essential in playground design to support safe and active play. A study I led in Phoenix showed that plastic slides and rubber surfaces in a playground in the sun reached 160°F and 175°F, respectively. Both of these values would burn a child’s skin, which means no play! In the shade, the surface temperatures dropped to about 115°F, which is safe for play.


Infrared imaging (l) shows the temperature difference between natural grass (blue = cooler) and artificial turf (red = hotter) at the University of Guelph football and track stadium (Photo credit: Dr. Robert Brown, University of Guelph)


GSB:115°F is safe for play for kids? Really?

JV: Yes. In fact, there are intentional standards that exist with regards to what surface temperatures on certain materials may burn skin after a certain number of seconds. The threshold for the coated metal in playgrounds in about 150°F is just 3 seconds. I have not found existing thresholds for artificial turf and rubber temperatures, however, at an artificial turf football field here in Lubbock Texas, we found surface temperatures of 175°F! This was melting the football players’ shoes during practice. Such high surface temperatures also significantly increase the air temperature just above it, thus creating its own small-scale, unsafe climate (or ‘micro-climate’).


Weather station at an artificial turf field in Lubbock, TX where the surface temperatures were observed to be as high as 175°F. (Photo credit: Dr. Jennifer Vanos)


GSB: With these insanely hot temperatures, I’ve got to believe that this approach of improving the environment of playgrounds, making them healthier and more comfortable, has to be popular among parents.

JV: Yes! And by focusing on adapting to extreme heat, which is something that affects everyone’s life at some point in time, I can focus on weather variations without explaining the role of long term climate change, which many people don’t realize needs 30 years of data to properly study. So I do not actually do any climate change studies in this research area. However, we know that we can prepare for (or adapt) to a warmer future. I talk about weather and how it impacts kids and athletes today. That’s how you can make positive attitude change towards environmental design now for a better future…

GSB: …Very powerful, although I can see how you could team up with your Texas Tech climate scientist colleague, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe on an adaptation/mitigation speaker series. Is the approach you’re using with playgrounds also used in stadium design?

JV: Certainly. We focus on reaching people through personal experiences, which in Texas can often be sports, such as football! Another important aspect of research as far as stadiums are concerned is their orientation and how that may affect heat and solar radiation exposure…

GSB: …What does orientation mean?

JV: How a stadium is situated in terms of north and south, east and west. Is it in a valley or in an elevated area? What is the latitude of the given city? The goal is to orient the stadium in such a way to minimize heat and radiation exposure in the warm season in hot climates, and get some air-flow. In cold climates, the emphasis is a bit different with wind being the biggest concern in the winter, and having radiation is important for keeping the spectators warm. This area of study is called Bioclimatic Design, which is all about designing for the given location’s climate. This means that we would design a space very differently in Toronto than in Phoenix.

GSB: That’s a new term for me. There has to be an application beyond sports stadiums, right?

JV: Definitely, especially in urban areas. There are data that show we can limit the effects of increasing temperature and the urban heat island (higher temperatures in an urban area as compared to rural) more so by using bioclimatic design than by, say, reducing carbon emissions. By that I mean, we can lower temperatures in urban areas by 3-4°C through optimal design, tree-lined streets, shaded and well-vegetated parks, cool roofs, etc.—along with reducing radiant heat load on buildings. That temperature reduction is greater than increases we may see with climate change over a 100 year period, so focusing on reducing heating in cities due with design and lessen anthropogenic heating is just as important as mitigation! I work closely with Dr. Robert Brown, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph on bioclimatic design research. We have a few projects looking at athlete heat balance and design changes to lessen heat stress, one of which is examining the design or the course for the 2020 Olympic Marathon in Tokyo.

GSB: That is AMAZING—your work is really important.

JV: Thank you, Lew. I have a paper on heat balance submitted and another on personal UV radiation exposures to children just was accepted. I will also be continuing my work at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I will be working across two disciplines—Atmospheric Sciences and Public Health.

GSB: We will be keeping tabs on your work at UCSD. All the best!



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GSB News and Notes: Bayern Munich Dons Unis Made from Plastic Ocean Waste; Portland Trail Blazers Green Games; Trouble for Summer Olympics in Warming World

Happy Thanksgiving, GreenSportsBlog readers! We send you off to your holiday with a heaping helping of GSB News & Notes: Perennial German Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich are also winners in the Green-Sports game, as they recently played a match wearing special uniform shirts made from plastic ocean waste, courtesy of adidas. Environmental sustainability is taking center court for the second straight season at Moda Center, home of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. And a trio of climate scientists are predicting a challenging future for the Summer Olympics due to the warming planet. 



Bayern Munich is the long-time dominant force in German soccer, having won the past four Bundesliga (top German league) championships. Even if they can’t improve upon their current second place position—they’re close behind upstart RB Leipzig with more than half the season remaining so a fifth straight title is a distinct possibility—the club has clearly shown it is the league’s Green-Sports leader.

Earlier this month, Bayern played TSG Hoffenheim to a 1-1 draw at home while wearing new, special uniforms shirts. The x Parley jersey, made by team sponsor adidas in partnership with non-profit Parley for the Oceans, is made entirely of Ocean PlasticTM, fibers from recycled plastic found in the waters off the coast of the Maldive Islands, a tropical nation in the Indian Ocean, currently under serious threat of sea level rise, due in large part by human-caused climate change.

“I’m a child of the beaches of Spain, so I’m really happy to wear a shirt entirely made of recycled ocean waste. It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the oceans,” said Bayern defenseman and Spanish international Xabi Alonso. 


Xabi Alonso of Bayern Munich models the x Parley shirt, made solely from plastic ocean waste, while juggling plastic ocean waste. Bayern Munich wore the shirts during a Bundesliga match earlier this month. (Photo credit: Eurosport)

Parley for the Oceans, whose relationship with adidas was featured in a July, 2015 GreenSportsBlog post, develops methods to make premium yarns and fibers from plastic waste. By doing so, Parley/adidas raise awareness about the condition of our oceans. Their first collaboration resulted in a shoe made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gill nets. 

Now Parley and adidas are taking their partnership to the next level, teaming up with the most popular team in the most popular league in the most popular sport in Germany on a shirt made of plastic ocean waste. And, while Bayern has only worn the shirt once so far, I have a strong feeling it won’t be the last time.


Portland, Oregon is a capital of Green-Sports. The Green Sports Alliance is headquartered there. The Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer play at LEED Silver Providence Park. And the Portland Trail Blazers blaze the green trail in the NBA, playing their home games in the LEED Gold-certified Moda Center while engaging their fans in a wide range of sustainability initiatives.

For the second consecutive season, the Trail Blazers are showcasing five sustainability priorities, each at a different home game. Trail Blazers fans will receive information to enhance their own sustainable lifestyles, funds will also be raised to support local environmental nonprofits; and the popular “Item of the Game” sold at Rip City Clothing Company retail sites will have a unique environmental connection.


Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers and host to 5 green games during the 2016-2017 NBA season. (Photo credit: Portland Trail Blazers)


“This is our most fan-connected opportunity to spotlight our organization’s commitment to sustainability and that of the entire NBA,” said Christa Stout, Trail Blazers Vice President of Social Responsibility.  “The Trail Blazers will engage around our five priority focus areas – transportation, waste, water, food and energy – with the ultimate goal of reducing our environmental footprint.” 

Corporate partners—including Uber, Wells Fargo and Legend Solar—are demonstrating that green means good, smart business as they are joining the Trail Blazers to raise awareness and influence behaviors around sustainability. Five area environmental nonprofit organizations will benefit from resources raised by the Green Games initiatives. 

For each Green Game, the nightly Trail Blazers Foundation 5050 Raffle, in partnership with the Safeway Foundation, will commit 25% of the raffle proceeds to benefit the featured environmental nonprofit.  Additional proceeds will also be generated from Item of the Game sales and special silent auction opportunities on the Moda Center main concourse. 

Here are thumbnail sketches of the five Green Games:


  • Sustainable Focus Area:  Transportation
  • Fan Engagements:  Share an Uber ride using PROMO CODE – SAVEATREE, and Uber will save one acre of redwood forest in the U.S., offsetting one ton of carbon emissions. Bike Night promotion for fans riding their bikes; reflective Trail Blazers pinwheel sticker for each bike; and a chance to win a Damian Lillard autographed bike helmet.  


  • Sustainable Focus Area:  Waste
  • Fan Engagements:  Recycling of food and beverage items; recovery of safe, uneaten food items for local charities.
  • Item of the Game:  Trail Blazers scarves from Looptworks constructed of upcycled jerseys, basketballs and other premium materials.


  • Sustainable Focus Area:  Water
  • Fan Engagements: For every text of BLAZERS to 77177, Wells Fargo, in partnership with the Green Sports Alliance, will restore 1,000 gallons of fresh water to rivers in Oregon


  • Sustainable Focus Area:  Food
  • Fan Engagements:  Healthy food options available at Plum Tasty by Moda featuring locally sourced ingredients and fresh preparations.


  • Sustainable Focus Area: Energy
  • Presenting Sponsor:  Legend Solar
  • Nonprofit Beneficiary:  Solar 4 Our Schools program 

GreenSportsBlog’s only question: When will my New York Knicks, along with some of the 28 other NBA clubs, host similar Green Games?



Scientists speculate that if climate change continues on its current trajectory, there won’t be a future for the Summer Olympic games outside of some Western European cities. This jarring long range forecast comes from a study published in August in The Lancet, which maps out a model of temperatures from now until 2085. It follows on a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) that projected that only 6 out of 19 Winter Olympic sites^ would be “climatically suitable” by 2085.

According to the findings in The Lancet study, summarized in an October 28th story by Anna Johanssen in Triple Pundit, “only eight cities outside of Western Europe will be able to comfortably host the summer games in 70 years. Everywhere else, temperatures will be too high for safe athletic competition.”

Researchers from California, New Zealand and Cyprus used a combination of temperature and humidity data from the past several years to create a model that would show likely outcomes into the future. They also factored in athletes’ physical abilities in relation to heat for events that require high physical exertion outdoors.

For example, cited Ms. Johanssen, “runners competing in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials in Los Angeles were subjected to temperatures in the high 70s, a record high for [February]. This was a common factor in many outdoor Olympic trials across the globe, and overheating became a major challenge for competitors during the final events in Rio. Several athletes overheated in the marathon and triathlon, which forced them to forfeit.”


Lead runners at the US Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials in Los Angeles in February had to deal with record temperatures in the high 70s—a dangerous heat level for this event. A recent study shows that climate change will make hosting the Summer Olympics a risky venture, except for in certain cities in Western/Northern Europe. (Photo credit: KTLA-TV)

The temperature and humidity data gathered in this study primarily came from the cities most likely to host the Olympics in the future. It focused on the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where 90 percent of the world’s population lives. Most of that sector of the planet is expected to become inhumanely hot, at least where athletes are concerned.

Inhumane heat is, of course, a serious problem which could well lead to serious remedies. “Increasing restrictions on when, where, and how the Games can be held owing to extreme heat are a sign of a much bigger problem,” the research team wrote, hinting at the high risk most cities face in having to cancel various outdoor events due to elevated temperatures.

Of course, the Summer Olympics won’t be the only mega-sporting event to suffer from climate change. In the near term future, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar could well be miserable for athletes and fans alike if game temperatures meet or exceed the 107° F average high temperature for July. 

Does this mean these marquee events will have to change locations or cancel?

“Climate change is going to force us to change our behavior from the way things have always been done,” said Kirk Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, the lead researcher on the study. “This includes sending your kids outside to play soccer or going out for a jog.”

The study posits that “physical activity of all kinds will have to be kept indoors, and large outdoor sporting events may become all but impossible.”

^ The six past Winter Olympic sites expected to be climatically suitable for winter games in 2085: Albertville (France), Calgary,  Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy), St. Moritz (Switzerland), Salt Lake City, and Sapporo (Japan). Climatically unsuitable sites are expected to include Chamonix (France), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany), Grenoble (France), Innsbruck (Austria), Lake Placid, Lillehammer (Norway), Nagano (Japan), Oslo (Norway), Sarajevo (Bosnia), Sochi (Russia) Squaw Valley, Torino (Italy), Vancouver.
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Green Leaders Talk Green Sports, Part 7: Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Change Communicator Extraordinaire in Bible-Football Belt

For the seventh installment of our occasional “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”^ series—in which we talk with luminaries from outside the Green-Sports world about the potential of, and challenges facing the Green-Sports world—we are thrilled to bring you a conversation with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist at Texas Tech and arguably the world’s most powerful climate change communicator. She’s the best I’ve ever heard. But it’s not only me. Time Magazine named Dr. Hayhoe to its “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2014. And how cool is it that, fresh off of an hourlong chat with Leonardo DiCaprio and President Barack Obama at the first ever South By South Lawn (SXSL)# event, Katharine said “now I’ve got to talk with GreenSportsBlog!?!?” OK, she didn’t really say this last bit. But still…Enjoy and get inspired to join in on the climate change fight. And know this: post US Election Day, it is much more urgent that you join the fight YESTERDAY.


GreenSportsBlog: Katharine, there is so much to get to…Like how you as a climate change communicator/climate scientist in über-conservative^ Lubbock, TX, are able to overcome the political and cultural divides to change minds about the seriousness of the climate crisis? And how you see sports fitting in as a platform to help bridge those divides? But first, I want to go back and find out how you got into climate science in the first place, married an evangelical pastor-climate change skeptic, became a climate change communicator, hung out with Leo and Barry, er, I mean, POTUS…

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe: Well Lew, I didn’t start out in Lubbock. I’m from Canada and got my BA in Astrophysics from the University of Toronto. While there, and looking around for a course that wasn’t in my major to fulfill a requirement to graduate, I found Climatology in the Geography Department. Now, 24 or so years ago, these were early days in what we now know as the modern climate change movement…Jim Hansen had testified about climate change’s seriousness in front of the US Congress. The UN climate agreement had been drafted in 1992. But, in the general public there was no real sense of urgency about the problem. In fact there was confidence that the world could solve global environmental problems like climate change. Heck, the Montreal Protocol had seemingly fixed the ozone problem. And the scientific community said “climate change is real…here are ways we can fix it…and we will.”


Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. (Photo credit: Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)


GSB: It sounds so simple!

KH: Doesn’t it? But, taking that class shocked me in two ways…Number 1: Climate modeling and climate science is physics—orbital mechanics, radiative transfer physics—what I was already studying and was blown away by! And Number 2: How urgent the problem was, how narrow the window of time we, humanity, had to solve it.

GSB: An “aha moment”?

KH: Yes…but I was still in Atmospheric Physics which involved lots of lab work…And I was terrible at lab work. And the thing was, the more I studied climate change, the more I wanted to work on the policy side to help fix it, rather than in an “ivory tower” lab. So, as I was deciding on grad schools for Atmospheric Physics, I was looking for a program where I could get involved in policy. So I was choosing between Ohio State University and the University of Illinois…

GSB: …Two Big Ten schools…

KH: YES! And, sports came into it a bit…No, not football. But I am a sailor and Illinois has a great sailing program. And I’m a water skier and Ohio State is known for that!

GSB: So sports helped make your decision?

KH: Not exactly; I just wanted to get sports into our chat! Actually, when I met the new Atmospheric Physics department head at Illinois, it was a perfect meeting of the minds. Dr. Don Wuebbles, a huge basketball fan, by the way. Anyway, as soon as I started talking with him I knew this was the place and program for me. He had done his PhD on ozone hole research, had worked with the EPA, DuPont and was very solutions oriented when it came to climate change. So I went to Illinois and studied climate change.

GSB: What was that like? What did you learn?

KH: So I was in a university community, figured that everyone would see the reality of climate change, that folks would see the clarity and weight of the science and that there wouldn’t be any deniers out there. All we’d need to do is get the policies on how to fix it right. Simple? Uh…NO. There were plenty of deniers out there. In the university community. In fact, it was at Illnois that I met my husband, Andrew Farley, a PhD in Applied Linguistics and now also a pastor of an evangelical church. Anyway, 6 months in to our relationship and I came to find out that he didn’t believe climate change!


KH: Yikes is RIGHT!

GSB: So what did you do?

KH: We talked. And because I was in love with him and because we had strong shared values, it was very important that we listened to each other. Actually, our relationship was a great case study on the challenges of climate change communication. He was the one person in my world who didn’t believe in the reality of climate change and climate science. This was confounding at first because he’s really intelligent—it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him. It took awhile before we would agree and, in those conversations, I found out that it wasn’t the science and the facts about climate change, which were clear, that were the actual stumbling blocks.

GSB: What were they?

KH: Well, I found a lot of the skepticism from my husband and others, came from the prospective solutions to the climate change problem. Many saw the potential solutions as being from “big government”. Non-starter! Or “my lifestyle would have to change in a negative way.” Non-starter! This because even clearer when we moved from Champaign-Urbana, IL to Lubbock and Texas Tech—did I tell you it’s the 2nd most conservative city in the US?—he got a job at Tech first…

GSB: …Go Red Raiders!

KH: Right! And within two months of moving there I found myself talking to a women’s group about climate change.

GSB: That must’ve been fascinating…and challenging!

KH: It was both…and more! The women had a lot of questions. Some were indeed science related—and so I addressed them, using science, to get at: “Is climate change real?”, “How serious is it?”, “Is the warming part of a ‘natural cycle’?” And then, if we can come to an agreement on the basics, we get to the harder stuff; namely, what can we humans do about it?

GSB: As a climate change communicator myself—I give the Climate Reality Project slide shows, basically an updated version of Al Gore’s slide show from “An Inconvenient Truth”—to community groups of all types, this “what to do about it” piece is the hardest, especially with skeptical audiences… So how did you handle it?

KH:I found that sharing the possible solutions in a way that got at the audience’s concerns by emphasizing our common values, was by far the best way to go. If you are an evangelical Christian, protecting God’s creation, the green earth, is paramount. Concerned about the more intense floods, droughts and other weird weather that climate change is and will continue to bring? Well let’s talk about resilience! The importance of our kids having a clean, healthy, safe environment. Climate change impacts that! Let’s talk about clean energy and energy efficiency. Using less energy has to be a good thing, right? Concern about mass migrations of people? Climate change impacts that! Concerned about jobs for your generation and your kids’? Well, clean energy development means jobs, and good ones, here in Texas and elsewhere in the US. Then I tell people that Texas is a leader in renewable energy! In fact, wind was 10% of Texas’ energy mix in 2015. By the end of this year, it’ll be 15%!

GSB: WOW! That’s incredible. Emphasizing the community-religious-economy-boosting-ness of climate change solutions makes total sense. It’s something I see you emphasize in your must-watch web series, Global Weirding.

“Welcome to Global Weirding,” starring Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. Produced by KTTZ Texas Tech Public Media and distributed by PBS Digital Studios.



President Obama, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, and Leonardo DiCaprio talk climate change on the White House lawn as part of South By South Lawn (SXSL)# event.


KH: Thanks! Science is the foundation but what connects with people, what binds them together—the shared values—turns out to be bigger than the science! And the pathways in our brains that are used to solve issues respond more to the shared values approach than the scientific. And community and shared values, that’s what sports is all about. Sports is part of our collective, shared identity. It builds community. And this goes back millenia to Roman times and chariot races.

GSB: So how do you think sports can play an important role in building awareness and action among fans? Many times, when I ask why more athletes don’t get involved, I hear that “climate change is too complex!” But if what you’re saying is right—and I think it is—athletes don’t need to worry so much about the science. They need to emphasize the importance of the solutions to the communities where they play!

KH: Exactly. Now some sports are effected more directly and more in the present than others. Hey, I’m Canadian, so I get that hockey and other snow sports are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on their sports in the here and now. That’s why it’s great that Protect Our Winters and the National Hockey League are leading the climate change fight. Hey, we’re a skiing family so we see a shorter ski season. I’m a sailor and so the effects of increased ocean acidification are powerful as they are obvious…


Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and husband Dr. Andrew Farley, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Texas Tech University, hit the slopes. (Photo credit: Dr. Katharine Hayhoe)


GSB: Yes, and we’ve written quite a bit about Land Rover BAR, Britain’s entry into the 2017 America’s Cup, and how they, through their sustainability partnership with 11th Hour Racing, are bringing the climate change fight to sailing fans.

KH: That’s great! But athletes in sports that don’t have as direct a link as those we mentioned can certainly get involved. Look, I often talk about the 6 America’s of Global Warming. Basically, Americans fall into 6 groups as it relates to global warming/climate change: From most engaged to least, it goes like this:

  1. Alarmed
  2. Concerned
  3. Cautious
  4. Dis-engaged
  5. Doubtful
  6. Dismissive

I think for now at least, we’ll leave the Dismissives—they’ll be very hard to move. But I’ve found the way to communicate with the Cautious, Dis-engaged and Doubtfuls is to emphasize shared values and concerns, and then you can move them. Sports is as powerful, as passionate a platform as there is to move masses of people.

GSB: You’re talking my language, Katharine. And, you know who would be a GREAT advocate for Green-Sports oriented climate solutions? Barack Obama! He’s a huge sports fan, serious basketball player, and he plans to make the climate change fight a key facet of his work, post presidency!

KH: Oh, I agree, he would be great! And, given that I am from Canada, I would also like to meet and talk to Prime Minister Trudeau, a huge hockey fan, about climate change.


# On October 3, South By South Lawn (SXSL), inspired by South By Southwest (SXSW), brought together creators, innovators, and organizers who work day in and day out to improve the lives of their fellow Americans and people around the world.
^ Here are links to the first six installments of “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”: 1. Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group; 2. Jerry Taylor, a leading libertarian DC lobbyist who was climate denier/skeptic, “switched teams” and is now a climate change fighting advocate; 3. Dr. Michael Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and friend of Dr. Hayhoe; 4. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF;  5. Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia; and 6. David Crane, former CEO of NRG, who, in addition to moving one of the largest electricity generators in the US away from coal and towards renewables, also oversaw the “solar-ization” of 8 NFL stadiums.


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Looking Back at The REAL Reason LeBron Left Miami For Cleveland: Climate Change

Editors Note: President-Elect and climate change denier (“It’s a hoax created by China”) Donald J. Trump visited with President Obama at the White House on Thursday to ensure the smooth transition of power from one Administration to the next. Later that same day, the outgoing president had what must have been a much more enjoyable meeting when he welcomed the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and their incandescent star, LeBron James, to the White House. Not only did James lead the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit vs. the Golden State Warriors, the team with the best regular season record in NBA history, in the NBA Finals to win Cleveland’s first championship in any sport since 1964, he also stepped out on the political stage during the campaign, endorsing and speaking out on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. While his efforts on the stump went for naught in Ohio and nationally, LeBron should be an important progressive voice in the years to come, especially in our celebrity-addicted culture. His public image, which took a tremendous hit when he left the Cavs for Miami (“I’m taking my talents to South Beach”) in 2010, has largely been restored since his now-triumphant return to Northeast Ohio. James’ highly regarded supporting role in the movie “Trainwreck” (he was, by far, the best part of that otherwise forgettable flick) demonstrated his crossover appeal. The important work of the LeBron James Family Foundation on public education quality and access to higher education for at risk youth in Akron gives him credibility on a crucial public policy issue. 

My hope is that, as Mr. Trump takes office, LeBron continues to speak out on issues of the day, especially including climate change. It makes sense for him to do so as climate change’s most calamitous effects will be felt by those least able to adapt—the at-risk populations James is most concerned about. And, from GreenSportsBlog’s perspective, having an athlete of the wattage/Q-rating of LeBron James publicly joining the climate change fight would be, forigve me, huuuuugggge.

And, while James has not publicly taken on climate change as yet, it’s clear that he “gets it.” And that’s why we are reprising a GreenSportsBlog column from July 14, 2014, “The REAL Reason LeBron James Chose to Leave Miami for Cleveland: Climate Change”


On Friday, LeBron James, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “shook up the world” by announcing he was re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and, in the process leaving the Miami Heat, whom he had led to two NBA championships. Two main reasons were given: 1. A child of nearby Akron who’d gone straight to the Cavs from high school only to leave for the Heat as a free agent in 2010, LeBron was “Coming Home” to win a title for championship-starved Cleveland (last pro sports title of any kind: 1964), and 2. The Cavs have the young talent and draft choices to build a championship team around while the Heat are getting old. But the biggest reason was somehow ignored— until now, that is.


“Going to the Cavs.” I was sitting at my desk late Friday morning when a friend texted me these four words. Many other texts, from a wide cross-section of friends and colleagues immediately ensued, discussing the latest “Decision” from LeBron James.

Yes, the greatest basketball player, post-Jordan, was taking his talents from South Beach back to Lake Erie. In one well-written and seemingly heartfelt statement to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins (no dimwitted and tone deaf “The Decision” special this time around), James righted the wrong he inflicted on Cleveland four years earlier, when he left for Miami.

While “Coming Home” certainly is a compelling rationale, James almost certainly wouldn’t be back in Northeast Ohio if the Cavs didn’t have dynamic young talent at key spots, the chance to acquire free agent-to-be Kevin Love and a bushel of picks in upcoming drafts. Bill Simmons of’s Grantland and its NBA pre-post game shows, details the basketball reasons for Decision II in this terrific piece, “God Loves Cleveland” (please read!).

But Simmons and Jenkins and everyone else missed the real reason LeBron is moving from Miami to Cleveland…CLIMATE CHANGE.

Cavs Fans WSG

Cleveland Cavaliers fans rejoice at the news that LeBron James has decided to return to the team he left in 2010 for Miami. The fans are likely unaware about the role climate change played in James’ decision to leave South Beach. (Photo Credit:


Miami is in trouble—and I don’t mean just in basketball terms. It is seen by climate scientists as perhaps the most vulnerable of all US cities to the effects of climate change. Last summer, Rolling Stone’s “Goodbye Miami,” by Jeff Goodell, was not a prescient prediction of LeBron’s departure. Rather, his story detailed the disastrous fate Miami faces (“it’s due to drown”) because of significant current and future sea level rise, combined with more frequent and intense storms—both due to, in large part, human-caused climate change. LeBron obviously read the story and took heed.

But, per an article by Robin McKie in Friday’s The Guardian (same day as LeBron left…coincidence?), developers in South Florida are not paying attention to climate change. Rather they are, pun intended, flooding back in, post the 2008 economic meltdown, to “Build, Baby, Build”. And why would they believe that climate change poses an existential threat to Miami (McKie: “Miami and its surroundings are facing a calamity worthy of the Old Testament.”) when the state’s senior Republican political leaders, all, look the other way? McKie again: “Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers, have refused to act or respond to warnings of (climate scientists) or to give media interviews to explain their stance, though Rubio, a Republican party star and a possible 2016 presidential contender, has made his views clear in speeches. ‘I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,’ he said recently. Miami is in denial in every sense, it would seem.”

Rubio Protest Joe Raedle:Getty Images

Protesters gather near Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s office to urge him to stop denying climate change. If Floridians knew that climate change was the main reason LeBron James signed with Cleveland, there would likely have been many more of them at this event. (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


Cleveland (and Ohio), on the other hand, is not. It has a vibrant Cleantech scene. Ohio, like Florida, has a Republican governor and one senator from each party. But Ohio’s governor John Kasich is on record as being “concerned about climate change” (radical stuff for the GOP, I know, but very welcome). Its Republican senator Rob Portman at least tried to work with democratic colleague Jeanne Shaheen (NH) on an energy efficiency bill last year. And while Cleveland does sit on a lake, it is not nearly as low lying as Miami nor does it face the ferocity of Atlantic storms. In fact, when the cities most vulnerable to climate change in the US are listed, Miami, New York City, and New Orleans are often cited, but not Cleveland.

So, while Marco Rubio may be, in the words of South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard, “an idiot,” LeBron James most certainly is not. He saw that free agents wouldn’t come to Cleveland to help him win championships back in 2010 so he went to Miami. Now he sees that Miami and the Florida political establishment has its collective head in the sand on climate change, so he goes back to safer ground, climate-wise, in Northeast Ohio. And that, as Bill Simmons should have written in “God Loves Cleveland,” is the real example of LeBron’s genius.

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More Green-Sports Optimism Post Trump Election: Dave Newport, CU-Boulder Environmental Center Director

Wednesday morning, while still in a post Trump-a-pocalypse daze, I was heartened by my interview with Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, ex-President of the Green Sports Alliance and one of the Founding Fathers of the Green-Sports movement, about the way forward. He said that, while Trump’s election is a “major blow for people concerned about…the climate change fight,” he is convinced “the collective, positive influence of sports will help counter the anti-environmental policies of the Trump presidency.”

Yet, while I felt better after my Green-Sports shrink session with Hershkowitz, was not completely convinced Green-Sports cut help put things right in this strange time. I needed a second opinion and gave a call to Dave Newport, Director of the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and another leading light of the Green-Sports world. Newport advanced the notion that Green-Sports will thrive and gain in influence over the next four years. In the words of President Obama, I hung up the phone “Fired UP!” and “Ready to Go!”


GreenSportsBlog: Dave, let’s dispense with the finery. Can the Green-Sports world have a positive impact in a world with climate change denier/Paris Climate Accord exit-er wannabe Donald J. Trump as President of the United States?

Dave Newport: Absolutely! In fact, Green-Sports can and will play a leading and important role. Here’s why: Millennials and Generation Z (current 18-25 year olds). Businesses need to reach them and acquire them as loyal customers. Sports teams, pro and college, leagues, and the networks that air their games—all experiencing well documented decreases in attendance and viewership—especially need to get them to come to the games, tune them in on their mobile devices, to care. 

GSB: I know there’s research out there shows that millennials care less about sports, or at the very least, are spending less time following sports than their GenX and Boomer predecessors…

DN: Exactly. But what do millennials and GenZ-ers care about these days? Purpose. They demand that the companies whose products and services they buy have a positive societal purpose. And ranking near the top of the purpose list is environment and the climate change fight. This is true for Hillary voters and Trump voters among the younger demographics. I talked recently to a high ranking executive at a major company and he said “the only way we get the younger customer is align ourselves organically and legitimately around purpose.” If a company doesn’t attach itself to a positive purpose, the millennial or GenZ consumer will tune out. They hate the big banks. In fact, there’s a study out there in which millennials said they’d rather go to the dentist than go to a bank!

GSB: Well, as a dentist’s son and a frequent patient, I’m not so sure I agree. But then again, I’m far from a millennial. OK, enough dentistry! Back to the millennials and green sports…

DN…Point is, as I said earlier, sports teams are losing millennials, and they need them. Millennials support the environment and the climate change fight so sports teams really need to step up their green games.


Dave Newport, Director, University of Colorado Environmental Center (Photo credit: Dave Newport)


GSB: I can see how that would be the case in über-green Boulder, CO. Or maybe Berkeley, CA or Cambridge, MA. Places that Hillary—who won strongly amongst the younger demos—carried. But what about in places like, say, Florida or the Rust Belt, all of which went to Trump?

DN: Oh, sports teams and brands connecting to millennials and GenZ-ers through purpose is not only the province of Hillary supporters. And, tell you the truth, sports and brands need to connect to the entire community through purpose. Know this: In Florida, a state that was won by Trump, voters voted for increased access to renewable energy, against the wishes of Big Energy. So to say Trump voters are anti-solar, anti-clean energy, is false.

GSB: Glad to hear about the Florida results. Now, back to the younger demographics being purpose driven. I get that, clearly. But does that really translate to sports?

DN: Look, in a survey this fall, 90 percent of incoming freshmen at CU—and at many schools–said they are concerned about the school’s carbon footprint and its plan to reduce it! Ten years ago, when I first arrived here, no one was talking carbon footprint. So, to the degree that sports teams and their sponsors green up their practices and outcomes, these emerging purpose-driven Gen Zs and Millennials will have a reason to engage.

GSB: What about businesses partnering with sports teams on green-themed programs? Will that increase? Right now, those types of partnerships are few and far between, albeit with CU leading the way with green-themed programs from companies like BASF, White Wave and Kohler.

DN: Again, I’m bullish. That’s because there’s a whole class of companies—renewable energy, for instance—that is growing rapidly and will continue to do so because it makes business sense. Why? The price of renewables is falling, in many cases below that of fossil fuels.

GSB: But what about Trump’s threats to undue tax credits and rebates for renewables?

DN: They may be tough to take away. Why? Because those tax credits mean that renewable energy developers will be able to compete and grow….

GSB: …And this is particularly true in red states…

DN: …Like Texas, the Saudi Arabia of Wind, Wyoming, Iowa etc. And as these companies scale, they’re going to need to fuel further growth. You know who Phil Anschutz is?

GSB: Of course. Owner of AEG, the largest sports venue owner in the world…

DN: Right! Well Anschutz is trying to get permitting for a 300,000 acre wind farm in Wyoming to build the world’s largest wind farm. Once it’s up and running, and with new advanced battery technology allowing wind-generated electrons to be stored and transmitted, Anschutz plans to sell that electricity to customers in California at a profit.

GSB: Perhaps Anschutz should promote the wind to LA Galaxy fans at the StubHub Center, one of the facilities he owns.

DN: We’re at an inflection point. Teams and brands need to work harder to get millennials and GenZ-ers. Showing the younger demos that they care about the environment will go a long way to bring them into the fold.

GSB: OK, teams and brands. No time to waste. Pick up the greening pace, NOW. Dave, I know you have more to say on the potential of Green-Sports and will be doing so on Twitter this weekend. Tell our readers how they can tune in.

DN: Thanks, Lew. To learn more about Green-Sports’ future, be sure to “tune in” to Twitter via #sbchat this Sunday November 13 at 930 PM EST to chat about the Emerging Business of Sports Sustainability with me and Learfield Sustainability Sponsorship expert Brandon Leimbach



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