AEG Brings Energy Storage to LA’s StubHub Center with Tesla Powerpacks

AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company, hosts 100 million fans annually at more than 120 stadiums, arenas and other facilities around the world. In an effort to lower its energy use and minimize its environmental impact, the company has installed an innovative, advanced Tesla Powerpack battery/energy storage system at StubHub Center in Carson, CA, home of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy. GreenSportsBlog spoke with John Marler, AEG’s Senior Director, Energy and Environment Systems, about StubHub Center being the first stadium to have on-site energy storage.


60 cents per kilowatt hour.

According to John Marler, that is the exorbitantly high price for electricity AEG pays Southern California Edison for electricity at StubHub Center, from noon to 6 PM on high demand, hot summer weekdays. The price goes down to as low as 10 cents per kilowatt hour overnight.

2016 Season: LA Galaxy v Vancouver Whitecaps at StubHub Center on July 4, 2016 in Carson, CA. (Photo By Stephanie Romero/LA Galaxy) - - @LAGalaxy - - - -

StubHub Center, Carson, CA, home of the LA Galaxy. (Photo credit: Stephanie Romero/LA Galaxy)


This price disparity exists for large commercial customers^ because in Southern California, as elsewhere, there is more demand on the electrical grid during peak times than off-peak times. During peak times, the grid also tends to use more carbon-intensive forms of electric power generation, such as from “peaker plants,” which are activated on very hot days to meet demand.


John Marler, AEG’s Senior Director, Energy and Environment Systems. (Photo credit: AEG)


Like other large commercial customers, AEG has a strong incentive to conserve electricity and reduce demand during peak hours. But during game days, stadium lighting, air conditioning, and other loads must be turned on, causing electricity usage to spike.

“AEG has implemented a variety of energy efficiency strategies at StubHub Center over the years,” said Marler. Thing is, until recently, there hasn’t been an ideal way to manage event-related spikes in energy usage.

If StubHub Center could generate* and/or buy electricity during the nighttime hours when it’s cheap (again, only 10 cents per kilowatt hour), store the electrons that were generated or bought and then use them during peak hours, meaningful savings would be the result. And, if a multitude of customers have the same capability, the entire grid could benefit, in that the utility could meet demand more cost-effectively and with more environmentally benign generation resources (i.e. dirty peaker plants might not have to be used.)

Enter the Tesla Powerpack.

In January 2016 StubHub Center installed 20 Tesla Powerpack commercial batteries for the purpose of shifting usage from peak to non-peak periods and to reduce event-related demand spikes, becoming the first stadium to have energy storage on site.

The technology embedded in the batteries used in Tesla electric vehicle (EV) drive trains is similar to the technology in battery systems that power homes, businesses and now stadiums. So, to my eyes, Tesla is much more than an iconic EV maker—which is off-the-charts cool as it is— it is rapidly evolving into a Battery Systems Manufacturer/Energy Storage company.


Tesla PowerPack battery-powered energy storage system, similar to the one installed at StubHub Center. (Photo credit: Tesla)


Tesla broke ground in 2014 on its already-iconic Gigafactory outside of Sparks, NV, to meet not only what it expects to be huge demand for EVs, but also for other advanced battery systems and, energy storage. By the time of its planned completion in 2020, Gigafactory is expected to produce 35 gigawatt hours worth of lithium ion batteries annually, which is more than was produced worldwide in 2013. A great deal of the energy stored on those batteries will have been generated from clean sources, as the roof (Gigaroof?) will be the site of a massive solar installation.

Some Gigafactory production will be devoted to the Tesla Powerpack, which, it says here, will help to power more stadiums than just StubHub Center in upcoming months and years.

The energy storage system also works on non-game days. It interacts directly with the Southern California grid, earning revenue for AEG by providing valuable demand response (a voluntary program that compensates large retail customers for reducing their electricity use during periods of high power prices or when the reliability of the grid is threatened) services to the utility. Thus, the Tesla Powerpack installation is expected to save AEG money, reduce the stadium’s carbon footprint, and contribute to a healthier power grid in Southern California.

AEG’s and the Galaxy’s leadership in on-site energy storage with Tesla Powerpacks is just one example of their green bona fides. Fans and employees are being encouraged to take green actions through the new Protect The Pitch (PTP) initiative, which:

  • Supports community and fan-based environmental projects, including a weekly Farmer’s Market at StubHub Center.
  • Shares AEG’s/the Galaxy’s best-in-green-class efforts in energy efficiency, waste management and water management at StubHub Center, with the subtext being that fans can take similar actions at home.
  • Highlights Galaxy employees’ many green volunteer actions, including tree planting and beach cleanup.

The acronym PTP was initially made famous by legendary ESPN college basketball analyst/screamer Dick Vitale—”He’s a Prime Time Player, a PTPer!!” I think it’s fair to say AEG, StubHub Center and the Galaxy are PTPers in their own right as they shift electricity usage away from prime time.



^ Electricity usage pricing for large-scale commercial customers can vary on an hour-to-hour basis. Pricing for residential customers, whose electricity usage is much smaller, varies monthly, or, in some cases, yearly.
* StubHub Center currently does not have any on-site solar or wind generation at this time but is considering its options in line with its overall energy management and sustainability strategy.


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GSB News and Notes: Kiribati Olympian Takes Stand on Climate; Newcastle United Gets Greener; BP Greenwashes at Rio, Subtlely

An Olympic weightlifter from the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati takes a stand against climate change. The Newcastle United Football Club is ramping up what it calls its “Carbon Crusade” by the installation of a combined heat and power (CHP) system at St. James’ Park. And BP talks a good green game as part of its sponsorship of the British Olympic team in Rio. But do they walk the green walk? Uh, no. It’s all here in today’s busy, TGI Summer Friday GSB News & Notes.



When a 231 lb. weightlifter from Kiribati danced off the stage following his 6th place effort at the Olympic Games, most onlookers in Rio and on TV were likely both charmed and curious. Did David Katoatau, 32, think that ballroom dancing was a new Olympic sport?

No, he was dancing to make a poignant point about climate change – which is an existential threat now, in real time, to Kiribati, his island nation home in the Central Pacific.

Kiribati is made up of 21 inhabited islands and has a population of about 100,000 (the same as South Bend, IN). It is, according to its government, suffering from “extreme coastal erosion not just of the beaches but also of the land.”


“Most people don’t know where Kiribati is,” Katoatau told Reuters. “I want people to know more about us so I use weightlifting, and my dancing, to show the world that we don’t have the resources to save ourselves.” The weightlifter, who lost his family in a cyclone, recently wrote an open letter “to tell people about all the homes lost to rising sea levels.”

Katoatau Kiribati Pennington

David Katoatau, Olympic weightlifter from Kiribati who danced to bring attention to the devastation climate change is bringing to his country. (Photo credit: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)


His dance moves—and is climate change activism—first gained attention at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, where he won Kiribati’s first ever medal.



Newcastle United, one of the most storied clubs in English football, suffered the indignity of being relegated^ from the Premier League after last season and now plays in the 2nd tier Championship. While its devoted fan base hopes against hope that the team will earn promotion back to the Premier League after only a one year hiatus, they can take solace with the knowledge that an already green club is going even greener with the installation of a combined heat and power (CHP) system at St James’ Park, its 52,000 seat home ground.

St. James Park Footballtripper

St. James’ Park, the carbon positive home of Newcastle United. (Photo credit:


The Magpies became the world’s first “Carbon Positive” sports team in 2012 by offsetting more carbon than they were emitting. The club’s facilities team had taken a myriad of actions, large and small (boiler optimization, lighting upgrades, water management, energy monitoring, etc.) to reduce energy consumption. And they offset more than the rest of the club’s residual carbon footprint through the purchase of RECs. Voilà, carbon positivity at St. James’ Park!

And now, as reported in an August 4 story in by Alex Baldwin, the club has put into operation a CHP co-generation system that provides electricity and heating through a 185kWh natural gas-fueled system, supplied by ENER-G. It is expected to reduce the football club’s carbon emissions by more than 390 tonnes every year.

Newcastle United facilities manager Eddie Rutherford said in the piece: “Our partnership with ENER-G to introduce a high efficiency CHP system is another major step in our mission to achieve outstanding green performance.”

Newcastle United, in its 12-year agreement with ENER-G, invested nothing upfront; rather, it pays only for the energy it uses. I imagine that other English clubs will be following suit in the near future.



“The dreaming. The training. The waiting. The hoping. The best of luck to Team GB. Its time to harness the #Energywithin.”

On Friday August 5, while upwards of 1 billion watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics, a much smaller but far more influential audience of approximately 2.2 million saw the above tagline and the #Energywithin hashtag in a 2/3 page ad from oil giant BP in the Financial TimesThe ad was promoting its sponsorship of the British Olympic team, or Team GB.

#Energywithin is the subtext of all of BP’s Olympic sponsorships—in addition to Team GB, the company also supports the national Olympic committees of the Azerbaijan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey and the USA, as well as the International Paralympic Committee. It is being used, in part, to subtly communicate that BP is concerned about the environment. “When the world’s best athletes compete in Rio this summer, many will discover an energy within that they didn’t know they possessed. The energy within is also what drives BP to keep searching for newer, better, safer ways (my italics) to provide the energy that the world needs,” said BP Director of Brands Duncan Blake in an August 8 article by Andy Rowell in Common Dreams.



Why the subtlety in Rio?

Perhaps because BP took a lot of flack for being a Sustainability Partner at the London 2012 Olympics? I mean, how could a big oil company that was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and is a major player in the extraction of highly-polluting tar sands, be the Sustainability Partner of London 2012? This is a stain on BP, but more so, it says here, on London 2012, which otherwise ran the greenest Olympics in history.

The Guardian was all over the the BP/London 2012/Greenwash% story. Jess Worth, an anti-oil activist from the UK Tar Sands Network said it best at the time: “[T]his is a dangerous greenwash. BP is one of the least sustainable companies on earth…Its entire business is geared towards keeping the world addicted to fossil fuels and driving us towards uncontrollable climate change.”

Perhaps another reason BP is speaking sotto voce on green this time around is because they see that Olympic athletes are starting to dance—a la weightlifter David Katoatau—and speak out on climate change issues. As noted in a GreenSportsBlog post the day of the Opening Ceremonies, “Olympians from Afghanistan, the Marshall Islands and South Sudan — all countries especially vulnerable to climate change — as well as other nations, are speaking out to raise awareness about the dangers of global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius” via a powerful 30 second video, 1.5C: The record we must not break.

But BP, despite its so-called search for safer ways to provide the energy the world needs, keeps drilling for oil and gas, keeps exploiting tar sands oil, helping to push the world well beyond 1.5C.

And Olympic Committees (and other sports governing bodies) know this, of course. And all of them have well thought out, substantive sustainability plans and targets. The big question is: when will an Olympic Committee, whether from the UK, US, or elsewhere, loudly say NO to the sponsorship money from companies like BP that don’t reflect their stated values? We will work to answer this question in future posts.


^ Teams in European club football (soccer) get relegated to the league below when they finish the season at or near the bottom. In the English system, Premier League teams that finish 18-20 get relegated to the 2nd tier Championship with the top 3 teams in the Championship getting promoted. In 2015-2016, Newcastle finished 18th and so were relegated.
% BP also singled out Dow for greenwashing at London 2012. GreenSportsBlog recently wrote a piece about the sustainability work Dow is doing in Brazil as an IOC global sponsor and as the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016.
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Sustainability Leaders on Green-Sports, Part 3: Dr. Michael Mann, Climate Scientist, Author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

We have conducted a raft of interviews over the 3+ years of GreenSportsBlog’s existence with leading lights from across the Green-Sports spectrum. Thing is, the Green-Sports niche, while growing is still relatively small. How much does the niche have to grow until it reaches critical mass? What will sports look like once that’s achieved? What are the key challenges the sports green movement has to overcome? To get some answers, GreenSportsBlog is going outside of the Green-Sports world to take a look inward. We are talking, in an occasional series that will run over the course of several months, with leaders from various corners of the sustainability world with little or no connection to the sports world to get their takes on the sports-greening movement. I hope some valuable insights will result. Our first interview in the series was with Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group. Next, we spoke with Jerry Taylor, a Washington, DC lobbyist who was on the climate denial/skeptic side became a climate change “free agent,” switched teams and is now a climate change fighting advocate

For our third installment, we bring you our conversation with Dr. Michael Mann, Director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology and one of the world’s foremost climate scientists. But it is a metaphorical “hockey stick” that mosts intrigues GreenSportsBlog about Dr. Mann. We are referring to the shape of the graph of the historical earth temperature record going back 1,000 years that shows modest changes until the post Industrial Revolution era when temperatures spiked upwards. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Dr. Mann about climate change, hockey and more.


GreenSportsBlog: “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar®-winning documentary film was highlighted by your temperature hockey stick!! That is so cool! We will get to hockey sticks and Congress’ attempt to put you in the climate change penalty box in a bit. Before doing so, I guess I’d like to know how you came to climate science.

Dr. Michael Mann: I came to it circuitously. Growing up in Amherst, MA, while I did like sports—I ran cross country, played basketball, loved the Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Tiny Archibald Celtics—I was really your basic math nerd, hanging out on Friday nights with other math/computer nerd friends.

GSB: Sounds like a blast!

MM: Oh, you have no idea! I come from a math family—my dad was a math professor at UMass in Amherst…

GSB: …The Minutemen!

MM: …Indeed. And then I went to UC Berkeley and studied applied math and physics.

GSB: What is applied math anyway?

MM: It’s geared towards solving real world problems rather than theoretical ones. Then I went to Yale for graduate school to study physics. But, mid-degree, I wasn’t excited about the problems I was being given to solve. So I looked at Yale’s catalogue of scientific research to see where I could use what I had learned to work on a big problem with real world significance. And I found geology and geophysics, which uses math and physics to model the earth’s climate. This was very interesting to me.

GSB: Which is a very good thing for climate science!

MM: So for my post-doc, I went back home to Amherst, to UMass…

GSB: Did you live at home with the folks?

MM: In fact, yes, I did, I lived in an attic apartment in the house. It worked out quite well, actually. And it was there that my interest got piqued in climate change. We worked to use paleo-climate data to extend the climate record, which, at the time, extended to only a century of thermometer-based information.

GSB: Is that where you looked at tree rings?

MM: Exactly! We used tree rings and coral records and other so-called “proxy” data; natural archives that record past climate conditions, to extend back in time our knowledge of global temperature changes. By 1998 we we were able to go back 600 years; by the next year, we were able to extend the record back in time 1,000 years, a millennium.

GSB: And what did you find?

MM: That the earth’s temperature rise since the onset of the Industrial Revolution was unprecedented, as far back as we could go. I was the lead author of the article in Nature, published on Earth Day—April 22, 1998—that introduced the “hockey stick” curve and demonstrated the unprecedented nature of the recent temperature spike.

Hockey Stick

The temperature “Hockey Stick,” resulting from the research of Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues. (Credit: Dr. Michael Mann)


GSB: Did your research also include data going back hundreds of thousands of years on atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

MM: The CO2 records, collected from ice core samples, already existed. What was new from our work was the temperature data. And of course it showed a remarkable synchronicity with the already existing CO2 information. It showed that temperatures rose when CO2 in the atmosphere rose. What’s most worrying now is, that CO2 levels are off the charts and temperatures are still in the process of rising in response.

Mann Iceland Glacier

Dr. Michael Mann at the edge of a melting Iceland glacier in May, 2016. (Photo credit: Dr. Michael Mann)


GSB: Believe me, I’m well aware of that from seeing the hockey stick in “An Inconvenient Truth,” and from being a volunteer Climate Reality Leader—I, along with thousands of other everyday citizens from all over the world, have been trained by Al Gore and his staff to give the slide show that was at the heart of his Academy Award® winning documentary to community groups in their own neighborhoods. The “hockey stick” played a key role in the slide show to be sure. Speaking of the “hockey stick,” did you come up with it yourself?

MM: Actually, the hockey stick term was coined by a colleague at Princeton who’s no longer with us by the name of Jerry Mahlman. Because sports analogies and metaphors are so powerful, this framing seems to have clicked with the public, but I have been surprised how strong the click has been. I think the imagery is particularly powerful in Canada—no surprise there. Basically, the “hockey stick” became shorthand that conveys the severity of human-caused climate change.

GSB: Staying with the sports metaphor, you’ve also used the term “climate on steroids” which is, of course, a nod to the link between increased home run totals in Major League Baseball during the 90s-early 2000s and the prevalence of steroid usage during that time…

MM: Yes. Sometimes people ask the wrong questions when it comes to climate change—for example, was hurricane Katrina caused by climate change? That’s like asking whether the 68th home run hit by Barry Bonds in 2001 was caused by steroids. We can never answer that question. But we can conclude that collectively, many of his home runs were due to the steroid use, just as we can conclude that the increased occurrence of devastating hurricanes is due to human-caused climate change.

GSB: And couldn’t you also say Barry Bonds would hit the ball that turned out to be his 68th home run no matter what. But, due to steroids, some portion of that ball’s journey was enhanced by steroids use.

MM: Exactly! And, listen, I also want to bring football into the discussion. Not long ago I saw the movie “Concussion.” It is the perfect analogue to climate change denial.

GSB: How so?

MM: Well, the NFL’s denial of the link between pro football-related concussions and brain related diseases like CTE^ despite knowing the science says the opposite is analogous to the fossil fuel industry denying the reality and seriousness of climate change even though it knows full well the solid science behind it.

GSB:  You can add that certain members of Congress, funded by the fossil fuel industry to spout climate change denial, are like refs paid by gamblers to fix games.

MM: Of course. Look, I’m a scientist and a communicator. You cannot be an effective communicator without recognizing the power of sports—it’s so engrained in our culture—it would be a lost opportunity if you didn’t use sports analogies and metaphors to drive home your points.

GSB: You’ll get no argument from me there. Now, back to “Concussion”: In the movie, Will Smith played Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-American pathologist who discovered the link between concussions and CTE and who thus had to face the wrath and weight of the NFL. Since you have been grilled by hostile members of Congress—as detailed in your 2012 book from Columbia University Press, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” and your research and funding has been challenged by them, are you kind of like the Omalu of climate change in the USA?

Mann Hockey Stick


MM: I’ll take that comparison any day. And, while it’s certainly not fun to have your work demeaned, challenged and picked at in public, I can handle it. You see I want the ball at the free throw line, down one point, with two foul shots and no time on the clock. Because the climate change fight is one game we have to win and I want to be a part of winning it.

GSB: Somehow I see you making those free throws!

Ed. Note: Dr. Mann’s upcoming satirical book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics and Driving Us Crazy, co-authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles and published by Columbia University Press, will go on sale in September and is available for pre-order now.
^ CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalothapy


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Highlights from White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtable

The intersection of Green + Sports is not only getting more crowded, it’s gaining influence. The latter was on display on Monday as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted 70+ leaders of the sports-greening movement for a Roundtable discussion entitled “Climate and Sports.” 


Monday’s Roundtable discussion on Climate and Sports was Mary Harvey’s third official visit inside the White House. On the first two occasions, she was part of a championship celebration as a player. Harvey was the starting goalkeeper for the US Women’s National Soccer Team when it won the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and met President George H.W. Bush (“no one knew who we were back then”). She returned five years later to meet President Bill Clinton as part of the much more famous US Olympic Women’s Soccer team that won gold in Atlanta.

This time it was all business for Harvey, who, after her playing days, worked in senior executive capacities at FIFA and Women’s Professional Soccer (precursor to today’s NWSL), is Vice Chair of the Green Sports Alliance and is Principal at Seattle-based Ripple Effect Consulting, as well as the other Green-Sports All Stars assembled in the Eisenhower Room at the White House. They included Olympic Snowboard medalist Gretchen Bleiler, Allen Hershkowitz, co-Founder and President Emeritus of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), Alliance Board Chairman Scott Jenkins, 2016 GSA Environmental Leader of the Year Award winner and Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ference, University of Colorado Director of Environment Dave Newport, self-described “Eco-Vegan-Hippie-Chick with a race car” Leilani Münter, as well as executives from MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and the USTA.

Speaking of All Stars, US Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz opened the session. A nuclear physicist and MIT physics and engineering systems professor before leading heading the Department of Energy, Moniz’ profile rose above the typical Energy Secretary in 2015 when he became a key negotiator of the historic nuclear agreement with Iran. So he knows something about serious global threats.

And, since, in Dr. Moniz’ opinion, climate change is humanity’s greatest environmental threat; it was incumbent upon the Obama administration to do something about it.

Moniz DOE

Dr. Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy, opened the roundtable on “Climate and Sports,” hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Photo credit: US Department of Energy)


“The Secretary delivered a compelling recitation of the many initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration to enhance energy efficiency and reduce our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said Allen Hershkowitz, “[These] ranged from seemingly ‘small’ initiatives like reducing the amount of energy consumed by household appliances when they are in the ‘off’ position (known as ‘standby power,’ energy sucked by appliances when they are [turned off but still plugged in] accounts for more than 5 percent of all residential electricity consumed in the United States), to larger climate-protecting [programs] such as higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, promotion of electric vehicles, and the massive development of solar and wind power during the past eight years.”

Then it was time to go to work.

“The Roundtable was divided into three areas in which sports could aid in the climate change fight: mitigation—slowing down climate change, resilience—adapting to climate change that’s already ‘baked in,’ and education,” recounted Mary Harvey, “A different staffer led each section, then attendees presented case studies. The ‘feel’ of the meeting was very inclusive—they really wanted our thoughts.

Mitigation: Ms. Harvey spoke about the important role sports industry governing bodies (i.e. FIFA, IOC, and many others) can play in mitigating or reducing the carbon footprint of the sports industry. As an example, she cited regulations that governing bodies have regarding competition apparel, positing “What if international governing bodies were to specify not only the size and number of sponsor logos on competition apparel, but also that its manufacture must have a certain environmental profile, such as a minimum amount of recycled content, and performance in other environmentally friendly indices? If you extended this to replica and licensed product as well, along with information on how a product’s manufacture reduces its environmental impact; that provides a pretty big market ‘pull’ for an industry that’s already headed in that direction, and goes a long way towards educating fans on why this is important. Over time, these minimum standards would rise, and the industry would continue to innovate sustainably.” Other ideas offered included broadening the measurement of energy use at sporting venues, so it can be compared and improved upon, promoting widespread use energy efficient lighting like LEDs, adding climate-friendly food options to the menus at sports venues, and keeping food waste out of landfills–where it decomposes into methane, a potent greenhouse gas–by expanding food donation programs.


Mary Harvey, Principal at Ripple Effect Consulting and Vice Chair of the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Mary V. Harvey)


Resilience: Dr. Douglas Casa of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut presented a case study of its work with athletes and heat exposure. Per Ms. Harvey, “It’s my understanding that the Institute consults with international sports governing bodies about mitigating the impact of extremely hot conditions on athletes and fans at major events. As an athlete who competed in extreme heat, it’s terrific that this kind of consultation is happening.” The threat climate change poses to MLB’s Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, and venue design adaptations that would move critical power supplies and other equipment above flood levels were also discussed.

Education: Broward County, FL educator Linda Gancitano presented How Low Can You Goa program she co-founded that partners with the Miami Heat that pits public schools against each other to see which school can reduce their percentage of CO2 consumption the most over a three month period.

What will the administration do with this information, especially with only five months left in office? My bet is that the report that will ultimately be written from this Roundtable will be left in the in box of the next Secretary of Energy. GreenSportsBlog fervently hopes that whoever replaces Secretary Moniz will see the value of working with the sports industry on real climate change solutions, because he or she will work for a President who sees climate change as real, human caused, and the greatest threat, environmental and, per Allen Hershkowitz, “existential,” that humanity faces.

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Guest Blog Post: Allen Hershkowitz on “What The Ecological Mess in Rio Teaches Us”

Allen Hershkowitz, co-Founder and President Emeritus of the Green Sports Alliance as well as President and co-Founder of Green Sports International, recently penned this column on “What the Ecological Mess in Rio Teaches Us.” It first ran in the August 8 edition of Sports Business Journal.


If the sports industry needs a potent reminder of how dependent it is on healthy ecosystems, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is providing it. According to an investigation by The Associated Press cited in The New York Times, water-quality tests of the waters in which Olympic athletes will swim and sail revealed disease-causing viruses at “levels 1.7 million times of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.”

The level of untreated sewage, feces and other human wastes produced by Rio’s 6 million inhabitants, along with hazardous chemicals, municipal garbage, dead fish and even dead human bodies contaminating Guanabara Bay and the other waterways to be used by Olympic athletes would close any beach in North America or Europe. Rivers that begin as pristine streams in the mountains above Rio have been described as “pure sludge” by the time they reach the Bay, and a pediatrician in Rio, Dr. Daniel Becker, is quoted as warning that “athletes will literally be swimming in human crap … .” Nigel Cochrane, a coach for the Spanish women’s sailing team said “It’s disgusting. We’re very concerned.”

He should be: The waters around Rio to be used during the Olympics host viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause hepatitis A, amoebiasis, shigellosis, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, giardia, which all contribute to severe diarrhea, and other waterborne illnesses that kill more than 6,000 people each day, 2.2 million people each year, mostly children.


Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, co-Founder and President Emeritus of the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)


Michelle Lemaitre, the director of sustainability at the International Olympic Committee, is a brilliant and committed environmentalist. I can only imagine the despair that she and her committed colleagues at the IOC feel about the ecological conditions plaguing the Rio Olympics. Most frustrating of all is the fact that the major public health threats faced by athletes and spectators alike at Rio are largely outside of the IOC’s control and, indeed, grossly violate the environmental commitments made by Brazil to the IOC in its 2009 bid to host the games.

In order to be selected as a host of the Olympic Games, potential host cities must prepare a detailed environmental plan. The Olympic Charter stipulates that, “The Olympic Games are [to be] held in conditions which demonstrate a responsible concern for environmental issues.” In its submission to host the games, Brazil pledged to commit $4 billion to clean up Guanabara Bay and other water bodies that will be used by Olympic swimmers and sailors.

However, according to new reports, less than $175 million was spent for this purpose. Brazil is not the first Olympic country to ignore its obligation to attend to environmental issues: China promised to clean up air pollution in and around Beijing before the 2008 Summer Games, but it didn’t; and the 2014 Sochi Games destroyed pristine, ecologically rare and protected areas, wiping out forested areas, scattering wastes and adversely affecting wildlife.

That this Olympic-sized ecological debacle is occurring now is ironic, given that during the past decade the sports industry globally has been more focused than ever on responsible environmental stewardship. Ten years ago the first professional sports league greening collaboration was launched between Major League Baseball and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Today, virtually all commissioners of professional sports leagues in the U.S. and throughout Europe, including the IOC, have made commitments to environmental stewardship and are actively encouraging the teams in their leagues to incorporate sustainable measures into their operations.

Indeed, the sports greening movement is changing the way venues are designed and operated, and it is changing the operating culture of sports leagues and teams. Because of this, millions of pounds of carbon emissions have been avoided, millions of gallons of water have been saved, and millions of pounds of waste are being shifted toward recycling or eliminated altogether. Ecologically enhancing the way sports venues are operated, and using sports media platforms to promote environmental messages holds the potential to influence the behavior of billions of people, billions of fans, and a global supply chain that touches every industry.

The Rio Games reveal that much of what the sports industry wants to do for the environment is being stymied by inadequate ecological infrastructure out of the control of sports leagues, venues and teams, including the IOC. Sanitation systems are lacking, allowing pollutants like sewage, chemicals, plastics and other garbage to run freely into waterways, making swimming, boating, surfing and fishing impossible. Millions of pounds of uneaten food are wastefully dumped into landfills instead of being donated or composted due to the absence of ecologically smart food waste processing facilities. Auto-based fan transportation contributes 60 percent or more of the greenhouse gases associated with a typical sporting event because of underdeveloped mass transit.

The games we love today were born outdoors, and without clean air, clean water and a healthy climate, sports would be impossible. And as the Rio Olympics make clear, it is the availability of these ecological services that makes sports possible.

Can the sports industry save the planet on its own? No, it cannot. But lessons from Rio’s ecological debacle can shift cultural attitudes and begin to move the government priorities and the market toward the more sustainable practices we urgently need to adopt if life on Earth is to continue.

The ecological debacle at the Rio Olympics teaches us that there is an urgent need to enhance our ecological infrastructure, especially in the developing world. The Games teach us that government and business leaders must devote the same level of effort to keeping our natural environmental healthy that they devote to building stadiums and arenas.

Allen Hershkowitz can be reached at


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The GSB Interview: Hilary Kotoun, Sailors for the Sea, Certifying Clean Regattas

GreenSportsBlog has covered sailing a great deal over the past year or so. One big reason is that the sailing world, from America’s Cup contender Land Rover BAR to Volvo Ocean Race entrant 55 South to the Atlantic Cup, a biannual carbon neutral sailing race up the eastern seaboard, is where some of the most innovative green-sports work is taking place. Playing a key role since 2004 in the Greening of Sailing has been Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit based in US sailing capital Newport, RI. Among many other things, Sailors for the Sea, through its Clean Regattas program, provides the world’s only sustainability certification system for water-based events. To get the skinny on Clean Regattas and the many other initiatives Sailors for the Sea undertakes, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Hilary Kotoun, the organization’s Social Impact Director.


GreenSportsBlog: OK, Hilary, we’ve got a LOT to get through today as you are one busy woman at Sailors for the Sea. But before we get to the nitty-gritty, give our readers some sense of how you got to the organization.

Hilary Kotoun: I’ve been a sailor since middle school in Ohio…

GSB: …Wait, Ohio? That’s not exactly a sailing hotbed, is it? Did you sail on Lake Erie?

HK: Actually my parents sailed around the Caribbean for three years and I was on the boat with them. Thus started my passion for the oceans. From there we moved to Annapolis…

GSB: …Better sailing than in Ohio, I would imagine.

HK: The Caribbean is a bit warmer, but the Great Lakes have their perks! Anyway, I raced in high school and then was on the varsity sailing team at St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland, which is just a beautiful part of the country. So, in addition to being out on the water, I was out in nature, which added to my environmentalist bent.

GSB: So what does a varsity sailor do once she graduates?

HK: She heads to Newport…I taught and coached high school sailing, worked for Christie’s auction house and then, luckily for me, found Sailors for the Sea. I started as an admin, then launched their social media effort and things just evolved from there.

GSB: Sounds like a natural fit. Tell us about Sailors for the Sea. What is its mission?

HK: To get sailors and, for that matter, all boaters, to rally around taking care of our waterways, with the bigger goal being to heal the oceans.

Hilary Kotoun Headshot 2

Hilary Kotoun, Social Impact Director, Sailors for the Sea helping sailors sort their compost, recycling and trash at a race in Charleston, SC. (Photo credit: Sailors for the Sea)


GSB: That’s one heck of a mission! How is Sailors for the Sea going about realizing it?

HK: The Clean Regattas program is one big way. Begun in 2006, Clean Regattas is the world’s only sustainability certification program for water-based events.

GSB: What does that look like?

HK: We work with about 200 regattas annually all over the world and are growing that number by 20 percent per year. Sailors for the Sea provides events with a list of best sustainability practices they can undertake within five different areas and then measure how they do.

GSB: Those five areas are?

HK: #1 is Event Management. We look at how an event transports fans and media, assembles a green team, hires or recruits a volunteer to become a sustainability director, and goes about communicating sustainability to the sailors themselves. #2 is Food and Beverage. We see if events have water refilling stations, sustainable food offerings, and environmentally responsible dinnerware, in the spectator areas. #3 is Waste Reduction, which, of course, means recycling and composting.

GSB: I imagine recycling and composting are becoming standard at sailing and, quite frankly, any other event where there’s a significant crowd? Am I right?

HK: For the most part yes. One area of concern is the Caribbean—recycling is definitely more of a challenge there. #4 is Venue Management, which includes promoting alternative transportation, runoff reduction (a big area where many sailing clubs can make a difference) and offsetting part or all of an events carbon footprint.

GSB: Talk a bit about runoff reduction…

HK: I always get really excited about some of the creative things we have seen sailing clubs do to achieve runoff reduction, which can have a great benefit on the water surrounding their club. This can include switching to organic fertilizers or eliminating them altogether, installing rain barrels, and even upgrading to permeable pavement in the parking lot to collect pollutants before they make it into the harbor.

GSB: Would carbon neutrality be more prevalent at the bigger events, like the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco?

HK: You’re right. Carbon neutrality is a big achievement for large events, but we also like to encourage regattas to start by just offsetting a portion of their impact, perhaps just fuel used by race committee. Smaller events also can gain points in this section by doing things like reusing or up-cycling event signage and banners. Finally, #5 is Race Management, which encompasses everything that happens on the water: Do organizers use efficient power boats, for example hybrids instead of an old two-stroke engines? Do organizers use environmentally-friendly cleaning products?

GSB: How many best practices are there?

HK: Since 2009, the program has evolved and deepened to where now it has 25 best practices,.

GSB: And what are the levels of certification?

HK: There are gold, silver and bronze levels. Plus now Sailors for the Sea has the platinum level at the very top of the pyramid. Platinum level certification is much more in depth, usually planning starts at least 6 months prior to the event and these events often have a full time sustainability director or a sustainability committee. Due to the high level planning on average we only work with one platinum event per year, but we are excited to see growing interest from some of our gold level regattas already asking how they can move up to platinum next year.

GSB: That’s an exclusive club, indeed. What event got the 2015 platinum certification?

HK: The Volvo Ocean Race’s (VOR) Newport stopover.

GSB: I followed that from afar; it looked fantastic!

HK: Oh it was! The stopover drew over 100,000 fans and to accommodate them sustainably took lots of planning. We worked with many other local non-profits starting about a year and a half before the event.

GSB: Tell us some of the initiatives that Newport did to earn the platinum certification.

HK: One unique initiative was the way VOR Newport achieved carbon neutrality—by planting 1,123 square feet of sea grass, courtesy of the Ocean Foundation’s SeaGrass Grow project.


Volvo-Ocean-Race-Newport sustainability infographic demonstrates the many initiatives event organizers took to earn Platinum Level Clean Regattas Certification from Sailors for the Sea. (Image credit: Sailors for the Sea)


GSB: Very cool, indeed. Now let’s turn to the 35th America’s Cup next year in Bermuda. Will they be applying for Clean Regattas certification? I know the 34th America’s Cup in 2013 in San Francisco was at the cutting edge of greenness in terms of large-scale sports events…

HK: It certainly was, in part because the City of San Francisco required the organizers of the event to meet very high sustainability standards. And the 34th America’s Cup was certified as a Platinum Level Clean Regatta. Unfortunately, we are not working with the 35th America’s Cup Event Authority.  From what I understand, the host agreement in Bermuda did not require the same levels of sustainability or environmental initiatives like it did in San Francisco and so it has not been on the forefront of planning for the 35th America’s Cup.

GSB: That’s a shame and an opportunity missed. Why do you think Bermuda is not looking to live up to San Francisco’s example?

HK: I really can’t speak to that. What I do know is that many of the teams competing for the Cup are taking sustainability onto their own shoulders. Land Rover BAR’s commitment to sustainability is well known. Artemis Racing from Sweden is also stepping up. They’re a member of the Green Sports Alliance and have built an environmentally friendly race headquarters in Bermuda.

GSB: We are certainly glad that at least some of the America’s Cup teams are stepping up. Now, while the Volvo Ocean Race and the America’s Cup are mega-events, they don’t compare in mega-ness to the Summer Olympics. Of course, the polluted and unhealthy condition of the water at the Rio sailing venue, Guanabara Bay, has rightly drawn significant media attention. Is Sailors for the Sea involved with sailing at Rio?

HK: We are not working in Rio with our Clean Regattas program, which would not be able to solve the massive problems in Rio; rather we have partnered on a film about the environmental catastrophe that is Guanabara Bay, both for marine and human life. It’s called The Discardedit’s just finished shooting and the crowdfunding campaign is still ongoing. Just click here to get involved. Also, since we’re speaking of Sailors for the Sea activities beyond Clean Regattas, I wanted to mention a couple of other of our programs.


The Discarded, coming soon, tells the real story of 2016 Olympics sailing venue Guanabara Bay and how pollution affects Rio’s citizens. (Image credit: Sound Off Films)


GSB: Go for it!

HK: Kids Environmental Lesson Plans or KELP are informal marine education lesson plans for junior sailing programs and camps to use when they can’t go out on the water. We also publish the Green Boating Guide for recreational boaters. And finally there’s Ocean Watch, an online resource for folks who want to learn more about ocean health issues.

GSB: Hilary, I have to say Sailors for the Sea deserves platinum level kudos for all that it is doing around ocean and climate health. Keep it up.

Hilary Kotoun Headshot 1

Hilary Kotoun in one of her “offices”. In this case, the office is the Atlantic off the coast of the Bahamas.  It’s official: Hilary Kotoun has a very cool job. (Photo credit: Sailors for the Sea)
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Climate Change Takes Center Stage at Rio Olympics Opening Ceremonies

The Brazilian producers of Friday’s Opening Ceremonies at the Rio Olympics made climate change a significant focus of its pre-Parade of Nations pageantry. With a global audience estimated at 1 billion people, this is undoubtedly the most widely-viewed climate change message ever. This is the power of Green-Sports on steroids.


About an hour into Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies at the Rio Olympics, the 75,000+ people at the Maracana Stadium and the estimated one billion TV and online viewers around the world probably thought Al Gore had hijacked the production. That’s because they saw videos that detailed:

  • Current impacts of climate change around the world, including the melting of the polar ice caps. The narration took the issue head on: “Heat is melting the ice cap. It’s disappearing very quickly.”
  • The extent of global temperature increase from 1850 to the present.
  • Expected future effects rising sea levels due to global warming will have on some coastal cities, including Rio.

The message was as powerful as it was clear: The world must do whatever it can to stop climate change, and fast.

Homemade video of the climate change portion of the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio. (Credit: YouTube)



Rio Temp Before

The “BEFORE” temperature change chart (1850) shown at the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremonies (Photo credit: Mashable)…


Rio Temp After

…and the “AFTER” chart, showing the nearly 1.5°C warming that has occurred in the last 166 years. (Photo credit: Mashable)



All I can say is…



Again, we’re talking one billion viewers, the biggest audience ever for a climate change message. That makes its inclusion, it says here, the most important moment in the Green-Sports movement’s history.

And there is a “long tail” to the story, as Saturday is replete with major media coverage of the Climate Change Opening Ceremonies (my term): Huffington PostMashable, New York Times and The Guardian weighed in from the left side of the news spectrum.’s sports media reporter Richard Deitsch dove in approvingly. mentioned the climate change story. NewsCorp’s right-leaning Wall Street Journal and New York Post each mentioned the environmental portion of the program, albeit in passing in the Post’s case. Given both papers’ general skepticism and denial of climate change, I consider their uncritical coverage a small victory.


Kudos to the producers of the Opening Ceremonies and to the Brazilian organizers of these games for making a powerful climate change statement to the world. GreenSportsBlog will reach out to organizers of future mega events, including Super Bowl LI in Houston, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2018 World Cup in Russia, to see if they plan to build on the foundation the producers in Rio laid down.


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