Greening the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Seattle

How great is it when an iconic cause-based event like the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games embraces another cause — in this case, environmental sustainability? We’re talking really great.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with the sustainability team for Special Olympics USA 2018 Seattle — Karlan Jessen, Director of Volunteers and Sustainability; David Muller, Sustainability Consultant; and Tim Reeve, Sustainability Advisor — to find out how it came together, what worked well and what could’ve been better.

 

It was about a year before the July 1, 2018 Opening Ceremonies for the Special Olympics USA Games Seattle took place at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus, and an environmental sustainability plan was nowhere in sight.

And, since there had never been a sustainability effort at any of the three prior quadrennial USA Games, the odds were that Green would not be a part of the 2018 version.

Karlan Jessen, David Muller and Tim Reeve collectively and figuratively said “to heck with those odds,” and formed a Sustainability All-Star team of sorts. They created and implemented a greening program in what had to be record time.

 

Special Olympics Karlan_Headshot

Karlan Jessen (Photo credit: Karlan Jessen)

 

Special Olympics David Muller and Tim Reeve

David Muller (l) and Tim Reeve at the University of Washington (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

Jessen’s experience owning two used sporting goods stores, managing bicycle tours and running events made her an ideal pick for the Director of Volunteers and Sustainability role. Muller has deep experience consulting on sustainable events, focusing on environmental impact mitigation and positive social impact. And the Vancouver-based Reeve heads Reeve Consulting Group, a sustainability advisory firm. He’d worked with the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on sustainability and responsible sourcing issues.

 

“I THOUGHT THERE SHOULD BE A SUSTAINABILITY EFFORT SO I RAISED MY HAND”

As general planning for the Seattle Special Olympics got started in earnest, Jessen started to get questions about sustainability from some of the event’s existing corporate partners. “ESPN in particular asked about what could be done. Nothing was being planned at the time” Jessen recalled. “I thought there should be a sustainability effort, and even though we only had a year or so to make it happen, I raised my hand. I knew David from our sustainability studies at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (which later merged with Presidio Graduate School), so it was natural to team up with him.” It wasn’t long before Reeve joined to make the group a triumvirate.

The team quickly established a plan that was made up of six sustainability pillars. Four were environmentally focused, while the other two fall in the social portion of the broad Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) definition of sustainability:

Environmental Pillars

  1. Waste/Recycling
  2. Transportation
  3. Food/Beverage
  4. Sourcing

Social Pillars

  1. Accessibility/Inclusion
  2. Legacy/Education

Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond and the title sponsor of the 2018 USA Games, quickly bought into the social pillars. “Education and legacy were very important to Microsoft,” Jessen noted. “Inclusion, especially fair hiring practices, also was a big deal to them. And when you think about it, the Special Olympics demonstrates inclusion by its very existence!”

“Education and legacy was a home run,” chimed in Reeve. ”

 

BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL SUCCESSES: WASTE AND TRANSPORTATION

The environmental sustainability portion was more challenging. The success stories came from waste and transportation.

“Our waste-to-recycling program and food donations programs worked really well, thanks in large part to the University of Washington food service team,” reported Reeve. “Recycling is one of the most highly visible examples of a greening program at a sports event so we had to get that right. And we did.”

 

Special Olympics Green Team Volunteers success story

Green Team Volunteers sorting recycling, compost, and food donations (Photo credit: Tim Reeve)

 

Coca-Cola pitched in by bringing their reverse vending machines to the event. Fans and athletes would put empty plastics into the machine and a 5¢ donation would be made to Special Olympics for each donation. Per Muller, “Final numbers were not made public but it’s safe to say that thousands of bottles were recaptured.”

“Transportation was also a big win — that’s where we saw the biggest greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” added Muller. “The University of Washington was a great set up — it’s compact, very walkable and is located on a transit route. There is a robust bike share infrastructure at UW. Energy efficient shuttles ferried athletes and their families to and from events. And Lyft provided discounted as well as free ride sharing.”

 

Special Olympics Light Rail

Athletes and coaches taking light rail to T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) for the Special Olympics’ Night at the Ballpark (Photo credit: Cori Dixon)

 

The nearly 4,000 athletes and their families noticed Seattle’s greening efforts around the Special Olympics.

“We had numerous conversations with athletes and their families during the Special Olympics and they were really impressed by the city’s commitment to making this a green event,” recalled Reeve. “A sustainability passport was provided for the athletes for things like transportation so they were involved with the greening effort almost as soon as they arrived in the city.”

In a survey conducted after the Special Olympics among athletes and their families by Brian McCullough of Seattle University showed that 60 percent said, “My attitude toward environmental sustainably has improved due to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games initiatives.”

 

TIME WAS THE SUSTAINABILITY TEAM’S BIGGEST ENEMY

Here’s a note to the leadership group that is organizing the 2022 Special Olympics USA for Orlando: Jessen, Muller and Reeve agreed that a year was not nearly enough time to maximize the effectiveness of a sustainability plan.

“Lack of time really challenged us in terms of getting buy-in on the value proposition of a robust sustainability effort from the CEO and Executive Committee,” noted Reeve. “That kind of early support would have been crucial in terms of being woven into the budgeting and sourcing processes, as well as securing sustainability-focused sponsors. That would have helped us on food donation, signage and more.”

The team had a plan to offset emissions but there was no budget for it.

“About 90 percent of event emissions came from air travel,” Muller said. “We were looking at offset costs ranging from $25,000-$60,000 but there was no budget for it. Had we started earlier, we certainly could’ve found a partner to fund the offsets.”

What kind of time frame would be ideal to develop and manage an effective sustainability effort at a Special Olympics?

Consider that planners for the FIFA 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA will have eight years to get sustainability right, and the organizers at the LA 2028 Olympics will have had eleven years since being award the Games in 2017.

Now, no one is saying that the Special Olympics USA is of a similar scale as those two mega events.

Given that’s the case, what is the ideal length of time to put a sustainability plan in place that the team would be proud of?

The verdict was unanimous:

“Three years!,” said Judges Jessen, Muller and Reeve.

 

 


 

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Dominic Thiem, World’s 4th Ranked Tennis Player Makes His Mark as Eco-Athlete

Dominic Thiem has steadily moved towards the top of the men’s tennis rankings, currently residing at number four, just below the legendary trio of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Many tennis observers think that 2019 will be the year Austrian breaks through and wins his first Grand Slam tournament.

If so, casual tennis fans will learn what real aficionados already know — that Thiem is an eco-athlete.

 

DOMINIC THIEM WRITES A UNIQUE GREEN-SPORTS STORY — ON CAMERA LENSES

If you are not a serious tennis fan you might not be familiar with Dominic Thiem (pronounced TEAM).

You should be, for both on- and off-court reasons.

Thiem is currently the fourth ranked player in the men’s game, trailing only #1 Novak Djokovic, #2 Rafa Nadal, and #3 Roger Federer. And since the three legends above him are between six and twelve years his senior, Thiem is in a very promising spot.

The first part of 2019 has been very good for the 25-year-old Austrian. He won the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, beating Federer in the final. And last week, he reached the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, defeating Federer in a terrific quarterfinal before falling to eventual champion Djokovic. Thiem has the all-surface game that make him a threat at the three remaining 2019 grand slam championships, starting in two weeks with the French Open at Paris’ Roland Garros.

Off the court, Thiem has become one of men’s tennis’ foremost eco-athletes, along with world #8 Kevin Anderson. Both have honed in on the plastic ocean waste issue.

Thiem supports the work of 4Ocean, a nonprofit founded by two surfers that removes plastics from the oceans and other waterways. It sustains itself by selling bracelets made from that waste. 4Ocean reports that, in just two years, they and their teams of fishermen and others, have removed over four million pounds of trash from the oceans and coastlines.

 

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, the world’s eighth ranked men’s tennis player, sports four bracelets made from ocean waste by 4Oceans (Photo credit: Polygram)

 

In addition to donning the 4Ocean bracelets, Thiem has used a yellow marker to great effect in publicizing his passion for cleaning up the oceans.

 

Dominic Thiem Play Ocean

 

Signing a television camera lens has been a thing for winners of tennis matches for the better part of two decades. The networks almost always give air time to these signatures. Thiem has taken to signing camera lenses around the world with a “Play For the Ocean” message. The image above (Photo credit: Amazon Prime) was taken immediately after he won the championship at Indian Wells.

While we don’t have TV ratings data for either tournament, it’s safe to say that the Play For The Ocean message has reached millions. That number stands to increase dramatically should Thiem make a deep run in Paris.

 

GSB’s Take: Dominic Thiem’s practice of signing “Play For The Ocean” on a TV camera after winning a match — while seeming like a small, cute thing — is actually a big deal.

Tennis is one of the world’s five most popular spectator sports so having a Top Five player make a clear, positive statement on behalf of environmental action can seep into fan consciousness. By signing “Play For The Ocean” every time he wins a match, Thiem is building frequency for his message. This is crucial for building awareness “Play For The Ocean” among tennis fans, which will ultimately help the message break through.

Hopefully, we’re not that far away from Thiem or another top player writing something like “Price Carbon” or “Act On Climate” on a camera lens after every win.

 


 

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Two More UN Sports for Climate Action Signees: U of Colorado Athletics and AEG

The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework has had a great month, USA-sports-wise. After gaining commitments from the New York Yankees and the NBA, the Framework added the University of Colorado’s athletics department, on of the leaders at the intersection of Green & College Sports, and AEG, the world’s #1 sports and entertainment venue owner/manager.

 

U OF COLORADO BECOMES FIRST COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT TO SIGN ON TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK

The University of Colorado Buffaloes last week became the first college/university athletics department in the USA to commit to the UN’s Sports For Climate Action agreement and its two main objectives:

  1. Achieve a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change
  2. Leverage sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.

GreenSportsBlog readers will not be surprised.

The Buffaloes have been Green-College Sports trail blazers for more than a decade, dating back to the 2008 launch of the groundbreaking Ralphie’s Green Stampede sports-sustainability program. Since then, CU Athletics:

  • Became the first major college sports program to implement a zero waste program at all of its game day venues.
  • Earned LEED Platinum certification in 2016 for a major athletics facilities upgrade thanks in part to a net-zero-energy Indoor Practice Facility that boasts an 850-kilowatt rooftop solar array. Its basketball and volleyball practice facility was also built to LEED Platinum standards.
  • Pushed to reduce the use of pesticides on turf fields.

 

Folsom Field

Aerial view of Folsom Field (r), home of University of Colorado Buffaloes football; Franklin Field, and the solar-powered Indoor Practice Facility in the foreground. (Photo credit: University of Colorado Athletics)

 

“We’re thrilled to be an early adopter of the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said CU Athletic Director Rick George. “This is consistent with the leadership and excellence expected by CU Boulder students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans as we confront the critical issue of climate change.”

Dave Newport, Director of CU’s Environmental Center, sees the Athletics Department’s decision to join the Framework as just one more example of college sports’ unique ability to accelerate the Green-Sports movement’s impact.

“All college sports are the ‘front porch of the university’ as the saying goes,” Newport noted. “When a college sports team goes big on green, they elevate and leverage that college’s or university’s very considerable educational, research, and cultural climate impacts.”

 

Dave Newport

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

 

GSB’s Take: Hopefully, CU Athletics’ decision to sign on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework will lead other already-greening college athletics departments to do the same. College sports, with its many millions of fans, and universities more broadly, with their many thousands of students studying climate change and other environmental topics, form an ideal petri dish for Green-Sports innovation. I’m sure CU Athletics will benefit from being part of Sports for Climate Action, and Sports for Climate Action will certainly benefit from having CU Athletics on board.

 

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT GIANT AEG ALSO JOINS “SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION” ROSTER

The impact of getting the commitment of AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment organization, to sign on to Sports For Climate Action, is much bigger than signing up one company.

That is because these AEG-owned teams also signed on, becoming the first in their respective leagues to do so:

And the company’s Amgen Tour of California — the state’s premiere bike race on the UCI World Tour and — also committed to the Framework, as did AEG Rugby.

“AEG is proud to support the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said John Marler, Vice President of Energy and Environment, AEG. “Given our recently adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal – which aligns with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – this is a natural next step for our sports teams that will complement our existing efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and to raise awareness about this critical global challenge.”

 

Marler

John Marler, AEG’s Vice President of Energy and Environment (Photo credit: AEG)

 

UN Head of Global Climate Action, Niclas Svenningsen happily welcomed AEG to the fold, noting that the company “has built significant global trust and moral leadership, and – because sports touch on every cross-section of society – drives positive change throughout the world.”

 

GSB’s Take: The most important nugget in the AEG-Sports For Climate Action story for me is the company’s decision to tie its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions goals to those of the Paris Climate Agreement’s target.

To be clear, if companies and governments only achieve the Paris targets, the world still will not have gotten to the levels of GHG reductions necessary.

But Paris is an important starting goal. The hope is that AEG and many other companies in all industries will not only make their Paris-based targets, but blow by them.

 


 

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NBA Signs On To UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework; Who’s Got Next?

The UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Framework has gotten some serious traction from the US sports world recently. Last month, the New York Yankees became the first pro sports team to sign on to the framework. And yesterday, the NBA became the first pro league to make the commitment.

 

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced yesterday that the NBA had become the first pro sports league in the US to sign on to its Sports for Climate Action initiative.

 

NBA UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s tweet announcing that the NBA signed on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework

Launched in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

The Framework welcomes the NBA to its impressive list of A-List early adapters, including FIFA, the IOC, Fédération Française de Tennis, FFT, and the New York Yankees. Signatories commit to support Sport for Climate Action’s five core principles:

 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  2. Reduce overall climate impact
  3. Educate for climate action
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

With its massive global fan base and its particular popularity among millennials and Gen-Z’ers, the NBA is a terrific get for the Framework. According to the league:

  • The NBA has 150 million followers on social media
  • One billion people around the world have access to the NBA Finals
  • It is the most popular sports league in China, where over 300 million people play basketball
  • The NBA, in collaboration with FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, will launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 12 countries¹ in January

Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework is certainly the biggest green step taken by the league to date. Its sustainability foundation has largely been built by forward-leaning teams and a smattering of eco-athletes:

  • The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center became the world’s first arena to earn LEED Platinum certification.

 

Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings (Photo credit: Sacramento Kings)

 

  • Portland’s Trail Blazers have hosted five “Green Games” per season at the Moda Center since 2015. The club invites its fans to take an active part in its efforts to be more environmentally conscious and to help reach a set of green goals (around energy, waste, food, water, and transportation) at the arena by 2025.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals-bound Milwaukee Bucks, along with four other NBA players, launched Hoops₂O to teach East Africans to dig wells for fresh water.

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to the NBA for joining the Sports for Climate Action Framework. Given the NBA’s brand image — cool, progressive, cutting edge — GSB will explore in the coming months if this commitment will be the beginning of a full-throated approach to the climate change fight from commissioner Adam Silver, its teams, sponsors and more of its players. I may sound like a broken record but, per the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity has 12 years to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.

 

 

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA (Photo credit: NBA)

 

Beyond basketball, in the parlance of playground hoops, the question becomes “Who’s Got Next?” — as in which leagues and events will join the NBA in signing on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework. I am surprised the NHL, the only league to issue a sustainability report — it has done so twice — has not joined the Framework. Hopefully that will change soon. The US Tennis Association, which has a very strong greening track record, seems like a logical signee sometime before the US Open starts in August.

You may ask, “What about the NFL, MLB, and MLS?”

Great question. Whaddya say, commissioners Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB), and Don Garber (MLS)? 

 

¹ Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be represented in BAL

 


 

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Severe Flooding Forces Davenport, Iowa Minor League Baseball Club on the Road for Weeks

The historic and deadly flooding that has crippled the Midwest through the winter and into the spring, and caused billions of dollars in damage to farms and infrastructure, has forced Davenport, Iowa’s minor league baseball team to the road for most of the six week old season.

 

In “Field of Dreams,” the iconic 1989 film homage to fathers, sons and small-town baseball, the long-deceased Shoeless Joe Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, reappears in uniform on a field that’s bordered by acres of corn. Protagonist Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, an anonymous, baseball-loving farmer, had built the field in his backyard to somehow attract his deceased dad, a one-time minor leaguer, from the great beyond.

Thanks to time travel and poetic license, Shoeless Joe, two teams worth of early 20th century baseball greats, and Ray’s dad all emerged from the corn fields as young men to play a game. Kinsella and his younger-than-himself dad famously played catch and then the young-but-deceased ballplayers returned to from whence they came, walking back into the corn.

Shoeless Joe was the last to go.

Before disappearing into the corn, he famously asked Ray, “Is this heaven?”

Ray’s reply? “No, it’s Iowa”

 

 

 

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS IN FIRST PLACE, DESPITE AN UN-HEAVENLY, FLOOD RAVAGED EARLY SEASON

Residents of Davenport and other sections of Eastern Iowa that abut the Mississippi River might use a descriptor other than heavenly to describe the prolonged, massive flooding that has persisted since winter.

The river’s rising waters, which are forecast to affect millions across as many as 25 states through the summer, have made it impossible for the Quad City River Bandits, Davenport’s Class A minor league baseball club affiliated with the Houston Astros, to play at home for most of the season’s first six weeks.

That the team is somehow in first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division after 30 games played mostly on the road is astounding. They’ve been Road Warriors because they can’t access their stadium as it is surrounded by water.

Modern Woodmen Park, the River Bandit’s home field, is saved from floodwaters by a levee system. It can be reached during some floods, thanks to a 21 foot high catwalk. But that was not enough to deal with the record-high water that hit 22.64 feet on May 2nd, the day after a flood wall unexpectedly broke, according to the National Weather Service.

 

River Bandits Stadium

Modern Woodmen Park and downtown Davenport is seen from the air as flood waters flowed into the city on Wednesday, May 1. A flood wall broke the day before, sending water to near record levels with little to no warning (Photo credit: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register)

 

Per a May 4 story by Phil McCausland on nbcnews.com, that means “the players are unable to practice regularly, stadium employees have had to find other jobs and the team has known little else than the road for most of the season.”

“They have had three practices at our field,” general manager Jacqueline Holm told McCausland. “They’ve barely been on the field. It’s been difficult for them to do anything. We’ve basically had to use the team bus as a clubhouse and storage unit.”

Davenport, with a population of 103,000, has in fared better than most other towns along the Mississippi’s most flood-prone sections, thanks to a unique flood protection system.

McCausland noted that many towns along the Mississippi River have built flood walls to protect against rising waters, but Davenport has gone in a different direction for decades. Instead, it has worked to build flood-resistant buildings and created a riverwalk area around the ballpark that can accommodate the additional water. A temporary berm system can also be built when necessary.

“We have embraced the Mississippi River,” Frank Klipsch, Davenport’s mayor since 2016, said. “It has become more and more popular to take on this kind of resiliency plan because if we put up a wall, it makes it worse for communities further downriver.”

 

Image: Davenport Iowa Flooding
Ryan Lincoln maneuvers his boat through flood waters on May 2, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa (Photo credit: 
Kevin E. Schmid/Quad-City Times via Zuma Press)

 

Some unlucky business owners saw multiple feet of water flow into their restaurants and storefronts last week when a temporary levee, which had already stood for 40 days this year, suddenly broke.

This kind of flooding is not something most of the River Bandits players, most in their late teens to early 20s, could have imagined. It makes their already difficult road to reaching the major leagues even tougher.

Manager Ray Hernandez praised his young players’ resiliency and ability to maintain focus despite the challenges. But the first-year skipper admitted he didn’t have all the answers.

“Even if it was my 15th season managing, I don’t know if I would know how to handle this,” Hernandez told McCausland. “I mean, who would I even call to ask and get advice?”

 

MINOR LEAGUE SPORTS PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO EXTREME WEATHER

It stands to reason that minor league teams, no matter the sport, are much more susceptible to the harsh effects of extreme weather and climate change than their wealthier major league counterparts.

A number of lower division English football/soccer clubs have been buffeted by flooding in recent years. In some cases, the impacts have bordered on the existential.

Andrew Gate, writing in the April 30 issue of Ecologistcited these examples:

  • Sixth tier Gloucester City AFC have yet to have a permanent stadium after floods destroyed their former home Meadow Park in 2007. A plan was approved on May 3 to build a new venue on the same site.
  • Flooding nearly meant the end of 127-year old Tadcaster Albion, currently playing in the eighth tier, not once, but twice. Water completely submerged the club’s Ings Lane Stadium in 2015 and again this March. The club’s press officer Jay Taylor noted that the club faces an uncertain future if such flooding happens again.

 

Ings Lane

Flooding submerged Tadcaster Albion’s Ings Lane Stadium in March (Photo credit: Tadcaster Albion)

 

  • Ramsbottom United, also in the eighth tier, has had to battle back from flooding twice, in 2012 and 2015 their home was completely submerged. Club Secretary Tony Cunningham told Gate that, “In 2015, the dressing rooms, the teabar and even the elevated Sponsors Lounge were submerged. It took us well over £40,000 ($US52,010 today) to get the club back up and running.”

 

For a club in the lower reaches of English football, an unexpected £40,000 hit can be crushing. Ramsbottom United, thanks to prudent management, has been able to withstand the flood-related costs until now.

But there are no guarantees going forward.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Eco-QB Josh Rosen Keeps Up Climate Fight; Green Sports Alliance “Plays for Next Generation”; Netherlands’ Get-Paid-to-Bike-to-Work Scheme Spreads

Happy Friday! In our TGIF GSB News & Notes column:

— The trade of quarterback Josh Rosen was one of the biggest stories to come out of last weekend’s NFL Draft. Post-draft, Rosen’s climate and environmental activism somehow became linked to the trade, at least on social media.

— Meanwhile, the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform received a huge boost when the Green Sports Alliance agreed to sign on.

— And the Netherlands continues its environmental leadership by paying people to ride their bikes to work. 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE COMES UP IN SOCIAL MEDIA DISCUSSION OF JOSH ROSEN TRADE

There were two bizarre aspects to the trade of quarterback Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals to the Miami Dolphins during the second round of last weekend’s NFL Draft in Nashville.

#1 The Arizona Cardinals selected quarterbacks in the first round two years in a row, something that has only happened once before in NFL history¹.

In 2018, the Cardinals moved up in the first round to choose Rosen with the tenth overall pick. Given the high value of that pick, Rosen was seen as the future of the franchise. That future lasted one frazzled season — his surrounding cast was weak, the UCLA product struggled, the team ended up with the worst record in the league, the coaching staff was fired, a new coach was hired, and the new head man professed unabashed love for Kyler Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winning QB from the University of Oklahoma.

As a reward for having the worst record in the NFL, Arizona owned the first overall pick in the draft, and they used it grab Murray.

That meant Rosen had to go and the Dolphins, with one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, were happy to grab him for only a second round draft choice.

#2 Rosen’s interest in climate change and the environment became a rationale for Arizona’s desire to get rid of him.

The Rosen trade went down last Friday, the second day of the three-day draft. This tweet went up on Monday:

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 2.40.37 PM

 

WQAM is a Miami sports talk radio station.

Rosen’s interest in the environment seemingly plays into one of the main criticisms about him: Too smart for his own good, always questions things, wants to understand the why of everything.

Color me crazy, but all of those critiques sound like strengths.

And how does an interest in the environment have anything to do with the way Rosen actually plays quarterback? I’m sure he is not thinking about the parts-per-million of CO₂ in the atmosphere as he’s about to get clobbered by a posse of hungry and angry defenders.

Back to Twitter.

A couple hours after the first tweet, Rosen was quoted in another, reacting to the media kerfuffle that resulted from his decision to unfollow the Cardinals on Instagram after they drafted Kyler Murray to replace him.

 

JOSH ROSEN 1

 

Parley for the Oceans is a non-profit that partners with adidas to produce apparel and footwear made from plastic ocean waste.

Rosen nailed the idiocy of people getting annoyed that he unfollowed the Cardinals, generating free publicity for Parley’s important work cleaning the oceans at the same time.

While the jury is still out on Rosen as an NFL quarterback — he had a statistically awful rookie season but, as mentioned above, he was stuck in a bad situation, including playing behind a leaky offensive line in Arizona — it is clear he knows his stuff when it comes to climate change.

Here’s a quote from Rosen in the run-up to the draft a little more than a year ago that shows he is an eco-athlete to watch:

One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.

Being traded to a quarterback-needy team located in sea level rise-threatened South Florida could be a win-win; for the Dolphins and the climate change fight.

 

GSB’s Take: I’m seriously conflicted here.

On the one hand, I love that Rosen is an eco-athlete who actually talks about the environment and climate change in public. If he does well on the field and continues to speak out on climate off of it, that will be a very good and important thing indeed.

On the other hand, I’m a New York Jets diehard. They and the Dolphins are big rivals so cheering for Miami has never been an option. And in last year’s draft, the Jets picked a rookie quarterback of their own in the first round. Sam Darnold of USC showed flashes of potential to be their first franchise signal caller since the days of Joe Willie Namath a (very long) half century ago. So he and Rosen will also be rivals for perhaps the next 10-15 years.

What to do?

I can’t switch from the Jets and Darnold — that’s too ingrained in my DNA. But aside from the two annual Jets-Dolphins matchups, I will pull for Josh Rosen.

 

GREEN SPORTS ALLIANCE ENCOURAGES MEMBERS TO COMMIT TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK VIA “PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION”

The Green Sports Alliance marked Earth Week by launching “Playing for the Next Generation,” a campaign designed to encourage its members and partners to commit to the United Nation’s Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The Framework, which the UN kicked off in December, is buttressed by five overarching principles: 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
  2. Reduce overall climate impact;
  3. Educate for climate action;
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption;
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication.

Sports for Climate Action’s charter members represent a Who’s Who of sports governing bodies, leagues and events, including the International Olympic Committee, Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, French Tennis Federation (Roland Garros), International Sailing Federation, World Surf League, and Formula E.

Forest Green Rovers, the English League Two football club and, it says here, the greenest team in sports, is also a charter member. And, as reported in GreenSportsBlog on April 23, the New York Yankees became the first North American sports organization to sign a pledge to support Sports for Climate Action.

Yankees Earth Day

The Yankees’ Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony on April 21 commemorated the club’s commitment to operate by the tenets of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform. From left to right, it’s Doug Behar, Yankees Director of Operations; Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary General; Yankees manager Aaron Boone, and Allen Hershkowitz, Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

Now the Alliance has stepped up to encourage its 500+ members, including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL, to commit to the Framework.

“The Alliance recognizes the vital need for the sports industry to address climate change and play a significant role in combatting it,” said Roger McClendon, Executive Director of the Alliance. “By supporting this Framework, sports teams are committing to work collaboratively with peers, sponsors, fans, and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”  

GSB’s Take: The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework just got a big momentum boost with the addition of the Green Sports Alliance to its roster. The Alliance will no doubt promote support of the Framework to its many members. GSB expects to see 1) Alliance members large and small sign on, and 2) Sports for Climate Action to get a lot of attention at the Alliance’s annual Summit in Philadelphia in June. As for the Framework’s five principles, GSB hopes the Alliance and its members put particular emphasis on #3 (Educate for climate action) and #5 (Advocate for climate action through communication).

DUTCH WORKERS GET PAID FOR COMMUTING TO WORK; NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES GET INTO THE ACT

The Netherlands is a Green-Sports leader.

Ajax (AH-Yax), the country’s top soccer club with 25 first division championships and a contender for the European Champions League title this season, has deployed a Nissan Leaf storage battery at Amsterdam ArenA

But it is at the grassroots level where the country’s Green-Sports leadership really shines through. Consider these two factoids:

  1. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands;
  2. Bikes account for almost half of all journeys between home and work in  Amsterdam. 

Yes, the pervasiveness of bike paths makes commuting on two wheels safe. And the country’s flat terrain makes it easy for people to get around on their bikes. But, according to a story by Sean Fleming in weforum.org, the Dutch government gives the public a helpful leg up on to their bikes in the form of tax credits.

Every kilometer cycled to and from work can earn a Dutch citizen up to an extra 22¢US tax-free. And this is no longer unique to the Netherlands: A similar incentive is now available to bike commuters in neighboring Belgium. 

Netherlands

Commuters are paid to ride their bikes to work in the Netherlands (Photo credit: Yves Herman/Reuters)

I know what you’re thinking: “What about the third Low Country, Lew? What about Luxembourg?!”

Not to worry. Luxembourg workers can take advantage of a $340 tax rebate to be used to buy a bicycle.

France, clearly looking to their Low Country counterparts, will enact a cycle-to-work reimbursement program next year.

While Great Britain is trying to figure out how to (Br)exit the EU, their Cycle to Work program mimics their counterparts (for now) on the continent. The UK operates a lease-to-own model allowing employees to get discounted bikes and equipment through their employer.

The employer buys the bike and leases it to the employee. Monthly lease payments are deducted before taxes, resulting in an after-tax savings of 32 percent for most taxpayers. A mileage allowance is also available for British cyclists who use their bikes for business purposes.

What about the USA?

Fleming reports there are “a range of tax breaks aimed at commuters in the US, too, including a $20 per month allowance for cycling expenses. However, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (aka “The Trump Tax Cuts”) changed all that and cycling costs can no longer be deducted from pre-tax pay, effectively making it a little more expensive for some American cyclists.”

GSB’S Take: GSB is not surprised the Netherlands leads on providing incentives for bike commuting. After all, with much of its coastline lying below sea level, the country has by necessity led the world in developing technologies to fight climate change-caused sea level rise. Sadly we are also not surprised that the Trump Tax Cut law made it less rewarding financially for American cyclists.

¹ The Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts selected Ohio State’s Art Schlichter in the first round in the 1982 draft and then chose John Elway out of Stanford with the first overall pick of the 1983 draft.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Chris Mazdzer, US Olympic Medal-winning Luger & Eco-Athlete

Chris Mazdzer is a true pioneer.

He became the first American male to win an Olympic medal in Single’s luge when he took home silver at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. And he is leading a burgeoning movement among world class lugers to engage fans on the climate change fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Mazdzer about his work on the luge track and as an environmental activist.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris, before we get into your very important work with your fellow lugers on the environment and on climate, I’d like to know how you got into the sport in the first place.

Chris Mazdzer: Thanks, Lew. So I grew up in Peru, New York near Lake Placid…

GSB: …Site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” — “Do you believe in miracles?? YES!!!!” — and one of the few places in the U.S. with a bobsled/luge run.

Chris: That would be the place. I was exposed to luge at eight years old and it was natural for me. I loved sledding — would go sledding through apple orchards for hours. Luge was like ultimate sledding for me. Anyway, I showed some talent for it at a young age. I was on a development team when I was 12; at 13, I showed enough promise that I was picked for a junior team that went to Europe for a competition.

GSB: Sliding down a sheet of ice on your back, with no protection. Yikes! I guess when you’re young, you’re more likely to be fearless, right? How come you picked luge over bobsled?

Chris: First of all there were many more kids bobsledding so there was a long line and not as many runs. Plus you’re only driving 50 percent of the time — that’s really where the action is. And luge was just SO MUCH FUN! It’s as simple as this: two runs with bobsled or ten with luge. Anyways, when I was 17, I was having a breakout season and tried out for the Olympic team for the 2006 Torino Games. I missed the last spot by 0.161 seconds total over three runs; lost out to my roommate.

GSB: You must’ve been devastated…

Chris: …Disappointed but not at all devastated. It gave me motivation and the confidence to really believe, “Hey, I can do this!” So I made the team in 2010, finishing 13th in Vancouver. Same thing happened in 2014 in Sochi. Finally, I broke through last year in Pyeongchang, winning silver

GSB …In the process, becoming the first American male luger to win a medal of any kind in singles. Congratulations! Do you compete in doubles?

 

Chris Mazdzer

Chris Mazdzer (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 

Chris: Thank you, Lew. I did doubles in juniors but ended up specializing in singles, until now that is. My goal is to give the Olympics one more shot in Beijing in 2022, both in singles and for the first time in doubles.

GSB: How about medaling in both? Not to put any pressure on you or anything like that! OK, now pivoting to the environment. How did you get involved?

Chris: I’m 30 years-old. Growing up in the Adirondacks and being involved in winter sports, I’ve seen changes to our winters just in the time that I’ve been active. From bigger thaws to more rain during winter when it would normally snow. But it’s not just in winter. I travel a lot — I was in Indonesia and saw massive amounts of plastic on the beaches, in the oceans. I live in Salt Lake City these days, and the air quality is really, really bad. I don’t need the science to tell me — it’s clear, the climate is changing, the environment is worsening and it is humans that are helping to cause these adverse effects. And studying the science only confirms this. Without a doubt.

GSB: So what did you do, what are you doing to have an impact?

Chris: Well, I started out looking to offset the carbon emissions for which I’m responsible from all my flights. But, because I fly over 150,000 miles per year, that becomes quite costly. So I try to offset at least half for now. But then I became an athlete member on the International Luge Federation (FIL), sitting on a lot of committees. And I realized this is where I could have an impact! We’re starting small, working to have reusable cups at major competitions. But then I saw a video featuring several skiers at the World Championships in Finland, talking about why they love winter and why it’s important to take action on climate to protect it. I thought to myself, ‘We could do something similar.’ People don’t believe politicians; they don’t believe scientists. Who do they trust? Their peers and athletes! Scary but true: They trust athletes more than scientists. Thing is, athletes generally don’t engage on climate. And so I aimed to change that, at least with lugers.

GSB: You’ve put yourself on the hot seat, Chris: Qualify for the Olympics and getting athletes — in this case — lugers to care about and talk about climate. How are you doing the latter?

Chris: Well, I started in January by putting together a seminar for lugers competing at the 2019 World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. I was able to secure funding from one of my personal sponsors and brought in an expert and amazing speaker, Michael Pedersen of M Inc., a leader in sport governance. Tragically and unbelievably, Michael passed away suddenly a few weeks after our event due to a heart attack. He was 43.

GSB: I heard about that. What a tragic, unfathomable loss.

Chris: It’s still hard to believe. And his presentation to our group was incredible. He shared that athletes are in a unique position, with a powerful megaphone. He showed videos of people who’ve stood up and spoken up on a variety of issues, including climate, including Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish girl who recently was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for starting what has virally become a global student “climate strike” movement.. He did not focus on the science — the athletes are already on board there — but rather the need to use our platform to talk about the environment, whether it be climate, plastic ocean waste, pollution, etc.

 

Michael Pedersen

The late Michael Pedersen (Photo credit: M Inc.)

 

GSB: How did the lugers react and how many showed up?

Chris: Michael did such a great job — they really bought in. We had 15 lugers there. It was not as many as we would’ve liked but it was World Championship Week, the guys had to train, had media requirements so it was tough to get a bigger group. And it was a first time, so we learned a lot and am confident we’ll do better going forward.

GSB: How did you do on the track in Winterberg?

Chris: I only competed in doubles and doubles sprint this year due to a neck injury I sustained earlier in the week.  My partner Jayson Terdiman and I finished fifth in the Doubles sprint and eleventh in Doubles. Being it was our first year together I felt that we did we really well.

GSB: Good to hear. What else are you working on, sustainability-wise?

Chris: I’m working on the single use plastic issue among athletes and also with the IOC to see how they can help athletes reduce their carbon footprints. It’s a bigger issue than you might think — we get killed by some critics. Because of going from event to event all over the world, my carbon footprint is 10 to 15 times that of the average American. I think that finding creative ways to partner with the IOC, FIL and sponsors to help fund the offsetting of athlete travel-related emissions will allow athletes to stand on firmer ground when discussing this important topic.

 

Luge - Winter Olympics Day 1

Chris Mazdzer navigates Turn 14 at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 


 

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