GreenSportsBlogger Interviewed on Let’s Give A Damn Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Nashville-based Nick LaParra for his terrific “Let’s Give A Damn” podcast.

 

Nick LaParra is one cool, purposeful dude.

He has led non-profit organizations of all shapes and sizes. Now he helps leaders and organizations with their social impact, leadership development, and communications needs. Nick and his family live an über-minimalist lifestyle — “anytime we buy something like clothes or a toy, we have to give an older version of that ‘something’ away”.

And Nick’s “Let’s Give A Damn” podcast is a must-listen for those interested in the intersection of doing well and doing good.

 

Nick LaParra

Nick LaParra, host of the “Let’s Give A Damn” podcast (Photo credit: Nick LaParra)

 

So it was a great honor when Nick asked to interview me on “Lets’ Give A Damn” about my journey to the climate change fight and the Green-Sports world. We also spoke about how sports can best engage fans on environmental issues. Our conversation lasted almost two hours but don’t worry; Nick is a great editor so the podcast runs for a tight 45 minutes.

Click here to Give a Listen and ENJOY!

 


 

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The GSB Interview with Ann Duffy, Sustainability Leader for Olympic, FIFA World Cup Bids — Part II: Advancing Mega-Event Sustainability Post-Vancouver 2010; Where We Go From Here

Ann Duffy has been working at the intersection of mega-sports events and sustainability for more than a decade. She was hired as Chief Sustainability Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, Ann has been involved in some way, shape or form with the sustainability efforts for several of the Olympic/Paralympic bids, as well as with the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. No one is better positioned to talk about sustainability and mega sports events than Ann Duffy so GreenSportsBlog is honored to offer this two part interview.

In yesterday’s Part I, Ann shared how mega-sports events are in her blood, how she came to lead the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and what she and team were able to accomplish there.

Today, in Part II, we examine Ann’s post-Vancouver 2010 work with a variety of Olympic and FIFA World Cup bid and organizing committees. We also discuss what future bid and organizing committees can do to engage fans on climate change and other environmental issues.

 

GSB: Kudos to you and the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) team for advancing mega-event sustainability. What did you do for a follow up act once the Olympic Flame was doused?

Ann: Thanks! Like I said before, this was the best job I ever had. It was also incredibly intense. Once the Games were over I decided I didn’t want to work in such a cauldron. So in 2010, as my work with VANOC wound down, I started quietly to build The Ann Duffy Group as a sustainability-focused consultancy to mega-event bid and host committees, with an emphasis on the broader, ESG definition of sustainability. The organizing committee for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics reached out in June, 2010 and asked “Can you help us more fully reflect environmental, social and governance goals of the IOC?

GSB: I’m sure you could and did help them. My question is did the Russian authorities allow the sustainability plans to actually be implemented. Aside from the insanity, in my view, of awarding a Winter Olympics to a Mediterreanean-like city on the Black Sea, it sure looked like the Russian government engaged in a serious greenwash. Was that the case?

Ann: Well, I worked with the Sochi committee for one year until the fall of 2011. My experience with my Russian colleagues was incredible; they were totally committed. We put together a sustainability management system including an environmental protection program, a process for sustainable procurement, and a new sustainability reporting structure.

 

Duffy Sochi

Ann Duffy (2nd from right) and her colleagues at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Organizing Committee (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: They didn’t have one in place?

Ann: No. Sadly, the program didn’t get fully implemented and the sustainability team was terminated 18 months before the Games. It’s just different in Russia, obviously. I mean, there was no warning in the run up as to how they would turn on the LGBTQ communities the way they did.

GSB: That was awful…and not surprising.

Ann: Thankfully, Canada showed how it’s done by having a Pride House at Canada House in Sochi. And the Deputy Mayor of Vancouver at the time went to Thomas Bach, head of the IOC, and pressed him to ensure that the IOC would expand the Olympic Charter to address LGBTQ issues and they did. On sustainability, I worked on the IOC’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission as part of the development of its Agenda 2020 (a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement).

GSB: Good job, Ann; good job, Canada! And despite the problems with Sochi that were way beyond your control, congratulations on getting The Ann Duffy Group up and running quickly.

Ann: I was very blessed and very busy. From 2013 to 2015, I worked with the local organizing committees of three, count ’em three mega-events, all of which were happening in Canada in 2015.

GSB: I know about the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup; what were the other two?

Ann: The Canada Winter Games were held in Prince George, BC in February of that year. Then the FIFA Women’s World Cup were held across Canada^ in June-July. And then Toronto hosted the Pan Am Games in late July.

 

Women's World Cup

England (white) battles Mexico during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Photo credit: Zou Zheng/Xinhua)

 

GSB: That’s a mega-event trifecta right there! Did you get any sleep?

Ann: Not much. Especially when you factor in that, in 2013, I also was working on the sustainability aspects of Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, which ultimately went to Tokyo.

GSB: Talk about what you did for the 2015 Canada mega-event trifecta…

Ann: We built on the sustainability efforts of Vancouver 2010 with all three mega-events. The Canada Winter Games are by far the smallest, featuring younger, pre-Olympic athletes. We raised the green bar for all Canada Games going forward by improving sustainability practices, beefing up sustainability-related community engagement and issuing a sustainability report. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was a much bigger yet different animal…

GSB: How so?

Ann: Well, first of all, FIFA put greater emphasis on the Men’s World Cup. But that just meant we had to push extra hard and we did. We worked to leave a sport legacy with integrated environmental management processes and sport development opportunities for women and girls in each of the six host cities and national soccer association. The Pan Am Games were more focused on economic and social sustainability than the environment…

GSB: Why do you think that was the case?

Ann: It comes down to the opportunities and preferences of leadership, plain and simple.

GSB: I guess. But if mega-sports events are really going to lead on sustainability, what can be done to ensure environment and climate are never relegated to the sidelines again?

Ann: I think the prevalence of visible best practices in Europe and other host cities and stadia that demonstrate responsibility for climate impacts, waste impacts, water and biodiversity will help. Environmental stewardship and respect for human rights are now bid requirements for FIFA and Olympic bids. North American professional sports leagues like the NHL, NFL, MLS and MLB are demonstrating leadership. Stadium owners that have built or renovated stadia to green building standards like LEED are also leading on green operations and supporting community initiatives.

GSB: Speaking of leadership, what kind of sustainability projects do you like to lead more: Bids or organizing committees?

Ann: Good question. I guess I love both, but for different reasons. Creativity and “visioning” are crucial for bid work. Organizing committee work is also satisfying — it involves not only organizing and implementing but also coaching, and that means everyone from volunteers up to the C-suite.

GSB: Talking about bid work, you consulted with one of the most sustainable mega-event bids to date, LA 2028.

Ann: Actually, when I started working with them on sustainability it was the LA 2024 bid. But the IOC awarded Paris, another incredibly sustainable bid, those Games and slid LA to 2028. It was great to work with Brence Culp and the LA sustainability team.

GSB: Brence is terrific. GreenSportsBlog interviewed her awhile back.

 

Duffy Brence Culp Rio

Ann Duffy (l) and Brence Culp, head of sustainability for LA 2028 (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

Ann: LA 2028 is an example of what you can do sustainability-wise, when all the stakeholders get it: The city, county, state and local utilities were “all in”. So were the sponsors.

GSB: It doesn’t hurt when most of the venues for LA 2028 already exist…You recently worked on another bid in which no new venues are needed, the United Bid between Canada, Mexico and the US that won the right to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup over Morocco.

Ann: The environment, including climate change, along with community and fan engagement took central roles in both the United Bid and the LA 2028 bid. In addition to no new permanent venues, both have robust and sophisticated climate action plans that include new partnerships and collaboration with city and state utilities, public transit providers, stadia/venue owners. Host cities will showcase urban policies such as bold commitments to clean energy.

GSB: What was your role on the United Bid?

Ann: I was a sustainability-legacy advisor. It was a real sprint as the timeline was short but we were fortunate that FIFA had established a strong sustainability mandate.

GSB: They needed to do that, especially in light of the mega-laundry list of mega-problems with Qatar 2022: Human rights violations, indentured servitude, deaths of perhaps as many as 1,200 construction workers building eight stadiums in a country of only 2.5 million people, stadiums that will have air conditioning even though they’re outdoor venues because of the country’s extreme heat…What did the sustainability mandate, well, mandate for the 2026 bid?

Ann: It went deep, Lew. And the United Bid stepped up. GRI sustainability reporting, a climate action plan, ISO 2012-1 certification for sustainable events. Human rights, labor rights, ethical business conduct standards. Green Sports Alliance Board member Mary Harvey took the lead on human rights. I took the lead on the rest, working with the financial services firm Grant Thornton on ethical business and Arup, the global design and engineering firm, on some of the environmental aspects.

GSB: I’m so glad you and Mary were on the case and that the United Bid won the day. Now I’d like to widen the lens a bit. You’ve been involved in the greening of the Olympics and World Cups from the early days of Vancouver 2010 through LA 2028. My main concern, as it is with the whole of the Green-Sports movement, is that most fans — attendees and the much bigger number who watch on TV or online — have no idea this is going on. None.

Ann: Lew, I’m with you 100 percent! We need to do a much better job of using the platform of the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup to share the great greening stories with fans.

GSB: So how do we ensure this happens? If Rio 2016 could have a climate change-themed vignette at the Opening Ceremonies seen by an estimated 1 billion people, why didn’t Pyeongchang 2018 do something similar? Will Tokyo 2020 or Beijing 2022 communicate something on climate to fans?

Ann: Funny you mention Rio 2016. I helped on the Rio 2016 with communications during the actual Games.

GSB: I would be surprised if you weren’t involved with Rio!

Ann: I was fortunate to be at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies. When the powerful climate change vignette came on, I started bawling. Mainstreaming climate change messaging was so…powerful. Incredible, really.

 

Duffy Rio Open

Ann Duffy and her colleagues on the 2016 Rio Olympics Organizing Committee at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So how do we make sure that climate change vignette is not a one off?

Ann: Well, the Olympics…and all sport event hosts, frankly, are desperately trying gain relevance and traction with younger audiences…

GSB: …Millennials, GenZ and the rest…

Ann: And those young people want to have an exciting sport event experience. Young people expect responsible action that includes all of it — climate solutions, environmental solutions, diversity and ethical solutions. Sometimes these features will take the lead in the event experience and most of the time they will support the event experience. Mega-event hosts need to recognize this. Well executed, eco-themed fan engagement programs will go over well. Sponsor brands are already stepping up, as well. I am confident this will happen at Paris 2024, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and LA 2028.

SB: What about Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, and Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022?

Ann: I’d love to say “yes” to the engagement question with those events but it’s a bit complicated. I haven’t worked with any of those mega-events so what I know about them is from a distance. As far as Tokyo 2020 is concerned, I know that, from a technical innovation perspective, the Summer Games will be at the leading edge of sustainability, from energy efficiency to tree planting and much more. On the other hand, from what I’ve heard, on social aspects of sustainability like LGBTQ issues, they’re not so advanced. And on fan engagement issues, I don’t know what they’re going to do. I do know that Pyeongchang 2018 did not follow the lead of Rio and communicate their greenness to fans.

GSB: True. And based on my conversation with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee sustainability team, it seems, sadly, like they will be more like Pyeongchang than Rio in terms of fan engagement. I don’t have any intel on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and sustainability as yet…

Ann: …One thing I can say about China is that, as a country, it is stepping up on climate action nationally far more aggressively than the USA is. I don’t yet know of any specific action by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics…

GSB: …Maybe the Beijing Organizing Committee will surprise in a good way. Speaking of 2022, what are your thoughts, sustainability-wise, regarding the aforementioned Qatar FIFA World Cup?

Ann: The problems, human rights-wise and otherwise, have been horrible. And that Qatar was a weird choice in the first place given the size and climate of the country is an understatement. The one heartening thing is that, as we heard at the GSA Summit in June, there are some striking environmental innovations underway with the stadiums and the strong national commitment to renewable energy will be a part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

GSB: I hear what you’re saying, Ann, but I guess, as the expression goes, I’m from Missouri on Qatar: Show Me! At least it looks like environmental sustainability will play a big role at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and the LA 2028 Summer Games…What do you think?

Ann: Mega-events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cups generally have seven year planning cycles. The key from an environmental sustainability perspective is to develop an integrated set of environmental actions that tackle climate, water, waste, pollution and biodiversity all together throughout the planning cycle. For both Paris 2024 and LA 2028 I am confident we will see “net positive solutions.”

GSB: What does “net positive solutions” mean?

Ann: That hosts will be adding more environmental assets and benefits to their communities and host region than they consume.

GSB: I love that. Two things: 1. Paris and LA really should engage fans on “Net positive solutions” and 2. I only wish Pyeongchang, Tokyo, Beijing and Qatar went the “Net positive solutions,” mega-event route.

Ann: Well, we know we need bolder leadership on sustainability engagement, in all walks of life, from business to government to mega-events. The progress on engagement at mega-events won’t be linear but, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of mega-events is long but it bends towards sustainability and engagement.

GSB: Amen, Ann, AMEN!

 

Ann Duffy shares her thoughts on the intersection of sustainability, innovation and mega-sports events (3 mins 4 secs)

 

IN TUESDAY’S PART I: Ann shared the story of her beginnings as an Olympics-loving girl in Western Canada through her time leading the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

^ Edmonton, Moncton (New Brunswick); Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg were the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

 


 

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The GSB Interview with Ann Duffy, Sustainability Leader for Olympic, FIFA World Cup Bids — Part I: Born to Work on Olympic Bids; Leads Sustainability at Vancouver 2010

Ann Duffy has mega sports events bidding and organizing work in her DNA. Her dad was an advisor to her hometown of Calgary’s early bids to host the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Winter Games — the Alberta city eventually won the right to host the 1988 Games. Eighteen years later, Ann was hired as Chief Sustainability Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. She’s been involved in some way, shape or form with the sustainability efforts for several of the Olympic/Paralympic bids since then, as well as with the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. No one is better positioned to talk about sustainability and mega sports events than Ann Duffy so GreenSportsBlog is honored to offer this two-part interview.

In today’s Part 1, Ann shares how mega-sports events are in her blood and how she came to lead the groundbreaking sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

GreenSportsBlog: I doubt that there’s anyone on the planet who can say they have inherited Olympic bid work as a genetic trait except for you, Ann Duffy.

Ann Duffy: You may be right, Lew. If I’m not the only one, I know I’m a member of a very small club. I was born in Calgary. My dad, who was an alpine ski racer, worked on two Winter Olympics bids in the 1960s involving my hometown: Both were collaborations between Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary. They did not win. Then, in the early 80s, Calgary was ultimately successful in its bid to host the 1988 Games.

GSB: You had a front row seat to the ’88 bid!

Ann: Not only that; I just loved the Olympics! I OD’d on it on TV. And my family were all recreational athletes: Skiing, tennis, cycling, you name it.

 

Duffy Mexico City Oct

Ann Duffy, speaking at a sport and sustainability symposium in Mexico City in 2014 (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So the Olympics and Olympic bids are in your blood. What path did you take to make Olympic bid work, and sustainability in particular, a big part of your career?

Ann: I went to the University of Guelph in Ontario and majored in geography and environmental studies. Then I got a Masters in marketing communications at the University of Calgary with a focus on behavior change. I was there when Calgary hosted the 1988 Olympics, which was very exciting. A lot of us on campus volunteered and took in the Games. I was working at the business school on a study of the economic benefits of hosting mega sports events.

GSB: A hint of things to come…

 

Calgary 1988 Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics (Photo credit: Canadian Olympic Committee)

 

Ann: Next I moved to Switzerland and worked for the World Wide Fund for Nature – International (WWF) for four years in corporate communications and education. I lived in Lausanne…

GSB: …Home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Ann: Indeed! In fact, my jogging route often took me right by the IOC headquarters. I’d think to myself as I looked at the beautiful building, “How cool would it be to work with the IOC in some way.” Eventually, I moved to Vancouver and worked as a communications and environmental management consultant but that Olympics thought remained in my head. And there it stayed as I moved on to lead the sustainability practice with the engineering and project delivery firm CH2M.

GSB: The sustainability-minded firm with the strange name that works on everything from wastewater treatment to urban infrastructure to greenhouse gas management?

Ann: That would be CH2M. People there really cared about sustainability; it wasn’t just box checking. From about 2000 to 2006, I developed CSR strategy for big engineering projects. And CH2M has a sport events practice…

GSB: …Ahhh, that Olympics thing!

Ann: YES! And, from 2000 to 2003, Vancouver was deep into the bid process for the 2010 Winter Olympics. CH2M pitched the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on infrastructure planning for the bid. And, after Vancouver won the bid, VANOC hired me in 2006 to be the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)!

GSB: Fantastic!

Ann: Oh it was! And my dad, Dr. Patrick Duffy, was so proud!!!

GSB: He should’ve been! Ann: He even became a volunteer driver!

 

Duffy Asst Pops

Ann Duffy (r), her dad Patrick and her assistant Fiona Kilburn at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So what was it like to be CSO of the Vancouver Olympics?

Ann: Lew, it was the best job I’ve ever had — and I’ve had some great jobs — it was thrilling, really. And I was inspired and engaged every day I went to work.

GSB: I can imagine! So what did you work on as CSO?

Ann: Our broad goal was to put on a great, sustainable games. But some of what I worked on was quite nerdy and technical.

GSB: Hey, I’m nerdy and I’m sure many of our readers have technical chops so go for it!

Ann: OK! #1: I developed the sustainability management and reporting system for the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. We took a holistic view to embed sustainability into our approach to daily decision-making that included environment, social, economy and legacy. And we always kept in mind how we would communicate our sustainability efforts with stakeholders, critics, partners and others. #2: We worked very hard to make sure that any venues we built would be relevant to the host communities well after the Games.

GSB: No White Elephants coming out of Vancouver 2010!

Ann: Absolutely not. For example, the Richmond Olympic Oval was transformed from long-track speed skating right after the Games into a community recreational and sport training center. Everything from rugby to volleyball to wheelchair basketball to hockey is played there.

 

Canada's Lucas Makowsky celebrates after winning gold in the men's speed skating team pursuit DIMITAR DILKOFF : AFP:GETTY IMAGES

Canada’s Lucas Makowsky celebrates after winning gold in the men’s speed skating team pursuit at the Richmond Speed Skating Oval during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. (Photo credit: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Richmond Olympic Oval

The Richmond Oval today, set up for basketball (Photo credit: Richmond Oval)

 

GSB: I’m sure the people of Richmond are thrilled. Speaking of people, how many did you have on your sustainability team?

Ann: Our core staff ranged from eight to ten. We had socio-economic impact professionals, specialists in environmental management and communications who worked with other units departments including designers, architects, builders, operations folks…the gamut. My job was to collaborate and provide them with the information they needed so they could do their jobs and help us reach our collective sustainability goals.

GSB: What was the #1 sustainability goal?

Ann: To infuse sustainability into everything VANOC did…

GSB: …Which was a state-of-the-art approach back then.

Ann: It was. Sustainability, in its broad Environment-Social-Governance (ESG) definition, became a core facet of everything from volunteer training to procurement to packaging to venue construction and siting…and more. The sustainability, “what do you want your legacy to be?” ethos permeated the entire staff, from the CEO on down.

GSB: Tell us more about legacy…

Ann: One of our most meaningful legacies was with First Nations (indigenous people) in British Columbia and the rest of Canada. We were intent on making sure that our interaction with them would be real and not just about headdresses. So we connected construction companies to members of four First Nations in the Vancouver to Whistler corridor to work on construction projects for the Games. This collaboration eventually led to reversing seasonal unemployment for the Mount Currie Nation and, once the Olympics were over, many First Nations were able to get additional work in the Sea to Sky Corridor from Vancouver to Whistler.

 

Duffy and Ass't Summer 2010 CH 502

Ann Duffy (l) and Fiona Kilburn next to the Olympic Truce monument for peace during the 2010 Games, designed by First Nations artist Corinne Hunt (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: That is what I call a positive legacy! What about from the environmental point of view?

Ann: Sure. We looked to innovate environmentally on climate action, recycling and waste reduction. All new permanent sport venues met LEED building certification from silver to platinum levels. Fortunately IOC corporate partners like Coke, McDonalds’ and VISA had a lot of experience in these arenas. They were able to make sustainability cool. Coke, for example, established 100 percent bottle recyclability solutions on site as well as water efficiency in their bottling processes, not to mention their uniforms made from recycled PET bottles – all firsts at an Olympics. Local Canadian and BC companies undertook similar initiatives. As a result, we were able to establish a protocol for managing sustainability for mega events with the Canadian Standards Association.

GSB: How did climate change fit into Vancouver 2010?

Ann: We were early movers on climate among mega-event committees: We measured and reduced our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation and venue operations to athlete and staff travel and offset the direct emissions we couldn’t further eliminate. And, we publicly reported and communicated our plans, successes and challenges.

 

IN WEDNESDAY’S PART II: Ann tells the story of her post-Vancouver 2010 sustainability-related work with a myriad of Olympic and FIFA World Cup bids and organizing committees. She also shares her thoughts on what future mega-event bid and organizing committees need to do to ensure fans get engaged on sustainability and climate.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: NY Times Links Federer Upset Loss to Climate Change; Lakers Go Solar at their Training Facility; Denver Broncos Give Out 100% Recycled Rally Towels

September is, without question, the most wonderful time of the sports year in the US:

  • The final tennis grand slam tournament, the US Open, concludes;

  • Baseball’s long season comes down the home stretch;

  • The college football and NFL seasons kick off;

  • Basketball and hockey teams hit training camp;

  • The Ryder Cup takes over the golf world

GreenSportsBlog’s TGIF News & Notes reflects that full calendar, with tennis, basketball, and football on the docket.  

 

NEW YORK TIMES MAKES LINK BETWEEN FEDERER UPSET LOSS AT US OPEN AND EXTREME NIGHTTIME HEAT AND HUMIDITY

Until Serena Williams’ dispute with the chair umpire in her straight set defeat to Naomi Osaka at the US Open final became an international hot topic, excessive heat was the dominant storyline during the recently completed tournament in Queens.

  • The ATP, the governing body of the men’s pro tennis tour, took the unprecedented step of instituting a new rule, after the tournament began, that allowed players to go to the locker room for a 10 minute cooling break after the third set (women’s players already were permitted such a break after the second set).
  • With on-court temperatures reaching as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius), it was common to see players draping large ice wraps over their shoulders during one minute changeover breaks. 
  • Eventual men’s champion Novak Djokovic was almost felled in two early round matches by two implacable foes: the oppressive afternoon heat and humidity.
  • Night matches were affected: Unheralded John Millman shocked Roger Federer in the Round of 16 on a particularly hot, sticky, stuffy evening. 

 

Novak US Open

Novak Djokovic suffering from the heat and humidity during a changeover in his first round match at the 2018 US Open (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

While ESPN covered the heat/humidity story during the tournament’s fortnight — there was no way the cable-caster could avoid it. After all, players were wilting and fans stayed away from the sunny side of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center venues in droves. But ESPN did not get delve into any potential links between the extreme weather at the Open and climate change. 

And, while Federer cited heat and stuffiness as the main reason for his upset loss — “It was hot. It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air; there was no circulation at all.” — he didn’t “go there” on climate change. 

 

Federer

Roger Federer struggled on an extremely hot and humid night in the round of 16 at the US Open, losing to John Millman (Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

 

Thankfully, reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis of The New York Times’ fantastic “Climate Fwd” newsletter, did make the climate connection for millions of readers on September 4 in Roger Federer Is Tough to Beat. Global Warming Might Have Pulled an Upset.” Her particular focus was the relatively unsung trend of increasingly hot nights.

Per Pierre-Louis, “To some, the comments by Federer…may sound like sour grapes. But they also underscore a growing problem: increasing nighttime temperatures…[Global] warming is not happening evenly. Summer nights have warmed at nearly twice the rate of summer days. Average overnight low temperatures in the United States have increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit per century since 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…While daytime temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) have been a persistent problem at this U.S. Open, conditions [during the Federer-Millman night match] were not much cooler. Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, with the humidity for much of the match above 70 percent. The heat index, which combines heat and humidity to indicate a ‘feels like’ temperature, was in the 90s.”

The effects on the human body of exercising in high temperatures with high humidity can be calamitous, reported Pierre-Louis. That’s because sweating, “a key cooling mechanism,” gets stymied. When the air is excessively humid, sweat drips instead of evaporating. And that eliminates the cooling effect on the body. 

GSB’s Take: As a lifelong resident of the New York City metro area, let me tell you, a nighttime heat index in the 90s, a rarity back in the 1970s-80s, is becoming all too common in July and August. While heat and humidity played a major role in Federer’s exit from the US Open, such extreme weather is much more perilous for non-athletes. And until humanity, non-athletes and athletes alike, gets its act together on a massive decarbonizing effort to break climate change’s serve, extreme heat and humidity that makes exercise — among many other activities — risky will become the norm. I wonder if, as the effects of climate change get more severe, tournaments like the US Open and Australian Open, which are played in the heat and the humidity of the summer, will move towards more temperate times on the calendar.

 

LAKERS WELCOME LEBRON JAMES TO TRAINING CAMP WITH NEW SOLAR INSTALLATION 

When LeBron James joins the Los Angeles Lakers for his first training camp in Los Angeles later this month, he’ll be doing so at a training facility with a new rooftop solar array. 

According to a story by Kyle Field in the September 2 issue of CleanTechnica, Vaha Energy installed a 171 kW system comprised of 456 LG Solar panels on the roof of the team’s new LEED Platinum, 120,000 square foot UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.

 

The solar array at the LA Lakers new UCLA Health Training Center (Photo credit: CleanTechnica)

 

“The system is expected to save about $38,000 per year, on a rate of 16 cents per kWh,” wrote Field. Vaha Energy projects that the team should be able to pay off the system in a relatively quick four years.

Joseph McCormack, the Lakers Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance, told Field, “One of our goals as an organization is to be at the forefront of energy efficiency, and these panels further our commitment to sustainability.”

The Lakers plan to communicate their greening efforts at UCLA Health Training Center to fans — the cozy venue seats 900 — during team practices and at home games of the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers.

 

GSB’s Take: The move by the Lakers to solar-ize their new UCLA Health Training Center is, of course, welcome news. As costs of solar continue to go down, we can expect more such on-site solar installations at sports venues. It says here that the Lakers would’ve done even better to install solar panels atop car ports in the parking lot, in addition to their rooftop array. That way, fans could not miss the Lakers solar play — the panels on the roof are not easily visible to passersby. Oh yeah, it would be cooler than cool if LeBron agreed to be featured in video messaging about the Lakers’ solar installation.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS GIVE ORANGE RALLY TOWELS MADE FROM 100 PERCENT RECYCLED MATERIALS TO FANS AT HOME OPENER

A crowd of 76,000+ at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver saw the home team open their 2018 NFL season Sunday with a come-from-behind 27-24 home win over the Seattle Seahawks. Fans 21-and-older were able to urge the Broncos on by waving orange rally towels, presented by Bud Light, made from 100 percent recycled materials from earlier Broncos games. 

 

Rally Towel Broncos

The rally towel, made from 100 percent recycled materials, that was given out to Denver Broncos fans at Sunday’s home opener (Photo credit: Denver Broncos)

 

Believed to be the NFL’s first promotional giveaway made from fully recycled materials, the towels are made from plastic Coke bottles from Broncos Stadium. The 100% recycled icon is located on the lower left of the towel, clearly visible to fans.

Here’s how the Broncos Stadium bottles turn into Broncos Stadium rally towels:

  • Coke bottles get hauled from the stadium to Waste Management’s Denver Recycling Center.
  • The bottles are then delivered to a Materials Recovery Facility and sold to a plastic processing plant.
  • The processing plant breaks the bottles down into flakes or pellets and sells them to yarn manufacturers, who in turn sell the yarn to fabric weavers and knitters around the world.
  • Fabric makers sell the fabric to cut, sew and decorating plants — in this case, G&G Outfitters, a Maryland-based NFL licensee — where the towels are produced, decorated and shipped back to Denver for the game.

“The Denver Broncos and Coca-Cola are teaming up to show fans the value of recycling,” said Antoinette Williams, account executive at Coca-Cola, USA. “Recycling is the first step, but Coca-Cola and the Broncos want to create a ‘Life-Cycle’ story and make sure once the bottles are recycled they continue on a sustainable path.”

“We have never executed a promotion to this nature for any NFL team where the giveaway was made 100 percent out of certified recycled bottles collected from their own waste,” added Danny Papilion of G&G Outfitters. “To our knowledge, the Broncos are the first NFL team to do so.”

GSB’s Take: I love this promotion — a towel that is clearly marked as 100 percent recyclable given out to many thousands of fans. But how cool would it be if the Broncos encouraged fans to bring their towels every time they come to a game? Show your towel at four games and you get a free Bud Light. Or some other idea. No matter the promotion, the team would be emphasizing the important sustainability principle of reuse as well as recycling. 

 


 

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Green-Sports Startups, Part 6: Raea Jean Leinster and Yuck Old Paint; Helping Stadiums Find New Homes for (Yuck) Old Paint

Well-known global corporations, from Anheuser-Busch to Nike, have waded into the Green-Sports waters. While it makes sense for them to do so from PR and mission points of view, Green-Sports (for now) represents a small aspect of these companies’ businesses.

Then again, there are startups for which Green-Sports is a significant part of their raison d’être. Last year, GreenSportsBlog launched an occasional series, Green-Sports Startups that focuses on small (for now) companies and nonprofits that see the greening of sports as essential to their prospects for success.

In today’s sixth^ version of Green-Sports Startups, we bring you Yuck Old Paint (yup, that’s the name of the company), brainchild of Raea Jean Leinster, that finds second uses for stockpiles of leftover paint — including from places like Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Raea Jean’s story is colorful (there, I had to say it!), important and fun so ENJOY!

 

How does a Russian Studies major and a Czech minor who pursued a career path to work at the NSA, CIA and State Department and then became a concert violinist end up in the business of finding reuse opportunities for tons of cans of unused paint— from places like Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nats? And she calls her company Yuck Old Paint?

I know what you’re thinking: “This has to be FAKE NEWS!”

Nope. It’s the real, incredible story from the incredible Raea Jean Leinster.

 

FROM BRATISLAVA TO BELL LABS TO CONCERT VIOLINIST TO INTERIOR DESIGNER TO…

Leinster’s unlikely journey to becoming a Green-Sports pioneer started in an unlikely place: Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. But back in the late 80s-early 90s, just before the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Bratislava was part of Czechoslovakia. I’ll let Leinster pick up the story from there:

“I was in the middle of my Russian and Czech studies at George Mason University when the Soviet Union collapsed. So I dropped out of school to go to Czechoslovakia and teach English. While in Bratislava, I saw first-time-ever capitalist billboards in the former Eastern bloc for Apple, Coke and Marlboro. I asked myself, ‘how do these companies permeate a city like Bratislava when there was no real diplomatic US presence there?’ I realized that brands and business move faster than countries, so I redirected my career path to international business.”

 

Raea jean 1

Raea Jean Leinster, founder of Yuck Old Paint (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

Leinster returned to GMU and upon graduation went into the telecom industry just as AT&T was being deregulated: “I worked in telecom for ten years, helping MCI launch its ‘Friends and Family’ program and managed global channel communications and branding for Lucent Technologies for 80 countries before I was 30,” she recalled. “Then, in 2002-3, the telecom industry imploded and hundreds of thousands of people across the country lost their jobs, including me.”

So Leinster licked her wounds and took a gap year, spending much of it playing volleyball in the Virgin Islands. Batteries recharged, Leinster returned to Northern Virginia in 2004 and pivoted to a different career path, that of concert violinist/faux finisher/interior designer.

HOLD ON A SECOND…She became a concert violinist and a faux finisher? What the heck is that?

Turns out Leinster had been playing violin since she was a little girl, kept at it throughout her various adventures and continues to perform today with a variety of orchestras.

 

Raea w violin at GU

Raea jean Leinster (r), rehearsing with a string quartet at Georgetown University (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

And as a faux finisher, Leinster restored murals, became an expert in Venetian and Italian plasters, a gilding artist and created custom art in restaurants, commercial spaces and private homes.

 

Contemporary Metallic

A “contemporary metallic” faux finish from Raea Jean Leinster (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

And that led to…

 

…YUCK OLD PAINT

Over the next ten years, Leinster “…kept hearing a steady drumbeat of ‘Raea, can you help me get rid of these pallets of Sherwin-Williams off-white leftover paint in my building?’ or ‘Raea, I have 40 cans of paint in my garage. Can you take them?’”

Leinster’s initial answer was a flat NO — after all, what would she do with the paint? She didn’t have the space to store all the paint her clients asked her to take away, and in Virginia, the landfills are only permitted for residential use.

But in December 2012, she started to figure it out.

“A DC design client asked me to take away four paint cans at the end of a job. I have no idea why I said ‘yes’ after years of telling clients ‘no’. But I did,” recalled Leinster. “And to my surprise, a $25 Starbucks gift card accompanied the 4 gallons of paint that were left at the concierge desk.”

As Leinster drove away, she took stock of what just happened.

“My client was totally capable of taking the paint cans herself to the DC landfill,” Leinster thought to herself. “But she couldn’t be bothered with it.”

The client also didn’t care what Leinster did with the paint, but trusted her to do the right thing and handle it safely. The client gained more space in her condo and time.

“Turns out it was worth it to my client to compensate me for my trouble to pick up the paint and to do something with it,” said Leinster. “I then wondered, ‘How many other home owners are out there who would pay for a professional service to pick up leftover, unwanted, unused cans of latex paint?’”

Leinster spent 2013 beta testing the business concept and in April 2014 launched Yuck Old Paint, LLC.

Since then, the phone has not stopped ringing.

Four years later, Yuck Old Paint now counts among her clients several federal agencies, the U.S. Army. the Washington Nationals and Nationals Park.

 

“WE DON’T RECYCLE PAINT; WE HELP FIND USES FOR UNUSED PAINT”

Leinster’s business is based on the “reuse” model in lieu of recycling. “Our first step is to qualify paint for reuse,” reported Leinster. “About 75 percent of the paint we pick up in its original containers is perfectly good and useable.”

Yuck Old Paint gives the useable paint to theatre companies who use it for set design, and to local contractors looking for a specific type of paint. Much of it is distributed overseas, to developing countries for sale in hardware stores and for humanitarian construction projects.

Wait a second.

Yuck Old Paint gives the paint away? 

Yes, that’s what they do. Because they are paid by customers who need the paint to go away a flat service fee plus a per-can price  — $5 for one quart and one gallon can; $10 for a five-gallon bucket.

OK, back to what happens to the Yuck Old Paint.

“Twenty percent of the remaining liquid paint stockpile is not useable — think of it like sour milk,” continued Leinster. “That batch gets turned into solid waste material. Another five percent is solid and dry. In either case, we ensure it is no longer in liquid form, which is a hazard to local soil and water tables. Once it has been cured into a solid material, it is delivered into the solid waste stream.”

 

Yuck Old cured latex paint

Some of the “sour”, unusable paint recovered by Yuck Old Paint after it has been cured into solid material using organic ingredients (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

YUCK OLD PAINT PARTNERS WITH THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS

“Before the start of each season, Nats management repaints the entire park: from the press box to the offices, from the locker rooms to the concession stands,” shared Leinster. “And every June we get a call from the Nats to remove between a half a ton and one ton of paint.

 

Yuck Old Paint Nats

Unused paint outside of Nationals Park before it gets picked up by Yuck Old Paint (Photo credit: Raea Jean Leinster)

 

In addition to removing the paint from the ballpark, there are four important reasons the club is happy to have Yuck Old Paint on their green team:

  1. Adds to the team’s environmentally responsible brand — Nationals Park was the first LEED stadium in Major League Baseball.
  2. Earn up to 2 LEED points because they transfer the leftover latex paint waste to Yuck Old Paint, which employs a landfill diversion model.
  3. Win back much needed storage space. One ton of latex paint is about 225 single gallon cans. That takes up a lot of space! And Washington D.C., along with 44 states, has banned the commercial dumping of latex paints in the landfill. Before, Yuck Old Paint, the Nats’ only solution — as well as for many sports stadiums — was to stow it away.
  4. The Nats are no longer in violation of the fire code. Per Leinster,
    “Even though latex paint is not combustible, it is flammable. And although how much paint commercial buildings and stadiums are allowed to have varies from city to city with no statewide or national standard, there’s no fire marshal who will look past 1 ton of latex paint as acceptable.”

 

“MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEY HAVE A PAINT PROBLEM”

Leinster, with the Nationals Park case study in her hip pocket, came to the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta in June, looking to attract other sports venues. “This was my first GSA Summit,” said Leinster. “I soon realized that most facilities managers and team owners have no idea they have a latex paint waste problem! We received some very enthusiastic responses from other Major League Baseball and NFL clubs. We look forward to working with them to be their latex paint and hazardous waste solutions provider. Which is great news for Yuck Old Paint.”

And it is great news for the environment.

 

^ The first five startups in the series were: Nube 9, a Seattle-based company committed to making recyclable sports uniforms; Underdogs United, which sells renewable energy credits to sports teams in the developed world that are generated by vital greening projects in the developing world; Phononic, a tech company that views sports venues as key to its ambition to disrupt the refrigeration market, leading to a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions; Play Fresh, a nonprofit that uses American football as a catalyst to help build environmental awareness among at-risk kids and teens; and Hytch, a Nashville-based startup that uses a state-of-the-art ride sharing app and financial rewards to encourage ride sharing to Nashville Predators games.

 


 

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GSB Football Preview, Part II: Philadelphia Eagles Earn ISO 20121 Certification for Sustainable Events, First Pro Team To Do So

With the American football season in full kick-off mode, GreenSportsBlog offers a two-part football preview as we take a look at two teams at different points on the sustainability spectrum. Yesterday, we spoke with Lauren Lichterman of the University of Texas-Austin Athletics Department, about the relatively new initiatives surrounding sustainability, especially the challenges of greening Longhorns football.

Today, we turn our attention to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Green-Sports pioneers and — oh yeah — Super Bowl LII Champions, recently became the first pro sports team to earn ISO 20121 certification for integrating sustainability practices into their management model.

To get the story of what ISO 20121 status is and how the Eagles attained it, GSB spoke with Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles’ director of fan experience, and Lindsay Arell, the sustainability consultant who worked with the team by assisting with the ISO framework, advising on strategies, and helping the through the final stage of certification.

 

 

With apologies to Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire in the 1996 movie of the same name, it sounds like Lindsay Arell, President of Denver-based sustainable events consulting firm Honeycomb Strategies, had Norman Vossschulte, the Philadelphia Eagles director of fan experience, at “hello.” At least when it comes to ISO 20121 certification for sustainable events, that is.

“I met Lindsay at the 2014 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Santa Clara,” recalled Vossschulte. “We hit it off right away on sustainability, as she is an expert on ISO 20121 certification.”

 

(player/coach/executive name)

Norman Vossschulte, Philadelphia Eagles director of fan experience (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Lindsay Arell

Lindsay Arell, president of Honeycomb Strategies (Photo credit: Honeycomb Strategies)

 

The Super Bowl champs have been Green-Sports winners for more than a decade, thanks in large part to the visionary leadership of Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Christina Weiss Lurie, the President of the Eagles Charitable Foundation, and Eagles Social Responsibility .

 

ISO 20121: MORE SUSTAINABLE EVENTS MANUAL THAN A CERTIFICATION

But it turns out that, while certifications for green buildings like LEED are well established in North America, not much is known here about sustainable events-focused ISO 20121.

That was about to change, at least as far as the Eagles were concerned.

“When I met Norman, Lincoln Financial Field was already LEED certified, and its GO GREEN initiative had been in place for years,” recalled Arell. “But, as we talked, I got the sense that he and the team wanted to do even more with sustainability, wanted to differentiate themselves even further from the increasing number of teams that were starting to green themselves. And Norman made it clear that he wanted to make green fun. That conversation led me to think the Eagles needed to go for ISO 20121 certification.”

Going for a certification that sounds like a Dewey Decimal system classification doesn’t immediately say “fun” to me but, hey, what do I know?

Actually, what I’d like GreenSportsBlog readers to know is what ISO 20121 certification is…and isn’t.

“ISO 20121, created by the International Organization for Standardization, is an event management system standard designed to help event organizers and producers incorporate sustainability into their operations,” shared Arell. “It was developed and piloted during the London 2012 Olympics to accelerate the impact of their sustainability program.  ISO 20121 emphasizes continual improvement on a range of sustainability issues. This results in a venue or organization-based approach to sustainable operations that addresses the specific environmental impacts of an organization/venue while engaging all stakeholders.”

On the other hand, ISO 20121 is not metrics-based, nor is it point-based in the way LEED, BREEAM^ or other green certifications are.

To my way of thinking, LEED certification shows the world you have built a green stadium or other type of building. ISO 20121 shows the world you are committed to continual improvement of your sustainability program through an inclusive stakeholder engagement program — and, in the Eagles case, in a LEED certified stadium.

Vossschulte looked at ISO 20121 in yet another way: “ISO 20121 is more a sustainability manual than certification, and a fluid manual at that. So we engaged Lindsay in 2016 to take us on a deep ISO dive and help us figure out how we can make the ISO manual work for us. And that meant everyone in the organization.”

Arell, who had worked in sustainable events and venues since 2007 — one of her first big assignments was working to help green the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver — dove right in. She performed a “gap analysis” to determine what the Eagles needed to do to improve upon GO GREEN and achieve ISO 20121 status.

“The goal of our GO GREEN ‘Gap Analysis’ was to find out what was working and what could be improved upon,” recalled Arell. “By holding meetings with small groups of employees, we were able to learn, for example, that internal and external communications about GO GREEN could be much more effective. It turned out that GO GREEN needed a re-boot, a version 2.0.”

 

EAGLES ORGANIZATION GOES ALL-IN ON “GO GREEN 2.0” AND ISO 20121

To kick-start the re-boot and to put the Eagles on course to achieve ISO 20121 status, Arell collaborated with team executives to form four internal working groups or “communities” —  Engagement, Communications, Community and Operations, or ECCO —  to help the organization figure out how to close those gaps. Here’s Vossschulte’s take on each community:

  • Engagement: “How well are we engaging employees on sustainability and GO GREEN and how can we do better? I was involved with this working group, along with the VP of Human Resources, Kristie Pappal. We want to improve sustainability awareness and engagement from when someone is hired, through their daily activities. They need to see the Eagles’ commitment on coffee mugs, water bottles, on signage. We wanted it to become part of every employee’s DNA.”
  • Communications: “How is GO GREEN communicated, both internally and externally? Are we talking about it in our newsletters to staff? What about talking to fans through marketing, PR and through our players?”
  • Community: “Here we asked ourselves ‘when we go into the community, do we embed a sustainability message into that outreach?’ This working group involved our corporate responsibility, community relations and media relations teams.”
  • Operations: “The operations and facilities teams were already steeped in sustainability through GO GREEN and our work to earn LEED certification, so this was a great opportunity for us to further amplify and strengthen that focus.”

The work of each committee was rigorous and detailed — it took a year and a half to complete— and the results were significant:

  • The Communications team developed edgy and fun GO GREEN-themed billboards for the stadium concourses, ramps, and yes, even the restrooms. Per Vossschulte, “We thought that adding a sense of humor to our GO GREEN messaging would increase its memorability and impact.”
  • From the Engagement team came an interactive LED screen that was installed at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s practice facility down the street from Lincoln Financial Field. “It shows our employees how much energy our solar panels and wind turbines are producing every day, how much we recycle, and more,” said Vossschulte.
  • The Community working group offered 14,000 season ticket members “Go Green/Bleed Green” magnets. And wide receiver Mack Hollins has fully embraced the team’s sustainability culture. “Mack rides his bike to work,” shared Vossschulte. “And he was featured in a video that announced the site of the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit will be Lincoln Financial Field.”

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Two examples of sustainability-themed signage on display at Lincoln Financial Field (Photo credits: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

The result of this work was the creation of a sustainability playbook. Before applying for ISO 20121 certification, the Eagles had to show could “walk the green talk”, or, in football parlance, could “run the plays in their sustainability playbook.”

That meant over a year of setting sustainability plans, implementing them, and reporting on the outcome. Once the team and Arell were satisfied with the performance of the program, they submitted documentation to a third-party auditor for ISO 20121 review. A series of meetings with the auditor ensued in which the documentation was analyzed and discussed in detail. Finally, the Eagles achieved ISO 20121 certification earlier this year.

But the process didn’t end there.

You see, continual improvement is a hallmark of the ISO 20121 standard. So, the working groups still meet regularly to discuss new goals and initiatives. According to Arell, that aspirational quality is what makes this standard so effective: “It builds upon itself. There is not magic number that finally indicates ‘we are sustainable.’ The Eagles continue to improve their game…both on and off the field.”

 

WILL ISO 20121 CATCH ON BEYOND PHILLY?

Now that the Eagles and Lincoln Financial Field have blazed the ISO 20121 trail for North American sports, will other teams and venues soon follow?

Arell sure hopes so: “ISO 20121 emphasizes collaboration between departments and so going through the certification process ensures that sustainability becomes deeply seeded in an organization. The ability for a team and/or a venue to tailor their own path to ISO certification is another point in its favor.”

Vossschulte sees some early interest in ISO 20121 among his NFL counterparts and expects that interest to build.

But first, there’s a Super Bowl banner to raise at Lincoln Financial Field when the 2018 NFL season kicks off against the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow night. And when Eagles fans enter the stadium, they will see the sustainability banners and LED displays that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, as Lindsay Arell puts it, that “you can be a Super Bowl winning team in Philadelphia and GO GREEN at the same time.”

 

^ BREEAM = LEED’S British equivalent

 


 

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GSB Football Preview, Part I: Lauren Lichterman, Helping to Green Texas Athletics

With the American football in full kickoff mode, GreenSportsBlog is taking a look at two teams at different points on the “Green Gridiron” spectrum. Today, we talk with Lauren Lichterman who is helping to jumpstart the greening of The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Later this week, GSB will turn to the greening of Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, already a sustainability leader.  

 

GreenSportsBlog: Lauren, when I think of Green-Sports leaders in college sports, my mind goes to the Pac-12 — all 12 schools plus the conference itself are members of the Green Sports Alliance — and Big Ten schools like Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, which all have been working towards hosting Zero-Waste football games. The Big 12, which basically spans Texas, the Plains states with West Virginia sprinkled in? Not so much, at least not yet. So I’m really glad to talk with you about the greening of The University of Texas. Did you go to Texas? And were you always an environmentalist?

Lauren Lichterman: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Not a very green area, I’ll admit. But we always recycled. So I was an environmentalist. And I loved sports.  So when I did end up going to UT…

GSB: …Hook ’em Horns!

Lauren: Hook ’em Horns! I played intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee.

GSB: You were BUSY!!!

Lauren: Oh yeah! I thought I would be an international business major, but I started taking sports management courses and loved them. I always saw sports as a powerful forum for teamwork, equality and more.

 

lichterman_lauren_UT

Lauren Lichterman, operations and sustainability consultant at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: So did you switch to sports management?

Lauren: I did. And I worked in the Athletics Department while I was in school.

GSB: What did you do for them?

Lauren: Anything they needed. After graduation, a position opened up in the facilities and operations department. Since planning, operations, and logistics had become my passion I jumped at the chance. In fact, I got the job offer on graduation day so my timing was quite lucky.

GSB: What was your role at the start?

Lauren: I wore a lot of hats. I handled customer service, fan surveys, ran information tables at football, baseball, volleyball and softball games. It wasn’t glamorous but I loved it!

GSB: How great is that? How and when did sustainability enter the mix?

Lauren: In 2010, which was my first year working full-time, the Office of Sustainability came to Athletics, saying they’d like to start a tailgate recycling program. The Athletic Director at the time, DeLoss Dodds, said “OK, sounds great. What do you need?” I became the main point of contact on the Athletics side for supplies and logistics. Sustainability brought two or three full-time people to the effort. We ended up relying on a lot of student volunteers, which was great.

GSB: What did you and your team do?

Lauren: We roamed the tailgate areas and awarded those that really got it with the Recycler of the Game.

GSB: How did fans react?

Lauren: They really liked it. More and more tailgaters wanted to participate. That kind of reaction led Athletics to get more into greening Longhorns games. And from there, in 2014, our leadership decided that we need to go Zero-Waste.

GSB: From Recycler of the Game to “let’s go Zero-Waste” in four years. Green-Sports moves fast at Texas Athletics!

Lauren: We actually started our Zero-Waste efforts with baseball and softball during the spring of 2014. Both facilities and operations are obviously much smaller than football. Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of Texas football, holds about 100,000 people. UT baseball has a capacity of about 7,000 and softball’s capacity is 1,200.

 

UT Baseball

University of Texas baseball stadium, part of the school’s Zero-Waste efforts (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Big difference!

Lauren: So baseball and softball became our Zero-Waste pilots. We started with softball, trying to go Zero-Waste for a weekend home stand. Sodexo, our concessions partner, was fantastic.

GSB: How so?

Lauren: Here’s one example. We found out that we couldn’t recycle the plastic bowls that contained nachos and cheese — those were considered contaminated. So Sodexo came to us with a “paper boat” nacho solution…

GSB: …Who’da thunk it? Wasn’t that costly?

Lauren: It wasn’t cost prohibitive — and we thought it would be. It’s a misperception that going Zero-Waste will be super-costly. For example, by using compostable utensils, less trash is being sent to landfills — and sending trash to the landfill is expensive. Most of our local vendors get this.

GSB: I’m glad you mentioned local. Austin is a bit of a green oasis in Texas, right?

Lauren: Oh, it helps being in Austin. In fact, the city is going Zero-Waste, so vendors in town are starting to manage that way.

GSB: Fantastic! So back to softball and baseball…

Lauren: Yes! So we did one weekend of Zero-Waste softball in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, we added one weekend of baseball per season.

GSB: How come only one weekend per season? If you can do it once, why not all the time?

Lauren: I know! It was silly. By 2017, we went for Zero-Waste at both sports for the entire season.

GSB: GreenSportsBlog readers know that, to claim Zero-Waste status, a venue has to divert 90 percent or more of waste from landfill. How did you do?

Lauren: In 2017, baseball was Zero-Waste for the entire season, as they diverted 91 percent of waste from landfill. Softball just missed, attaining an 88 percent diversion rate. 2018 was similar for both.

 

Volunteers Baseball 4-20 2a

A group of UT “Sustainability Squad” volunteers flash the “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign during a 2018 baseball/softball weekend (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Kudos to baseball and softball. Have you tried going Zero-Waste at basketball?

Lauren: Basketball is an island of sorts. We’re planning to build a new arena in the next five years or so that would replace the Frank Erwin Center. The site is still being debated. So we’re not going to go for Zero-Waste at Erwin, but we have undertaken some small initiatives like having recycling bins available. We are also recycling at soccer matches and track meets, but we’re not going for Zero-Waste there. It’s a matter of resources.

GSB: Understandable. So let’s go back to the Big Kahuna, football…

Lauren: Ah yes…Football is a fantastic, complicated beast. First, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is land locked, with streets on three sides and the rec center on the fourth. So how waste leaves the stadium and where it goes is complicated. When we launched our Zero-Waste effort in 2014, we started to move our volunteers inside the stadium where could better control waste streams…

GSB: …Did that hurt the tailgate recycling program?

Lauren: Not at all. It’s still going strong. By the time we shifted our resources inside, tailgaters already knew what to do, recycling-wise. Back to the stadium, we used to have eight-yard long dumpsters around its perimeter. Fans would just throw waste in, unsorted. We needed to get the waste sorted first, then put into the dumpsters.

GSB: How did you manage that?

Lauren: Well, our former-tailgate-area-but-now-inside-stadium volunteers were deployed to educate fans. That moved the needle a bit, but we didn’t have enough volunteers to monitor 500 bins. Then, we thought, “What if, in addition to educating fans, the volunteers sort the waste?” The last home game of the 2016 season against TCU was our pilot. THAT was what moved the needle!

GSB: The volunteers didn’t mind digging through the waste?

Lauren: We asked them about it ahead of time, and they were good with it. And we have to get to Zero-Waste in football. In the spring of 2016, the campus-wide sustainability master plan was released. It said the entire Austin campus will be Zero-Waste by 2020. So, the pressure was on starting last season. Including the 2017 campaign, we’d have 18 games through the end of 2019 to get to Zero-Waste.

GSB: That’s really not a lot of games.

Lauren: I know! So for the 2017 season, our volunteer team had grown to 60. Most of them were deployed to our sustainability sort squad, with the remainder making up our sustainability spirit squad, directing fans on how to best sort through their waste. We were able to up our game from 38 percent diversion in 2016 to 50 percent by the end of last season.

GSB: That means you have 12 games total between now and the end of the 2019 season to get to 90 percent. Sounds daunting but doable.

Lauren: I agree. We learned a lot last season. Football generates 40 tons of waste per game. Before, we were sorting during and especially after games. But most of our home games are at night and volunteers won’t stay. So we tested sorting on Sunday. No one is in the way. It’s just us. We found Sunday to be the quickest, most-efficient sorting system we’ve ever had.

 

Jim Walker sorting allll the trash

Some of the 40 tons of waste generated at a Texas Longhorns home game  (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Did you get lots of Sunday volunteers?

Lauren: You bet. In fact, we sorted through the waste in an hour! So now we’re trying to work out Sunday sorts for all of our 2018 home games. The key is answering this question: Where can we stash the waste overnight? And have enough space to sort it in the morning? After working really hard all summer and collaborating with many different entities on campus, we were able to determine a specific parking lot that would suit all of our needs. So we’re going haul the waste to this parking lot on Saturday, and sort as much of it as we can before the waste disposal companies open up on Monday. This plan should get us halfway to Zero-Waste. Then we also need to work with the cleaning company that scours the seating bowl to sort properly — and that part is now in our contract.

GSB: Assuming the Sunday sort proves successful and the cleaning company steps up, will that get you to Zero-Waste? If not, what else can you do?

Lauren: We would have to take a closer look at the waste stream to see which products that go to landfill have not yet been switched to recyclable or compostable counterparts. If we find products like that, we would need to find a way to incorporate them.

GSB: Have you talked to your counterparts at Zero-Waste success stories like Ohio State and Stanford?

Lauren: Yes and we’ve learned a lot, but their systems and situations are different. Being able to bounce ideas off of them has been very helpful.

GSB: Pivoting beyond Austin, has UT Athletics’ greenness rubbed off on its Big 12 counterparts?

Lauren: Not to the same extent. But we hope that by going Zero-Waste, we will inspire other Big 12 schools to move in that direction.

GSB: Finally, what about getting fans involved in greening beyond their contacts with volunteers?

Lauren: We definitely want to engage fans more. Our social media platform, “Bleed Orange, Live Green” is growing in popularity. And, anecdotally, the feedback has been positive. You know, things like “Glad you’re doing this!” and, regarding the sorting, “Better you than me!” But we need to do more with fans…

GSB: …Two things I’d like to see are 1. Sustainability messaging to fans who follow the Longhorns on TV and online, and 2. Surveys of fans, both attendees and those who follow the team via media, about their attitudes on “Bleed Orange, Live Green”

Lauren: I would like to see those things too! We actually had a meeting with our communications team this summer to figure out how and when would be best to survey our fans about our sustainability initiatives. We want to make sure that the goals we are setting are things that our fans are passionate about as well. Our Athletics’ administration is fully on board with “Bleed Orange, Live Green.” so I think we will start to figure out more ways to support our sustainability program through increasing communications and visibility to our fans like you’ve mentioned.

GSB: Good to hear! Aside from getting to Zero-Waste, what are the next big sustainability initiatives for Texas Athletics? Are renewables on the horizon?

Lauren: Energy efficiency is a big part of the campus Sustainability Master Plan and Athletics will be a part of that. For example, when lighting needs to be replaced, we plan to replace with LEDs. Renewables are coming on campus but it’s been slow so far. That said, renewables are the “next big green thing” for athletics. I can’t give you a timetable just yet. Another big thing for us is water conservation. We are looking at a rainwater retention system to provide water for power washing the stadium

GSB: Lauren, I don’t know how the Longhorns football team will do this season, after an opening day loss at Maryland on Saturday. But I do know this. You will be a very busy woman these next couple of years, starting with Saturday’s home opener vs. Tulsa.

 


 

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