Memorial Day marks the end of (just about) the first third of the Major League Baseball season. It’s a time when teams reassess whether they are going to be contenders, pretenders, bottom feeders, or, in the case of this year’s Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, historically bad bottom feeders.
In the world of North American professional sports teams and leagues, as it pertains to sustainability, I’d say that:
- They are more or less in the early stages,
- There are hopeful signs (maybe teams/leagues are pretenders now can become possible contenders if they play their cards right),
- But there’s a lot more that needs to be done before any sort of victory can be claimed.
I’d venture to say the vast majority of US/Canadian sports fans are unaware of the greening efforts that have been undertaken by the major professional sports leagues and associations, from Major League Baseball to the National Basketball Association, from the National Football League to National Hockey League, from Major League Soccer to the United States Tennis Association. As to whether they’d care is another question.
In fact, all of the leagues and associations have taken some, what I would call, small but significant first steps, largely with the help of The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its “Greening Advisor” platform.
Beginning in 2004, the NRDC Greening Advisor team has helped the leagues and teams promote/enact energy efficiency, recycling programs, waste reduction, water conservation and other smart operations.
One initiative I’d like to highlight is the NHL’s Green program and its work in water conservation. Or, more specifically, ice conservation. Partnering with Rinkwatch.org, an organization at the intersection of pond hockey/backyard skatint and climate science (who knew?), NHL Green asks pond hockey players in Canada and the northern US to document how many outdoor hockey days there are in a given season (they are declining). While concern about polar bears animates certain folks, the decline in pond hockey days will likely engage a different and sizable population. Pretty cool, no?
You’ll know that the leagues and teams are more green contenders than pretenders, when, they use their massive power to truly engage fans–the ones who come to the ballpark and the even many more who watch on TV. The numbers of fans are so great and their passion so intense that, if a sponsor can borrow just a portion of that passion towards a green goal, they, the team and league, and the environment would all be winners. More on what the next steps could look like in Friday’s post.