Making Good On The Potential of the Green-Sports Intersection

In Tuesday’s post I wrote about the good start that the sports world has made in terms of green initiatives.  Those programs, like the NHL’s Green Program looking into the effects of climate change on outdoor pond hockey, are real, not greenwashing.  There are many more, from solar hot water panels on the right field roof at Boston’s Fenway Park (maybe the last time you’ll hear me say something nice about anything to do with the Red Sox) to the fantastic commitment to onsite solar and wind made by the Philadelphia Eagles in their much more modern Lincoln Financial Field.

But…BUT…The Powers That Be in sports have yet to really tap the Power of Sports Fans in the service of sustainability.  Now, you may say that fans are only fanatic about their teams, their favorite players.  They aren’t fanatic about Saving Humanity As We Know It (I’ll use this term a LOT in this blog so I’m going to create an acronym:  SHAWKI).  That’s profoundly sad when you think about it but understandable.  Sports is fun/maddening/torturous/exciting/hopeful/compelling/inspiring.  SHAWKI is hard/discouraging/like climbing a mountain in a mudslide/like putting on an Olympics EVERY YEAR (CLICK ON THAT LINK, great article from the Guardian on, well, putting an Olympics EVERY YEAR)/sometimes inspiring/did I mention really hard?

Sports fans care about winning.  You can see results right away.  At best, SHAWKI will mean that we (humanity, globally speaking) take some significant steps to turn around the carbon emissions train.  Which would YOU rather read about, talk about?

Yes, all this is true but what if sports teams got fans involved with sustainability in ways that could help their teams on the field, court, pitch????  THAT’S where the real power of the Green-Sports intersection lies, methinks!

But, “Lew”, you say, “that’s impossible!”  Not really.  Here are a couple of thought starters for teams/leagues:

  • How about a contest at all [you name the league] stadia in which fans’ recycling efforts are measured?  The team which recycles the most on a per capita basis gets an extra draft choice in the next draft.  I think THAT would capture fans’ attention.
  • Imagine that a team establishes a baseline for the number of fans who access the stadium by mass transit (where that’s possible).  If fans increase mass transit access by, say, 15%, the team will be allowed to go over its sports’ salary cap (or, in the case of Major League Baseball, its luxury tax) by an amount TBD.

You might say “Lew, these are some good ideas.  Why haven’t teams/leagues done this type of thing yet?”  My guess is that the teams/leagues are risk averse and don’t want to piss off a) fans who don’t believe in climate change and/or b) sponsors/advertisers as being prime causes of with Climate Change like the fossil fuel industry.  That fear is misplaced because ideas like these are POSITIVE in nature, rather than PUNITIVE (i.e rewarding teams for good environmental behaviors).  And I bet that the sponsorship/ad revenues gained by these green initiatives (plus positive PR) will far outweigh any possible loss in revenue from sponsors/advertisers leaving the fold.

SO, my take away about Sports-Green is that good early steps have been taken but big, BIG steps are out there IF the teams/leagues can overcome their fears.  Or are nudged by the fans to do so. Please feel free to add your thoughts, comments, ideas.

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