The Green-Sports movement not only grew in 2014, it matured. Growth came from new LEED Certified stadia/arenas and from many more Zero-Waste games. Maturity came from the fact that greening is increasingly the rule rather than the exception. With this maturity comes responsibility. In GreenSportsBlog’s case, our responsibility is to offer readers a Best/Worst of Green-Sports, 2014.
GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE/ASSOCIATION/CONFERENCE
This one’s easy!
The National Hockey League (NHL) broke new ground with the issuance of the first-ever sustainability report sanctioned by a North American sports league. You really should read it if you haven’t already done so. The report is rigorous–it measured the league’s CO2 footprint from Scope 1 (direct), Scope 2 (indirect) and even some hard-to-get-at Scope 3 (other indirect) emissions, like NHL League and Club business air travel, as well as waste disposal at NHL arenas and offices. And, as the saying goes, “what gets measured gets managed”: Measured league Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions declined 28% from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 season!
But that’s not even close to all. As reported in this space last week and across the media landscape (check out this Washington Post piece), the NHL announced that, in partnership with Constellation Energy, it will offset all of its carbon emissions from the 2014-2015 season, through the purchase of Green e-Certified Renewable Energy Credits and Carbon Offsets. No other league has come close to the standard set by the NHL–hopefully that will change in 2015.
GREENEST NEW STADIUM
While the 49ers have been a disappointment on the field, at least their less than stellar play has taken place at our Greenest New Stadium. Levi’s Stadium, the club’s new LEED Gold home in Santa Clara, which opened in August, gets major plaudits for its green roof, recycling 86% of its water, on-site solar, access to mass transit and many other greening features. That greenness, which has set the bar for all new stadia going forward, will be on display for the world to see when Levi’s Stadium hosts Super Bowl 50 in February, 2016.
BEST TEAM ON AND OFF (GREENING-WISE) FIELD
Ohio State University (or, to Buckeyes fans, THE Ohio State University) will play in the first-ever college football playoffs on New Year’s Day vs. Alabama. That is a big deal. Perhaps an even bigger deal (or to Buckeyes fans, a close second) is that Ohio State’s 7 home football games this season were Zero-Waste–which means 90% or more of the waste produced by over 106,000 fans at Ohio Stadium (aka The Horseshoe) were diverted from landfill. Even if the Buckeyes don’t prevail vs. the Crimson Tide, they win the BEST TEAM ON AND OFF THE FIELD in a rout!
LEAST GREEN NEW STADIUM PROJECT
What were the Atlanta Braves thinking? I’m not talking about their artist’s rendering of their planned new stadium, SunTrust Park, scheduled to open in 2017, that showed the Braves losing on the scoreboard. Honest mistake, that.
No, what garners the Braves this unwanted but deserved award is that the club decided to buck the trend of building stadia and arenas in urban areas, close to mass transit. Instead, they are moving to the suburbs, in Cobb County northeast of downtown Atlanta, next to the confluence of two already super-crowded highways, I-85 and I-285. There will be bus access to the new ballpark and maybe a trolley line but, unfortunately, the MARTA light rail system does not go anywhere near the stadium. When one considers that transportation is, by far, the largest source of carbon emissions associated with sports events, one has to think Braves management either didn’t factor sustainability/the environment into their decision on the stadium site. Or they did think about it and decided sustainability is not a big deal. I’m not sure which is worse.
And the thing is, the club’s current downtown home, Turner Field, is at least somewhat close to a MARTA line. It is a 20 minute walk from the closest stop to the ballpark, true. But there are frequent shuttles that take fans to the stadium from the station.
Artist’s rendering of an aerial view of the Atlanta Braves new home stadium, SunTrust Park. Located in suburban Cobb County and scheduled to open in 2017, SunTrust Park will not be served by the MARTA light rail/subway system. (Photo Credit: CBS Sports)
If the Braves were interested in greening, they would’ve built their new stadium closer to MARTA, not further away. But greening seems not to be part of their stadium site calculation, or, to be part of any calculations, as there is nothing about sustainability on their new stadium website. Wait, they do list “lack of consistent mass transit” as a reason for leaving Turner Field, yet they go to a place where there are fewer mass transit options (maybe they are more reliable? Who knows). Yikes! The Braves clearly have earned their LEAST GREEN NEW STADIUM PROJECT designation!
SPORTS GREENWASH OF THE YEAR
The Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia this February easily won this award. The Sochi Organizing Committee and their enablers at the IOC made grand proclamations about the greenness of the Games in the run up to the Opening Ceremonies. The reality? Uh, let’s just say if the Sochi Olympics were green, I’d hate to see what a brown Olympics would have looked like.
BEST GREEN SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR
The Greening of Forest Green Rovers (FGR), a soccer/football club in England’s 5th level (the baseball equivalent would be A-League or Rookie League ball) is not the Biggest Green Sports Story of the Year but it’s certainly the Best. Club Chairman and “Zerocarbonista” Dale Vince, OBE also owns Ecotricity, an innovative clean energy/energy efficiency company based in Stroud, England. FGR is in nearby Nailsworth.
Dale Vince, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers (Nailsworth, England), the Greenest Sports Story of The Year in 2014. (Photo Credit: Forest Green Rovers)
Vince has taken Ecotricity’s disruptive, anything-green-is-possible ethos and applied it to the operations of FGR. From the first ever meat-free concessions menu in sports (hard to imagine, right? FGR reports that, after some initial grumbling, fans are actually fine with it) to searching for lighting technologies more efficient than LEDs, from the world’s first organic pitch/field to electric vehicles for all of the players, Vince and FGR are demonstrating that what the sports world thought was green is not green enough. For doing so in 2014, Dale Vince and Forest Green Rovers are, without doubt, the Best Green Sports Story of the Year. Vince sees winning this honor as a challenge of sorts–to take what they’re doing with FGR to bigger clubs in England and beyond: “It’s great to see the impact of our work reaching so far beyond Nailsworth and even Britain – and very encouraging to think we may be influencing other clubs and other sports with our approach. Makes me want to do more…:)”
Finally, a quick thank you to you, the readers, for making this a banner year for GreenSportsBlog. As many of you know, we were syndicated up in November by GreenBiz, dramatically increasing our reach. We wouldn’t have gotten to that point without you. Know that GreenSportsBlog will be back in January, bringing you the best (and, on occasion, worst) of what will be an exciting 2015 at the intersection of Green and Sports. In the meantime, here’s to a healthy, happy Holiday Season to you!
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