Today (Friday May 22) marks the 2nd anniversary of GreenSportsBlog. A heartfelt thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on our posts about the increasingly crowded and, at least to me, endlessly interesting interesting intersection of Green and Sports over these two years. Thanks, too, to GreenBiz for syndicating GSB to a much wider audience (200,000-300,000 unique visitors every month) than I could ever have expected when I started. That said, the two year mark is a great time to take a moment to reflect on where the Green-Sports movement is and where it needs to go.
I gotta admit, two years ago, when GreenSportsBlog was born, I was skeptical that there’d be enough to write about. Would there be 2-ish posts-per-week worth of content that would interest readers?
That the answer to the question is an unequivocal YES demonstrates that Green-Sports has become a “thing” since May 2013. Know that, back then, I sometimes had to look hard to find meaningful story lines. Now, there’s often a plethora of Green-Sports content to choose from.
Just today, “Environmental Leader” ran a piece about how the Minnesota Twins and Eco-Products are teaming up to turn “tons of fans’ trash into fertile soil via composting rather than piling up in area landfills.” Pair that news with Wednesday’s GSB’s post about the St. Paul Saints’ (minor league baseball) super-green new stadium and one could reasonably come to the conclusion that there’s enough Twin Cities-based Green-Sports content to support a blog!
Beer cups at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, are now compostable through a partnership with Eco-Products. (Photo credit: Environmental Leader)
But the Green-Sports news is not only coming from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Beyond Minnesota, recent Green-Sports Ports of Call include:
- Portland, OR (what else is new?): The Portland Business Journal reported that the Moda Center, home to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, recently renewed its LEED Gold certification after 5 years, this time with much stricter standards.
- Atlanta: Atlanta-based UPS announced that it’s renewed its partnership with the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), sponsoring the upcoming GSA Summit in Chicago for the 2nd straight year.
- San Diego: Ariel Schwartz, writing in Fast Company’s “Co.Exist” online magazine, reported on the partnership between UC San Diego and Solazyme to make first-ever surfboard made solely from algae, “no petroleum required.” How cool is that?!
A surfboard made from algae via a partnership between UC San Diego and Solazyme, one of several recent Green-Sports developments making news. (Photo credit: Co.exist)
But the increasing number of Green-Sports stories is but one way of looking at the growing relevance and impact of the Green-Sports intersection. Others include:
- Stadia and arenas with on-site solar (and, to a lesser extent, wind). Per a February, 2015 article in CleanTechnica, the number of solar panels at pro stadium and arena sites grew 10X between 2007 and 2014.
- Increasing number of stadia arenas hosting Zero-Waste (i.e. diversion from landfill of 90% or more of waste) games. Hard data isn’t available as yet, but anecdotally trend towards Zero-Waste games is clear over the past 2 years.
- The NHL’s Carbon Neutral 2014-2015 season, the first ever by a major sports league. It’s a safe bet that the NHL will not be alone for long.
- Growing attendance at the Green Sports Alliance Summit from 2010 (200 showed up) – 2015 (800 are expected)
- Research conducted last summer by Turnkey Intelligence showed that sports fans disproportionately care about the environment. 1,000 self-identified sports fans (casual or avid, who attend at least 2 events/year) were surveyed. 81% of sports fans care about the environment vs. 63% for the general population (Harris, 2013).
Still, there’s a long, long way to go before the impact of the Green-Sports movement approaches its potential. And, apart from the Turnkey Intelligence study, I believe the leagues, teams and other sports governing bodies, in concert with the Green Sports Alliance, must do a better job of quantifying their efforts and results. They should fund annual independent, statistically significant, quantifiable research studies that measure the impact of the Greening of Sports (what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed matters). Such research should quantify:
- Awareness of Green-Sports measures, among both attendees and fans who follow sports on TV, online, etc. My strong bet is that number would be very low, maybe in the single digits.
- Reach, meaning it should track the number of mentions of Green-Sports initiatives on sports broadcasts and the number of people those mentions reach. How often, if at all, does the NHL promote its carbon neutral season on its NBC/NBCSN? Is that number increasing over time? How many fans do those mentions reach? Will the Greening of Super Bowl 50 be mentioned on the CBS game broadcast? The 8 gazillion hour pre-game show?
- Carbon emissions generated from all sports events. The NHL, admirably, took this on in its Sustainability Report. The other sports leagues, NCAA, PGA Tour, USTA, etc., should follow suit. And, the NHL, along with the rest, should include an estimate of carbon emissions resulting from fan travel–the NHL only included team and league travel in its initial Sustainability Report.
- Number of pro teams who take a public stand on climate change–i.e. it’s real, it’s human caused, we have to do something about it. If any of you have seen such a number, let me know, because I haven’t.
Here’s one last metric that illustrates the challenging score line the Green-Sports world faces: According to the 2015 Global Salary Survey released May 20 by ESPN and SportingIntelligence.com, 6 of the top 10 pro sports teams in the world* are owned, wholly or in part, by fossil fuel companies. These include the #1 team in the survey, Paris St. Germain (Ligue 1 soccer), which is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, an arm of the oil-rich country’s sovereign wealth fund. Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), sponsors #2 Real Madrid (La Liga soccer). Billionaire Sheikh Mansour, whose wealth is derived from oil as a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, owns #3 Manchester City (English Premier League soccer) as well as 75% of Major League Soccer’s NYCFC, with the #9 New York Yankees owning the other 25%. And so it goes.
We will know that real, macro-level progress has been made when the owners of the Top 10 highest spending teams on the planet include Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, or the latest solar billionaire. Hopefully, this will be sooner rather than later because, to paraphrase Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, time is definitely NOT on our side.
* As measured by average player salary.
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