The US Open draws over 700,000 fans to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY every summer, making it the largest attended annual event in the United States, sports or otherwise. Since 2008, inspired initially by Ms. King, the US Tennis Association has been working to “Green the Open.” Leading the charge has been Bina Indelicato, Founder and CEO of eco evolutions, LLC, a New Jersey-based environmental consulting firm. GreenSportsBlog talked with Ms. Indelicato about her work with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to date as well as about what the future holds for the ever-expanding National Tennis Center from a green perspective.
GreenSportsBlog: As a tennis fan and avid-but-mediocre player, I have admired the work the USTA has done to green the US Open. My knowledge of those greening efforts has been limited mainly to what I’ve read. So I am delighted to get the inside scoop from you. First, tell me, how did you get into what seems like a plum assignment at the intersection of Green and Sports?
Bina Indelicato: Well, Lew, let’s get the tennis playing out of the way first. I like to hit with my two young kids but, other than that, I’m not much of a player.
GSB: We have so much in common!
BI: I’m not so sure! In any case, my professional background is as an Environmental Engineer–I got my BS and MS from MIT. I started working in wastewater treatment, landfill design, air pollution control design, etc. Eventually I became a LEED Accredited Professional (AP). I worked for years with an environmental consulting firm and then left to start eco evolutions, LLC with a partner.
GSB: What does eco evolutions focus on?
BI: We mainly provide LEED consulting for existing buildings. Meaning we take look at a building’s operations, maintenance, cleaning, etc. and figure out how to make it greener and, in so doing, get it up to LEED certification standards.
Bina Indelicato, Founder and CEO of eco evolutions, LLC. (Photo credit: eco evolutions, LLC)
GSB: Aside from the USTA, who are some your clients?
GSB: The Eagles are certainly at the forefront of the Green-Sports movement and J&J, among Fortune 500, is a forward thinker-actor on green issues, so congratulations. Now, how did you get involved with the USTA and Greening the US Open.
BI: It goes back to 2008. I was still working for the environmental consulting firm at the time. Anyway, Billie Jean King, for whom the National Tennis Center is named, spearheaded them to go green. Consultants were brought in to help the USTA green its signature event, the US Open in Queens. We were one of the companies who joined the effort early on–in fact we developed the “Greening the US Open” strategy. And then, after I left to start eco evolutions, we were hired to execute on that strategy.
GSB: Talk a bit about the strategy…
BI: …We helped them identify 5 key areas for greening the US Open: Waste Diversion, Green Messaging (Fan Awareness), Procurement, Energy/Transportation, and Green Buildings.
GSB: That’s quite comprehensive–except for water…
BI:…Water use efficiency is definitely in the mix…
GSB:…Great…So, now on to the execution of the strategy–what kind of results can you share.
BI: 7 years later, on Waste Diversion, the US Open diverts 70% of its waste from the landfill as it recycles and composts. And the USTA donates unused food through City Harvest. On procurement, they use 90% recycled paper…40% of produce is from local sources.
Recycling bin at the National Tennis Center. (Photo credit: USTA)
GSB: Green Buildings?
BI: …We use green cleaning products throughout the facility…LED Lights are now installed. 100% of the tournament’s energy use is offset by RECs. As far as transportation is concerned, employee and player travel to and from the tournament is neutralized by carbon offsets.
LED lights illuminate the outer courts at the US Open. (Photo credit: USTA)
GSB: That is a lot to manage–and over a relatively short period of time…That’s got to be a big challenge…
BI: You’re right. The tournament is a 2 week sprint (last week in August, first week in September)–very concentrated. So what we do there has to be simple.
GSB: What’s the key to making it work smoothly?
BI: It sounds trite, but you have to train and engage the staff–from cleaning to the kitchen to the suites–in the green efforts. And you have to reward the employees for success. The cool thing is the employees really do love the green initiatives–it makes them feel a part of something positive. So the feedback has been great.
GSB: Sounds so basic but it is crucial…Congratulations on getting employee buy-in…Now tell us about the Fan Engagement piece…
BI: This is not really part of my responsibility but we do know that the fans are, for the most part, putting their waste in the right receptacles, which are clearly marked. That we’re composting clearly demonstrates to the fans what we are doing–which is very important. And, through fan surveys, we do know that mass transit is becoming more widely used…
GSB: This is all very good. Now, and this is just my opinion: The USTA needs to publicize their greening efforts, both to the attendees of the Open and for the much bigger audience on TV. And they should measure fan awareness of, and interest in the greening program. I know that isn’t your arena, pun intended. OK, on to something that IS in your wheelhouse–and that is LEED Certification. What is going on at the National Tennis Center as far as that’s concerned, both in terms of existing buildings and in terms of the new structures that are going up as part of the major redevelopment project on the campus?
BI: Yes, there’s a strong interest in LEED at the National Tennis Center on the part of the Board. So we started with one of the smaller buildings on-site–the Transportation Building. It garnered LEED certification recently. The new Armstrong Stadium (the 2nd biggest on campus after Ashe) and the new Grandstand (#3) are being built to LEED standards…
GSB:…which is a big, high profile deal. What about on-site renewables?
BI: Ah, yes…On-site renewables, whether solar or wind, are high on the wish-list. Thing is, it’s a complicated process. New York City owns the land so it’s complicated. Still this is something the USTA will continue to look at.
GSB: I can only imagine the complexities…Still, I could see solar powered canopies leading from the #7 subway train to the entrance to the facility. Hey, it’s New York, ya gotta dream big!