Highlights from White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtable

The intersection of Green + Sports is not only getting more crowded, it’s gaining influence. The latter was on display on Monday as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted 70+ leaders of the sports-greening movement for a Roundtable discussion entitled “Climate and Sports.” 

 

Monday’s Roundtable discussion on Climate and Sports was Mary Harvey’s third official visit inside the White House. On the first two occasions, she was part of a championship celebration as a player. Harvey was the starting goalkeeper for the US Women’s National Soccer Team when it won the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and met President George H.W. Bush (“no one knew who we were back then”). She returned five years later to meet President Bill Clinton as part of the much more famous US Olympic Women’s Soccer team that won gold in Atlanta.

This time it was all business for Harvey, who, after her playing days, worked in senior executive capacities at FIFA and Women’s Professional Soccer (precursor to today’s NWSL), is Vice Chair of the Green Sports Alliance and is Principal at Seattle-based Ripple Effect Consulting, as well as the other Green-Sports All Stars assembled in the Eisenhower Room at the White House. They included Olympic Snowboard medalist Gretchen Bleiler, Allen Hershkowitz, co-Founder and President Emeritus of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), Alliance Board Chairman Scott Jenkins, 2016 GSA Environmental Leader of the Year Award winner and Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ference, University of Colorado Director of Environment Dave Newport, self-described “Eco-Vegan-Hippie-Chick with a race car” Leilani Münter, as well as executives from MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and the USTA.

Speaking of All Stars, US Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz opened the session. A nuclear physicist and MIT physics and engineering systems professor before leading heading the Department of Energy, Moniz’ profile rose above the typical Energy Secretary in 2015 when he became a key negotiator of the historic nuclear agreement with Iran. So he knows something about serious global threats.

And, since, in Dr. Moniz’ opinion, climate change is humanity’s greatest environmental threat; it was incumbent upon the Obama administration to do something about it.

Moniz DOE

Dr. Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy, opened the roundtable on “Climate and Sports,” hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Photo credit: US Department of Energy)

 

“The Secretary delivered a compelling recitation of the many initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration to enhance energy efficiency and reduce our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said Allen Hershkowitz, “[These] ranged from seemingly ‘small’ initiatives like reducing the amount of energy consumed by household appliances when they are in the ‘off’ position (known as ‘standby power,’ energy sucked by appliances when they are [turned off but still plugged in] accounts for more than 5 percent of all residential electricity consumed in the United States), to larger climate-protecting [programs] such as higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, promotion of electric vehicles, and the massive development of solar and wind power during the past eight years.”

Then it was time to go to work.

“The Roundtable was divided into three areas in which sports could aid in the climate change fight: mitigation—slowing down climate change, resilience—adapting to climate change that’s already ‘baked in,’ and education,” recounted Mary Harvey, “A different staffer led each section, then attendees presented case studies. The ‘feel’ of the meeting was very inclusive—they really wanted our thoughts.

Mitigation: Ms. Harvey spoke about the important role sports industry governing bodies (i.e. FIFA, IOC, and many others) can play in mitigating or reducing the carbon footprint of the sports industry. As an example, she cited regulations that governing bodies have regarding competition apparel, positing “What if international governing bodies were to specify not only the size and number of sponsor logos on competition apparel, but also that its manufacture must have a certain environmental profile, such as a minimum amount of recycled content, and performance in other environmentally friendly indices? If you extended this to replica and licensed product as well, along with information on how a product’s manufacture reduces its environmental impact; that provides a pretty big market ‘pull’ for an industry that’s already headed in that direction, and goes a long way towards educating fans on why this is important. Over time, these minimum standards would rise, and the industry would continue to innovate sustainably.” Other ideas offered included broadening the measurement of energy use at sporting venues, so it can be compared and improved upon, promoting widespread use energy efficient lighting like LEDs, adding climate-friendly food options to the menus at sports venues, and keeping food waste out of landfills–where it decomposes into methane, a potent greenhouse gas–by expanding food donation programs.

Harvey

Mary Harvey, Principal at Ripple Effect Consulting and Vice Chair of the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Mary V. Harvey)

 

Resilience: Dr. Douglas Casa of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut presented a case study of its work with athletes and heat exposure. Per Ms. Harvey, “It’s my understanding that the Institute consults with international sports governing bodies about mitigating the impact of extremely hot conditions on athletes and fans at major events. As an athlete who competed in extreme heat, it’s terrific that this kind of consultation is happening.” The threat climate change poses to MLB’s Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, and venue design adaptations that would move critical power supplies and other equipment above flood levels were also discussed.

Education: Broward County, FL educator Linda Gancitano presented How Low Can You Goa program she co-founded that partners with the Miami Heat that pits public schools against each other to see which school can reduce their percentage of CO2 consumption the most over a three month period.

What will the administration do with this information, especially with only five months left in office? My bet is that the report that will ultimately be written from this Roundtable will be left in the in box of the next Secretary of Energy. GreenSportsBlog fervently hopes that whoever replaces Secretary Moniz will see the value of working with the sports industry on real climate change solutions, because he or she will work for a President who sees climate change as real, human caused, and the greatest threat, environmental and, per Allen Hershkowitz, “existential,” that humanity faces.

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4 thoughts on “Highlights from White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtable

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