GSB News and Notes: Innovative Run For The Oceans on World Oceans Day; DC’s Verizon Center Adds Solar; Cooper Helfet, Oakland Raiders Eco-Athlete, Helps Launch The Nature Project

Adidas, along with nonprofit partner Parley for the Oceans and Runtastic, sponsors Run For The Oceans, a series of digital runs across the globe and an actual 5K in NYC on World Oceans Day (June 8) to bring attention to the plastic ocean waste and ocean health crises. Washington, DC, a city that can use some sensible sustainability news these days, sees the Verizon Center, home to the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals, add solar power to its energy mix. And Cooper Helfet, tight end for the Oakland Raiders, enters the ranks of eco-athletes by co-founding The Nature Project, bringing underserved youth in Washington State. Enjoy your cool News & Notes column on a hot (in New York City at least) Tuesday.

 

ADIDAS, PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS, RUNTASTIC TEAM UP TO SPONSOR DIGITAL + IN PERSON RUNS FOR THE OCEANS

59,136, and 358,150.

Those two numbers represent the total runners and the aggregate miles run in the first #RunForTheOceans during World Oceans Week, June 5-11 and, in particular, on World Oceans Day, June 8. Sponsored by adidas and nonprofit partner Parley for the Oceans, and fitness tracking app Runtastic, the event aggregated the efforts of runners all over the world to raise awareness of the plastic ocean waste issue and other environmental problems plaguing our waterways.

“Digital runners,” no matter their location, logged their mileage on Runtastic. While they ran, they listened to a dedicated playlist to learn more about ocean ecosystems, which are enduring plastic pollution, oil spills and the effects of climate change, including bleached coral reefs and species-threatening acidification.

On World Oceans Day, June 8, the focus was New York City as adidas and Parley hosted an evening in-person 5K run and after-party. The streets along the route were illuminated with blue lights to reflect undersea tones.

 

Manhattan Bridge

The Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge, illuminated in blue for the Run for the Oceans 5K on World Oceans Day, June 8, sponsored by adidas, Parley for the Oceans and Runtastic. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans/Runtastic)

 

Run for the Oceans

Runners gather for the Run for the Oceans 5K in New York City. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans/Runtastic)

 

The adidas-Parley for the Oceans partnership should be familiar to GSB readers: In March, we reported on the launch of the company’s UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneaker, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste dredged from the ocean around the Maldives, an archipelago that is existentially threatened by climate change off the southern coast of India. Parley for the Oceans, an environmental nonprofit that draws much-needed attention to ocean pollution and waste, has worked with adidas in the design and marketing of the shoe, on a swimwear line and, now, on Run for the Oceans.

 

Parley

Some of the Run for the Oceans runners wore the adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley shoe, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans)

 

The 2017 edition of Run for the Oceans is just the start. Plans are being developed for a bigger and better 2018—the host city for the in person run is, at present, TBD.

No matter the location, adidas clearly sees the transformative power of Green-Sports. Eric Liedtke, the adidas executive board member responsible for global brands, said in a statement that “At the heart of our brand is the belief that through sport, we have the power to change lives. With the Run for the Oceans, we’re using this power of sport to inspire action.”

 

SOLAR POWER COMES TO VERIZON CENTER

Verizon Center, the downtown Washington, D.C. home of the NBA’s Wizards, WNBA’s Mystics, NHL’s Capitals, and Georgetown Hoyas basketball, is greening. Team and venue owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced a partnership last week with Virginia-based WGL Energy Services that will enable the Verizon Center to operate using 25 percent solar energy.

 

Verizon Center

Verizon Center during a Wizards game (Photo credit: Clark Construction)

 

“Sustainability is at the core of our operations across all of Monumental Sports & Entertainment,” Dave Touhey, its president of venues, said in a statement. “We are excited to expand our energy relationship with WGL Energy by entering into this new partnership to bring more renewable energy to Verizon Center.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment will purchase solar electricity from a third-party-owned solar facility in Frederick County, Md. (about halfway between Washington and Harrisburg, PA), and receive about 4.7 million kWh per year of energy beginning in late 2017 as part of a long-term contract.

“Offsite renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the energy industry,” WGL VP and chief revenue officer Louis J. Hutchinson III said in a statement. “As renewable energy offerings continue to mature, it’s exciting to see the sports industry play a major role in sourcing offsite renewable energy.”

The impact for now will be small but meaningful: WGL Energy reports that the carbon emissions avoided as a result of the new arrangement are equivalent to taking nearly 700 cars off the road for one year. It says here that, as the price of solar power continues to drop, Monumental Sports & Entertainment and WGL will up the percentage of Verizon Center electricity generated directly from the sun.

WGL has been the official energy partner of Verizon Center since 2015 and, according to a June 8 story by Scott Allen in The Washington Post, the partnership has reaped some early environmental benefits: “Later this month, Monumental Sports & Entertainment will be honored as one of the Green Sports Alliance’s Innovators of the Year for counterbalancing ‘more than 3,123 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 201 events’ at Verizon Center in 2016 with carbon offsets.”

While the Trump Administration and other sectors of the federal government are moving backwards with appalling alacrity on climate change and the environment, D.C. area teams, in addition to those housed in the Verizon Center, are moving forward. Nationals Park, home of MLB’s Washington Nationals, was the first professional sports stadium to receive LEED Silver certification when it opened in 2008. The NFL’s Washington Redskins, in a partnership with NRG, installed 8,000 solar panels in a FedEx Field parking lot in 2011. And Audi Field, the future home to Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, is expected to receive LEED Gold certification soon after it opens in 2018.

 

COOPER HELFET & THE NATURE PROJECT

Eco-athletes, to this point a relatively rare breed, are starting to grow in number. Add Cooper Helfet, tight end with the Oakland Raiders, to the list, with The Nature Project.

The brainchild of Helfet and high school pal Charles Post, The Nature Project aims to bring underserved urban youth, starting in Washington State, into nature so that they can learn to love the outdoors and experience the benefits of time spent in nature. You see, both Helfet and Post were raised by families that appreciated the value of nature, the joys of hiking, and exploring in the spectacular forests native to that part of the world.

 

Cooper Helfet

Cooper Helfet (Photo credit: The Nature Project)

 

Cooper, a top lacrosse, football and basketball player in high school, played tight end for Duke and, since 2013, has occupied the fringes of NFL rosters, mostly with the Seattle Seahawks and, as of midway through last season, the hometown Oakland Raiders. While with Seattle, Helfet helped roommate and Seahawks legend, Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, with his community based non-profit, Fam First. After a one year retirement, Lynch signed with his hometown Raiders this offseason so he and Helfet will again be teammates.

One day in the spring of 2014, Charles and Cooper were hiking through Olympic National Park in Washington. Cooper was telling Charles about his experiences working with Fam First, and in particular his understanding that these kids, many of whom had few resources or support, may never have the opportunity to spend a day on the trail or camping under the starts. He talked about wanting to create an opportunity to bring these and other underserved youth into nature so that they too could learn to love the outdoors and experience the benefits of time spent in nature. Charles, who received both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Ecology from the University of California, Berkeley and taught courses in field biology and American environmental history as a graduate student instructor, was quick to build upon Cooper’s ideas.

It took three years and $70,000 to put The Nature Project’s vision into motion. Per Charles Post’s June 9 blog post, The Nature Project earlier this spring “brought 200 4th and 5th graders into nature so that they could experience a three day, three night stay at Islandwood—an award winning outdoor education retreat on Bainbridge Island west of Seattle. Joining them, in addition to Helfet, were Seattle Seahawks players Sidney Rice, DeShawn Shed, Jermaine Kerse, Olympic swimmer Emily Silver, mountain athlete and artist Rachel Pohl and members of the University of Washington basketball team.”

 

Sidney Rice

Sidney Rice of the Seattle Seahawks and 4th and 5th graders enjoy a day in the woods through The Nature Project. (Photo credit: The Nature Project)

 

Helfet reacted to the first The Nature Project event as though he had won a Super Bowl, which he did as a member of the Seahawks in 2014^: “The radiant smiles spread across the faces of [the] boys and girls spending their first days in the outdoors gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for getting to share those moments with them. Sometimes it seems as though I forget how magical our natural world can be until you see those wonders through a kid’s eyes experiencing the natural world for the first time…I found myself brimming with joy as I watched kids planted in nature as they climbed trees, ate stinging nettle, saw owls and bald eagles for the first time—all within a few hours of their home communities. Being in the presence of these transformative moments impacted me and the other athletes deeply. ”

 

^ The Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8, over the Denver Broncos at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey

 

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