Green Sports Alliance Summit

A Movement Grows in Brooklyn at Green Sports Alliance Summit


Leading lights of the growing Green Sports Movement spoke to 600 attendees (600!) at Day 2 of the 3rd annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn.

Lisa MacCallum, Nike’s VP, Access To Sport, delivered a passionate Keynote address focused on the “Inactivity Crisis” plaguing the world’s youth.  “Today’s kids are the least active generation in history”, said MacCallum, “and physical inactivity has become the new normal.”  Physical inactivity costs in the US are estimated at $147 billion annually, more than twice the US education budget.

While MacCallum positioned the Inactivity Crisis as a sustainability issue in the broader, “healthy lifestyle, healthy planet” sense of the word, I would not have made her speech the Keynote because it was slightly off topic for a Green Sports Summit.  Still, I’m glad I got to hear her speak and applaud Nike for their efforts to get kids under 10 MOVING!


Christina Weiss Lurie

Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner, Philadelphia Eagles


Three C-Level sports team executives highlighted the best panel of the day, “Investing In The Future:  Supporting Sustainability From Top To Bottom”.  Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner & Vice Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans (formerly Hornets) spoke movingly about the Saints commitment to sustainability in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, demonstrated why the Eagles and their “Go Green” campaign are are showing the NFL the way, sustainability-wise:  All of the Eagles energy is off-grid (100% solar/wind!) and 99% of their waste is diverted from landfill.  I told Weiss Lurie that the Eagles have officially become my 2nd favorite team, after the Jets.  Weiss Lurie:  “Hey, they both wear green!”.

Bob Nutting, Chairman of the Board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said many fans expressed concern that the Pirates were focusing on being green at the expense of the product on the field.  Despite the Pirates finishing below .500 every year for two decades, Nutting and the rest of the management team decided they would walk (continue greening) and chew gum (build a winner) at the same time.  Looks like they’re on the right track–as of this writing, the Pirates are 76-54, 1/2 game out of first in the National League’s Central Division and the “Let’s Go Bucs, Let’s Go Green” campaign has taken strong root in the community.

While the Summit is, understandably, centered mainly on sustainability from a facilities management (i.e. stadiums/arenas) point of view, I was particularly interested to see the “Sustainability + Sports Sponsorship” panel as I believe fan engagement and corporate sponsorship to be the next and most impactful frontiers in the Green Sports Movement.  Why?  Scale.  Billions follow sports worldwide.  Sponsorship is a $50 billion annual business worldwide, with $20 billion of that coming from the US and 70% of that coming from sports!

The panelists included a representative of a club (Portland Trailblazers), a national sponsor (GM), regional sponsor (National Grid), and a sponsorship agency (GMR).  The general consensus is that green-themed sponsorships are growing but more slowly than perhaps hoped.  I asked how much of that slowness is due to fear of offending climate deniers/Red State America.  The rather tepid response–no apparent willingness to take on the deniers–showed that the fear is, sadly, still there.  But, the panel gets that fans under 35 grew up with recycling and understand green.  Thus, green-themed sponsorships targeted to younger audiences should flourish.

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Co-Founder of the Green Sports Alliance and Senior Scientist at NRDC, moderated “Four Ways Sports Teams + Venues Can Tackle Environmental Issues”.

Jim Puckett, Founder of the Basel Action Network, an NGO  working to combat the export of toxic waste from industrialized societies to developing countries, detailed their e-Stewards program.

Recyclers can become e-Steward certified after proving that they follow all national and international laws concerning electronic waste and its proper disposal, which includes bans on exporting, land dumping, incineration, and use of prison labor.  Puckett encouraged teams to be vocal e-Stewards adopters as “education about e-waste is the key.”  Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, reported on their innovative Gallons For Goals partnership with the NHL in which the league restores 1,000 gallons of water to de-watered ecosystems for every goal scored in a season.

Who knew the only Formula 1 racetrack in the US would be a sustainability leader?

Edgar Farrera, Director of Sustainability at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA)the Austin, TX based track that opened in November, 2012, shared that story during the “4 Ways To Green Sporting Events” panel.  Before Austin would agree to allow COTA to build the track, it had to comply with a comprehensive, 55-point sustainability protocol.  Once built, COTA not only hosted the Formula 1 US Grand Prix last fall, it also was the site for the Formula Sun Grand Prix, a solar car race among 12 colleges.  How cool is that?


Formula Sun

Formula Sun competitors at Circuit of America Racetrack, Austin, TX

I expect to see and hear about more innovative, amazing developments in the Green Sports world at tomorrow’s final session.  Stay tuned to GSB for the highlights.



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  1. A company called NRG is the real hero. This company invested the 30 million for the Eagle’s solar plant and many other sports arenas. Philadelphia Eagles committed to a long term electricity purchase ontract in exchange. Time will tell whether NRG will earn a competitive return. If not, no more solar projects like this. However, NRG locking in their generation costs now will likely prove a long term good decision. .A company to watch: NRG.

  2. NRG has made a big play in the sports world. They were the Official Carbon Offset partner of the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Their Green Mountain Energy subsidiary is the country’s longest serving renewable energy retailer.

  3. If the Obama administration truly wants to get serious about climate change, it needs to embrace the activities of the private sector. The government could play the role of NRG and provide a guarantee for solar and wind projects similar to what it did for housing. Sure, in 30 or 40 years we would have too many projects and there would be a bubble similar to housing and the default of the FNMA and others, but in the meantime we would solve some serious environmental issues. Unfortunately, there exists too much distrust of the private sector in this administration and too much division in government between the major political parties. I see this adminitration wanting to use a “stick” approach for bad actions rather than “carrots'” for good actions – an approach which will not work.
    Fortunately, economics will prevail as the costs of fossil energy escalates vs renewables. It is discouraging though to see government, perhaps well meaning, bumble so badly in its approach.

  4. Thanks for the comment, John! At first glance I like the idea of the government providing a guarantee/price floor for renewable projects (Germany has done this for years with solar) (I’d include nuclear, concentrated solar and new hydro in that mix).
    I wonder if any idea, even a business friendly one, could get through this Congress. What do you think? To me, the “Obama Is Hostile To Business” idea is too simplistic and, on balance, not true. Maybe what’s true is “Obama Is Against Doing Everything That Business Wants”. I’d say that’s a good thing but that’s just me. But, let’s take a closer look at the Obama Hates Business angle. In his first administration he took on two big things–responding to the Econopocalypse and Healthcare Reform. And, with a lesser level of intensity, he took on Climate Change.
    In the case of the Financial Crisis, did he kneecap Big Finance/Banks? Hardly. Didn’t nationalize the banks. Credit requirements are still low. Big banks weren’t broken up. Derivatives aren’t really regulated. Wall Street friendly folks like Summers, Geithner, etc., were in charge. Elizabeth Warren wasn’t allowed to take control of the Financial Protection Board. But I guess Obama hates big finance. What’s funny is, Obama gets excoriated as an anti-business socialist. What should he have done? Aside from losing the election, nothing, I guess.
    Healthcare: Single payer? No. Public option? No. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies at the table, writing the law? Yes. Modeled on a GOP-authored plan (RomneyCare in MA)? Yes. Free market principles (public/private exchanges)? Yes. But I guess Obama hates the healthcare industry. What’s funny is, ObamaCare is excoriated as government takeover of healthcare and RomneyCare is an example of a free market program that works. Really?
    On the environment, Obama tried to get through a market-based, Cap & Trade system as a way to put a price on Carbon. Got through the House but not the Senate. Died. The GOP, including John McCain (before he was running for President) supported this. In fact, the GOP PROPOSED it in the Northeast in response to Acid Rain. Obama proposes it, he’s a Kenyan anti-Christ.
    I think your ire is better focused on the goalpost moving, Obama hating GOP. But this is a diversion from the big issue at hand.
    And that is, the US and the rest of the world need to de-carbonize FAST (most estimates say we need to reduce burning greenhouse gases by at least 50-75% by 2050). Here, there is a huge conflict. For Big Oil, Oil Producing Governments, Big Coal and Big Gas are among the most profitable entities in the world. Much of their value is embedded in reserves still in the ground. If we’re going to reduce the burning of carbon significantly by 2050, many of those reserves need to stay in the ground, unburned. Which means they become worth zilch. Big Oil and the rest don’t take kindly to policy proposals that put a price on carbon, which will allow renewables to get to price parity more quickly, or anything else that will keep carbon unburned.
    The problem is not the Carbon Tax, Cap and Trade nor those who propose them. It’s the reaction that’s the problem. Funny thing is, Australia has a carbon tax. Big Oil opposed it vociferously and still does, basically predicting an Energy Econopocalypse. There’s been some cost increases, some jobs lost (in coal), other jobs gained. Emissions are trending downward. The world didn’t end. Ireland now has one. China (China!) is considering a carbon tax.
    This whole story reminds me of the vitriol that Mayor Bloomberg took on here in NYC when he banned cigarette smoking in bars and restaurants 5 years ago. The restaurant and bar industry screamed bloody murder–Bloomberg wants to kill our business, the bar business will die, yada yada. Of course the ban goes into effect. There is a short term (2 hour?) drop in bar business and then it comes right back. Last I checked bars were doing just fine.
    Anyway, I think it’s incumbent on the extractive industries and the governments in the oil producing regions to come up with real, measurable policies that will keep significant amounts of carbon in the ground. If they don’t then it’s up to leaders like Obama to step in. If that’s business unfriendly, so be it. Because if the planet is uninhabitable, that’s not a good business climate.

  5. An addendum to my comment above, an Op-Ed from the Washington Post, trashing Ethanol subsidies (I’m cool with that) and proposing a Carbon Tax:

  6. The issue is not the oil in the ground. That decline rate of an existing well is 5-15 percent . We would all be delighted if oil production decreased by that much each year. The issue is new exploration and the fact that the large energy companies have little economic incentive to spend their money on renewables rather than looking for hydrocarbons. If the oil companies pumped all they currently had in assets, we would no longer have any issues as their production would rapidly decline. The problem is that they continue to explore and spend their money on new exploration and development. Because of uneven government policies, the risk is too high for the return investing in renewables in any scale. What I am advocating is a government policy which incents good behavior.
    There is no need to guarantee the price of energy: low cost money through government guarantees on projects( similar to the guarantee on GNMA paper) would lower the break even on renewable projects and ensure that companies like NRG prosper. Large energy companies would surely take advantage of the opportunity as well. I wouldn’t say the Obama administration is anti business. What I would say is that the government’s policies have not been effective so far.
    The large international energy companies only produce 20 percent of the worlds oil; however they are leaders in the industry. If they start to invest in renewables, so will the rest of the world. We cannot solve this problem without the support of the governments of the world which also own their oil producers such as Petrobras, Gazprom, And Aramco Lets hope the US can lead the way with the technology prowess of the large energy companies. They need to be the solution, not the problem. We need an alliance of business and government to solve this problem!

  7. I’m all in with your idea, coupled with a price on carbon. One question: Does this really only work when interest rates are rising or high? I mean, with rates next to zero is there really such a thing as cheap(er) money?

  8. NRG raises money at 6-8 percent yield and a single project financed might have to yield closer to 8-10 percent. A government guarantee would cut the cost of capital dramatically and make so many more projects economical.

    1. Sorry if I’m dense but why does NRG have a cost of capital of 6-8% when interest rates are near 0? In any case, assuming your #s are right then a gov’t guarantee of lower interest rates makes sense to me. Should I write my Congressman (Charlie Rangel) and US Senators (Gillibrand and Schumer) to get them to propose such a scheme? Re: Carbon Tax, here’s former Dubya and Romney advisor (and Harvard Prof) Gregory Mankiw in support of one: Agree?

  9. […] near the set-to-open Levi’s Stadium, new home of the San Francisco 49′ers.  I attended this year’s summit in Brooklyn and was impressed by its breadth and substance.  For the 2014 summit, I’d like to see a […]

  10. […] near the set-to-open Levi’s Stadium, new home of the San Francisco 49′ers.  I attended this year’s summit in Brooklyn and was impressed by its breadth and substance.  For the 2014 summit, I’d like to see a […]

  11. […] is a member of the Green Sports Alliance and its Vice Chairman, Rita Benson LeBlanc, took part in “Investing In The Future:  Supporting Sustainability From Top To Bottom”, a panel at the 2013 Alliance’s Summit in […]

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