Green Mega Sports Events

Advantage, The Green US Open


“To solve the serious environmental problems facing our planet, we need to shift our culture toward more sustainable practices. Sports are hugely influential and can play a significant role in causing a ‘green’ ripple effect of enormous proportions, encouraging industries and consumers alike to improve the choices they make every day.” 

Billie Jean King, 4-time US Open Singles Champion; Member, World Tennis Hall of Fame.


The United States Tennis Association (USTA), the sport’s governing body in this country, has been working with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) since 2008 (and, more recently, adding the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) to the mix) to live up to Billie Jean King’s challenge with its crown jewel — the just-completed US Open at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.

Attended by 700,000+ fans each year and viewed by millions worldwide, the US Open’s high profile provides the USTA with a great opportunity to showcase its greenness — and a responsibility to make sure it is spreading its green good works beyond the confines of the National Tennis Center.

Great progress has been made since: Recycling was tackled first; composting was introduced to fans in 2011 at the Food Village and at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2012. As a result, between 2011 and 2013, the Open increased its diversion-from-landfill rate from 28 to 63 percent. For the 2014 Open, the USTA-NRDC-GSA troika has made even more innovative green strides. Highlights include:

  • Offsetting the carbon emissions generated from player travel to-from the event (estimated to be 2.15 million miles air miles and 134,000 ground miles) as well as from the fuel consumed on-site to run the 2014 US Open.
  • Expanding the composting effort to capture food waste everywhere it’s served at the National Tennis Center campus.
  • Using composted waste from the 2013 tournament to feed plants at this year’s event.
  • Converting more than 12,000 gallons of food grease into biodiesel fuel.
  • Purchasing Green-e certified wind renewable energy certificates to match the electricity consumed during the tournament.
  • Painting all courts with DecoColor by DecoTurf, the only sports surfacing product that is certified by Green Wise and meets strict VOC requirements.
  • Installing LED lights on 3 outer courts that are 50% more efficient than standard lights.




Panoramic view of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the National Tennis Center in Queens, site of the US Open. The court is painted using DecoColor, the only such product certified by Green Wise (Photo Credit: DecoTurf)


Fan awareness is a key facet of the Open’s sustainability program:

  • Impact, a Public Service Announcement (PSA), produced for the 2013 Open in collaboration with the NRDC, is being shown again this year on site and on US Open digital assets. It encourages fans to reduce their paper, water, and energy use so that we can all lessen our collective impact on the environment.
  • The Open’s Green Initiatives are featured in the official 2014 US Open Program.
  • NRDC’s Eco-Tips are featured in the US Open Daily as well as communicated through US Open social media channels.

While GreenSportsBlog gives the USTA-NRDC-GSA greening efforts an outstanding 5.0 grade, based on the USTA’s player ranking scale  (a 1.5 is a beginner, rankings increase in increments of 0.5 until 7.0, which means you are a pro like 2014 US Open champions Marin Cilic and Serena Williams. 5.0 is VERY good) (I’m a solid 3.5 FWIW) for the work it’s done in greening the Open to date, here are some suggestions as to how it can garner a coveted 5.5 in 2015:

  • Get Impact, or another PSA, to be aired on ESPN and Tennis Channel broadcasts of the US Open (maybe it was aired on this year’s Open, but in hours of watching the tournament I didn’t see it).
  • Find a top current player, with strong eco-consciousness, (or two) to take part in a new, green-themed PSA.
  • Offset the travel miles of all of the 700,000 fans who attend the 2015 tournament. The fans could voluntarily offset their travel miles (doing so would enter them into a sweepstakes to win a trip to the 2016 Open); a green sponsor could take care of the rest.

Feel free to add your suggestions as to how the US Open can up its green rating to 5.5. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the tournament.

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  1. I spent a good deal of time at the Open this year and I think it’s great that event organizers are emphasizing recycling and composting, but I’d be curious to know how many people actually put the right stuff in the right bin. I didn’t see any volunteers or event staff educating people and the signage was only written in English, so I’m not sure they are going to be able to compost/recycle as much as they could have with a little more direct public engagement.
    One other area that would have an immediate and impressive impact would be for the US Open to offer refillable water stations throughout the grounds and to consider eliminating a single-use plastic water bottle partner.

  2. Thanks for the observations, Julianna! This echoes comments I heard from other folks–especially that the labeling on the bins were unclear at some locations and didn’t exist at others. Seems like an easy fix to me. Agree on the H20 comment as well, although there are logistical challenges. It would be really great if they could allow fans to bring in empty water bottles (maybe offer a discount on admission to encourage this) and offer ample refilling stations across the campus and in the venues themselves. Perhaps a company that makes refillable water stations for offices and homes would sponsor.

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