In our 2014 Best and Worst post, we characterized the year as being one in which Green-Sports gained maturity, based on the notion that the greening of sports is now “the rule rather than the exception.”
The phrase that comes to mind to describe Green-Sports in 2015 is increased influence, on display most recently at the Sustainable Innovation in Sport symposium as part of the COP21 climate conference in Paris. GreenSportsBlog worked to share examples of that increased influence throughout the year and is pleased to offer our readers an influential Best and Worst list for 2015.
BEST GREEN SPORTS STORY OF 2015
Mathieu Flamini, Arsenal Midfielder, & Co-Founder, GF Biochemical
Mathieu Flamini’s incredible Green-Sports story came to light only a couple of weeks ago but, for my money, it hits on three key notes to warrant the Best Green Sports Story of 2015 award:
- Scale and Influence: Flamini co-founded GF Biochemicals, an alternative energy company which produces levulinic acid (LA), a clean solvent sourced from biomass that can replace all manner of petroleum-based products, including fuel. It is the only company to produce LA at commercial scale. Flamini’s/GF’s goals are simple yet bold: Help wean the world off of fossil fuels, employ people in economically challenged Italy and, in the process capitalize on a what is projected to be a $20 billion emerging market. Talk about scale and influence!
- Eco-Athlete: There aren’t many world class athletes who have gotten involved with environmental/climate change-related issues. But there are some — in fact GSB featured four amazing Eco-Athletes, including Flamini in a recent story. Flamini, 31, plays for Arsenal (North London), which, as of this writing, resides in 2nd place in the Barclays Premier League, arguably the best and most influential soccer league in the world. Hopefully, by the end of 2016, there will be enough Flaminis that we can institute an Eco-Athlete of the Year Award.
- Human Interest: Flamini came up with the idea for the company with a friend while he was playing for AC Milan in 2008. Just think about that for a minute. How he did this while pursuing his time consuming career at the highest level of world soccer is beyond me.
Arsenal midfielder and GF Biochemicals co-founder Mathieu Flamini (r), along partner Pasquale Granata (l). (Photo credit: TheConversation.com)
Honorable Mention, adidas: The German-based apparel and athletic shoe manufacturer drew strong consideration for its work with non-profit, Parley for the Oceans, to help get plastic waste out of the oceans. That partnership yielded a first: An adidas shoe upper* made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gill nets.
GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OF 2015
The Pacific-12 (Pac-12) Conference
That college and university athletics departments in the USA are greening at a rapid pace should be well known to GreenSportsBlog readers–we highlighted the great #greensports work being done at schools large (Ohio State and Ole Miss) and small (Amherst and its embryonic, student-athlete inspired greening program) in our pages in 2015.
But those are individual schools. As the recent COP21 climate conference in Paris clearly demonstrated, the world needs countries and businesses, including the sports business, to scale up their greening efforts–and quickly.
In the college sports world, “scaling up” means that greening needs to step up beyond the individual school to the league/conference level. So up stepped the Pac-12, GreenSportsBlog’s 2015 Greenest Sports League.
In 2015, the Pac-12, one of the most influential college conferences on the field, became the first collegiate sports conference to join the Green Sports Alliance (GSA). This was a natural progression as all 12 schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State) were already individual members.
From zero-waste stadiums, to solar powered arenas, Pac-12 schools are walking the college-sports-greening-movement walk. All 12, with the organizational support of the GSA, recently competed in the inaugural Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl, a competition to see which campus could divert the most waste from the landfill at a selected home game during the 2015 football season.
Colorado took first place honors, with Cal-Berkeley and Arizona finishing in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
Dave Newport, Director of the University of Colorado’s Environmental Center, and a key player in the greening of Colorado and Pac-12 athletics, says that Zero Waste is just the beginning: “A number of Pac-12 schools are cooperating on a novel water program that will actually increase water flows in the Colorado River Basin–obviously a critical resource for many Pac-12 campuses. Next year, we may add that to our competitive sustainability games because everybody wins when water is restored.”
Dave Newport, Director of the Environmental Center at University of Colorado, Boulder (Photo credit: Dave Newport)
GREENEST NEW STADIUM OF 2015
CHS Field, Home of the St. Paul Saints (Independent Minor League Baseball)
One might expect that this award would go to a huge green stadium, a la Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, home of the 2014 winner, home of the NFL’s 49ers and host of Super Bowl 50 in six weeks.
Not this year, because small projects can sometimes be very influential. CHS Field, a 7,000 seat gem in Minnesota’s capital city dotted a myriad of green “i’s” and crossed many green “t’s”, often in innovative fashion. The Saints and CHS Field’s builders:
- Transformed what once was a contaminated brownfield site into a state-of-the-art, über-green ballpark.
- Built the first major sports venue to reuse rainwater for field irrigation.
- Reused nearly all of a former Gillette warehouse building to construct CHS Field.
- Use District Energy St. Paul’s water-steam based system for heating and cooling loads, which are about 35 percent more efficient than traditional grid supply.
- Working with Xcel Energy, gave solar a big role at CHS Field, with a 100kW solar system which supplies 12.5 percent of the ballpark’s power.
CHS Field, home of the St. Paul (MN) Saints minor league baseball team, perhaps the greenest stadium in the US. (Photo Credit: CHS Field)
We expect that the Saints’ approach can and will influence bigger stadium projects going forward and are thus proud to name CHS Field the Greenest New Stadium of 2015.
2015 BEST TEAM ON-/GREENEST TEAM OFF-FIELD
New England Patriots, NFL
This is painful for a fan of the New York Jets to write.
But, even if the truth hurts, we still must, as Howard Cosell famously intoned, “Tell it like it is.” And it is like this:
The Pats are very, very good on the field. Defending Super Bowl champs, and, despite a ton of key injuries, New England sits at 11-2 as of this writing. They have, for seemingly the 3,004,387th year in a row, clinched the AFC East. If the playoffs started today, they’d be #1 seed in the AFC. The play of 38 year-old Tom Brady shows no signs of slipping.
And the Pats are very good off the field, at least from a green perspective^. Back in January, before the last Super Bowl, GreenSportsBlog compared the green records of the two combatants, New England and Seattle. Seattle won (better on mass transit usage and waste diversion) but it was close as the Foxboro, MA-based Patriots were given high marks on energy (strong energy management at Gillette Stadium, on-site solar, 100% use of clean energy to generate all electricity on game days via the purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)) and water (100% recycled “grey water” supplied by the stadium’s own state-of-the-art on-site wastewater treatment and reuse system).
2015 LEAST GREEN NEW STADIUM PROJECT
No Winner; Could Not Find a New Stadium/Arena That Isn’t At Least Somewhat Green
Here’s some great Green-Sports news: As far as GreenSportsBlog could tell, all of the new stadium and arena projects that opened in 2015 or are being built for 2016 and beyond have some sort of green hue, with many seeking LEED certification.
OK, there is one exception: SunTrust Park, the new Atlanta Braves stadium that is being built in the suburbs, inaccessible by light rail. Thing is, SunTrust “won” this award last year and so we didn’t need to go there again.
We are happy to retire this award after just one year!
2015 SPORTS GREENWASH OF THE YEAR
Greening Major College Athletics Departments Accept Koch Brothers Sponsorship Dollars
Back in March, it was announced that 10 influential college athletics programs–Iowa; Iowa State; Kansas State; Minnesota; Oklahoma; Oklahoma State; SMU; Texas A&M; Texas Tech and Wisconsin–had entered into a marketing partnership with Koch (pronounced “Coke”) Industries.
How does this warrant the Sports Greenwash of the Year designation?
First, let’s define greenwash: “When an entity promotes environmental initiatives but actually operates in a way that is damaging to the environment or in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiatives.”
With that in mind, athletics and sustainability departments at schools like Minnesota and Wisconsin are aggressively promoting their greening efforts —which are legit, by the way — among students, fans, and other stakeholders.
On the other hand, these same schools take sponsorship dollars from Koch, which, among other things, has funded groups denying climate change to the tune of $67 million since 1997, is the 3rd largest holder of Canadian tar sands oil leases, among the dirtiest oils on the planet, and, through its Americans For Prosperity political action group, is leading a fight against the expansion of the solar power industry in Florida.
So, Minnesota, Wisconsin (we highlight them because, of the Koch 10, they are the schools that are promoting the greenness of their athletics departments the most), sadly, you’ve earned your Greenwash of the Year for 2015.
^ We will not get into Deflategate
* The part or parts of a shoe that cover the toes, the top of the foot, the sides of the foot, and the back of the heel
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This is a great idea! We so often forget about the effect of sports on our environment. Simple things like thousands of people driving to a stadium to watch their team do a huge amount of damage
[…] Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2015 […]
Thanks for the comment, Paul. Yes, fan travel is the biggest source of carbon emissions for sports (and other entertainment) events. Many teams and stadia are increasing access to mass transit, offering EV charging stations and installing bike racks to mitigate against some of the emissions.
[…] watchwords for last week’s GreenSportsBlog 2015 year end awards were “increasing influence,” as in the increasing influence exerted by, and scale of […]
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