Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2016


In 2016, global awareness, growth and influence of Green-Sports continued to grow—the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics featured a segment on climate change that reached an estimated audience of 1 billion (that’s billion with a B) people; Barack Obama became the first US president to talk Green-Sports publicly. But the growth curve was uneven: Just as climate change was largely ignored by the media in the 2016 US presidential election campaign, it says here that, Opening Ceremonies aside, not nearly enough attention was paid by the major media to the many green-sports strides being made. Case in point: the great work done by the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. With that introduction (drum roll, please)—it’s time for GreenSportsBlog’s Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2016.

The Rio “Climate Change” Olympics Opening Ceremony
This was a tough, tough choice—which shows how far the Sports-Greening movement has come. Consider just some of the many great Green-Sports stories that didn’t make the cut:

  • President Obama talking about Green-Sports publicly
  • Pope Francis including environmental sustainability at the Sport At The Service Of Humanity conclave at The Vatican
  • USTA and the US Open: The National Tennis Center in Queens opened the LEED certified, Zero-Waste (90 percent or more of waste diverted from landfill via recycling or composting) Grandstand Stadium.

But the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremonies vignette (video and on-site presentation) on climate change wins the BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2016 in large part because it was seen by 75,000+ people at the Maracana Stadium and an estimated 1 billion TV and online viewers, making it the biggest audience ever for a climate change message. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, among many other major media outlets, reported on it.
The video had one overriding message: The world must do whatever it can to stop climate change, and fast.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aOqfKYUyKI&w=560&h=315]

Homemade video of the climate change portion of the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio. (Credit: YouTube)

You know what? Best Green Sports Story of the Year isn’t a big enough honor for what I call the Rio Climate Change Opening Ceremonies. Let’s also call it THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT IN GREEN-SPORTS HISTORY.


Among pro sports leagues and collegiate conferences, the National Hockey League is the clear Green-Sports leader, winning its second GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE award over the past three years.

  1. Together with energy partner Constellation, the NHL is in the midst of its third carbon neutral season—it buys enough renewable energy credits (RECs) and carbon offsets to completely negate its carbon footprint. That footprint includes arena and league office operations, and team travel. During the 2014-15 season, the league offset  an estimated total of 550,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of 115,000 cars. Fan travel to and from NHL games is one very big carbon footprint line item not yet included in the NHL’s offset program. If/when that happens, the league could well garner a Greenest Sports League Hat Trick.
  2. Added this season to the NHL-Constellation greening portfolio is NHL Greener Rinks, which will measure and evaluate the environmental impact of community ice rinks across North America.
  3. The league ramped up the communications of its greening efforts to its fans. Hall of Fame goaltender and renewable energy entrepreneur-financier Mike Richter shared the NHL’s sustainability story in a segment on NHL Network during NHL Green Week.
  4. In October, President Obama became the first US president to talk Green-Sports in public when he lauded the NHL for its climate change fighting leadership at the White House ceremony honoring the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZRgRDfJ_WI&w=560&h=315]

President Barack Obama honors the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at a White House ceremony on October 6. He cited the Penguins and the NHL for their leadership at the intersection of Green + Sports (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).

Golden 1 Center, Home of the Sacramento Kings (NBA)
When we started GreenSportsBlog back in 2013, building new stadiums and arenas to the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards was big news. Just three years later, it would be news if a major sports facility project was built without LEED certification in mind.
Even with the high expectations for green stadiums-arenas these days, Golden 1 Center, the new home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and the first arena in the world to earn LEED Platinum status, stands out. In so doing, it earns GreenSportsBlog’s GREENEST NEW STADIUM/ARENA designation for 2016. The arena’s state-of-the-green-art features include:

  • Being both an indoor and outdoor space. How is that possible? By featuring five massive hangar doors above the grand entrance that open and allow the arena to use a natural cooling phenomenon in Sacramento – The Delta Breeze – to efficiently control the building’s climate. 
  • Powering itself solely by solar energy, with energy generated from rooftop solar and by plugging into the area’s “solar grid”
  • Going local as ninety percent of the food consumed at Golden 1 Center is locally produced, much of it organic.


Artist’s rendering of the exterior of Golden 1 Center, the new LEED Platinum home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. (Credit: AECOM)
Cleveland Indians
I know, Believeland-ers, you’d much rather have won Game 7 of the World Series than win GSB’s BEST TEAM ON AND GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD award. But 1) you can’t always get what you want, 2) be thankful LeBron James and the Cavs ended Cleveland’s sports title drought at 52 years, and 3) the BTOGTOF award is NOT TOO SHABBY!
On the field, the Indians deserve kudos for winning their first American League pennant since 1997 and for taking the heavily favored Chicago Cubs to extra innings in the 7th game.
Off the field, the Indians have been green champions for well over a decade. As documented by Monica Rowand in her fine Greening The MLB blog, Cleveland has been touching all of the green bases at Progressive Field for some time:
  • 2007: First team in the American League to go solar, installing panels with 8.4 kw capacity.
  • 2010: Organic waste composting
  • 2012: Experimental wind turbine added more on-site clean energy generation


Solar panel array at the entrance to Progressive Field, home of the American League Champion Cleveland Indians. (Photo credit: Green Energy Ohio)

Super Bowl 50: Super Green But (Virtually) No One (Outside of the Green-Sports Ecosystem) Knew About It
This is a new dubious award but before we get to it, we happily note the retirement (at least for now) of two other designations that no one should want to win:

  1. Least Green New Stadium/Arena of the Year. Environmental sustainability seems to be embedded into all new stadium-arena projects, aside from the “winner” of this award in 2015, the insanely un-green SunTrust Park, new home of the Atlanta Braves.
  2. Sports Greenwash of the Year. GSB was unable to unearth evidence of any major sports greenwashes (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) in 2016. We gave some thought to Rio 2016: the Brazil and Rio governments, along with the Rio Organizing Committee, made significant promises to improve mass transit and clean water infrastructure that weren’t met. To us, that’s a sad failure, but not a greenwash.
Back to the first GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR. The clear winner is Super Bowl 50.
Wait a minute.
Wasn’t Super Bowl 50 the Greenest Super Bowl of All Time? How could that be a missed opportunity?
Yes, Super Bowl 50 was the greenest of all time, thanks to the consistent commitment, assiduous planning (2.5 years worth), aggressive goal setting, and smart execution from the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, led by Sustainability Director Neill Duffy. Click here for GreenSportsBlog’s interview with Duffy and here for the sustainability scorecard detailing the Committee’s many greening accomplishments.
But, aside from GreenSportsBlog readers, those in the Green-Sports world and Bay Area residents—who saw clever Public Service Announcements about the Greening of Super Bowl 50—did anyone know about the Greening of Super Bowl 50? Because the NFL and CBS, which broadcast the game, didn’t tell the greening story, GreenSportsBlog believes only few if any of the 100 million + Super Bowl viewers are aware of it.Talk about a missed opportunity!
Why didn’t the NFL and CBS run with the Greenest Super Bowl 50 story? GreenSportsBlog has no insider insights. We do know this: The league certainly could have used a positive story to as a counterweight to negative concussion and domestic violence news. And CBS has made sustainability a business: its EcoMedia division that uses a portion of advertising revenue to fund environmental projects. You’re telling me CBS couldn’t air one Greenest Super Bowl Ever public service announcement? CBS/CBS Sports Network ran about, I don’t know, a gazillion hours of pre-game programming! SHEESH!
Was fear of the politics of climate change the main barrier to coverage? I hope not but we will likely never know.
Video about the greenness of Super Bowl 50. It aired in the Bay Area only.
We close with some end-of-year thank-yous:
To our guests/interviewees: Thank you for your time, spirit and insights. Special thanks go to the seven sustainability luminaries NOT from the sports world who helped make our new “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports” series a hit (comments have been almost universally positive). If you haven’t read GLTGS, leading lights of the sustainability movement not involved with sports give us an outsider’s perspective on the potential growth of the Green-Sports movement and the hurdles facing it. Here are the links:

  1. Joel Makower, GreenBiz
  2. Jerry Taylor, Libertarian lobbyist who switched from climate change denier to fighter
  3. Dr. Michael Mann, climate scientist, advocate, author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”
  4. Caryl Stern, CEO, US Fund for UNICEF
  5. Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder, CBS EcoMedia
  6. David Crane, Ex-CEO, NRG, responsible for solar panels being installed at six NFL stadiums
  7. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist, climate change communicator extraordinaire and, in 2014, one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”

To our readers, thank you for making 2016 a year of growth: Our subscriber base more than doubled. On Twitter, our retweets and mentions more than tripled! If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe (it’s FREE!) and comment right on the blog, friend us on Facebook (http://faceboook.com/greensportsblog) and/or follow us on Twitter (@GreenSportsBlog).
As for 2017, with a new administration hostile to climate change, GreenSportsBlog will be more vigilant than ever about telling the stories of those who are using the sports platform to advance the climate change fight and, on the flip side, to uncover Green-Sports missed opportunities. You can be certain that GreenSportsBlog will continue to be your source for news, features and commentary on the increasingly busy intersection of Green + Sports.
Here’s to a healthy, happy Holiday Season to you!


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  1. nicely done brother.
    Allen Hershkowitz, PhD 1-917-453-6003 internationalgreensports@gmail.com

  2. Thanks Allen, both for the kind words and for your #greensports leadership!

  3. […] Team Off-Field” of 2016, announced Tuesday as part of GSB’s annual year-end “Best and Worst of Green-Sports” column. The award is a reflection of the club’s devotion its four Guiding Commitments: To […]

  4. […] this in mind, Golden1 Center last week earned GreenSportsBlog’s GREENEST NEW STADIUM/ARENA designation for […]

  5. […] The seventh Green Sports Alliance Summit will be held at Golden1 Center, the new, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings, recently named GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Arena of 2016. […]

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