The #GreenSports Alliance wrapped up today in Brooklyn with a vibrant Keynote from Andrew Winston, a fascinating panel discussion among current and former athletes who are “Stepping Up To Bat For The Planet”, and Closing Remarks from Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport that had the audience rarin’ to go!
Winston, Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and author of “Green To Gold”, offered, at least for me, new factoids and metrics about the massive scale of the climate change/energy problem (China, in 2012 alone, built the equivalent of all of the retail stores already in existence in the United States; the Cloud, if it were a country, would be the world’s 5th biggest energy user), the challenges (Carbon productivity must increase by 10X by 2050 if we are to avoid the worst calamities of climate change) and the huge opportunities this creates (the Clean Energy/Tech market will be $2.2 trillion by 2020–and Winston thinks this is conservative). He sees the sports industry as being right smack in the middle of it all, with a particular opportunity to be part of the solution.
The athletes’ panel was ably moderated by Sports Illustrated Senior Writer David Epstein, author of the new book on the science of sport, The Sports Gene. All three of the athletes were from the Winter Sports world (Does this mean winter athletes are more interested in climate change? Or is it an anomaly? TBD).
Professional Snowboarder Kimmy Fasani said she was motivated to speak out about climate change because she “is always chasing winter…sees changes in the form of drastically shorter snowboarding seasons in real time.”
Andrew Ference, recently signed as a free agent by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers after helping the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup in 2011, said the relatively small number of athletes joining him in the climate change fight is due, in part, to athletes having to be “almost 100% focused and selfish to get to where they are and stay there. For most, there isn’t time to get involved with stuff off the field”.
One way, suggested Ference, for some athletes to connect to this issue is to emphasize the local aspects (i.e Superstorm Sandy in New York). He also had the line of the day when Epstein asked: “Is Green seen by the guys in the locker room as being geeky or wimpy?” Ference: “That’s why I fight once in awhile!”.
Mike Richter, former NY Rangers’ goaltender (and one of the deliverers, in 1994, of that club’s lone Stanley Cup since 1940), spoke about how it’s much easier to be out front on climate change as a retired athlete because he doesn’t have to worry about companies whose products he endorses who may be in the climate denier camp or who may be afraid of climate denier customers. Richter: “It would be great if Tiger Woods would talk about global warming. Would it be great for Tiger’s relationship with Buick? There’s tension there and it’s sad.”
Richter, now a partner in Healthy Planet Partners, a renewable energy/energy efficiency financing company, opined that climate change is a harder issue for athletes to get involved in than others because it’s “very technical, complex and vast.” Memo to self and Green Sports Alliance: Let’s work on demystifying Climate Change so Tiger Woods, LeBron James (I’m still waiting on a response to my Open Letter, LBJ!) lend their voices.
The Summit concluded with the remarks of Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport, a London-based, non-profit with a global footprint that “promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change across the world”. Beyond Sport’s remit goes far beyond sustainability/climate change, (although that is core to their DNA) to tackle healthcare, education, conflict resolution, racism and more.
Keller shared Beyond Sport on-the-ground success stories. One that resonated with me is “Project Greenhands” in India. People are given the opportunity to take a yoga class or learn volleyball if they plant a tree. Lots of folks must be doing downward facing dog or learning how to spike because almost 19 million trees have been planted! Keller was kind enough to invite me to attend the Beyond Sport Summit in Philadelphia on September 11 (a fitting way to spend that day, methinks) and I’m going to take him up on it.
To wrap it all up, I learned a ton and met wonderful people at the Summit. The green/sports intersection is small but getting more and more crowded. I am so excited to be a part of it all. Kudos to everyone at the Green Sports Alliance who made it all work without a hitch.