The GSB Interview: Giulia Carbone, Limiting the Sports Industry’s Impacts on Biodiversity Loss

The past 10 years has seen a boom in new stadium and arena construction in North America and beyond. Readers of GreenSportsBlog know that the sports facilities industry has done a strong job in making sustainability a priority, from construction (i.e. LEED certification) to operations (i.e. zero-waste games) and much more. But what about the effects of stadium and arena construction and operations, as well as the conduct of mega-events like the Olympics, on biodiversity — i.e. animal and plant life? That is a topic we have not touched on — until today.

Giulia Carbone is Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the GSB Interview, and on World Biodiversity Day, Giulia delves into what is being done to limit the sports industry’s impacts on biodiversity loss.

 

GreenSportsBlog: We need to give more oxygen to the effects of sports on biodiversity so, Giulia, I am so glad we are talking with you! How did you get into the intersection of sports and biodiversity?

Giulia Carbone: Well Lew, from the time I was a girl in Torino…

GSB: Are you a Juventus or Torino F.C. fan?

Giulia: Oh, Torino ABSOLUTELY! Anyway, during my youth, I always loved nature and the also felt that it was only fair that people, no matter their circumstances, needed to have access to it and co-exist with it. Then I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara

GSB: UCSB — the Gauchos!

 

Carbone1

Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN (Photo credit: IUCN)

 

Giulia: Best. School. EVER! I focused on the environment, especially marine issues, and the coexistence of people and the environment. That held true when I started my work life in London, focusing on marine issues. Then I worked with UN Environment for eight years on tourism and the environment.

GSB: What did you work on for UNEP? When was this?

Giulia: I started at UNEP in 1999, and focused on environmental initiatives for tour operators. Our approach was to bring together like-minded operators and give them the tools and the vision to integrate effective supply chain management, eco-friendly destinations and other protocols.

GSB: What tour operators took the lead back then on the environment?

Giulia: Tui, a German tourism company now headquartered in the UK — was really aggressive. They wanted to set the agenda for the tourism sector on supply chain and other sustainability elements and were successful, at least to an extent.

GSB: That’s terrific. What did you do next?

Giulia: I moved to Switzerland, near Geneva, and, in 2003, and started working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

GSB: What is the IUCN? It seems like something I should’ve heard about.

Giulia: You should have! It’s been around for 70 years, since 1948. It’s a membership organization that includes governments, NGOs large and small and, unlike the UN, groups of indigenous peoples. Today, it is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. We have a Congress every four years, and, just like for the Olympic Games, there are bids and organizing committees. The host of our June 2020 Congress is going to be in Marseilles, France; in 2016, we met in Hawai’i, and before that in 2012, we convened in South Korea.

GSB: What does IUCN do?

Giulia: Programmatically, we work in a number of critical conservation issues related to water, forests and oceans, dry lands and more. Where possible, we also engage with corporations to show them that leading on the environment, and taking biodiversity conservation into account in their planning and operation, is actually good business. At the beginning of my time at IUCN, my work focused solely on tourism. But then I branched out to the extractive and energy sectors…

GSB: Energy? Mining?…That sounds like a BIG conservation challenge.

Giulia: Yes, but to our way of thinking, it is crucial for mining and energy companies to figure out how they can operate successfully in ways that limit biodiversity loss. As part of this work, we have also focused on the role that biodiversity offsets can play in conservation.

GSB: I imagine IUCN has taken some criticisms from others in the environmental movement for working with companies seen as bad actors…or worse.

Giulia: There is some of that for sure but we believe that collaborating with companies like Rio Tinto in the mining world and Shell in the energy world is important and necessary. They know that their opeations have environmental impacts and they are interested in working with us to improve things. Another example was with LafargeHolcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, who owned hundreds of quarries at the time. In just four years of working with IUCN, biodiversity indicators were put in place, employees were trained to respect and account for biodiversity, standards were adopted — and biodiversity became recognized as an important risk factor, something that had value in being managed.

GSB: That’s hard to believe and yet I believe it. Amazing… So now sports? Why did IUCN decide to get involved with sports in the first place?

Giulia: The impacts of sport on biodiversity are also significant, but the opportunities to address them are equally huge. The sports industry has enormous influence and reach, so just being able to talk about the value of biodiversity and the role that species play with this audience is incredible.

GSB: Absolutely! How did IUCN get started in sports?

Giulia: The IOC approached us about four years ago about one of its bid cities. They were concerned about the bid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That led to conversations about how the IOC could influence sports federations on biodiversity loss. We were engaged to help bid committees and teams on how to limit biodiversity and species loss during venue construction, allocate funds for conservation and protection, and even to educate them on the value of purchasing climate-related offsets.

GSB: Did IUCN work with the summer and winter Olympics bids?

Giulia: Yes, we were involved with the bids for the Olympic Games 2024 and reviewed all the bids from a biodiversity perspective. We are also providing maps of the areas considered to be of high biodiversity value to the potential candidates for the 2026 Winter Olympics. For each of the cities, we have created maps that highlight the location of protected areas, World Heritage sites, Ramsar (intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources) sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas. Additionally, we have provided reports that list all the species of animals and plants that have been classified as threatened or close to extinction, in proximity of these sites. These maps are an amazing tool to help the cities plan better on where to place the venues and new infrastructures, and thus reduce the risk of having an impact on important plants and animals as well as key ecosystems.

GSB: As of now, it looks like there are seven cities considering bids to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, a marked increase as compared to recent cycles. These include Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; a joint Italian bid amongst Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Torino; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Erzurum, Turkey. How does IUCN get the word out about its work in the sports sector?

 

Sion 2026

Sion, Switzerland is one of seven cities looking into bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics

 

Giulia: We just issued the first of a series of reports on Sport and Biodiversity.  It’s an overview for all of the industry’s key constituents…What is the intersection of sports and biodiversity? What are the risks and opportunities? The next report will be more technical than the first one, and it is almost complete. It focuses on how to mitigate biodiversity loss from venue construction. Then, the third one will focus on how to manage impacts on biodiversity in the organization of sporting events, including recommendations for athletes, venue managers and the fans. In the future, we hope to focus on things like Natural Capital Accounting^ and sports; how to manage invasive species; and, how to engage fans on biodiversity and involve the media more in these issues.  We have quite a challenge ahead of us!

 

Sport and Biodiversity

Cover of IUCN’s “Sport and Biodiversity” guide

 

GSB: Who are your audiences for these reports? Sports fans?

Giulia: No, our prime targets are senior level, C-suite executives throughout the sports world, who are not yet convinced biodiversity is an issue they need to be concerned about. We are also targeting those people involved in venue development and planning as well as those organizing sport events.

GSB: Do you have a sense as to what percentage of sports executives fit that “unconvinced” label?

Giulia: Actually, I just attended a very cool meeting on sport and the environment, the Sustainable Innovation in Sport Summit 2018 in Amsterdam, from 2-3 May, and I was very impressed by the level of commitment and involvement of the participants, mostly all representing sport federations, venues and teams. So I think this is a sector that it is already doing a lot of great work and is ready to do more.

GSB: That’s great! I look forward to reading the reports and seeing biodiversity taking its place in Green-Sports fan engagement programs in the not-too-distant future.

 

Natural Capital Accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. 

 


 

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Mascots of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Teams are Threatened By Climate Change: Report

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Villanova won its second men’s NCAA basketball championship in three years on Monday, taking out the University of Michigan 79-62. According to a report by the National Wildlife Foundation, highlighted in a recent story in Yale Climate Connections, the Wildcats of Villanova and Michigan’s Wolverines are just two of a number of college sports’ iconic mascots to be under threat from the effects of climate change.

 

Mascots are integral to the color and pageantry that is college sports.

While some mascots take human form (like the Scarlet Knights of my alma mater, Rutgers), some are colors (like the Violets of NYU, where I went to grad school), and some are quirky (what, exactly is an Eph, the mascot of Williams College# in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts?), many are animals and many of those animal mascots are facing climate change-related threats to their existence.

Samantha Harrington delved into that topic in “These March Madness Mascots are in Danger from Climate Change,” which ran in the March 13 issue of Yale Climate Connectionsthe newsletter of the terrific Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Harrington quoted Tara Losoff of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which issued a Mascot Madness report, as saying that “Many of the animals that inspired [college] team names, these mascots, are at risk of being impacted by climate change.”

While Villanova’s Wildcats were dominant during this year’s run to the NCAA championship — they won all six of their games by 12 points or more — the report points out that wildcats are enduring existential challenges due to climate change:

“North America is home to wildcats like the Canada lynx, ocelot, and Florida panther (the mascot of Pitt, Northern Iowa and Florida International — not to mention the NHL’s team in South Florida)…Climate change is causing a decrease in lynx and could lead to disappearance from the lower 48 states in the next 50 years. The lynx depends on deep snow cover and as the climate warms, it could be unable to field a full roster. As sea levels continue to rise, the Florida panther may be run out of bounds. Just three feet of sea level rise, expected by the end of the century, would flood 30 percent of panther habitat. Droughts driven by climate change are already threatening the reproductive health of ocelots and sea level rise is expected to wipe out some of [their] coastal habitat.”

 

Villanova Wildcat

Villanova’s wildcat. According to a National Wildlife Foundation report, wildcats are one of many mascot species under threat from the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Mark Konezny, USA TODAY sports)

 

On the court in San Antonio Monday night, Michigan’s Wolverines did not fare well against Villanova’s relentless rebounding, championship level defense, and the three point shooting of Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo. In the wild, per the NWF report, the wolverine is having a much tougher time:

“The cold-weather wolverine is rapidly vanishing from continental America as climate change continues to warm the planet. The deep snowpack, so essential for denning and raising their young, is harder and harder to find. The wolverine population in the lower 48 states is struggling to hold on and now numbers only 250 to 300. Unless we act soon, climate change could turn this losing battle into a blowout. The rapidly disappearing wolverine may soon be declared a threatened species as the climate warms even more.”

 

 

Wolverine Daniel J. Cox

A wolverine in the Bridger Mountains north of Bozeman, MT (Photo credit: Daniel J. Cox, naturalexposures.com)

 

Other mascot species under threat from climate change go beyond the Wizard of Oz trio of Lions (Columbia, Loyola Marymount), Tigers (Clemson, LSU, Memphis, Missouri) and Bears (Baylor, Cal-Berkeley) to include Bison/Buffaloes (Bucknell, Colorado, North Dakota State), Rams (Colorado State, Fordham, VCU), Ducks (Oregon), Falcons (Air Force Academy, Bowling Green) and Turtles (Maryland Terrapins).

 

clemson tiger

The Clemson Tiger (Photo credit: Dawson Powers)

 

The NWF report makes clear that the harmful effects of climate change go beyond animal mascots to include crops like Buckeyes (Ohio State), Corn (Nebraska Cornhuskers), and Oranges (Syracuse Orangemen). These impacts include more intense bouts of extreme weather like Cyclones (Iowa State), Hurricanes (Miami) and Storms (St. John’s Red Storm).

Losoff told Harrington that making a connection between mascots and climate change can help get people thinking and talking about global warming: “Talking about a beloved animal mascot being impacted by climate change could be a way to engage friends and family members who might not otherwise be interested or engaged in talking about climate.”

I agree and would go even further.

It seems to me that the “Mascots Being Threatened by Climate Change” story angle provides a big marketing opportunity — and a chance to do some real good — to two key players in the college sports ecosystem: Colleges and university athletics departments and the corporations that sponsor and/or advertise on them. Especially those corporations and brands that promote their greenness.

Think about it.

Some companies and brands embracing (the very neutral-sounding) sustainability still don’t want to deal with climate change — seen by many as too controversial and political — head on in their marketing messages.

This is a faulty strategy, in my humble opinion. Corporations, as well as sports teams — pro and college alike — are falling all over themselves to figure out how to appeal to millennials and Generation Z. These cohorts, far more than their predecessors, see climate change not as an if, but rather as a what are we going to do about it question.

Gun violence is a much more immediate, high profile issue than climate change, but the reaction of many Generation Zers and millennials since the Parkland High School tragedy is instructive. It shows that a significant cadre of these young people seem to run towards controversies and politics. Brands, it says here, will start to take note. Which means that the climate is likely safer than it’s ever been for corporations/brands — including college sports advertisers like General Motors and Nike — to promote their climate change fighting efforts, like generating renewable energy at and/or purchasing renewable energy for their factories.

But if companies — concerned about being called out by climate change skeptics and deniers on the one hand or for greenwashing, for not being perfect on the other — are still not ready to make the jump into the climate change waters, the NWF report provides the perfect way to wade in.

You see, almost everyone loves animals and animal conservation. And almost every college sports fan loves their team’s mascot. Corporations/brands and their college sports partners can wrap themselves in mascot preservation as a way to engage on climate change.

Watch this space.

 

# The Williams College Ephs (pronounced “Eephs”) are named for the school’s founder, Ephraim Williams

 

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Lonely Whale Foundation and Adrian Grenier Partner with Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks on “Strawless in Seattle” September

The Lonely Whale Foundation, co-founded by Adrian Grenier of HBO’s Entourage fame, is working with Seattle’s pro sports teams (Major League Baseball’s Mariners, the NFL’s Seahawks and the Sounders of Major League Soccer) to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage. 

 

ADRIAN GRENIER PITCHES STRAWLESS IN SEATTLE PROGRAM

When Adrian Grenier took the mound at Seattle’s Safeco Field on September 1st, he wasn’t an out-of-left-field starting pitching choice for the American League wild card contending Mariners. No, the star of HBO’s Entourage threw out the first pitch for a different team — The Lonely Whale Foundation, the nonprofit he co-founded in 2015 with film producer Lucy Sumner — to help kickoff (sorry for the mixed sports metaphor there) Strawless in Seattle September, a new phase of their “#StopSucking” campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

StrawlessInSeattle-FullLogo_ (002)

 

“We are living during a critical turning point for our ocean, and that’s why I’m excited to celebrate the city of Seattle as a true ocean health leader,” said Grenier. “Alongside Lonely Whale Foundation, Seattle’s citywide commitment demonstrates our collective strength to create measurable impact and address the global ocean plastic pollution crisis. We are starting in Seattle with the plastic straw and see no limits if we combine forces to solve this global issue.”

CenturyLink Field is taking the Strawless in Seattle September baton from Safeco Field and the Mariners. The home of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL has already switched to 100 percent paper straws — and they are only given out by request. During all September home games, those straws, made by Aardvark Straws, display the Strawless Ocean brand. The Sounders gave out those straws at their game vs. the LA Galaxy this past Sunday and will do so again when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town on the 27th. The NFL’s Seahawks will go with the Strawless Ocean branding at their lone September home game — this Sunday’s home opener vs. the San Francisco 49ers. From the beginning of October through the end of the 2017 season and beyond, all straws at Seahawks home games, also made by Aardvark, will display the team’s logo.

 

Ocean + Strawless Straws

“Strawless Ocean”-branded paper straws are being given out all September long at Seattle Seahawks and Sounders home games at CenturyLink Field as well as at all Mariners September home contests at Safeco Field (Photo credit: Aardvark Straws)

 

Strawless in Seattle represents Phase III of Lonely Whale’s #StopSucking campaign. The idea, according to Dune Ives, the nonprofit’s executive director, “is to focus on one city, Seattle, where there already is a strong ‘healthy living’ ethos, to drive a comprehensive, monthlong campaign.” Sports is a key venue for the campaign; entertainment,  bars, and restaurants are three others.

 

Dune Ives_Executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation

Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation (Photo credit: Lonely Whale Foundation)

 

Adrian Grenier challenged Russell Wilson, the Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback, to get involved with Strawless in Seattle and #StopSucking. Wilson accepted and then challenged Seahawks fans (aka “the 12s” — for “12th man”) to do the same.

 

 

This builds upon a fun, #StopSucking-themed, celebrity-laden public service announcement (PSA) campaign, also from Lonely Whale Foundation. And ‘Hawks fans will also get into the “talk the strawless talk” act when they visit the #StopSucking photo booth at CenturyLink. I am sure there will be some, shall we say, colorful fan entries, depending on how the games are going.

 

#StopSucking PSA from the Lonely Whale Foundation is running as part of Strawless in Seattle campaign.

 

Phase I of the campaign focused on spreading the #StopSucking videos virally. “Sucker Punch,” an earlier humorous video under the #StopSucking umbrella, premiered at February’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. “The ‘super slow motion’ visuals of celebrities from Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Sports Illustrated swimsuit models having their straws slapped out of their mouths by the tail of an ocean creature got a great response at South By Southwest and beyond,” said Ms. Ives.

 

The 1-minute long “Sucker Punch” video from The Lonely Whale Foundation, which premiered at SXSW this February.

 

The #StopSucking social media campaign, which constitutes Phase II, is, per Ms. Ives, “going gangbusters.”

It will take much more than the powerful, multi-phase #StopSucking campaign to make a significant dent in the massive, global plastic ocean waste problem. How significant? Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day.

You read that right: we use 500 million plastic straws every day. Right now there are “only” 327 million American humans.

Many of these plastic straws end up in the oceans, polluting the water and harming sea life. If we continue on our current path, plastics in the oceans, of which straws are a small but significant part, will outweigh all fish by 2050.

This is why there are many straw reduction, strawless, and switch-from-plastic-straw efforts. GreenSportsBlog featured one earlier this year, the powerful OneLessStraw campaign from the high school students/sister and brother tandem, Olivia and Carter Ries, co-founders of nonprofit OneMoreGeneration (OMG!)

Ms. Ives welcomes the company: “We have 50 NGO partners globally, all of whom do great, important work. We believe Lonely Whale fills in a key missing element: A powerful umbrella platform, which includes the right social media engagement tools, the right venues and the right celebrities to catalyze and grow the movement.”

As noted earlier, restaurants and bars are key venues for #StopSucking, but sports will always have a primary role. “It is inspiring to see our stadiums and teams taking a leadership position with the Strawless Ocean challenge,” enthused Ms. Ives. “Very few outlets exist that reach and influence so many individuals at one time and through their commitment, our teams are taking steps to significantly reduce their use of single-use plastics by starting first with the straw.”

And Seattle-based teams and athletes are not the only sports figures to join in. Grenier challenged Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to join the campaign in August and Karlsson accepted. Maybe Lonely Whale should look north of the border for their next campaign.

After all, “Strawless with the (Ottawa) Sens” has a nice ring to it.

 


 

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Olivia and Carter Ries: Greening Sports, Saving Wildlife, and Taking on Plastic Ocean Waste; All While Doing Their Homework

14 year-old Olivia Ries and her 16 year-old brother, Carter, are like most kids in some respects. They participate in sports (lacrosse and soccer, respectively) in the Atlanta suburb of Fayetteville, play instruments, do their homework and “OMG!” is part of their lexicon. OK, they’re not like most kids in one important way: That’s because OMG is the acronym for One More Generation, the non-profit they started seven years ago, that works to protect animals and the environment for the next generation, the one after that, and the one after that. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Olivia, Carter, and their dad Jim, about OMG, and how sports can help it realize its goals. OMG, indeed!

 

When Carter and Olivia Ries were 8 1/2 and 7 years old, respectively, their aunt visited South Africa and brought each of them back a certificate stating they were adoptive parents of cheetahs who are at risk of extinction due to massive habitat loss and persecution by farmers. When a crestfallen Olivia asked her dad, Jim, why animals even needed to be adopted, he replied that if there were not agencies like the one with which they were working, there may not be cheetahs left in the wild for her children to see.

Olivia did not like this answer and pressed Jim about what she and Carter could do to save animals. At first, Jim admits he tried desperately to get out of doing anything but the kids persisted and eventually he said they could start a nonprofit that would protect animals and the environment they—and we—inhabit.

Two weeks later, Olivia and Carter had their first board meeting and One More Generation—OMG!—was born. The nonprofit’s initial goal was to educate children and adults about the plight of endangered species. The kids’ long-term intention is to preserve all species for at least One More Generation…and far beyond.

Carter and Olivia

Carter and Olivia Ries (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

Not long after OMG’s founding, Carter and Olivia were horrified to watch on CNN as the devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico spilled right into their living room. In what would become their pattern, instead of wallowing, they sprang into action. “For four months straight, we collected all sorts of supplies,” said Olivia. “Then, on my 8th birthday, dad drove us 11 and a half hours down to the Gulf where we donated the supplies to a marine mammal rescue center. We saw sharks, sea turtles, birds and dolphins, all sickened by oil pollution. It was tragic.”

You might think that would’ve been enough for Carter and Olivia. After all, there was school, music lessons, sports and all the rest.

But this was just the beginning.

In fact, Jim, who, at the time OMG was founded, worked for fitness equipment manufacturer Precor, soon became full-time CEO. The OMG C-suite is an all-in-the-family affair as mom Lauren, who works for Ivantis, a company dedicated to the development of innovative solutions for glaucoma, fills the CFO role.

Jim’s and Lauren’s commitment to OMG allowed the kids to be able to balance (sort of) their home and school lives while expanding OMG’s letter writing, public speaking and other grass roots campaigns in three verticals:

Endangered Species: Letter-writing plays a big part here as the kids, among many other examples:

  • Spearheaded an effort to save rhinos that resulted in 10,000 letters being written from kids all over the world. The kids then presented the letters to authorities in South Africa.
  • Led another letter writing effort, this one on behalf of sea turtles, which led to an invitation to the White House last June.

Carter Olivia White House Sea Turtles

Carter and Olivia Ries outside of the White House as part of their mission to save Sea Turtles. (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

Youth Empowerment: Carter and Olivia believe children must stand up, be heard, and make a difference, no matter what their passion may be. They’ve shown how it’s done via TEDx Youth Talks.

 

Carter and Olivia’s 2016 TEDx Youth Talk (14:51)

 

And Carter was one of only two youth representatives who spoke this Friday at the UN’s 2017 World Wildlife Day. Carter commanded the attention of the entire room when he pleaded for the adults to “take responsibility to preserve wildlife for the next generation. Because if you don’t, you’ll be teaching us, the youth of the world, that protecting wildlife isn’t that important. And then we’ll teach our kids that same lesson. But if you change, that will inspire us.”

Carter at UN

Carter Ries, speaking at World Wildlife Day at the UN on March 3. (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

They also launched We’ve Got You Covered, a program that empowers kids to collect donated materials, including blankets, and have them delivered to homeless kids.

 

Environmental Conservation: The BP-Deepwater Horizon spill was the spark here. In fact, the kids learned quickly enough that, as Olivia put it, “Cleaning up the animals is one thing but, if we don’t protect the environment that they’d be going back into once they become healthy, then our efforts are largely wasted.”

This led the kids to plastics; specifically, the plastics that end up as waste in the oceans.

In 2012-2013, Carter and Olivia created an award-winning plastic ocean waste awareness and recycling curriculum that is being used by K-6 teachers nationwide. The response by students was positive, according to Olivia, but “some of the teachers reacted a bit ‘strangely’ to having kids teach.” To date, thousands of students and dozens of schools here in the US have already completed the weeklong curriculum and the program is currently being tested in the UK and soon in Australia. Olivia and Carter are working with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Ocean First Institute on having their curriculum converted to an online format that will dramatically expand its availability.

Then they turned their attention to straws, many of which end up in the oceans. How many?

When Jim quizzed me about how many straws are used each day in the US, I guessed 50 million (out of a population of 327 million). “You’re a little low there, Lew” Jim replied. “Over 500 million straws are used daily in the US! That is 1.6 straws for every man, woman and child living in this country and none ever get recycled”

Talk about OMG!!

So Carter and Olivia went to work, designing and deploying the One Less Straw Pledge Campaign, in which children, adults, schools, restaurants and other businesses commit to not using a plastic straw for 30 days. If a kid catches a parent using a straw, the parent gives 25¢ to the kids’ school.

It’s early days, but so far, 15+ schools have already signed-on to the campaign and the kids’ have received thousands of individual “I’m going strawless” pledges via their website from people in over 30 countries around the world.

Now, I rarely drink out of a straw so it seemed like a very easy behavioral change to effect but, as Carter put it, it isn’t that easy: “People say they don’t want to drink directly out of a glass. This makes no sense to me. You eat off of plates, why not drink from a glass?? Especially when 90 percent of people surveyed said they don’t need to drink out of straws.”

 

SPORTS AND ONE LESS STRAW

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “What Carter and Olivia are doing is incredible, but what does it have to do with Green-Sports?”

Potentially, a lot.

Jim, Carter and Olivia realized that a marriage of One Less Straw with sports venues and teams was a no brainer: Sports venues use massive amounts of straws and the pop-culture power of sports would provide a program like One Less Straw with unmatched awareness. In the kids’ own backyard of Atlanta, they’ve made initial contacts with Phillips’ Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and with Georgia Tech University. And, now that the finishing touches are being put on Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the dazzling, first ever LEED Platinum facility in the NFL and MLS, which opens on July 30, it made sense for the kids to meet with Scott Jenkins, its General Manager and Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance.

Making the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C. straw-free right off the bat might be a bridge too far, thought Jim, Carter, and Olivia. So, when they met with Jenkins, their ask was to make straws a request-only item. “It is expected that a ‘request only’ policy would result in a reduction in straw usage of up to 70 percent!,” enthused Jim. “Those savings go right to the stadium’s bottom line and means fewer straws in the oceans.” Obviously, Jenkins and his team are laser-focused on getting the stadium ready for its late July opening. That said, I hope that, at some point in the next year or two, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will hop on board the One Less Straw train. And if that happens, other stadiums and arenas will no doubt follow suit.

Participatory sports are another outlet for One Less Straw. Olivia reported that many school districts use thousands of sports packs—including fruit, juice and a straw, between lunch and sports—every day. One Less Straw is working on a program to get straws out of sports packs, protecting the oceans and saving schools and taxpayers 0.5¢/straw.

Somehow, I have a strong feeling we will be writing a lot more about Carter, Olivia, One More Generation and sports in the months and years to come.

 

If your school, sports team or community organization is interested in getting involved in the work Olivia and Carter are doing, we encourage you to reach out to them via email at info@onemoregeneration.org

 

 

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