The GSB Interview: Monica Rowand, Bringing Green-Sports to the University of Louisiana; Part II, Leading the Sustainable Sports Charge in Lafayette

Monica Rowand is one of the brightest, young stars in the Green-Sports world as she helps to lead the University of Louisiana’s (Lafayette) athletic department’s burgeoning sustainability efforts. 

Despite Monica’s youth, her story is rich and deep, so much so that we’re dividing the interview into two parts. In yesterday’s Part I delved into her lifelong love affair with sports, her discovery of Green-Sports at UCLA and her work with Dave Newport and University of Colorado-Boulder’s powerhouse Green-Sports program.

In today’s Part II, we move with Monica to 1,200 miles to the southeast to Lafayette, LA to find out what she and the University of Louisiana’s sustainability department are doing to green the Ragin’ Cajuns athletics department. 

 

To read Part I, click here

 

GSB: So what did you do after you got your MBA?

Monica: After graduating CU-Boulder in May 2017, I really wanted to stay in sustainable sports and would go anywhere to do it. My dad sort of became my agent and sent me the job listing at University of Louisiana in Lafayette for a sustainability coordinator — who turned out to be ME!

 

RowandM2

Monica Rowand (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: I’m not surprised! I know you haven’t been in Lafayette long but I wonder what differences you’ve noticed between your new home, about 135 miles west of New Orleans, and Boulder — aside, of course, from the humidity. My guess is it’s a more complex comparison than the stereotypical Red State Lafayette and crunchy-granola-y Blue State Boulder.

Monica: Well, it is very early days for me here. But to compare the two, my observation is that the pride of place here is more powerful than it is in Boulder — and it’s strong there. But you can feel the pride people have for Lafayette. And that extends to athletics — the connection the community has to UL athletics is greater than it is in Boulder and CU is in the Pac-12, a Power 5 conference, and UL is in the less prominent Sun Belt Conference.

GSB: What a great atmosphere to be a part of. Was the sustainability department already involved in Green-Sports before you got to Lafayette?

Monica: Not in the way I was accustomed to from CU. During the interview process, I was blunt about wanting to build an award-winning Green-Sports platform and that we would use it to build the profile and impact of sustainability for the entire campus. Sustainability director Gretchen Vanicor, who would become my boss, agreed.

GSB: Was it a hard sell?

Monica: I thought I’d have a harder time, to be honest with you. But, like I said, Gretchen was on board during my interview process and then, once I started, the athletics department bought in almost immediately. Interestingly, Learfield won the right to market UL Athletics a few months before I started. Soon after I started, I told our Learfield rep about what we did with Ralphie’s Green Stampede, the sustainability initiative at CU-Boulder Athletics and said I’d like to build something like that with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

GSB: But with CU, the Green-Sports infrastructure was in place…

Monica: You’re right, Lew. It’s definitely a slower build here in Lafayette. Our goal is to be Zero-Waste in football and then all sports and on campus.

GSB: What’s the time frame?

Monica: Not clear yet. But we only started recycling at Cajun Field and in the parking lots in 2014. Of course there’s no way we’re going to get to Zero-Waste unless we can compost. I asked Gretchen about it and she said “let’s go for it”. Which was incredible on her part. I started at UL in June and we kicked off our composting efforts just last month at our home football games.

 

Rowand Recycle

GSB: That is very fast…

Monica: I know!! And composting at UL is not easy, as it turns out.

GSB: Why not?

Monica: The main problem was there is nowhere in the entire state of Louisiana to send commercial-scale organic waste to be composted. But we found a solution — composting on our own, at the Cade Experimental Farm. Which was phenomenal. But then there were permitting issues to get it hauled to the farm.

GSB: Really? What are those?

Monica: Well, without getting too much in the weeds here, the compost operations in Louisiana are traditionally only for things like agricultural byproducts and yard waste. We worked with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to create a plan that allows for a maximum 15 percent of our compost pile to be made up of food and compostable service ware from football games. We need to prove to them that our “cocktail” of compostable plastic straws, plates, paper and such, is pure enough to not hinder the decomposition process. It’s now a Living Lab project for the University and we hope it will lead to greater post-consumer compost efforts in the state. We’ve already been contacted by festivals, food prep companies, and restaurants who have been looking for somewhere to send their compost!

GSB: No composting in the state so you decide to do it in house – BRILLIANT! For how long have the Ragin’ Cajuns been using compostable cutlery and flatware?

Monica: We just started that this season — again Gretchen, and thankfully our food service provider Sodexo, bought in immediately. We also have Zero Waste Goalies help fans during the game and then go sort through our compost bags to remove any contamination.

GSB: Who are the Zero Waste Goalies?

Monica: A mix of student volunteers, some Americorps volunteers and staff. Also we donate unused food through Second Harvest to local groups who can use it. And, since they can’t be recycled in our single stream system, we collect plastic bags and film separately and take them to a local grocery store.

 

Green Goalies UL

University of Louisiana Zero Waste Goalies at Cajun Field (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: Do you have results for diversion rates for the early season games?

Monica: Not yet, but based on the cubic feet of our bins I estimate we diverted about 50 percent of waste from inside the stadium. That will change because we measure diversion by weight and not size – but I’ll keep you posted. Our goal for the season is to achieve an average 65 percent total diversion.

GSB: Are you going to do the same thing with basketball?

Monica: Basketball is different. The team plays in the Cajundome which is not owned by the university. So we don’t have control of the venue and thus what we can do there is limited, at least for the time being. We will be looking at it, though. Baseball is next.

GSB: You must be thrilled with that!

Monica: I am indeed. It’s very big here. We’re not sure about the compost piece yet with baseball but definitely will increase recycling. Soccer is also something we will look at, as well as other Olympic sports. One great thing is that our office sits under the office of the university president, so sustainability has a seat at the table for athletics and beyond.

 

Moore Field Ragin Cajuns

M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park, home of Ragin’ Cajuns baseball, the next sport up for greening at the University of Louisiana (Photo credit: RaginCajuns.com)

 

GSB: Going beyond waste, what is UL Athletics looking to do, if anything, regarding on-site renewables, energy efficiency, and more?

Monica: Great question. Once we get to where we want to be on waste diversion, we are going to take on transportation next. My goal is to build a mini-Boulder on clean transportation. We want to improve our bus system by creating a loop that will dramatically cut down car miles driven on campus. Bike share is already here; car ride sharing is on the drawing board. On energy, UL is at the leading edge of research on renewables. Ten percent of the campus’ electricity already comes from solar; we have a 1.1 megawatt (mW) solar farm tied directly into our grid about one mile from the stadium.

GSB: That’s great to hear. With all the work going on in Athletics and campus wide on waste, transportation and energy, how is the sustainability department connecting that to climate change?

Monica: We haven’t yet. Pride of place, a healthy environment, conservation and quality of life? Absolutely. We’re staying away from climate change right now.

GSB: Why do you think that is, what do you think will change it and when might that happen? Not to put any pressure on you, of course.

Monica: Climate change is a more difficult topic to grasp and sometimes hard to draw the connection in a few words or sentences. Behavior change 101 is to know your audience. We have to make tangible connections we know our audience has.

It relates back to what I said about the strong Ragin’ Cajun fan identity. South Louisianans, like no other place I’ve lived – and I’ve lived in some gorgeous states – have a uniquely strong connection with their geography and environment. Take fishing for example. Whether it is for economic or recreation purposes, people here are in touch with the ecosystems that provide that opportunity. Things that harm that, say water pollution or salt water intrusion, are issues of concern.

In the case of zero waste and compost, yes, it is a means for reducing atmospheric methane emissions from landfills, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that lead to climate change, but closer to home for people in South Louisiana, is the concept of “Cajuns Don’t Waste”. Some of the biggest local culinary traditions were created based on that concept – using every part of the pig at a boucherie, mixing smaller quantities of ingredients together for dishes like gumbo and jambalaya. Food in particular is a valuable resource that should not just be mindlessly discarded, but milked for all it’s got to offer. In the case of compost, we want to keep the nutrients from our organic waste in play by collecting, composting, and spreading the resulting soil back on our farms and gardens.

GSB: That is terrific, and well said, Monica. The thing is, especially in light of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the threat from climate change is more pressing, more immediate than even previously thought, with potentially catastrophic consequences appearing by 2040. So I get the basic conundrum: Folks in Ragin’ Cajun territory may not be ready for climate change messaging but the clock is ticking. Think about it this way: The UL Class of 2040 is being born now. So bringing climate change messaging to this audience ain’t gonna be easy. Far from it. But I know you are up for the challenge – that’s why UL is lucky to have you. You, Gretchen and company can do this! I look forward to keeping this conversation going.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: University of Chicago Fielded An-All Vegetarian Football Team*; Green Roof on Indiana Pacers Training Facility; Andrea Learned Pushes Bike Commuting at Global Climate Action Summit

* Back in 1907!

For real.

College Football Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the sport’s early innovators, became an unwitting #GreenSports pioneer by having his University of Chicago Maroons eat a vegetarian diet during their 1907 Western Conference championship season. Fast-forward to the present and the NBA’s sustainability efforts continue on the eve of the start of the 2018-19 season as the Indiana Pacers installed a green roof on its training facility. And Seattle-based strategic climate action communications expert Andrea Learned pressed bike commuting as an easy, low cost way to fight climate change at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. All in a multi-generational GSB News & Notes column!

 

 

U OF CHICAGO FOOTBALL STARTED #GREENSPORTS MOVEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING IT IN 1907 BY EATING A VEGETARIAN DIET

The University of Chicago now plays football at the small-college, Division III level. But the Maroons were a power back in the late 19th-early 20th century and were involved in two of the game’s most important firsts.

  1. The finest moment in the school’s football history took place in 1934 when Maroons running back Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as college football’s finest player.
  2. Twenty seven years earlier, legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg converted the team to an all-vegetarian diet, revolutionary for that time. Heck, that would be considered radical today. Coach Stagg thus unknowingly planted the seed for the Green-Sports movement about a century before it actually took root.

The latter story came to light in Tal McThenia’s fascinating “How a Football Team Became Mascots for Vegetarianism,” which appeared in the August issue of Atlas Obscura.

Here’s what I found most interesting:

  • Football was already in a period of rapid evolution in 1907. The forward pass was legalized a year earlier a way to open up the game. 
  • Coach Stagg, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, adopted vegetarianism in 1905 and brought it to his squad two years later, believing “the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh.”
  • Newspapers across the country savaged Stagg. “‘Vegetarians Only,’ sneered the Boston Globe. ‘Vegetable Football,’ quipped a wire story…The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote, ‘Dried Apples, Prunes, Nuts, and Water for Maroon Team,’ while the Tribune declared ‘Kickers to Train on Squash.'”
  • Ex-Maroon superstar quarterback turned rookie Trib sportswriter Walter “Eckie” Eckersall nicknamed his alma mater The Vegetarians.
  • Technically, vegetarianism could only be a suggestion to the team but “Stagg, who had long insisted on abstinence from smoking, drinking, and cursing, enjoyed fierce loyalty from his squad, which meant, as one paper put it, ‘his suggestions are law.'”

 

Coach Stagg and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team.

Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (top row center in hat) and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

When the season opening game arrived against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, McThenia reported that Maroons fans unveiled a new, veggie-themed cheer:

“Sweet potatoes, rutabagas, sauerkraut, squash!

Run your legs off, Cap’n De Tray^!

Sure, our milk fed men, by gosh!

Will lick ’em bad today!”

 

We’ll never know if it was the vegetarian diet — and/or the cheer — that did the trick for Chicago but they won easily over the Hoosiers, 27-6. Road victories at Illinois and Minnesota followed, and then came a home drubbing of Purdue, 56-0. Their 4-0 record earned the Maroons the championship of the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten (seasons were much shorter back then). A non-league loss at home to the Carlisle Indians did little to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the team nor Coach Stagg’s conviction that the vegetarian diet had played a positive role in Chicago’s title-winning campaign.

 

Stagg Article

A 1907 article on Coach Stagg’s “vegetable food” (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

Despite the team’s success in 1907, as the 1908 season beckoned, the coach’s ardor for vegetarianism had waned somewhat, both for himself and the team. Per McThenia, Stagg “recalls going flesh-free entirely for only two years, as part of a (failed) effort to eliminate the source of chronic sciatic pain.” As for the Maroons, Stagg continued to encourage a vegetarian diet but no longer pushed it. And, always on the lookout for a new strategy, the coach brought a new “thing” to the squad that year; stimulation by oxygen.

 

GSB’s Take: Atlas Obscura, the site that ran Tal McThenia’s story on The Vegetarians, is fascinating. It is a self-described “global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.” So if you’re looking for, well, obscure places to visit, check out Atlas Obscura. 

Back to The Vegetarians…More than a century later, there are several athletes and teams who have taken the vegetarian baton from the 1907 University of Chicago Maroons, including the all-vegan English fourth division soccer team Forest Green Rovers, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” and 11 members of the 2016 Tennessee Titans who adopted a vegetarian diet. Hopefully when the sports media writes about vegetarian-vegan athletes and teams, it will pick up on the climate change-fighting aspects of veggie and vegan diets, most notably that it takes 8-10 times as much energy for meat to get to one’s plate as compared to fruit, grains and vegetables.

Finally, how ironic is it that Chicago, known for a century or a more as the meat production capital of the U.S. — one of its nicknames is “The Hog Butcher of the World” — is also the home to college football’s first/only all-vegetarian team?

 

INDIANA PACERS PLANT GREEN ROOF ON NEW TRAINING FACILITY

When Victor Oladipo and his Indiana Pacers teammates reported for training camp on September 22nd at their one year-old St. Vincent (training) Center, they did so under a new 8,500 square foot rooftop garden. About 37 percent of the garden is devoted to wildflowers, crops, and plants indigenous to Indiana.

 

Two views of the new green roof at St. Vincent Center, the new training facility of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers (Photo credits: Christopher Cason)

 

According to Christoper Cason, writing in the September 16 issue of The Score, “Architecture firm RATIO, along with the Pacers, wanted something that would…set the franchise apart from other professional sports teams. RATIO reached out to Omni Ecosystems in 2015 about installing a green-roof system that would help regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater.” Omni builds green-roof and green-wall systems that support a wide range of plants — including foods— as well as grasses and  wildflowers.

The St. Vincent Center roof grows tomatoes, basil, beets, bok choy, carrots, green beans, kale, turnips, radish, and Swiss chard. Per Cason, “Instead of soil, the garden uses an engineered growing media that includes lightweight rocks, specific nutrients, and…earthworms.” The harvested vegetables will be used this season by Levy, the Pacers’ food service provider, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team’s arena next door. Any excess produce will be donated to Second Helpings, a local hunger relief non-profit.

The garden also acts as a natural HVAC system, keeping St. Vincent Center cool in hot weather and warm in the winter. This will mean lower energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“We’ve implemented a number of measures and campaigns around sustainability and conservation,” Brent Rockwood, senior vice president of corporate, community, and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, told Cason. “… We strive to set a positive example of environmental responsibility and innovation, and the green roof that sits atop the St. Vincent Center is a big piece to that.”

GSB’s Take: The NBA is upping their green game this season, especially at their training centers. In addition to the Pacers green roof, the LA Lakers recently installed solar panels on the roof of their new UCLA Health Training Center.

 

CYCLING MUST BE A MUCH BIGGER PART OF THE URBAN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS MIX, SAYS ANDREA LEARNED OF #BIKES4CLIMATE AT GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT

Seattle-based Andrea Learned is a multi-faceted individual.

She’s a strategic climate action communications expert who is well-known for her Twitter presence and her Learned On blog. Learned has worked with NGOs and corporations on their sustainability leadership platforms. And she’s a passionate urban biking advocate, having started for purely practical reasons some twenty years ago in Portland, OR.

Learned brought all of those skillsets to last month’s Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. She had hoped to see the climate change-fighting impacts of urban cycling — and walking — get visible and loud discussion as the low-hanging climate action fruit it should be.

 

Andrea with Kate White at GCAS1

Andrea Learned, donning the “Make America Green Again” cap, with Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (Photo credit: Kate White)

 

After all, it makes too much sense.

Per Eillie Anzilotti, writing about Learned and the GCAS in the September 27 issue of Fast Companyresearch shows that if, “globally, cycling commuting rates can rise from their current level of 6 percent (only around 1 percent in the U.S.) to around 14 percent, urban carbon emissions will drop 11 percent. Boosting pedestrian commuting would have similar benefits.”

Unfortunately, GCAS chose to ignore that low-hanging climate action fruit, as there was little evidence of these human-scale endeavors on the main stage. More Anzilotti: “In the summit’s list of key challenges, sustainable transportation appeared as something of a footnote; discussion of cycling and walking was often drowned out by talk of the admittedly more futuristic and startup-friendly electric vehicles.”

Of course the scaling up of EVs is crucial and the pace must accelerate quickly. But, as Learned told Anzilotti, a hyper-focus on electrifying transportation will grant a pass to cities, particularly those in the U.S., that have failed to create safe streets and bike lanes that actively encourage walking and biking.

Urban cycling as a “thing” for mayors and other politicians faces an uphill climb. EV’s are, after all, sexy. The same goes for solar panels, bus rapid transit, storage batteries and more.

To Learned, who started, builds and curates the #Bikes4Climate hashtag, big city mayors should start climbing.

“We need mayors to visibly ditch their traditional black Suburban transportation, on occasion, and bike commute instead. That will send the clear message that they some awareness of the safety and infrastructure challenges we city bike riders and commuters face every day” Learned told GreenSportsBlog, “It would also highlight the climate action and behavior change potential in individuals. Right now, the only mega-city mayor I know of who makes a point to be seen on a bike and talks about it as a carbon emissions reduction tool is Anne Hidalgo of Paris. Imagine if she’d hosted a whole session about the topic at GCAS? But, and especially in the United States right now, we have to identify, name and fame the leaders, small town or large city, who ARE pedaling their talk. ”

There is a smattering of urban cycling-pedestrian success stories, thanks in large part to women. Anzilotti highlighted a couple of them:

  • Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau plans to double its cycling network in 2019 (she needs to move fast!), and reduce all vehicle traffic by 21 percent..
  • Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is proposing to lower speed limits, and the creation of pedestrian zones around schools.

 

To Learned, there’s an opportunity for policy makers in the climate action space (mayors, chief sustainability officers and more) who DO bike in their cities (for short trips and/or for their commutes) to learn from bike advocates, and to collaborate with those in the bikeshare and mobility sectors. “Leaders need to come together to see bicycles as climate action and transportation tools,” said Learned. “Seeing them as solely recreational toys is a huge mistake.”

GSB’s Take: Urban bike and pedestrian commuting needs to be a key part of any serious urban climate change-fighting plan, not the afterthought it appears to be most of the time. In fact, if people-friendly mobility isn’t already a priority in your city, then it’s time for a new mayor.

^ Leo DeTray served as captain of the 1907 University of Chicago football team

 


 

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