NHL Issues Its 2nd Sustainability Report: Environmental Performance Improvements vs. 2014; NHL Green Goals — “Innovate, Transform, Inspire”

Four years ago, the NHL became the first pro sports league to issue a sustainability report, one of many examples of its environmental leadership. Why has the NHL made such a strong commitment? The report said it best: “Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is impacted by environmental issues, particularly climate change and freshwater scarcity. The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of the [NHL’s] history and culture.” At that time, the league reported on its water and energy usage, carbon emissions and its conservation efforts.

On Wednesday, with the publication of its substantive, engaging and accessible 2018 sustainability report, the NHL provided a detailed look at how it performed on a variety of environmental metrics since 2014 and sets out how it plans to improve going forward. The goal is to ensure that all levels of hockey – from frozen ponds to community rinks to the NHL – thrive for future generations. To make good on that objective, the league promises to innovate, transform and inspire.

 

“What is the greenest sports league?”

I get that question a lot from folks outside of the Green-Sports ecosystem.

My response has always been the same and without hesitation: “The NHL.”

Why? The league:

  • Launched NHL Green in 2010, a comprehensive environmental sustainability program addressing the effects of climate change and freshwater scarcity on the sport.
  • Became the first in North America to have carbon neutral seasons by offsetting all of its direct carbon emissions starting in 2014
  • Started the Greener Rinks Initiative, providing managers of many indoor ice rinks in North America with the tools to operate in more environmentally friendly ways
  • Issued, in 2014, its first sustainability report, the first ever produced by a North American professional sports league.

I could list many more but you get the gist.

The NHL, which celebrated its centennial in 2017, takes a very long view when it comes to environmental sustainability. According to Omar Mitchell, the league’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, “We are working to make sure we ensure that we have hockey for the next 100 years. That’s why ‘Green’ is integral to our DNA.”

 

omar

Omar Mitchell, NHL’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility (Photo credit: Claire Greenway/Getty Images Europe)

 

That big picture approach to sustainability becomes crystal clear as one navigates through the NHL’s second installation of its sustainability report.

The 2018 version is imbued with the ethos expressed in a pledge the NHL made last September’s in its Declaration of Principles, stating that: Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders – organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operations – play a role in this effort. To Mitchell, this is much more than a statement: “It is our way of stating our values. We believe hockey improves lives and communities.”

 

NHL Sustainability Scorecard: Improvements in waste diversion, energy usage and more

The report provides the reader with a detailed scorecard illustrating the league’s — and its 30 teams’ — performance over the last few years on a variety of environmental metrics, including water restoration, landfill reduction, efficient electricity use, and more. Highlights include:

  • Waste diversion rate of 32 percent thanks to composting, improved concessions forecasting, and enhanced waste tracking, with half of NHL arenas currently composting their own waste. The NHL has set a goal to increase waste diversion to 50 percent within five years.
  • A one percent reduction of energy consumption from Fiscal Year (FY)14 to FY16 by using more efficient lighting, enhanced building management systems, waste heat recapture technologies, and onsite renewable energy generation.
  • An approximate seven percent decrease in water consumption from FY15 to FY16, through fixture upgrades in arenas, minimizing consumption in water towers, and installation of smart sensors on water irrigation systems.
  • Throughout the NHL Centennial year, fans donated 4,245 pounds of equipment (more than 2,000 items), including helmets, skates, and pads. This equipment avoids landfills and gets repurposed back into the community.
  • A two percent year-over-year reduction in CO2 emissions from FY14 to FY16 – from 189,503 to 182,355 metric tons – through innovations and efficiencies.
  • 963,200 megawatt hours of energy counterbalanced since 2014 through the investment of renewable energy credits, generated from U.S. wind and Canadian biomass.

 

Bringing sustainability to community rinks and pond hockey lovers

The NHL’s Greener Rinks Initiative, a program launched in 2016, is prominently featured. With approximately 4,800 indoor ice rinks across North America, the initiative measures and evaluates their environmental impact. Modern-day NHL arenas use more environmentally-friendly energy sources, including solar power, fuel cell technology, waste water recapture and reuse, and geothermal technologies. NHL Greener Rinks aims to help rink operators make similar, sustainable business decisions in their aging community rinks (average age: 30 years) while also reducing energy and operating costs.

The sustainability report also shines a welcome spotlight on RinkWatch, a research initiative launched in 2013 by two professors from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The program brings together citizens from across North America who share a love for outdoor hockey. Participants track and monitor backyard rinks, ponds, and winter weather conditions to assist with the study of long-term impacts of climate change. To date, more than 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds have been tracked and monitored. Fans are encouraged to participate; those interested can visit RinkWatch.org to join the movement.

 

Creating a Sustainability Report that is accessible for fans, substantive for sustainability “deep divers”

Have you read a corporate sustainability report? I have. And let me tell you, some of them make corporate annual reports seem like light reading. And I’m a sustainability metrics nerd!

Thus, I was a bit nervous before clicking on the new NHL sustainability report. The one major criticism I had of its 2014 predecessor was that it was hard to follow as it was laid out in the “continuous scroll” format  in vogue at the time. I felt like I had to scroll forever to get to a desired topic area.

So I was immediately heartened upon seeing that the 2018 sustainability report had done away with continuous scroll and replaced it with what I call an accessible site map structure in its “Report at-a-Glance” page.

 

Report at a Glance

Screen shot of the 2018 NHL Sustainability Report’s “Report At-A-Glance” navigation page

 

Eureka! I wanted to see where climate change fit into the league’s efforts and plans. There it was, “Frozen Ponds & Climate Change,” third from the top in the Home section. Interested in how the NHL is doing in its carbon emissions reduction efforts? Check out the “Innovating the League” section, second item from the top. And so on.

“Moving away from ‘continuous scrolling’ was intentional on our part,” shared Mitchell. “Taking feedback about the readability of our 2014 report to heart, we spent a lot of time with Scrum50, our marketing agency, to develop a ‘Choose Your Adventure’ approach. This resulted in a report that is at once broad enough to engage casual fans in understanding what the NHL is doing on the environment and detailed enough for sustainability practitioners and the like to take deep, analytic dives.”

 

NHL’s First Green Month

The 2018 sustainability report comes out at the same time as the NHL is launching its first Green Month. “The last two years we had ‘Green Week’ but found out that was not enough time to do it right,” offered Mitchell. “Our clubs now have the time to activate meaningful fan engagement programs.”

 

A 30 second NHL Green Month video from the Anaheim Ducks about the environmental performance at their Honda Center arena

 

League needs to measure fan awareness of NHL Green

It says here that the one major area the NHL can improve upon in its sustainability reporting is to get a baseline measure of fan awareness of, and interest in, NHL Green and then track it over time. To my mind, this should be done ASAP — don’t wait three or four years until the next sustainability report is issued. Keeping score as to how NHL fans react to NHL Green will help the league tweak and improve upon its environmental efforts on the fly.

And when I say fans, I mean all NHL fans: those who attend games, and the far bigger number who don’t set foot in an NHL arena but who follow the sport on TV, online, via mobile devices, etc.

 

Innovate, Transform and Inspire

What will a 2022 NHL Sustainability Report look like?

It’s (way) too early to get into that conversation but, says Mitchell, the league’s direction for NHL Green is clear.

“Our sustainability missions now and going forward are to innovate, transform and inspire. Innovate means we will continue, at club and arena levels, to improve on water and electricity use, waste reductions, and more. For example, we have a goal to have installed energy efficient LED lighting at all NHL arenas within five years. Transform…an initiative like Greener Rinks is transformative. It takes what we’ve learned to help community rinks operate more effectively from a variety of environmental and efficiency perspectives. It also helps them connect on the environment with their customers. Inspire means doing more to educate and engage our fans and players to take positive environmental action. One player from each club will be designated as a Green Ambassador. ”

 

Rogers Place

Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, features LED lighting (Photo credit: NHL)

 

The NHL also sees environmental sustainability as economic and social imperatives. Final words go to Omar Mitchell:

“Our focus on community rinks is crucial because it’s how kids come to the sport. We think Green Rinks can potentially help those rinks lower the high cost of ice time — it typically ranges between $200-$700 per hour — by reducing energy costs. Reductions in natural ice — as documented by RinkWatch — can limit kids to playing in rinks and many can’t afford it. So, you see, environmental sustainability is existential for the NHL and hockey more broadly.”

 

 

 


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Vestas 11th Hour Racing Sailing Team In Accidental Collision Near Hong Kong; One Dead from Fishing Boat Crew; Team to Rejoin Volvo Ocean Race

Readers of GreenSportsBlog are likely familiar with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the sailing team trying to win the ’round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race while being the most sustainable squad in the race — and, for that matter, one of the greenest teams in any sport, anywhere on the planet. The team was tied for second place as Leg 4 of the race, from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong, began. And they were in a strong position heading into Hong Kong when an awful accident took place.

 

When last we caught up with Vestas 11th Hour Racing in early January, the elite sailing team with a world class sustainability ethos, it was in a tie for second place in the seven boat Volvo Ocean Race field after the first three of 12 legs (Alicante, Spain to Lisbon; Lisbon to Cape Town; Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia).

And the team was near the lead towards the end of Leg 4, when tragedy struck about 30 miles out from the Hong Kong Harbor finish.

In the wee hours of the morning on January 20, Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with an unlit fishing vessel. Despite a badly damaged bow, team co-founder Mark Towill and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew carried out a search and rescue effort. Nine Chinese fishermen were rescued. One member of the fishing boat crew was retrieved and transferred to a helicopter, with the assistance of Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre. He very sadly passed away. Two other race boats offered assistance but were not needed. The Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew were not injured.

 

 

Mark Towill Atila Madrona

Mark Towill, co-founder and team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

Towill stood in for Enright as skipper for Leg 4 because the latter had to sit out due to a family crisis. During Leg 3, from Cape Town to Melbourne, Enright had to leave the team because his two-year-old son had been admitted to the hospital with a case of bacterial pneumonia. As Leg 4 neared its conclusion, Enright traveled to Hong Kong to greet the crew at the finish line, but instead pivoted to play an active role in the crisis management process from shore.

“I have been asked if it would have been different if I was onboard. Definitely not,” said Enright. “The crew has been well trained in crisis situations and performed as they should. They knew what to do and I think they did a phenomenal job given the circumstances. There comes a point when family is more important than the job you’ve been hired to do and I was at that point. I did what was best for my family.”

“I’m very proud of our crew,” added Towill. “We were in a very difficult situation with the damage to the bow, but everyone acted professionally and without hesitation. On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased’s family.”

The team released a statement on March 2 saying they were informed that investigations by the Hong Kong and mainland China authorities were nearing their conclusion with no further actions expected to be taken and that Vestas 11th Hour Racing has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

On the same day, the Volvo Ocean Race announced the opening of its own independent investigation into ocean racing at night in areas of high vessel traffic density. The goal is to establish what steps race organizers may take to mitigate risk going forward. Any findings from the report that could benefit the wider sailing community will be released; it is expected to be submitted to the race’s board this June.

Understandably, the loss of a life weighs very heavily on the minds of Towill, Enright, and every other member of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing squad. “On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased’s family,” said Towill.

Despite their heavy hearts, the severe damage suffered by its racing boat, and missing Legs 5 (Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China and back to Hong Kong) and 6 (Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand), Vestas 11th Hour Racing is rejoining the field. To do so, a new port bow section was sent to New Zealand, where it was spliced to the hull of the boat.

 

Enright

Repairs being made to Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s boat as team co-founder and skipper Charlie Enright looks on (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

When Vestas 11th Hour Racing gets back on the open ocean, they will most likely find themselves in fifth place overall and out of contention for top honors. And they will face a grueling Leg 7; the 6,700 nautical mile journey from Auckland, New Zealand, around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, and up the Southern Atlantic to Itajaí, Brazil.

While the nautical and competitive obstacles facing the team will be significant, I imagine that the psychological and spiritual hurdles will be even more challenging. Putting my armchair psychologist’s hat on, I think the best thing for Towill, Enright and crew is getting back into the race, bringing the same commitment to the task at hand as they did to the rescue mission.

 


 

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Chris Long: Wins 2nd Straight Super Bowl, Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro to Bring Attention to East Africa’s Water Crisis

Many a Super Bowl MVP, starting with New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms back in 1987, have, in the moments after winning the award, answered the question “What’s Next” by proclaiming “I’m going to Disney World!” Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long did not win the MVP of Super Bowl LII (backup QB turned hero Nick Foles did) but, if he was asked the “What’s Next” question, his answer would’ve been “Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to draw attention to the East Africa water crisis.” 

 

Chris Long is having quite a last 13 months, on and off the field. Let’s review:

  • February 2017: Earned his first Super Bowl ring, playing a key role as a defensive end for the New England Patriots in their epic comeback from a 28-3 deficit to win Super Bowl LI, 34-28 over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • March 2017: Long and a group of 11 hearty souls, including retired NFL players, took Long’s “Conquering Kili Challenge,” climbing 19,000 foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of his Waterboys.org initiative. As detailed in a May, 2017 GreenSportsBlog post, Waterboys 1) raises awareness of the fresh water crisis in East Africa, 2) funds the digging of wells in the area — 32 to date — one for each NFL team — and 3) teaches the locals how to do the digging and maintaining. This was Long’s second ascent of Kilimanjaro

 

Video highlights of 2017’s “Conquering Kili Challenge”

 

  • March 2017: Signed an effective two year, $4.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, citing the Cheesesteaks’ scheme as being a better fit for his skill set.
  • October 2017: Donated his entire 2017 base salary of $1 million to benefit educational charities in the three cities in which he’s played during his 10-year NFL career — St. Louis (formerly the home of the Rams), Boston, Philadelphia — as well as to fund scholarships to a private middle and high school in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. “In my 10th year, I want to celebrate the awesome opportunity I’ve had to play football by giving back to the communities that have given me that gift,” Long said in a statement. “Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America.”
  • December 2017: Strongly shut down critics of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest police violence against people of color by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016. Here is one of Long’s several December 22 tweets on the subject: “ZERO interest in being used as the anti-Colin. I support Colin’s right to protest, and what he’s protesting. He deserves a job in the NFL. He’s donated as much $ as I have to social causes.” The 49ers chose to part ways from Kaepernick, 30, after the 2016 season and none of the remaining 31 NFL teams chose to offer him a contract. Kaepernick sued the NFL and its owners for collusion — that suit is still pending.
  • February 2018: Wins his second consecutive Super Bowl ring, helping the Philadelphia Eagles hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in team history. In case you’ve been under a rock the past month, the Eagles defeated his former team, the Patriots, 41-33, in what became instant classic.

 

Chris Long

Chris Long, after winning Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

 

  • February 2018: Three weeks after winning Super Bowl LII, Long and his climbing mates “Conquer Kili” again!

 

This time around, Long and trip co-skipper, former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, led a team of 12 — plus video crew — on the climb. Rams linebacker and eco-athlete Connor Barwin became the first active NFLer other than Long to take part. While he was with the Eagles, Barwin, a supporter of Waterboys for the past two seasons, rode his bike and/or took mass transit to work and helped install solar panels on roofs in South Jersey. And, in another “Conquering Kili” first, a professional athlete from a sport other than football joined the group: Professional MMA fighter Justin Wren is a long time advocate for clean water through his work with the Mbuti Pygmies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As far as Long is concerned, I cannot wrap my head around the idea that he could climb Kilimanjaro almost immediately after two grueling, physically punishing Super Bowl runs.

As the University of Virginia alum explained to SI.com’s Peter King on February 14, “I spend time outside. I hike, I trek, I climb. Doing it halfway around the world for eight days is different. But the toughest part is the altitude. Lots of people make it. But even the fittest guys struggle. Last year, we had a vet, an ultra-marathoner, totally bad-ass guy, who had to turn around. Altitude didn’t agree with him.”

But, somehow, Long was able to summit. Again, from his Valentine’s Day chat with Peter King: “You start in a rainforest, move into the high desert, and on the sixth day, you’re summitting, and you’re on a glacier, and you’re on top of Africa. It’s quite amazing.”

What is even more amazing is Long’s ability to generate real results for Tanzanians through his consistent commitment and generosity of spirit.

Results: The 2018 “Conquering Kili” class set a Kilimanjaro-level fundraising goal of $150,000 to support the climb and to construct clean water wells. As of February 13, the class had raised $68,000. The projects funded this year add to the four wells that have already been constructed through the “Conquering Kili” by previous classes.

Consistent Commitment: Long, again talking to SI.com’s King: “The awareness for our cause, clean water in east Africa … this is our best platform. The world water crisis is huge, and it means so much to me that we’ve been able to raise enough money to build 32 wells [through Waterboys; several other wells have been built through “Conquering Kili”] in such desperate areas.”

Generosity of Spirit: Once more, as part of the Long-King chat: “It’s a cool opportunity to involve all of my passions—my foundation, my life, helping active and retired NFL dudes, and then our military. They have a need, a void, for service. Some vets want to get involved in a cause bigger than selves. And this is such a great cause.”

 

Long instagram 1

Long and his 2018 “Conquering Kili” team at the summit of Kilimanjaro (Photo credit: Chris Long/Instagram)

 

Long instagram 2

Chris Long wears the ubiquitous (at least in the Philadelphia area) dog mask — it symbolizes the Eagles’ underdog status throughout its playoff/Super Bowl run — at the Kilimanjaro summit (Photo credit: Chris Long/Instagram)

 


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Cape Town Sports Hit Hard By Water Crisis

Cape Town, South Africa’s largest city with a population about the size of Los Angeles, is facing a catastrophic water crisis. Authorities have sounded the alarm that as soon as June 4 — ominously referred to as “Day Zero” — the drought-stricken city will have to cut off the taps to all homes and most businesses, leaving nearly all of the city’s 3.7 million residents without access to clean running water. How will the water crisis impact the city’s sports teams and events?

 

Cape Town, South Africa is a sports-mad city.

Rugby, soccer, cricket, cycling, and more have passionate followings among many of the “Mother City’s” 3.7 million residents.

But with June 4 expected to be the day the city runs out of clean, running water — considered to be the case when water levels in dams reach 13.5 percent — sports will find itself in an unfamiliar, yet wholly justifiable position: The back burner.

Before we get into how Cape Town’s sports teams and events are reacting to and are affected by the water crisis, let’s take a quick look at how the city got to this point.

 

NO WATER IN CAPE TOWN? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

According to numerous reports from experts, for the last decade or more, Cape Town’s authorities have been forward thinkers and actors on water conservation. Writing in the February 9 issue of Vox.com, Zeeshan Alleem asserted that the city “worked hard to fix leaks in the pipes that distribute water across the city….Leaky pipes account for between 30 and 40 percent of a city’s lost water…Cape Town has reduced the amount of water it loses through leaks to about half of that. And in 2015…Cape Town even won a prestigious international award for its water conservation policies.”

Despite these successes and others, dams that were completely full just a few years ago now stand at about a quarter capacity and Day Zero is less than four months away. How did this happen?

The main culprits are a once-in-a-century, three-year drought, along with a dangerous lack of water supply diversification — Cape Town gets more than 99 percent of its water supply from dams that rely solely on rain; underground aquifers and desalination are not part of the mix. And, as University of Cape Town hydrologist Piotr Wolski told Laura Poppick in the February 13 edition of Smithsonian.com, climate change is serving as a crucial accelerant.

 

Cape Town H2O supply

The city’s main water supply — Theewaterskloof dam outside Grabouw, Cape Town — is largely empty (Photo credit: AP)

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DAY ZERO?

Whenever Day Zero hits, Cape Town residents, per Alleem’s Vox.com piece, will then “have to go to roughly 200 collection points scattered throughout the city to collect strictly rationed water. People will be allowed just 25 liters — about 6.5 gallons — of water a day.” For context, one toilet flush uses about nine liters of water; the average American or European uses at least 100 liters of H2O per day. And each collection station is expected to be trafficked by roughly 18,000 people each day — think about that for a second — 18,000 people per day. Not surprisingly, South African police and military forces will guard collection points.

 

Cape Town drought

Residents of Cape Town wait in line to fill containers with water at a source for natural spring water on February 2 (Photo credit: Bram Janssen/AP)

 

HOW ARE SPORTS DEALING WITH THE WATER CRISIS?

Here’s a sampling of how the major Cape Town sports leagues, venues and events are dealing with the water crisis:

  • The city’s many soccer teams were forced to close 13 venues in the city in an effort to conserve water. Cape Town’s five Premier Soccer League clubs are now all playing in Athlone Stadium, which has greatly diminished the quality of the pitch. Going forward, the prospect of game postponements and/or cancellations is real.
  • Speaking of postponements, the Western Province Rugby Union made the unprecedented decision to delay the start of its season, which normally takes place in April, until at least June. Ashfak Mohamad reported in an IOL News story on February 8, that “the state of various fields around the Cape Peninsula and beyond paints a grim picture…[and] is believed to be dire at many underprivileged community clubs on the Cape Flats as well.”
  • A parched Hamilton Rugby Ground hosted the popular Cape Town Rugby Tens tournament on February 1-3. Tournament Director Gerhard Ordendaal said the event, which drew 20,000+ fans, was water-neutral, “drawing zero litres of drinking water from the municipal supply.”

 

Stephen Oval Hamilton Rugby Club

The pitch at the usually lush Hamilton Rugby Club ground, Stephan Oval, in Green Point (Photo credit: IOL News)

 

  • The Cape Town Cycle Tour, the biggest timed cycle race in the world with upwards of the 35,000 participants, is still on for March 11. Like the Rugby Tens, it claims it will also be water-neutral. Tour director Dave Bellairs told the South Africa Sunday Times’ Craig Ray on January 30 that, “Eliminating the event’s reliance on municipal drinking water will be achieved through a variety of strategies, [including] bringing water in from upcountry for drinking and ice on the route‚ and using locally-produced desalinated water for all cleansing purposes. Water stations along the route will be reduced to 14, [which are] essential from a medical point of view.” As a former long-distance cyclist, I am a bit skeptical that the Tour’s zero-water goal will be achieved. After all, is it a given that the 35,000+ participants resist the understandable urge to take long, post-Tour showers? Hopefully the answer will be a resounding YES but I’m not so sure.
  • Despite the water crisis-related cancellations of many local cricket competitions, the big international Test match between South Africa and Australia, set for Cape Town’s Newlands Cricket Ground on March 22, is still on. Dave Faulkner, writing in The Australian on February 3,  reported that “Newlands has an ample supply of bore water so what is often called the world’s most beautiful cricket ground is exempt from [current] restrictions.” That said, given the heightened tensions in the city, there is a chance the Test will be postponed.

 

Newlands Cricket Ground

Newlands Cricket Ground, an oasis of green in Cape Town during the three-year drought, is still scheduled to host the Test match between South Africa and Australia on March 22 (Photo credit: Mybroadband.co.za)

 

  • The 30,000 runners taking part in the iconic Two Oceans Marathon, set for March 31, will also rely on purified spring water from Newlands. It will be distributed to all participants via sachets (small cloth pouches) and other water delivery systems. Some runners will use hydration packs to fill up at the start of the race instead of using their daily household allowance. All portable toilets brought to the race course will use recycled water and, unlike in past years, there will be no shower facilities at the finish line.

 

This likely wouldn’t be the case in any other year but, in 2018, I feel comfortable saying that most of the runners in the Two Oceans Marathon will be fine if the race is rain soaked.

 


 

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Vestas 11th Hour Racing Going For Unheard of Triple: Win the Volvo Ocean Race; Go Zero-Waste In the Process; Elevate Public Interest in Ocean Health, Climate Change

THIS STORY IS AN UPDATE OF A PIECE THAT FIRST APPEARED IN SUSTAINABLE BRANDS ON JANUARY 2, 2018

Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright take on challenges the way most people layer cold cuts; one on top of the other. The duo and their team are 1) one of seven squads trying to win the Around the World Volvo Ocean Race, a nine-month sailing slog, over 45,000 nautical miles, in all sorts of weather; 2) doing so while being the most sustainable team in the race; and 3) working to increase public awareness, concern and action on behalf of ocean health.

No problem, right?

Perhaps the main reason they have a chance to succeed on all three counts is the unique collaboration between sport (Towill and Enright), business (Vestas, the largest wind turbine maker in the world) and philanthropy (11th Hour Racing, an organization that promotes ocean health via the sponsorship of elite sailing teams).

 

A LIFELONG INTEREST IN OCEAN HEALTH; A DESIRE TO COMPETE IN THE PINNACLE OF OPEN OCEAN SAILING RACING

For Mark Towill, concern about ocean health goes back to childhood. “I saw significant amounts of marine debris up close, growing up on the water in Hawai’i,” said the team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, one of seven sailing squads competing to win the Volvo Ocean Race.

Towill attended Honolulu’s Punahou High School, alma mater of Barack Obama. In his senior year, he met environmentally minded Rhode Island native Charlie Enright during filming of the documentary “Morning Light,” produced by Roy Disney, in which young sailors competed in the TransPac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew portrait. Mark Towill

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew portrait. Charlie Enright

Vestas 11th Hour Racing team director Mark Towill (top) and skipper Charlie Enright (Credit for both photos: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

The duo sailed for Brown’s nationally ranked team in the mid-2000s; it was at the Providence, RI university that Towill and Enright hatched their dream of leading a team in the Volvo Ocean Race, the pinnacle of open ocean racing. Making that dream a reality costs serious money — upwards of $20 million — but only a few years after Enright graduated in 2008, the business majors (Towill also majored in environmental science) set out to raise the money to fund a boat for the 2014-15 race.

Surprisingly to many in the sailing world, a three-year effort to find a major sponsor bore fruit when Alvimedica, a new Turkish medical equipment manufacturer, signed on.

 

SEEING OCEAN WASTE AND EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE DURING 2014-15 VOLVO OCEAN RACE

Towill’s and Enright’s first trip around the world was peppered by a substantial amount of ocean waste.

“The amount of marine debris we encountered was truly astonishing,” marveled Charlie Enright. “We expected to see plenty of ‘leakage’ — all sorts of materials from container ships that would fall into the ocean — and we did. But the old refrigerators, air conditioners and tires we saw floating around in the middle of the ocean — they didn’t fall off of ships. The waste was so thick, it looked like you could walk in some parts of the waters between Malaysia and Indonesia, thanks to the lax dumping regulations.”

As one might expect, the ocean waste occasionally slowed Team Alvimedica’s progress. “It hindered our performance, big time. Sometimes, when the boat would slow down, we would send someone overboard to go underwater and take the stuff off,” offered Enright. “Of course, it wasn’t only our boat that had to deal with this problem; it affected everyone in the race.”

They also observed the effects of climate change up close. “One way we saw this was through ‘ice gates,’ which are established for safety reasons by race organizers to represent the northernmost and southernmost latitudes beyond which the boats cannot safely sail,” explained Enright. “Because of climate change, icebergs are floating further south from the Arctic regions and further north from the Antarctic. That meant that, for example, the Cape Town to Melbourne leg’s Antarctic ice gates were pushed further north for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race than they would have been in prior years.”

Even before Team Alvimedica’s fifth place finish in their maiden 2014-15 voyage, Towill and Enright began planning for the race’s 2017-18 edition.

The pair had worked with a sustainability consultant to determine the environmental impact of their 2014-15 journey, establishing a baseline for the next go-round. More importantly, it says here, they made a commitment that improving ocean health as well as fighting climate change would be core values for both the team as well as prospective sponsors. Their goals were, of course, modest: Just win the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race and be, as Towill put it, “the [event’s] most sustainable team.”

 

Leg Zero, Prologue start round the corner on-board Vestas 11th Hour, light breeze downwind. Photo by Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race. 08 October, 2017

Vestas 11th Hour Racing aims to win the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race, be the event’s most sustainable team, and, in the process, increase public awareness, concern and action on behalf of ocean health (Photo credit: Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

With that dual mission firmly in place, it is highly doubtful that the team director and skipper could have found a better title partner pairing than Vestas and 11th Hour Racing.

 

VESTAS: PARTNERSHIP WITH TOWILL/ENRIGHT, 11TH HOUR RACING AND VOLVO OCEAN RACE IS A PERFECT FIT

To Magnus Bach, senior director of global marketing at Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, co-sponsoring Towill and Enright’s team with 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation focused on ocean health, was a perfect storm of sorts: “We see ourselves as the ‘above the water surface’ sustainability partner with our focus on wind energy and climate solutions. Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing brings its ‘below the surface’ expertise on ocean waste and ocean health.”

 

Magnus Bach

Magnus Bach, senior director of global marketing at Vestas (Photo credit: Magnus Bach)

 

Bach says the relationship between Vestas, Towill/Enright and 11th Hour Racing came about thanks to the matchmaking skills of Volvo Ocean Race executives: “Having sponsored a team in the 2014-15 cycle, we knew the ropes a bit. Our goal in 2017-18 was to partner with a team that would make a serious, long-term commitment to sustainability and to the climate change fight; we were not interested in a one-off. Knowing this, our friends at the Volvo Ocean Race introduced us to Mark and Charlie in December 2016. From there, the relationship between us, the guys and 11th Hour Racing crystallized quickly and we announced our joint partnership in March.”

The strategic and technical fit between Vestas and sailing could not be tighter and is a prime reason the company also serves as the Data Analytics Partner of the race itself.  Bach noted Vestas “is in the business of harvesting wind and so, of course, is sailing. And think about this: the aerodynamics of a hull is somewhat similar to that of a wind blade; in fact many of its engineers have worked in both sailing and the wind business. Vestas also has the biggest climate library in the world — the amount of data in the wind business is staggering — which the sailors use to help with navigation.”

Sponsoring the team and the race provides Vestas with unmatched business building opportunities. “We are a business-to-business company — we sell wind turbines and service solutions mostly to utility companies around the world — so doing a big, consumer-facing sponsorship with, for instance, a soccer team like Manchester United or Liverpool does not make sense for us,” asserted Bach. “The global nature of the race and the intimate nature of its stops provides us with powerful opportunities to entertain some of our existing partners along with new prospects, wherever they may be located. This makes the Volvo Ocean Race a stronger option for us than, say, the America’s Cup, which takes place in far fewer locales.”

 

11TH HOUR RACING: SAILING SPONSOR WITH A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PURPOSE 

When you think of a typical corporate sponsor of a sports team or event, what kind of company comes to mind? A car company? A beer brand, perhaps? No matter what category you chose, you know that companies spend substantial sums to put their products or services in front of their target audiences so they can sell more of those products or services.

Newport, RI-based 11th Hour Racing is not a corporation, and it is not selling a product or service.

Rather, the organization pays for the privilege of selling behavior change — positive environmental actions, primarily surrounding ocean health — to dual audiences: 1. World class sailing teams and, sometimes, the races in which they compete, and 2. The millions of sailing fans worldwide who follow the teams, and races.

How does 11th Hour Racing help close its “sale”? By acting as sustainability consultant — helping to develop sustainability plans — as well as a marketing and communications agency of sorts for the teams it sponsors in the world’s most widely followed sailing races.

They played this role for Land Rover BAR, the British entry in the 35th America’s Cup held in 2017. And, with a history of support for Towill and Enright, it’s not surprising they are doing the same as part of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team. And, if that’s not enough, 11th Hour Racing is also providing sustainability consulting services to the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race as Founding Principal Sustainability Partner and Race Partner.

 

VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM: A WORLD CLASS COLLABORATION

11th Hour Racing’s collaboration with Towill, Enright along with Vestas for the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race resulted in a comprehensive and groundbreaking sustainability, communications, legacy and reporting plan that put the team on a path to make good on its “most sustainable team in the race” pledge — and more. Sustainability and communications initiatives include:

Sustainability 

  • Calculating Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s carbon footprint by tracking all travel, accommodations, electricity usage, water consumption and waste. That footprint will be offset at race’s end.
  • Outfitting each team member with a “sustainability kit” containing refillable water bottle, coffee mug, bamboo toothbrushes, and much more. It also includes a personal water filter to ensure clean, safe drinking water.
  • Creating a positive plastic footprint by removing more trash from beach cleanups than they create during the race
  • Using a desalinator for on-board water needs, saving an estimated 13,500 one-liter water bottles
  • Achieving a 75 percent waste diversion rate
  • Wearing Karün sunglasses made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and using Aethic sunblock, produced with a unique formula that does not harm coral reefs
  • Sourcing local, sustainable foods from the countries they visit
  • Following a Meatless Monday diet

 

Communications

  • Designing and operating Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zones at 10 of the 12 race stops. The Exploration Zone is a dedicated, immersive educational space where the public learns about renewable energy and ocean health through the prism of sailing’s most crucial elements; wind and water. From virtual reality goggles to interactive displays, the space drew thousands of people each day at the race’s first three stops (Alicante, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal, and Cape Town, South Africa). Visitors can also charge their phone using a grinder similar to the ones on board the race boat, and make their own public pledge for a sustainable future.
  • Raising awareness of the team’s vision of a cleaner, healthier environment at race stops and during the race via the Vestas 11th Hour Racing website, Social Media channels and the #LeadingSustainability hashtag

 

Video detailing the Vestas 11th Hour Racing “Exploration Zone” (1 min 6 sec)

 

Legacy

  • At each Volvo Ocean Race stopover, Vestas 11th Hour Racing will be meeting with a local non-profit to learn more about their environmental work.
  • 11th Hour Racing will be giving a $10,000 grant to each of these non-profits as part of the team’s mission to leave a lasting legacy beyond the race.

Grant recipients so far have been: Asociación De Naturalistas Del Sureste in Alicante, Spain; Circular Economy Portugal in Lisbon, Portugal; Environmental Monitoring Group in Cape Town, South Africa, and Take 3 (as in “take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach”) in Melbourne, Australia.

 

Reporting

  • 11th Hour Racing is using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) template to monitor the team’s progress (or lack thereof) towards reaching its sustainability goals after each legs. A final sustainability report will be issued after the race ends.

 

YOU PLAY TO WIN THE RACE!

To paraphrase the famous 2002 rant of Herm Edwards, the preacher-like former head coach of the New York Jets (a woebegone American football team, for those unfamiliar with U.S. sports), ESPN commentator, and soon-to-be head man at Arizona State University, “You play to win the Volvo Ocean Race!!”

 

Former NY Jets head coach Herm Edwards’ now infamous 2002 “You Play to Win the Game” rant (37 seconds)…

 

Prologue on-board Vestas 11th Hour. Upwind heading to gibraltar. Photo by Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race. 10 October, 2017

…and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, “playing to win the race…while being its most sustainable team!” (Photo credit:

 

Winning would be a great boost for the awareness and impact of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s sustainability leadership.

Towill and Enright are, of course, all in on winning both the Volvo Ocean and sustainability races.

“Winning the race is of paramount importance and a massive challenge. Know that our team is up for it,” said Mark Towill. “Ocean health and climate change are also of paramount importance. That’s why we set out to be the most sustainable team in the Volvo Ocean Race. Thanks to Vestas and 11th Hour Racing, we’re on the way to achieving the environmental goals. As for the race, that’s on us!”

After winning the first leg from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Vestas 11th Hour Racing earned third place honors in both the second (Lisbon-Cape Town) and third (Cape Town-Melbourne) chapters. Thus the team left Melbourne tied for second place when the fourth leg set off on January 2 for Hong Kong, with expected arrival on January 19.

After Hong Kong, the race proceeds to Guangzhou (China) then back to Hong Kong. After that, it’s on to Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Newport (Rhode Island, USA), Cardiff (Wales), Gothenberg (Sweden), before finishing in The Hague (Netherlands) at the end of June.

 

 

 

To learn more about Vestas 11th Hour Racing: https://vestas11thhourracing.com/
To learn more about the Volvo Ocean Race: https://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html

 


 

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Clif Bar: Pushing Green-Sports Boundaries for 25 Years By “Thinking Like a Tree”

If there were a Green-Sports Corporate Hall of Fame, Clif Bar would be a charter member. The Emeryville (near Berkeley), CA-based company has produced tasty, nutritious, organic energy bars for cyclists, climbers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, surfers triathletes, runners and other outdoor/adventure athletes since 1992. And to say that sustainability is core to its DNA is a massive understatement.

GreenSportsBlog took a deep dive into Clif Bar, its history as a sustainable business and green-sports leader, along with its plans to take both to the next level.

 

“We aspire to be a company that thinks like a tree,” enthused Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship, at an engaging talk in New York City this fall.

Huh?

What does “think like a tree” mean?

“Trees run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, and sustain and improve the places where they grow,” explained Hammond, “‘Thinking like a tree’ is how we go about making good on the most critical part of our environmental mission, which is to help build the climate movement.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a food company with an environmental mission of “building the climate [change fighting] movement.” But am I ever glad there is one, and that it’s Clif Bar.

 

Elysa Hammond

Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

And once I learned about Clif’s history, its “do well by doing good” ethos, its “Five Aspirations” (we’ll get to that a bit later) — and its deep connection to sports —the company’s environmental mission made perfect sense.

Now, you may ask, “What does its deep connection to sports have to do with Clif’s ‘build the climate movement’ mission?”

It goes back to Clif’s beginnings about 25 years ago.

You see, according to Hammond, Clif was “born on a bike.”

OK, now I get “think like a tree” but “born on bike”?

Turns out, Gary Erickson, the company’s founder, was on a 170 mile bike ride — referred to in Clif Bar lore as “The Epiphany Ride” — eating primitive, unappealing energy bars. He said to himself, “I can make a better tasting, more nutritious bar.”

 

Gary Erikson

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

Erickson and his team have certainly raised the bar on tasty (as well as nutritious and organic) energy bars and other foods — while also leading the sustainable business and climate movements, with winter, adventure and outdoor athletes playing integral roles.

 

Clif Bar: Sustainable Business Leader

We will get to the Clif—athletes connections in a moment. But first, please indulge me while I give you a CliffsNotes version of the company’s unusual history. [Ed. Note: OK, you knew that pun was coming sooner or later. I thought “let’s get it out of the way early.” It won’t happen again.]

  • The company’s name, Clif, also happens to be the first name of Erickson’s dad
  • Clif Bar took off soon after its founding and, by 2000, “Big Food” suitors looked to buy it. In fact, Quaker was prepared to snap Clif up for $120 million. Erickson was poised to sign the papers — his business partner wanted to sell; a less sure Erickson was going to go along with it…Until…Minutes before he was going to sign, Erickson said to the lawyers in attendance “I need to take a walk.” Upon returning, he said “no deal.” He wanted to remain independent, to run the company sustainably. A bank was found to loan Erickson money to buy out the partner and he was able to retain control of the company.
  • Staying independent spurred Erickson to incorporate a “Five Bottom Line” approach to sustainably managing the business, which ultimately became the “Five Aspirations,” which Clif incorporated into its bylaws in 2010:
    1. Sustaining the Business: Building a resilient company, investing for the long-term.
    2. Sustaining the Brands: Creating brands with integrity, quality and authenticity.
    3. Sustaining its People: Working side-by-side, encouraging each other, Clif is its people
    4. Sustaining Communities: Promoting healthy, sustainable communities, locally and globally
    5. Sustaining the Planet: Conserving and restoring natural resources while growing a business that operates in harmony with the laws of nature. To make good on this aspiration, Clif works diligently on four sustainability “progress areas”
      • Sustainable Food and Agriculture
      • Climate Action
      • Zero-waste
      • Conserve and restore natural resources

Beginning in 2002, major, long-term, sustainability-infused business decisions became hallmarks: Clif Bars would be made with organic and sustainable ingredients, baked in facilities that run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, come wrapped in eco-friendly packaging, and shipped in ways that don’t pollute.

 

Clif Bar

 

No sweat, right?

Those decisions have led to stunning results, as the company:

  • Earned organic certification for the Clif energy bar in 2003, the first of many of its foods to be so designated
  • Now generates 80 percent of the electricity used at its headquarters from an on-site solar array
  • Achieved an 88 percent diversion rate of waste from landfill
  • Is aggressively greening its supply chain. “We have a ’50/50 by 2020′ goal with our supply chain,” explained Hammond. “That means we are working with 50 supply chain facilities to source 50 percent or more the electricity used for Clif products from clean power by 2020.”
  • Is transitioning away from trucks and towards rail, which will result in a 70 percent reduction in transportation-related carbon emissions.
  • Reimburses employees up to $6,500 when they purchase a car that meets Clif standards including being electric or a hybrid that gets 45 miles per gallon or more

 

Adventure Sports Exemplify Clif Bar’s Ethos and Key to Early Growth

For Hammond, the Clif Bar-Sports story goes all the way back to that famous Epiphany Ride. “Climbing and cycling were foundational sports from the very beginning. Athletes were our first customers and have been evangelizing for Clif and a sustainable planet since the beginning. In fact, many of the athletes we sponsor are passionate environmentalists. Now, to get the full Clif Bar-Sports story, you should talk to Bryan Cole.”

Who is Bryan Cole? The 15-year Clif Bar veteran’s very long job title — senior manager of adventure sports marketing and environmental partnerships — is matched by the long list of adventure sports in which he takes part — Backcountry skier, mountain biker, surfer, and climber.

When Cole described his perfect work world being one “in which I can merge as many of Clif Bar’s Five Aspirations as possible into actual projects, with athletes who care about the planet,” I naturally asked for examples.

“On the micro-level, we took three pro athletes we sponsor — a snowboarder, a surfer, and a prone paddler — to Nicaragua ” shared Cole. “During the days, we worked on the ‘Sustaining our Communities’ aspiration with Surf For Life by helping to build a music room at a school. This allowed a marching band to form and have a place to practice.”

Looking through a wider lens, Cole also cited the company’s sponsorship of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team as being rooted in shared values and quality: “The relationship came to be because the team liked our products’ nutritional profile and taste and we are proud to support these athletes and a team whose values align with ours.”

 

Clif Bar Sponsored Athletes Go the Extra Green Mile

The environmental actions taken by many Clif athletes, from helping advocate in the fight against climate change to conservation advocacy, and more, are nothing short of incredible.

Snowboarder Jeremy Jones is the founder of Protect Our Winters (POW), originally a group of winter sports athletes who are at the forefront of rallying the outdoor sports community to build a movement against climate change. POW is in the early stages of expanding its athlete ambassador roster to include non-winter adventure sports.

 

Jeremy Jones - Jeff Curley - Clif

Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Jeff Curley)

 

 

Greg Long, is a big wave surfer and an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation and Parley for the Oceans, two innovative nonprofits dedicated to finding comprehensive solutions that will result in the protection of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

 

Greg Long, 2015

Greg Long (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

 

I saw big mountain skier Caroline Gleich speak powerfully about the urgency and importance of protecting America’s public lands from development at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. Clif and Caroline are perfect partners.

 

DCIM100GOPROG0030053.JPG

Caroline Gleich (Photo credit: Caroline Gleich)

 

 

Forrest Shearer is a true Green-Sports renaissance man: Big mountain snowboarder. Surfer. POW member. Advocate for wilderness protection.

 

Forrest Shearer via Barbara Weber

Forrest Shearer (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

 

Mountain biker Casey Brown, from the woods of western Canada, needed funding to pursue her sport. “Casey turned down opportunities from energy drink companies as they and their products did not align with her values,” related Cole. “As part of our contract with Casey, we decided to create and have her wear a Clif branded helmet. This was one of our first moves into full helmet branding and we believed that her authenticity would connect with younger fans. So we made Casey a Clif Bar branded helmet and are glad we did.”

 

Casey Brown in Pemberton, British Columbia, August 2016.

Casey Brown (Photo credit: Sterling Lorence)

 

If Clif Bar Really Wants to Build the Climate Movement, Shouldn’t It Connect with MLB, NBA, etc.?

Clif Bar’s partnerships with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, the athletes listed above, as well as with organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and more, make perfect sense from the brand’s outdoor, adventure, somewhat outsider image.

And that approach has certainly worked — while Clif is privately held and thus isn’t required to release sales figures, the company has been on a steady growth path, recently opening a state-of-the-art “green” bakery in Idaho and acquiring a bakery in Indiana. And its brand image is pristine and authentic.

But, if the company’s mission is to build a climate movement that touches and inspires as many people as possible, shouldn’t Clif become involved with the sports with the biggest followings? In North America, that, of course, means baseball, basketball, football, and more. Especially since athletes in those sports are increasingly embracing healthy eating as well as lifestyles. Or, would doing so put the company at risk of being seen as too mainstream, a sellout of sorts, by its fans as well as by the athletes they sponsor?

“Adventure sports is our heritage and we are therefore cautious regarding the bigger sports. We want to ‘keep it real’ for our athletes and consumers,” acknowledged Cole. “On the other hand, we do recognize that our products and our mission would appeal to athletes of all stripes and to their fans. So we will carefully explore working with more mainstream team and individual sports as time goes on.”

My 2¢? The big sports need the cache, authenticity, outsider-ness and energy that Clif Bar would bring them as much if not more so than Clif needs them. Thus, to my mind, Clif can thread the needle — keeping it real and going big league at the same time. I bet fitness and nutrition devotees like LeBron James, Serena Williams and/or Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, to name a very few, would be good fits for Clif — and vice versa.

 


 

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Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Earns LEED Platinum Certification, First for Pro Stadium

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the brand-spanking-new home of the NFL’s Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United has drawn praise for several firsts in stadium design since its opening this summer. The oculus-shaped roof and the scoreboard that wraps around the perimeter of the interior of the stadium roof are but two examples. A third and, to GreenSportsBlog, most important first, came to light last week when it was announced Mercedes-Benz Stadium had earned LEED Platinum certification, the first pro stadium^ to do so.

 

88.

While we are living in the “Moneyball” era of sports, dominated by complex, advanced statistics, that simple number may be the most significant metric of the year.

You see, 88 represents the most LEED points earned to date by any sports facility in the world. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium amassed that haul to become the first pro stadium to attain LEED Platinum level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. For those keeping score at home, 80 points is the minimum threshold for LEED Platinum.

 

Mercedes Benz

Aerial view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Getting to 88 points didn’t just happen. It took an anything-is-possible vision and a consistent commitment to sustainability — from both environmental and community development points of view — from Arthur Blank, Owner and Chairman of the two teams.

“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” noted Blank. “[Our] goal was to achieve the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment and with this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry and to our fans that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size and scale.”

 

Arthur Blank LEED Platinum Certification Event

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, speaking at the LEED Platinum announcement event for Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Blank’s innovative vision was executed by Scott Jenkins, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, along with a team that included leading sports architecture firm HOK. “One of the reasons we were able to get to 88 points was that we aggressively pursued innovation credits, one of the newer elements of LEED,” offered Jenkins. “Arthur pushed the team to innovate in water, lighting, energy conservation, as well as in community development and social equity programming.” Here are some examples:

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium earned every available LEED water credit by:
    • Using 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to water-efficient fixtures and conservation infrastructure
    • Building a 1.1 million gallon, underground water vault, providing the area with much-needed flood management
    • Storing another 680,000 gallons of water for use in irrigation and the stadium’s cooling tower
    • Restoring water to the nearby Flint River#
    • Partnering with community organizations like Trees Atlanta to share captured rainwater for tree irrigation
  • The stadium’s 4,000 solar panels power the equivalent of nearly ten Falcons games or 13 Atlanta United matches with clean, renewable energy. An important feature of the installation, said Jenkins, is that “most of the panels are visible to fans, as parking lot canopies and atop an underground garage.”
  • LED lighting throughout the building will reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent
  • Three nearby MARTA light rail stations have resulted in 25-30 percent of fans taking mass transit to attend Falcons and Atlanta United games
  • Copious alternative transportation options, including a bike valet program, EV charging stations with capacity to charge up to 48 electric cars simultaneously and new pedestrian-friendly walking paths, provide more connectivity between communities

 

Bike Valet ATLUTDvsOC 091617_0043

Fans dropping off their bikes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s free bike valet at September’s Atlanta United-Orlando City match (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

 

M-B EV Charging

EV charging station adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

  • Partnerships with local organizations are training residents in the stadium’s Westside neighborhood in nursing, construction, culinary arts, IT and automotive with the goal of placing them in living wage jobs in the industry

 

The remains of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ prior home which was imploded Monday, will be handled in an environmentally sound fashion: 98 percent of its materials will be reused and thus will not end up in a landfill. One might expect a parking lot to take its place. But that was not what Blank had in mind. Instead, after the Dome’s concrete fills the hole the implosion created; after the metal and steel is salvaged, the Home Depot Backyard will open on that site next August. It will boast 13 acres of new greenspace and parkland for arts and cultural events, entertainment and community building on non-event days. Tailgaters will rule the roost on game days.

Blank’s sustainable vision extends beyond the stadium and environs. “It certainly was not lost on Arthur that, while Mercedes-Benz Stadium is situated in very close proximity to Spelman College, Martin Luther King’s childhood home and other sites of significance to the civil rights movement, it is also close to two very poor communities” shared Jenkins. “That’s a big reason why he made a significant investment in the Westside, going beyond even what was necessary to earn Platinum certification to make the stadium a focal point for new employment and community development opportunities.”

 

LEED Platinum Certification Event - from right - Rich McKay, Scott Jenkins, Arthur Blank

Scott Jenkins (c), General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, flanked by Rich McKay (l), President of the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur Blank, at the LEED Platinum announcement event (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

It must be noted that, while Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s 88 is the best LEED score ever, it’s not perfect.” Hey, I am a stickler!

So how can Blank and Co. improve on things? According to Jenkins, “we’re looking at reducing plastic usage — straws, for example — as well as increasing our vegetarian, vegan and healthy food offerings.”

These are worthy goals, indeed, and are examples of how Mercedes-Benz Stadium is taking the notion of sustainable sports venues to an entirely new level.

^ Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center is the first LEED Platinum-certified arena and the University of North Texas’ Apogee Stadium is the first collegiate stadium to earn that designation
# The Flint River is not to be confused with the city of Flint, MI, which, of course, which is living through its own serious water issue.

 


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