GSB News and Notes: 50 Biggest Solar Systems at Stadiums and Arenas; Nike Steps Up Its Green Game Through “Science Based Targets”

It’s “Techno-forward Tuesday” in GSB News & Notes column. First, we take a dive into a new global list of the 50 biggest solar systems at stadiums and arenas. Then we look at Nike and its commitment to reduce its carbon emissions, and those of its supply chain, via the tenets of the Science Based Targets initiative. Adhering to those tenets means the Beaverton, OR company would be doing its part to keep global carbon emissions at levels that will keep the world below a 2°C increase vs. pre-industrial levels.

 

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY LEADS THE LIST OF 50 BIGGEST SOLAR SYSTEMS AT STADIUMS AND ARENAS

Szabolc Magyari, writing in the September 5th issue of SolarPlaza, a Rotterdam, Netherlands-based newsletter about all things solar, compiled a list of the 50 biggest solar systems at stadiums and arenas, with “biggest” defined as the amount of power generated per system. Click here for the list.

Three nuggets stood out to me.

1. Auto Racing Leading on Big Solar Installations: Auto racing venues’ prominence at the top of the list — three of the four biggest solar installations at stadiums/arenas are in the motor sports world — may be surprising to many at first glance. After all, burning copious amounts of fossil fuels is an essential part of the sport itself (save for the notable exception of the all electric vehicle Formula-E circuit) and, in the United States at least, the perception — if not the reality — is that the epicenter of auto racing fandom is in states where climate change denial is highest. So why are auto racing venues going solar so…bigly?

 

Solarplaza

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, TT Circuit Assen (Netherlands) and Pocono Speedway have three of the four biggest solar installations in the sports world (Source: Solarplaza, September 2017)

 

When you realize that the footprint (size, not carbon) of a raceway or speedway is 3-4X that of the biggest stadium, then it makes sense that their solar arrays would be much bigger, too. And the fact that the cost curve is decreasing rapidly makes solar an economically wise choice. And it may well be that the motor sports industry is ahead of a portion of its fan base on climate change, at least as of now. Hopefully, these solar installations, in at least a small way, will help bring some of those fans around.

 

2. The Netherlands Punches Way Above Its Weight, Solar Stadium/Arena-Wise. The USA leads the way on the Solar Top 50 list with 21 stadiums/arenas or 42 percent, an impressive showing, especially considering the US only represents 4.4 percent of the world’s population of 7.5 billion.

Even more impressive is the Netherlands’ solar-stadium performance: It has seven stadiums/arenas on the list which represents 14 percent of the total. But at 17 million and change, the Netherlands represents only 0.2 percent of the world’s population. Thus, it has 85 times more solar-topped stadiums and arenas than its population would indicate. Hartelijk gefeliciteerd*, Netherlands!

 

Cruyff Arena Holland

Solar panels top Johann Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, home of Dutch soccer powerhouse Ajax. (Photo credit: Holland.com)

 

TT Circuit Solar ABN Amro

Solar panels line the race track and a field adjacent to the TT Circuit in Assen, The Netherlands (Photo credit: ABN Amro)

 

3. How Great Is It That There Is a Top 50 Solar Stadium/Arenas List At All?! If there’s a Top 50 list of solar stadiums and arenas, that means there must be many more such buildings who didn’t make the list. Which is a great thing, indeed.

 

NIKE STEPS UP ITS GREEN GAME: JOINS SCIENCE BASED TARGETS INITIATIVES; LAUNCHES ‘SUSTAINABLE LEATHER’ SHOE

Nike, a leader in the sustainable athletic apparel world, recently committed to set corporate emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative, pushing the number of companies pledged to the scheme beyond 300.

The SBT initiative, a partnership between CDP, WRI, WWF and the UN Global Compact, judges a corporation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets to qualify as “science-based” if they are in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures, as described in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

All firms looking for the SBT initiative stamp of approval will need to take the necessary steps to embed science-based targets amongst their suppliers. This is particularly acute for the apparel world in general and the athletic apparel segment in particular as more than 90 percent of apparel brand emissions are located in the supply chain.

In 2017 alone, more than 90 companies have joined the initiative. Aside from Nike, that list includes global corporate heavyweights Colgate-Palmolive, HP, Mars^, Nestlé, and SAP.

Conspicuous by its absence to this point in the SBT initiative is adidas, Nike’s chief global competitor, and a true Green-Sports leader. Puma, an early Green-Sports adapter, is part of the initiative.

According to Matt Mace, writing in the September 18 edition of edie.net, companies that have joined the Science Based Targets initiative represent around “$6.5 trillion in market value and are responsible for 0.750 metric gigatonnes of CO2 emissions annually” — or 7.8 percent of the 9.74 metric gigatonnes# of CO2 that were emitted globally in 2015.

“As more and more companies see the advantages of setting science-based targets, the transition towards a low-carbon economy is becoming a reality,” said Lila Karbassi, UN Global Compact’s chief of programmes. “This is becoming the new ‘normal’ in the business world, proving that a low-carbon economy is not only vital for consumers and the planet, but also for future-proofing growth.”

 

Flyleather will help Nike move towards its Science Based Targets

Nike, while on the right path emissions reduction-wise, has a long way to go (as do practically all companies) to actually achieve its target for a 2°C or less world. Its latest eco-sartorial innovation, the recently launched Flyleather — a sustainable leather material made with 50 percent recycled leather fibers — is a step in the right direction.

While the product looks and feels just like premium leather, the process used to produce it is 180 degrees different than the traditional curing, soaking and tanning approach.

During a typical leather manufacturing process, up to 30 percent of a cow’s hide is discarded. To make Flyleather shoes, Nike collects the discarded leather scrap from the floors of tanneries and turns them into fibers. The recycled fibers are then combined with synthetic fibers and fabric through a hydro process with a force so strong it fuses everything into one material.

Nike partnered with E-Leather, which pioneered the process, to develop the new material, which they claim is 40 percent lighter and five times as durable as traditional leather due to its innate structural strength and stability. The process to produce Flyleather also uses 90 percent less water and has an 80 percent lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing. And because Nike Flyleather is produced on a roll, it improves cutting efficiency and creates less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods for full-grain leather.

The first product to feature Nike Flyleather is the Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic, an all-white version of the premium court shoe.

 

Nike Flyleather Tennis

Nike’s Flyleather Tennis Classic (Photo credit: Nike)

 

“One of our greatest opportunities is to create breakthrough products while protecting our planet,” said Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of the Innovation Accelerator at Nike. “Nike Flyleather is an important step toward ensuring athletes always have a place to enjoy sport.”

 


Hartelijk gefeliciteerd = congratulations in Dutch
^ Mars recently committed to pledge $1 billion to fight climate change (Source: Fortune, September 6, 2017)
# Source: Global Carbon Project, 2015.

 


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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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GSB News and Notes, UK Style: Arsenal Supporters Protest Owner Stan Kroenke’s Ownership of Hunting Channel; Oval Cricket Ground/SkyTV Tackle Plastic Ocean Waste; Forest Green Rovers League Two Debut Earns Big Media Coverage

With the 2017-18 Premier League (EPL) football/soccer season set to kickoff tomorrow/Friday, with Arsenal hosting Leicester City, and with a raft of interesting Green-Sports stories breaking out across England, now is a perfect time for a UK style GSB News & Notes. And, just like the EPL campaign, we start with Arsenal, as their supporters protest the club’s American owner Stan Kroenke and his ownership of a cable TV hunting channel. Then we move on to an initiative from London’s Oval Cricket Ground and SkyTV to build awareness of, and action on the plastic ocean waste issue. We end with GSB fave Forest Green Rovers (FGR). Their debut in the fourth tier of the English Football pyramid, League Two, after earning promotion from the fifth tier last spring, drew coverage from major media outlets the world over. Why? Because FGR is the Greenest Team in Sports.

 

 

ARSENAL SUPPORTERS PROTEST OWNERS OWNERSHIP OF CABLE TV HUNTING CHANNEL

Arsenal is one of the Premier League’s (EPL’s) most decorated clubs, with 13 league titles and a record 13 FA Cup trophies to its credit. It is also an EPL green leader: The club just extended its partnership with Octopus Energy to supply the Emirates Stadium with electricity generated solely from renewables. The stadium also puts its 100 percent of its food waste through an anaerobic digester, which then gets composted.

Gunners’ supporters seem to be supportive of the clubs greening initiatives but that hasn’t stopped them from criticizing the club’s American owner, Stan Kroenke, on another environmental issue — animal cruelty — specifically, his company’s ownership of My Outdoor TV (MOTV), a hunting-themed cable network. And they are, smartly it says here, pushing Arsenal’s main sponsors — Emirates, Puma and Vitality — to condemn Kroenke’s support for hunting.

According to Jack de Menezes of The INDEPENDENT of London, “a petition calling for [Emirates, Puma and Vitality] to call for Kroenke ‘to stand down’ has [as of August 3rd] nearly reached 50,000 signatures, as pressure continues to grow on the American billionaire following the launch of his hunting TV channel.”

Kroenke has faced searing criticism and outrage from Arsenal supporters after it was revealed on August 1 that MOTV is owned by his company, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Per de Menezes, the aforementioned petition calls for a “meeting between the Arsenal board, key sponsors, leading animal rights charities and most importantly, [representatives] of the international fan bases regarding this situation.” Tom Farmery of The Daily Mail reported that the dustup reached up to the highest levels of British politics as UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the criticism of Kroenke’s MOTV app, which for £7.60 ($10.06) a month offers “the Netflix of the hunting world.”

But perhaps it was the BBC and its “Have I Got News For You” show that nailed the story with this tweet of a doctored jersey (“kit” in British English,) which Arsenal fans then picked up with a vengeance.

 

Arsenal Tweet

 

Can you see American sports fans protesting against a hunting channel? Or against fracking? While there certainly were marches against Mike Vick after he served his time for organizing dog fights, it’s hard for this reporter to imagine a movement against hunting in the US. And if that’s hard to imagine, it’s harder still to picture protests against, say, fossil fuel companies who sponsor sports events/teams. We certainly can learn some things from our British sports fan cousins.

 

LONDON’S OVAL CRICKET GROUND PARTNERS WITH SKY TV ON PLASTIC OCEAN WASTE CAMPAIGN

Sky TV, one of the UK’s two largest sports broadcasters (BT Sport being the other) is advancing Green-Sports in ways that its US counterparts ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, and CBS Sports, should emulate.

Kia Oval Stadium, the 24,000 seat South London home of the Surrey cricket club, partnered with Sky and its new Sky Sports Cricket channel to build awareness of the plastic ocean waste problem. The broadcaster, through its Ocean Rescue sustainability campaign, gave out refillable water bottles to fans who came to the stadium from July 27th-31st for the England-South Africa five day Test match. Thanks to a hat trick by star bowler Moeen Ali, the home side won by 239 runs. I have no idea what “England won by 239 runs” in cricket means…other than that England won.

 

England bowlers Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad are supporting the Sky Ocean Rescue initiative, which is encouraging consumers to reduce the use of single-use plastics

England bowlers Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad are supporting the Sky Ocean Rescue initiative, which is encouraging consumers to reduce the use of single-use plastics. (Photo credit: Sky Sports)

 

 

According to a story by Luke Nicholls in edie.net20,000 limited-edition re-usable bottles were given out at the London ground throughout the five-day Test affair, and “fans were encouraged to use 20 free water distribution points which were installed throughout the venue.” Giving out water bottles is hard to imagine at a stateside sporting event, or even at an English soccer/football match. But, perhaps the make up of the crowd at a five day Test match — where there are breaks for tea — gives the organizers confidence that the water bottles will be used in a proper, decorous fashion.

A Sky Ocean Rescue mobile studio was set up at the Oval, allowing fans to commit their own recorded pledge to become an #OceanHero. These were then shared via social media.

But it is on TV where Sky is really stepping up its Green-Sports game.

Sky News reports on the plastic ocean waste issue were played during breaks in the match and viewers were challenged to reduce use of single-use plastics in the home.

Sky Sports Cricket channel devoted parts of its Test match coverage to highlighting the impact plastic is having on the world’s oceans, using some cricket statistics that, per Nicholls’, are “shocking”: For example, “In the time it takes to bowl one over, the equivalent of four rubbish trucks’ worth of plastic will be dumped in the ocean.”

Now, I have no clue as to what “bowling one over” means or how long it takes, but I do know that if Sky Sports can broadcast environmental messaging during an important international cricket match, ESPN and Fox Sports can do the same during, say, an NBA playoff game or World Series games. Will they? Stay tuned.

To Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch, the Ocean Rescue campaign, which launched in January with a 45-minute documentary which aired across the company’s TV channels and has received almost 25,000 views on YouTube, is a no-brainer: “The dire health of our oceans is such an important issue, and one that needs to be urgently addressed. At Sky, we want to use our voice and the potential of our reach to inspire people to take action to protect our planet by bringing to life our amazing ocean for millions of people across Europe, and discussing the solutions.

England cricketer Stuart Broad, who is also supporting the initiative, noted that “by 2050, there’s a chance that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, which is really scary for our world, isn’t it?”

 

 

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS EARNS DRAW IN FIRST LEAGUE TWO MATCH, ATTENTION FROM ESPN AND THE GUARDIAN FOR ITS GREENNESS

Forest Green Rovers (FGR), the Greenest Team in Sports (GTIS), played its first match ever in League Two, the fourth tier of English football, on Saturday, earning a 2-2 draw vs. Barnet in front of a raucous home crowd at The New Lawn stadium.

[NOTE: If you are a loyal GreenSportsBlog reader and are thus very familiar with the Forest Green Rovers story, feel free to skip the next three paragraphs. For GSB rookies, keep reading.]

FGR embarked on its journey to earn its GTIS designation when Dale Vince, OBE^, who also owns British renewable energy company Ecotricity, bought the club in 2010 and became team chairman. Over the next several years, he installed an organic pitch at the New Lawn, has it mowed by a solar powered Mo-Bot, and converted all of the stadium concession stands to vegan-only food.

You read that right.

The club’s fortunes on the pitch also improved since Vince took over, with FGR finally earning promotion from the National Conference, the 5th tier of English football, to the 4th tier League Two. This might not sound like much — sort of like a minor league baseball club moving up from Rookie League to Class A, if American sports had promotion and relegation — but it really is. That’s because, League Two is the bottom rung of The Football League, with the English Premier League at the top of the pyramid#.

[Welcome back, GSB veteran readers!]

Being in The Football League for the first time in its 128 year existence means more exposure for FGR. But because of the club’s green ethos, that exposure is growing exponentially, far more than for the typical League Two promo-tee.

For example, a long form piece by Ian Chadband, ran on espnfc.comwhich draws 11.48 million monthly unique visitors, two days before the Barnet match. It characterized FGR as: “a little sports club with big dreams like no other…The fairy tale, as they like to call it, of a village team on the verge of bankruptcy, who have risen to become the club from the smallest community ever to host a team in England’s professional Football League…[And] there’s the uniquely green bit, the fact that vegan-embracing, eco-friendly Forest Green have a very different ethos from perhaps any other sports organization.”

Stuart James, writing on July 31st in The Guardian, with its 30 million+ monthly uniques, dug deep into the food aspect of the FGR story. Vegan cuisine is not only on offer for the the fans; players and coaches are on all-vegan diets. Good thing for them that Em Franklin, the club’s chef, is a foodie’s — vegan or otherwise — dream: “The Q-Pie is brilliant – people love it,” Franklin told James. “It’s a shortcrust pastry base, puff pastry lid and it’s Quorn with soya béchamel white sauce, with thyme and leeks. It’s full and it’s filling because my portions are hearty! We’re doing a pasty as well this year – that’s something new. Because we’re vegan doesn’t mean it’s all lettuce and lentils.”

 

Em Franklin

Em Franklin, the chef at Forest Green, where the food is vegan. (Photo credit: Martin Godwin for The Guardian)

 

Speaking Wednesday to Brian Oliver of The Star Online of Malaysia, Ryan Harmer, FGR’s club’s commercial director summed it up this way: “In the past week we’ve had reporters here from China, been on Al Jazeera and ESPN, on German radio stations. In League Two that’s probably unheard of.”

 

^ OBE = Order of the British Empire
# From top to bottom, the Football League consists of The Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two

 


 

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Green-Sports Startups, Part II: Underdogs United

Well known global corporations, from BASF to Nike to Tesla, have dipped their toes in the Green-Sports waters. While it makes sense from PR and mission points of view, Green-Sports, for now, represents a small aspect of these companies’ businesses. At the other end are startups for which Green-Sports is everything, or close to it. GreenSportsBlog recently launched an occasional series, Green Sports Startups. It focuses on small (for now) that see the greening of sports as existential to their businesses’ prospects for success. Our first such startup was Nube9, a Seattle-based company committed to making recyclable sports uniforms in the U.S.A. from American fabrics. Today, we pivot to Eric Duea and Stephen Gabauer, co-founders of Underdogs United, a startup that looks to close the green-sports circle by getting sports teams to walk the green walk by buying renewable energy credits that support crucial greening projects in the developing world.

 

Long-time readers of GreenSportsBlog know that we believe the sports world has done a very good job greening the games themselves (i.e. LEED certified stadiums/arenas, Zero-Waste games, etc.)

Leveraging the massive power and size of the sports fan audience (by some estimates, 65-70 percent of humans worldwide) to fight climate change? Not so much just yet, even though sports has a strong track record in support of social movements, from civil rights to women’s rights and more.

But that is starting to change.

And, if Stephen Gabauer and Eric Duea have anything to say about it, Underdogs United, the Green-Sports startup these lifelong golfers-turned-eco-preneurs co-founded last year, will help the sports world have a measurable and significant impact in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change.

 

Version 4

Stephen Gabauer, co-founder, Underdogs United (Photo credit: Underdogs United)

 

Eric Duea Headshot Casa Bay Photography

Eric Duea, co-founder, Underdogs United. (Photo credit: Casa Bay Photography)

 

And soon.

But first, some background.

For Stephen and Eric, it was sports first, then green.

Stephen, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, is an archetypical Western Pennsylvania sports lover. “I played baseball, basketball, tennis and golf. Diehard Steelers, Pirates and Penguins fan. Went to Penn State.” A chemical engineering major, he started his career in that field in Charleston, SC but quickly realized his true passion was sports.

To scratch that itch and also to continue a love affair with Germany that had been sparked during a college internship, Stephen found a masters degree program in International Sports Management in Konstanz, near the Swiss border. Sustainable golf course design and architecture became his focus — “my thesis was ‘Sustainable Tourism In The Golf Industry’.” Next was an internship and then a job with Scotland-based Golf Environment Organization (GEO), the non-profit dedicated to providing sustainability standards and support programs to the golf industry. Stephen managed development of OnCourse, sustainability software that provides science-based tools for course superintendents, including “water management, energy efficiency, and a carbon calculator.”

Meanwhile, Eric grew up on golf courses in southern Iowa and knew from an early age that he wanted to work in the sport in some way, shape or form. “I was a strong player on the Iowa junior circuit and, in high school, led our team to the state championship. But, when I went to Methodist University, a Division III power in Fayetteville, NC., I knew my future wasn’t as a touring pro. 300 guys would try out for the men’s team. Our women’s team had won the NCAA D-III title in 25 out of 27 years at one point. It’s easy to get perspective quickly.”

So Eric became a PGA club teaching pro, working at clubs across the U.S., including the legendary Doral Country Club in South Florida and Wild Dunes in South Carolina, before moving to Sunriver, OR where he was in charge of the membership program at the exclusive Crosswater Club. His responsibilities included the high-stress world of membership sales. Eric ended up burning out.

“High income golfers could afford Crosswater but there was nowhere in Central Oregon for the average family or junior golfer to play. I saw the need for a community 12-hole course, targeted to middle class families,” said Eric. “As I started to put together the funding plan and the shoestring budget, I started to learn about the environmental aspects of golf course management. It intrigued me. The course didn’t end up getting enough funding so it never got built, but the experience convinced me to work on the future and the sustainability of golf. So I went to Pinchot University on Bainbridge Island, WA for my MBA in Sustainable Systems. That’s where I really dug into sustainable golf.”

It was at Pinchot that Eric became aware of GEO. “I immediately reached out to them, they hired me as an intern and, then once I finished at Pinchot in 2015 they moved me over to Scotland for a job.”

Stephen and Eric started their collaboration while the latter was running GEO’s Sustainable Tournaments Program. They worked together to, per perform carbon footprint assessments for the European and PGA Tour events, and The Open Championship, hosted by the R&A#.

 

Eric Open Championship 2015

Eric Duea at the 2015 Open Championship (Photo credit: Underdogs United)

 

Stephen became fascinated with the opportunity to “go beyond ‘reducing’ your carbon footprint by balancing it out entirely – known as achieving ‘climate neutrality’.” He learned about innovative social businesses in the developing world and market-driven technologies like clean cookstoves and water filters. These initiatives remove measurable CO2 from the atmosphere and produce certified carbon credits, which are then sold to corporations as a way to reduce and balance their carbon footprint. “I became very inspired by the statistic that 3 billion people are still cooking every meal over an open fire – especially after learning the consequences on the environment and people’s health. I wanted to experience for myself the challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere — I knew that would be integral to my work.”

Jazzed by social entrepreneurship, and ready to get involved on-the-ground, Stephen left GEO to pursue his passion for tackling global climate and economic development challenges. So he went to Kenya and Uganda to work and partner with organizations focused on climate change and helping communities access critical services like food, energy, and water.

Meanwhile, Eric pursued his own passion for taking on climate change through sports, as he worked on getting a GEO sustainability standard established for golf, partnering with the über-green Waste Management Phoenix Open and the RBC Heritage tournament in South Carolina.

And the two friends on the opposite sides of the world began to realize they were on opposite if complementary sides of a powerful Green-Sports economic equation. Stephen, in Africa, experienced the “supply” side — as in the overabundant potential supply of environmental projects that qualify for carbon credits, from clean water to renewable energy, from efficient cooking to reforestation. Eric, in the U.S., saw the “demand” side — as in the growing number of sports entities, from golf tournaments to college sports conferences, from the Super Bowl to the National Hockey League — ramping up the greening of their games, including via the purchase of carbon offsets.

And from those realizations, Underdogs United was conceived. Which means Stephen and Eric are living early-stage startup founder lives.

Until a couple weeks ago, Stephen was in East Africa, building relationships with partners, like Impact Carbon, to package life saving and altering projects for Gold Standard certification^. “Many Ugandans now use firewood to boil water and cook meals,” shared Stephen. “That is an extremely inefficient and carbon intensive process. Impact Carbon has a partially charcoal based stove that uses 70 percent less fuel, resulting in significant reductions in carbon emissions.” There is no shortage of potential carbon credit supplies in Kenya, Uganda, and across the developing world.

 

 

Stephen Uganda Officials Cookstove

Stephen Gabauer of Underdogs United with two Ugandan officials, next to an energy efficient cook stove. (Photo credit: Underdogs United)

 

Eric, meanwhile, worked the corridors at the late June Green Sports Alliance Summit in Sacramento, talking up Underdogs United and the benefits of carbon offset purchases to team front office executives and venue operators and anyone else who would listen. Reactions, reported Eric, were promising, yet…

…Being Underdogs, the guys know success isn’t guaranteed. Will sports organizations put real funds behind carbon credit purchases? And if they are so inclined, wouldn’t, say, Real Salt Lake want to invest in offsets in Utah rather than Uganda?

Yet…the timing could just be right for Green-Sports supply and demand to intersect.

Think about it:

  1. The biggest challenge all sports are grappling with is how to keep or gain the affections and loyalty of Millennials and Generation Zers (Ms+GZers).
  2. Massive pluralities of Ms+GZers not only accept the reality of climate change and its human causality, they also expect to be the generations to take action to take on and solve the problems.
  3. Many Ms+GZers in the developed world want to help their developing world counterparts escape poverty.
  4. Really big sports advertisers, from adidas to Anheuser-Busch, get climate change and the screaming need to engage Ms+GZers.
  5. Sports, already greening its games aggressively, should want to partner with the really big sports advertisers on socially responsible marketing programs that appeal to — drum roll, please! — Ms+GZers!

 

You know, even though I really like the Underdogs United name, Eric and Stephen may not be underdogs after all.

 

# Together with the US Golf Association, the R&A governs the sport of golf worldwide, operating in separate jurisdictions whiles sharing a commitment to a single code for the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status and Equipment Standards. The R&A also manages The Open Championship (aka The British Open) and the Women’s British Open, among other top-level tournaments in the UK.
^ One verified ton of CO2 reduced equals one carbon credit. The price of one certified credit ranges from $5-$20/ton.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Soccer Sponsor Carlsberg Beer to Decarbonize by 2030; Pocono Raceway Issues Sustainability Report; College Baseball World Series Fans Turn Previously Non-Recyclable Plastics into Energy

Soccer, auto racing and baseball make up our summer solstice GSB News & Notes column. The Carlsberg Group, a leading sponsor of soccer/football clubs across Europe and elsewhere, is leading on decarbonization as well. The Danish brewing giant has committed to completely eliminate carbon emissions from its factories by 2030. Pocono Raceway becomes the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series track to issue a sustainability report. And fans visiting TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE for the College Baseball World Series have a new way to not only recycle their garbage, but to turn it into energy. 

 

CARLSBERG TO MAKE ZERO CARBON BEER BY 2030

Carlsberg Group of Copenhagen, Denmark, pledged last week to eliminate carbon emissions and halve water usage at its breweries worldwide by 2030, as part of its new Together Towards ZERO (TTZ), sustainability drive. According to a story in Sustainable Brands by Maxine Perella, the world’s fifth largest beer maker also intends to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity for its breweries by 2022 as one of several intermediate goals. Zero tolerance for irresponsible drinking and accidents are non-environmental facets of TTZ.

Carlsberg has a great opportunity to communicate TTZ to consumers through its sports sponsorships, which are concentrated in soccer/football. It is the official beer sponsor of several iconic European club teams as well as national squads, including:

  • Arsenal of the English Premier League—already active in Green-Sports with its solar partner, Octopus Energy.
  • Danish Superliga powerhouse F.C. Copenhagen, arguably, the most successful club in Danish football.
  • UEFA’s European (or Euro) Championships. Euro 2016, contested in France, is generally regarded as one of the most sustainable mega-sports events ever held.
  • National teams of Bulgaria, Denmark, and Serbia.

Carlsberg has set some aggressive targets for TTZ, aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) protocol. By 2022, it expects to achieve 50 percent reduction in brewery carbon emissions and to have eliminated the use of coal at its factories. It is also targeting a 15 percent reduction in Scope 3 (i.e. supply chain) emissions by the same date, working in partnership with 30 suppliers.

Carlsberg’s sustainability director, Simon Hoffmeyer Boas, speaking to Ms. Perella in Sustainable Brands, suggested that meeting the TTZ goals will, “require changes in the way we buy our products, in the way we produce our beer and the machinery we use.” On-site renewables will also play a key role in getting the company “towards zero.”

Carlsberg’s Dali brewery in China, for instance, has installed over 8,000 rooftop solar panels; the energy generated from these panels is meeting roughly 20 percent of the brewery’s electricity needs.

Turning to water, the beer maker is already working to get its H2O-to-beer ratios down. As of 2015, Mr. Boas says the company’s average ratio stood at 3.4 liters of water per liter of beer. The intention is to get down to 2.7 liters by 2022, and then to 1.7 liters by 2030. Those breweries sited in high-risk areas of water scarcity will look to reduce its water-to-beer ratio even further.

 

Carlsberg

Infographic detailing Carlsberg’s Together Towards ZERO program (Courtesy: Carlsberg)

 

As strong as Carlsberg’s decarbonization and water efficiency roadmap appears to be, it is, in the main, a B-to-B effort. If the company is undertaking these sustainability efforts, as it says on its website, in response to “increasing consumer (MY ITALICS) demand for sustainable products in a time of global challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and public health issues,” then it needs to promote TTZ to those consumers. Existing sports sponsorships—and the massive audiences that go with them—give Carlsberg a powerful platform for TTZ-themed TV/mobile ads, signage, promotions, and more. Let’s see if the company chooses to use it.

 

POCONO RACEWAY ISSUES ITS FIRST SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

June 8 is now a red-letter day in NASCAR history.

On that day, Pocono Raceway become the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race track to release a Sustainability Report touting its sustainability and green efforts. Pocono Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky, a 2016 GreenSportsBlog interviewee, issued the report just days before the NASCAR XFINITY Series Pocono Green 250 race, won by Kyle Larson.

 

Brandon_Image (002)

Brandon Igdalsky, President and CEO of Pocono Raceway. (Photo credit: Pocono Raceway)

 

“We are very proud to make this report available to the public,” said Igdalsky in a statement. “We had a lot of help from NASCAR Green, the Green Sports Alliance and Penn State among many others and we are grateful for their assistance. This report showcases our diversion efforts as well recycling, food donation and much more as we try to do all we can at Pocono Raceway.”

The report highlights Pocono Raceway’s:

  • Status as the first major sports venue in the country to be powered entirely by solar power. Made up of 39,960 American made, ground mounted thin film photovoltaic modules, the raceway’s three megawatt solar farm covers an area of 25 acres adjacent to the track, and generates enough electricity to fully power the track during events, meeting the increased power demand from NASCAR operations during races.
  • Commitment to diverting 75 percent of all waste generated at the racetrack from landfills by 2018.
  • Partnership with NASCAR Green and Safety-Kleen to collect and process automotive fluids for reuse. In 2016, Safety-Kleen recycled and repurposed 1,040 gallons of waste oil, 199 gallons of cleaning compounds, 270 pounds of absorbent, 150 pounds of used oil filters, and more.

Click here to read the entire sustainability report in PDF form.

 

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES FANS CAN NOW TURN PREVIOUSLY NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTICS INTO ENERGY

Since 1950, Omaha, NE has hosted the College Baseball World Series (CWS). Friends who have been to the 11-day baseball fest tell me it is an exciting, fan-friendly, if under the radar, “bucket list” type of event.

And, given the College World Series’ adoption of a state-of-the-art recycling program that turns plastic waste into energy, I need to move it into the Wimbledon, Notre Dame home football game range on my own personal sports bucket list .

Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park annually plays host to upwards of 300,000 college baseball fans during 11 mid-to-late June days and nights. Starting this past Saturday and running through June 28, CWS fans have a new way to make sure their garbage does not end up in landfill: The Hefty® EnergyBag™ program.

 

TD Ameritrade

A packed and jammed TD Ameritrade Park, the Omaha, NE home of of the College World Series. (Photo credit: College Baseball 360)

 

Throughout the ballpark, fans will see bright orange Hefty® EnergyBag™ bags from Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics (“Dow”). If they’re not among the select Omaha households who’ve been using the orange bags since September, they likely don’t realize the bags are the entry point to a unique, four-step, waste management process that will convert previously landfill-bound plastics into energy.

STEP 1: Fans dispose of previously non-recyclable plastics – including chip bags, candy bar wrappers and peanut bags – into bins containing the aforementioned bright orange bags.

STEP 2: Stadium staff and local haulers collect the bright orange bags from regular recycling bins and carts.

STEP 3: A local First Star Recycling facility sorts the bags and sends them to Systech Environmental Corporation. 

STEP 4: Systech Environmental then converts the bags and their contents into energy used to produce cement.

The Hefty® EnergyBag™ program, which launched in Omaha homes last September, recently expanded its rollout from 6,000 to 8,500 households and to TD Ameritrade Park for the CWS. As of June 2017, the program has collected more than 12,000 bags, diverting more than six tons of plastic previously destined for landfills.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Nicole Woodie, Manager, Chris Long Foundation’s “Waterboys”

Back in January, GreenSportsBlog ran a short feature in a News & Notes column about Waterboys.org, a nonprofit that funds the digging of wells in water-deprived areas of Tanzania in East Africa. Founded by Chris Long, the defensive end who was, at the time of our story, about to win a Super Bowl for the New England Patriots and has since moved down I-95 to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, Waterboys is halfway to its goal of spearheading the digging of 32 wells. We received far more comments than usual on this post, with readers wanting to learn more. So today, we bring you our interview with Nicole Woodie, President of Fruition Giving, a philanthropy-consulting firm. Ms. Woodie manages Waterboys on behalf of the Chris Long Foundation.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Nicole, I have to tell you…GreenSportsBlog readers responded to our January story on Chris Long and Waterboys at an unusually high rate. They wanted to know more so I am glad to dig in to it with you. How did you get to work on Waterboys?

Nicole Woodie: Well, Lew, I got there by sort of a circuitous route. I started out as a political fundraiser in Missouri…

GSB: How did you get into that, especially at a young age? Sounds like an interesting story in itself…

 

Nicole Woodie 1

Nicole Woodie, President of Fruition Giving (Photo credit: Nicole Woodie)

 

NW: It started when my aunt decided to run for statewide office as Attorney General. She needed help in fundraising, I thought I’d be good at it and I thought she’d be a great AG so I gave it a shot. I started to have some success raising money and eventually became the campaign’s finance director. We ended up losing but I was able to get more work. Most notably, I worked as Finance Director for Robin Carnahan in her campaign for Secretary of State, which she won, and then as her deputy Finance Director for her unsuccessful US Senate bid.

GSB: You must have learned a ton…

NW: No doubt about it. But, while I was successful as a political fundraiser, what I really wanted to work in was sports—I love sports—and particularly sports philanthropy. So I pivoted to the world of community outreach. I got an internship with the St. Louis Rams and waited tables to earn some cash. And then, in 2011, the Rams hired me to work full time in community outreach, with a focus on getting players involved with causes and nonprofits that fit their individual interests.

GSB: That is a terrific story, Nicole! And now I see how you connected with Chris, as the club selected him out of the University of Virginia with the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

NW: That’s right. I started working with him on his community programs in St. Louis. What you have to know about Chris is this: When he gets passionate about a cause, he goes after it 100 percent.

GSB: So how did it play out that Chris ended up starting Waterboys and what is your role in the organization?

NW: OK, first let’s go back to 2013. That’s when Chris and his teammate James Hall climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When they came down the mountain and toured the villages, Chris saw poverty like he’d never seen before. He was struck both by the tragic conditions in which the people lived and by their resiliency and the beauty of the area. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

GSB: What was that something?

NW: He wasn’t sure. But then came a chance encounter at a hotel bar while Chris was having a beer.

GSB: This sounds like we’re getting into film noir territory. Did it involve a blonde in a trench coat?

NW: Hardly. He hears a recognizable voice from behind him belt out “Chris Long!” It turns out the voice belongs to Fox’ lead NFL broadcaster and St. Louis Cardinals announcer Joe Buck. He was there with Doug Pitt, Brad’s brother…

GSB: …You cannot make this up!!!

NW: You’re right, Lew. Doug Pitt was a goodwill ambassador to Tanzania at the time and was there with Buck on a water project. They asked Chris to join them but he couldn’t. But, when he returned to St. Louis he set about educating himself on the water crisis, talked to Doug Pitt some more and then he started the Chris Long Foundation in 2015, with Waterboys launching in August of that year.

GSB: And where did you come in?

NW: At around that time I had decided to leave the Rams and go out on my own to broaden my impact in sports philanthropy. Chris brought me on to run and manage the foundation and, ultimately, Waterboys.

GSB: What does that mean?

NW: I handle administration, events, fundraising, PR and the back end…

GSB: Basically, you do it all. Impressive. Back to the “Birth of Waterboys” story…

NW: Yes…So, back in 2015, if you recall that was around the time of the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised millions of dollars for ALS research. Chris was amazed at the power of social media and collective action could do. And then he thought ‘We need to do this with water.’ Then he put pen to paper and Waterboys was born. Chris realized several crucial facts: 1. Water is a life-death issue. 2. Solutions exist to the water crisis. 3. Solving that crisis will allow water to transform communities by leading to economic growth, increased education and gender equality. He asked himself how he could involve the league and its players, thinking, ‘If I can get guys in each NFL market to get involved, we’ll get more people to care.’ So the idea to fund the digging of 32 wells, one for each team, was born. We recruited one player from each team. By August 2015, we had gotten 22 Waterboys from 21 NFL teams. Each player donated or assisted in raising funds and asked his fans to do the same.

GSB: That’s incredible. How involved was Chris personally?

NW: He was working on this every week, even in-season.

GSB: So with all of this activity, how many wells have actually been built?

NW: At this point we’ve completed the digging of 16 wells with funding in place for five more. This means 66,000 people now have clean drinking water. When the five that are funded are completed, the number of people served will be in the 70,000-80,000 range.

 

Waterboys 1

Chris Long (2nd from right) was in East Africa in 2015 for the digging of Waterboys’ first well. (Photo credit: Waterboys)

 

 

Waterboys 2

The fruits of Waterboys’ labors, fresh drinking water. (Photo credit: Waterboys)

 

GSB: When do you project that all 32 wells will be funded?

NW: We’re looking at 2018…

GSB: That is a rapid pace…

NW: That’s the only way Chris knows how to work.

GSB: Now, how does Waterboys go about getting the wells dug?

NW: The Chris Long Foundation funds the wells and the digging of them. WorldServe International, on whose board Doug Pitt sits…

GSB: …Brad’s brother!

NW: …the very same. Anyway World Serve International does the work in country. All of the wells are built using Tanzanian crews. Each one serves up to 7,500 people. Solar panels generate the power to operate the wells. The community pays a tiny fee to use the wells, which pays for the upkeep. And everyone in the community where the wells exist gets access to them, which keeps corruption out.

GSB: This is such an amazing program! What are your plans to scale this to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere? Will you broaden Waterboys to sports other than football?

NW: Our goal is to get water to 1 million people so we are looking at bringing athletes from other sports into the mix. The plan for now is to stay in East Africa, as the need there is massive and acute.

GSB: Got it. OK, I gotta ask one last question. I saw recently that ex-Steelers quarterback; NFL legend and Fox NFL Today host Terry Bradshaw made a big donation to Waterboys. Tell us how that happened…

NW: Terry of course works with Howie Long, Chris’ dad, on NFL Today. He calls Chris his godson. Terry had heard about Waterboys, did a feature on it on the Super Bowl pregame show. So he and his wife committed to fund the balance of well number 17 and gave an additional $45,000 to fund their own well. And Terry pushed a video about Waterboys through churches in Pittsburgh, resulting in funding of yet another well.

GSB: Great job by Terry Bradshaw. OK, I lied. I have one more question. Climate change is likely exacerbating the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Tanzania. Where does climate change fit in Chris’ calculus with Waterboys?

NW: Chris sees that climate change clearly goes hand in hand with water issues and is likely making it much worse. Waterboys’ main focus is getting to water to people who need it but climate change is something that will be part of the conversation as we plan for the future.

 


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The GSB Interview: Jamie Simon, Greening the LA Marathon

The Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon is one of the biggest in the United States, drawing 25,000+ runners from all over the world each year. The race passes through four cities, each with their own sustainability (recycling, composting, etc.) protocols and vendor contracts. Getting all four cities to pull together to deliver as sustainable an event as possible is a logistical challenge of epic proportions. To find out how they’re going about it, GSB talked with Jamie Simon, the Sustainability Consultant for Conqur Endurance Group, the event organizer.

GreenSportsBlog: Jamie, thanks for joining us. How did you get involved with Conqur Endurance Group?

Jamie Simon: I joined Conqur Endurance Group as a sustainability consultant. Before that I had been sustainability director of Red Bull USA

GSB: That must’ve been fascinating. When were you there?

JS: From 1999-2009, with the last two years in the sustainability role. The biggest challenge there was that outward-looking, consumer-facing sustainability programs were not in line with the brand at that time.

Jamie Simon

Jamie Simon, sustainability consultant for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. (Photo credit: Jamie Simon)

 

GSB: What does that mean?

JS: It means that the brand’s image with consumers was about extreme sports and culture, etc. And not about sustainability. Their sustainability efforts—and the things that I focused on—were largely on how to streamline operations, to make them more efficient, use less water, etc.

GSB: Red Bull really should communicate their sustainability stories to their consumers. They’re starting to a bit, with their support of the documentary film about clean water, Waves for WaterBut that’s for a different interview. Back to the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon: How did you find things, sustainability-wise, when you joined the effort there?

JS: Well, I have to say we were fortunate when we arrived back in 2014. My first assignment was to set sustainability benchmarks—basically, let the key stakeholders know where the marathon was in terms of a variety of sustainability metrics—mostly environmental but also social and governance. The marathon and its leadership had already taken a number of sustainability steps before that time and so, when we did the baseline analysis of their efforts, the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon was able to qualify for the silver certification level by the Council for Responsible Sport.

GSB: You mean by doing the benchmarking—and making no improvements—the Los Angeles Marathon was able to make silver level certification?

JS: That’s exactly right. The organizers were already giving funds to over 200 area nonprofits, which allows them to check the community development box of their Council certification form. They also had established a strong relationship with the LA Tourism Board, which allowed them to measure the economic impact of the marathon. Another box checked. And there were some waste management-recycling protocols in place.

GSB: So what were you brought in to do?

JS: Conqur Endurance Group made a three-year commitment to get to the Gold, or hopefully, Evergreen level of Council certification for the marathon. I was brought in to get us there. We set sustainability benchmarks with the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, did more benchmarking with the 2016 race, and determined what kind of steps we would need to take if we were to qualify for Gold certification by the Council in 2017.

LAMarathonByCruse00259

The Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon is seeking Gold certification from the Council for Responsible Sport for 2017. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Marathon)

 

GSB: What did you learn?

JS: Well here’s one example: We learned that heat sheets are recyclable…

GSB: What are heat sheets?

JS: Those are the sheets of foil that are given to runners after they finish the marathon to keep their body temperatures regulated. At the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, we separated out the heat sheets and educated recyclers on the importance of actually recycling the material.

GSB: I never would have even thought about heat sheets. You guys really get down into the weeds with this…

JS: Here’s another one from the weeds. You know what you have tremendous quantities of at marathons? Banana peels.

GSB: Makes sense.

JS: And Santa Monica, one of the four cities that is part of the marathon every year, has a composting program for residents but not for events. Well, we got them to compost banana for the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

GSB: You said Santa Monica is one of four cities? That’s got to be a logistical nightmare in terms of sustainability regulations and protocols.

JS: Oh yeah! The marathon starts at Dodger Stadium in LA, goes through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before ending in Santa Monica near the Santa Monica Pier. This means we have four waste protocols to deal with, four sets of waste haulers, etc.

LA Marathon Start

Start of the Skechers Performance LA Marathon outside Dodger Stadium (Photo credit: Connect Run Club)

 

GSB: That sounds like a big logistical challenge. How does working with so many municipalities affect your metrics and measurements?

JS: We’ve got a pretty good handle on that aspect. We take carbon footprint, waste diversion and economic impact measurements. Right now, we’re working our way through the measurements of the 2017 race. Waste diversion for 2015 was at 84% so we’ve got a strong baseline there.

GSB: The waste collection must take a massive effort.

JS: You’d be surprised. We don’t supply food and beverage for the spectators. We’re all about the runners; 26,407 to be exact this year. There are about 6,000 volunteers, picking up waste along the way. Runners get bagels and bananas at the beginning. All unused food goes to the homeless through our partner Move For Hunger. We also work with Students Run LA—I love this group!—it teaches low income kids to run and to love running, which enhances self-esteem. And you know what? The most sustainable resource on earth is self-esteem. People who take care of themselves, take care of the planet.

GSB: I would love to see data that supports this notion but intuitively, it makes a ton of sense. What are your biggest goals for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2018 and beyond?

JS: Definitely the elimination of bottled water. We’re working with the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to access city water for our drinking water. WeTap, a nonprofit that promotes increased access to water from drinking fountains, is supporting our efforts.

GSB: Oh, WeTap is a terrific group and a great partner for the marathon. We interviewed them back a couple of months ago.

JS: Yes, I remember that. Now there are some logistical challenges—the fountains are currently on the wrong side of the course, for example—that need to be worked out. We also will revamp the water management bins at the finish of the course. Finally, we are looking to greatly reduce waste at the race expo, a two-day event at the LA Convention Center with over 100 exhibitors. It’s challenging but we will get it done, no doubt about it.

GSB: I have no doubt about that!

 


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