GSB News and Notes: Oracle Park Goes LEED Platinum; Climate Change Forces Move of Speed Skating Race; Nike to Go 100% Renewable Energy via Partnership with Iberdrola

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training this week, it’s fitting that we lead off our GSB News & Notes column with a baseball story: Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), the home of the San Francisco Giants, just became the first LEED Platinum venue in MLB.

Elsewhere, an iconic Dutch speed skating race is moved to Austria because of the effects of climate change. And Nike continues to push on the sustainability front, pledging to generate all of its energy for its European operations from renewable sources

 

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS BALLPARK BECOMES FIRST MLB VENUE TO EARN LEED PLATINUM CERTIFICATION

Oracle Park, formerly AT&T Park and home of the San Francisco Giants since 2000, is one of the best places to watch baseball in the major leagues¹. With McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay beyond the right field bleachers and the Oakland Bay Bridge off in the distance, the vistas and atmosphere are sublime. Oh yeah, and the Gilroy Garlic Fries are simply beyond.

 

Gilroy Garlic Fries

Oracle Park’s famous and delicious Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

Less obvious to the senses — aside from the solar panels outside the right field wall — are the ballpark’s many green features. Hopefully that will begin to change as Oracle Park recently became the first venue in the big leagues to receive LEED Platinum Certification, the highest possible designation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It had earned LEED Gold status in 2015.

 

 

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels outside Oracle Park’s right field stands, overlooking McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Moving up from LEED Gold to Platinum for existing buildings is not easy. The structure must be best-in-class in every category imaginable, including water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Able Services (building maintenance) and Goby (data analytics) were key players in helping Oracle Park make the grade. Greening initiatives included:

  • Demonstrating a more than 75 percent reduction in conventional commuting trips for employees;
  • Offsetting 50 percent of its energy use through renewable energy credits;
  • Diverting more than 94 percent of waste from landfill through an aggressive recycling and composting program;
  • Instituting water-efficient landscaping – resulting in a more than 50 percent reduction in water usage from improved irrigation technology systems;
  • Installing LED Field Lights for over 55 percent energy reduction in field lighting.

“For years, the San Francisco Giants have been steadfast in their pursuit of a sustainable environment at Oracle Park,” said Paul Hanlon, Major League Baseball’s Senior Director of Ballpark Operations and Sustainability. “Through their extensive recycling and environmental efforts, which includes consistently recording waste diversion numbers of 94 percent and greater since 2012, the Giants have achieved the impressive feat of having Oracle Park receive the first LEED Platinum Certification among MLB ballparks, and thus continuing to be a leader throughout all of sports. We commend their efforts, and look forward to their continued growth.”

“We have been committed since opening this park 19 years ago to making it the most sustainable and greenest ballpark in the country,” added Jorge Costa, Giants’ Senior Vice President of Operations and Facilities for Oracle Park. “From the time we opened our gates, we have been working to achieve LEED silver, gold and now platinum certification. We will continue to refine and reevaluate our sustainability and efficiency practices to remain an environmental leader in the operation of Oracle Park,”

 

CLIMATE CHANGE FORCES MARATHON SPEEDSKATING EVENT TO MOVE FROM NETHERLANDS TO AUSTRIA

After soccer, speedskating is arguably the most popular sport in the Netherlands. And the tradition of speedskating outdoors on natural ice can be considered the Dutch equivalent of apple pie in the U.S.

So what to do when climate change results in winters so warm that the Dutch waterways don’t freeze consistently enough to make speedskating possible?

According to “Racing the Clock, and Climate Change,” a piece by Andrew Keh in the February 7 issue of The New York Times, the Dutch have adjusted to the new reality by moving the Elfstedentocht, one of Netherlands’ most iconic speedskating events — to Austria of all places.

Per Keh, the Elfstedentocht, is “a one-day, long-distance speedskating tour through 11 cities of the Friesland province. [It] has been held casually since the late 1700s and more officially since 1909…Covering a continuous route of about 200 kilometers — about 124 miles — the Elfstedentocht takes place only when the lakes and canals of Friesland develop 15 centimeters (almost six inches) or more of ice…That was once a relatively common phenomenon; lately, it has been exceedingly rare. From its [modern] inception in 1909 to 1963, the Elfstedentocht was held 12 times. Since then, there have been three, most recently in 1997.”

 

Elfstendocht

The last Elfstedentocht, the one-day distance race through 11 Dutch cities, was held in 1997. (Photo Credit: Dimitri Georganas/Associated Press)

 

Some wonder if it will ever be held there again. “The chances of an 11 Cities Tour decrease every year because of global warming,” Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, told Keh. “That should be a good incentive for the Dutch to do something about it.”

The Dutch have long led the way on renewables and energy efficiency in an effort to reverse the effects of climate change. But because the Netherlands is both low lying and exposed to the see, its people have also needed to show the way on climate adaptation. That goes for speedskating, so the Dutch figured out a work-around for the Elfstedentocht, which translates to “11 cities tour”.

“Every winter, close to 6,000 people from the Netherlands make a pilgrimage to Weissensee, Austria (population 753),” wrote Keh. “Climate migrants of the sports world, they seek the cold and the ice of this town’s enormous, asparagus-shaped lake. Known as the Alternative Elfstedentocht, the relocated race has been embraced by the Dutch, [since it launched in 1989], as the chance to skate the same, staggering 200-kilometer distance (roughly the driving distance between Los Angeles and San Diego) their ancestors did.”

The key difference, aside from location between the original and the Alternative Elfstedentocht, is that the latter snakes 16 times through a 12.5 kilometer course laid out on the lake in Weissensee, rather than running through 11 towns.

 

Alternative

The Alternative Elfstedentocht snakes, serpentine-style, on a lake in Weissensee, Austria (Photo credit: Pete Kiehart, The New York Times)

 

And while the thousands of skaters who trek to Austria are appreciative that the Alternative Elfstedentocht exists and of their hosts’ hospitality, most hope to be able participate in the original at least one more time.

Erben Wennemars, 43, and a professional speedskater, embodies that spirit.

“I’m an eight-time world champion, I won two Olympic medals, but I would throw it all away for the Elfstedentocht,” Wennemars told Keh. “There are a lot of people who have gold medals. But if you win the Elfstedentocht, you’ll be known for the rest of your life.”

 

NIKE PARTNERS WITH IBERDROLA TO REACH 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE ENERGY GOAL FOR ITS EUROPEAN OPERATIONS

Nike Just Did It.

“It”, in this case, refers to the company’s recent partnership with Iberdrola, a clean energy producer based in Spain. The goal is to accelerate Nike’s progress on sourcing 100 percent of its energy from renewables for its European operations.

According Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer Noel Kinder, the new Nike-Iberdrola team “catapult[s] us ahead of the timeline that we outlined three years ago when we joined [The Climate Group’s] RE100, a coalition of businesses pledging to source 100 percent renewable energy across all operations.”

 

Noel Kinder

Noel Kinder, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer (Photo credit: Nike)

 

Iberdrola looks to be an ideal partner for Nike.

The only European utility to be part of Dow Jones Sustainability Index since its inception in 2000 certainly talks the clean energy talk. On the hope page of its website, above the fold: “we are committed to a sustainable, safe and competitive business model which replaces polluting sources of energy with clean ones and intensifies the decarbonization and electrification required worldwide.” And it is putting its money where its mouth is, investing more than €32 billion by 2022 in the electrification of the economy.

 

¹ In order, my five top favorites of the 20 or so MLB ballparks I’ve visited are 1. PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), 2. AT&T Park, 3. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), 4. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), 5. Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

 


 

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International Ski Federation President Denies Climate Change; Protect Our Winters Urges Him to Resign

Gian Franco-Kasper, the President of the International Ski Federation (FIS¹), showed himself in an interview last week to be a virulent denier of climate change. His comments were made at the beginning of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden. Ironically, the organizers had recently earned ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event.

Almost immediately after the Franco-Kasper story broke, Protect Our Winters (POW) launched a campaign that is pushing for his resignation.

 

The skiing story of the week was the bronze medal earned by Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. in the final race of her storied career, the downhill at the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden.

Unfortunately, Vonn’s farewell had to share the stage with the news that the President of FIS¹, the governing body of international skiing, has views on climate change that mirror those of noted denier-skeptic, President Donald Trump.

Gian Franco-Kasper’s climate change-denier bona fides came to light in an interview with René Hauri in the February 4th issue of the German language, Zurich-based newspaper, Tages Anzeiger. The next day, Dvora Meyers posted a column in Deadspin that, along with her biting analysis, translated the 75 year-old FIS leader’s comments into English.

 

Gian Franco-Kasper

Gian Franco-Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)

 

Here, from Meyers’ piece, is Franco-Kasper expressing climate change denial, using the old it’s-cold-out-somewhere-so-climate-change-can’t-be-happening” trope:

“There is no proof for it. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”

And here he links his disdain for environmentalists to a fondness for dictators:

“It’s just the way that it is easier for us in dictatorships. From a business view I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I don’t want to fight with environmentalists anymore.”

And then, for good measure, Franco-Kasper added this note on immigrants to Europe:

“The second generation of immigrants has nothing to do with skiing. There are no ski camps anymore.”

All of these quotes could easily have come from the current occupant of the Oval Office. Yet, even Trump hasn’t made the climate denial-dictator connection, at least as far as I’m aware. Per a CNN report, Franco-Kasper tried to walk back the Love-A-Dictator comment — I’ll leave it to the reader to judge his sincerity — but not his climate change denial nor the immigrant-bashing.

Two days after the Deadspin story broke, Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, issued this call for Franco-Kasper’s resignation:

“The snowsports community should be demanding climate action, and not tolerate those who dismiss science to remain in positions of leadership. That’s why are asking the newly formed Outdoor Business Climate Partnership² and the outdoor and snowsports community at large, all of whom rely on a stable climate to power our $887 billion industry, to join us in calling for Mr. Franco-Kasper’s resignation.” 

According to POW, the Franco-Kasper interview brought out into the open what had been whispered about in ski industry circles for years: That FIS leadership is still unwilling to acknowledge — let alone act upon — the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the reality of human-caused climate change that threatens the entire snowsports industry.

Franco-Kasper’s climate change denial stands in stark contrast to the strong sustainability leadership displayed by the organizers of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden, taking place now through the 19th. It recently earned certification as being compliant with the ISO 20121 standard for sustainable events.

 

Are 2019

Riikka Rakic (r) sustainability manager for Åre 2019, helped lead the effort that resulted in the championships earning ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event (Photo credit: Iana Peck, Åre 2019)

 

GSB’s Take: This one is easy. Franco-Kasper’s climate denial, along with his preference for dealing with dictators rather than democracies, make him 1) scarily Trump-like, and 2) clearly unfit to be the leader of the governing body of a sport that is suffering consequences of climate change in the here and now. 

What is not easy to comprehend is how this man, whose views on these issues apparently have been well-known inside international skiing circles, has been able to remain in office since 1998.

POW has started a letter-writing campaign to FIS, urging Franco-Kasper to resign. If you agree he should go and would like to participate, click here.

If the letter-writing effort proves successful and the Franco-Kasper Era (Error?) finally ends, here, in no particular order, is an admittedly U.S.-centric list of three potential successors FIS should consider:

  • POW’s Executive Director and avid snowboarder Mario Molina, 
  • Longtime skier John Kerry, who, as Secretary of State under President Obama, was a driving force behind the ultimate adoption of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Val Ackerman, first commissioner of the WNBA and currently commissioner of the Big East Conference. She would bring trail blazing executive experience, has a global perspective³, and, based on a brief conversation I had with her in 2018, gets it on climate change.

 

¹ FIS =The French version, Federation International de Ski
² The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership is comprised of the National Ski Areas Association, Outdoor Industry Association and Snowsports Industry America
³ Ackerman, during her days at the WNBA in the late 90s, worked closely with then-NBA commissioner David Stern, arguably the person most responsible for the explosion in the global popularity of the league.

 


 

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GreenSportsBlogger Lew Blaustein to Moderate “Green-Sports and Its Impact on Climate Change” Panel in NYC on March 11

The event, which is open to the public, will take place at the Princeton Club of NYC at 6:30 PM on Monday March 11th. Admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

Over the past 15 years or so, Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of the games themselves — has largely been a success. From LEED certified stadia and arenas to Zero-Waste games to locating sports venues close to mass transit, Green-Sports has become mainstream within the sports facilities world, even if it is unknown to most fans. 

As we turn the page to Green-Sports 2.0 — engaging fans and other sports stakeholders to take positive environmental actions — we have to acknowledge that to date, the sports world has largely been slow to directly address climate change. There are understandable reasons why this has been the case, chief among them the fear of getting tangled up in the politics of the issue.

Yet, given the increasing severity and immediacy of climate change, it says here that avoidance is no longer an option if the sports world is as serious about walking the green walk as it is good at talking the green talk. 

Of course, answering the question of how sports should engage on climate change is the tricky part.

That will be the centerpiece of “Green-Sports and Its Impact on Climate Change,” a  discussion I will moderate with a top-shelf panel at the Princeton Club of New York City (15 West 43rd Street) Monday evening March 11 at 6:30 PM. The panel will consist of:

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, co-founder and ex-President of the Green Sports Alliance, Chairman of the Board and Founding Director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) and the newly-minted Environmental Science Advisor to the New York Yankees. He is also co-founder of the Broadway Green Alliance and of the Environmental Paper Network. From 1988–2016, Hershkowitz served as Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental nonprofit. 

 

Allen Hershkowitz J. Henry Fair

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz (Photo credit: J. Henry Fair)

 

Rita Ricobelli Corradi was Director of Sustainability for the United Bid Committee of Canada, Mexico and United States LLC, which won the right the host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. In 2007, she joined Columbia University’s Earth Institute, spearheading a science-based approach in the use of sports for sustainable development.

 

Ricobelli Rita b-w

Rita Ricobelli (Photo credit: Rita Ricobelli)

 

Jenny Vrentas is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated (SI) and The MMQB, SI’s pro football website. She covers both on-field and off-field NFL-related stories. On the latter, Vrentas often deals with social and political issues, although she hasn’t tackled climate change yet. Before SI, she spent six years at The Star-Ledger (Newark), as beat reporter for the New York Giants (2012) and the New York Jets (2010-11). The 2018 season was her 12th covering the NFL. 

 

Jenny Vrentas SI.com

Jenny Vrentas (Photo credit: Twitter)

 

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by clicking hereIf you are in the New York City area the evening of Monday March 11th, please join us. And if you know anyone who might be interested in attending, please share this post with her/him.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Zane Schweitzer, World Champion Surfer and Eco-Athlete

Surfer Zane Kekoa Schweitzer is at the top of his game: Contending for world championships across multiple surfing disciplines, about to compete for a spot on the first-ever U.S. Olympic surfing team, and an ascendant eco-athlete. GreenSportsBlog spoke with the young Hawaiian in December as he was about to compete in the last event of the 2018 APP paddle surfing tour at Las Palmas in the Grand Canary Islands about his career, his work on behalf of clean oceans and more.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Zane, thanks so much for taking time to talk to us in the middle of your competition!

Zane Schweitzer: Thank you, Lew!

GSB: How did you get into surfing?

Zane: Growing up in Maui, I could swim before I could walk. My dad is an 18-time world windsurfing champion and we all, including my mom and sister, basically lived on and in the water. Swimming, windsurfing, surfing, paddling…you name it.

 

zane schweitzer

Zane Schweitzer (Photo credit: Matt Schweitzer)

 

GSB: Wow! It sounds like competitive surfing is in your DNA. And you are gaining on your dad as you now have 15 world championship event wins and you’re still only 25. When did you start competing?

Zane: Lew, you’re not going to believe this but I was three years old when I won my first surfing competition. And I was up against kids as old as six. I won a big surfboard!

GSB: I cannot imagine that at any age. When did you first think you could be a world champion?

Zane: Good question. I guess I was 13 when I started to think I could be a world champ. I got more serious about surfing — including wind surfing, got a sponsor and a coach. Then I went out on tour along with my friend and surfing partner Connor Baxter. I was in junior high, traveling Japan and South Korea in Asia along with Spain, Germany and Italy in Europe to windsurf. It was awesome!

GSB: Sounds like it. How did you handle high school while doing all that traveling on tour?

Zane: I went to high school in Maui for the first two years but then it got too crazy so I was homeschooled my junior and senior years, which worked out fine as it allowed me to really focus on my craft and building my own brand.

GSB: Which has worked out well for you. I understand you are a decathlete of sorts in surfing in that you compete and win in a wide variety of surfing disciplines.

Zane: Yeah, most people are unaware that there are multi-discipline ocean sport competitions, the most prestigious of them being the Ultimate Waterman championship, which is eight events. I’ve won it twice and they are the titles I’m most proud of.

GSB: Congratulations! Sounds like the surfing equivalent of the decathlon.

Zane: You’ve got that right. And it’s actually more than just surfing. We compete in long distance canoe and stand up paddle (SUP) races, underwater strength and endurance and more!

 

zane paddle

Zane Schweitzer competes in the Stand Up Paddle competition (Photo credit: Matt Schweitzer)

 

GSB: What is underwater strength and endurance?

Zane: The underwater strength and endurance discipline — a combination of swimming, breath holding and running with 50kgs underwater — is nuts!! The other events are stand up paddle surfing, stand up paddle endurance racing, prone paddle board technical race, OC1 or one man outrigger canoeing, shortboard surfing, longboard surfing and big wave riding.

GSB: Dang! That sounds impossible. How did your 2018 season go?

Zane: Earlier this year I won the indoor wave pool event at the worlds largest boat show in Germany, that was fun! Was crowned champion of the Santa Cruz Paddlefest and the Ventura Paddle Surf Championships both in the discipline of SUP Surfing. During Race season I set a new record time winning the Maui to Moloka’i 27 mile Hydrofoil race and placed fourth at the 2018 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru in the stand up paddle race. During the Pan-Am SUP Surf discipline I had a technicality that did me in losing my qualifying position for 2019 Pan Am Games. I was pretty bummed about that! But it was a strong year overall and I’m grateful to finish the APP World Tour in second overall between Paddle Race and Surf combined results and as well as third on the APP World Tour in Stand Up Surf. It sets me up well for 2019 as I look to put myself in prime position to make the U.S. Olympic team when shortboard surfing makes its debut at Tokyo 2020.

GSB: That’s right — surfing becomes an Olympic sport.

Zane: It is so exciting! It’ll be shortboard surfing in Tokyo and then longboard and stand up paddle may be added for Paris 2024.

GSB: All the best! What inspired you to be an environmentalist?

Zane: Ah yes…My lifelong respect for the environment was passed down to me by my family. Growing up in Hawai’i in a culture in which environmentalism is almost a given also has a lot to with it. In Hawai’i we have a connection with nature from the mountains to the sea. Our “kuleana” or privileged responsibility, to care for the land and waters could be derived from the old way of living that was dependent on the health of the complete environment. My dad passed down the pride and respect for “mauka to makai” or “mountains to oceans” mentality to me that embraced this connection to land, water and nature. He would take me dirt biking up in the mountains or fishing in the middle of the ocean far from land and we’d eat and drink off of the land, providing for our family and connecting with nature. It is my ethos. And then, as I started to make a profession from ocean sports, I realized my competitors and I have a huge opportunity, because of the influence sports has, to share these unique experiences and appreciation for the ocean.

For me, the ocean is so much more than a big, unknown world. It is my classroom, playground, church and place of refuge that I deeply honor and respect.

GSB: Very well said, Zane. When did you start speaking out on the environment?

Zane: It really started in 2015. My surfboard sponsor, Starboard, had not been very eco-minded before then, but then they made an amazing flip, a true 180. They partnered with Sustainable Surf and Parley for the Oceans, nonprofits committed to inspiring innovation and behavior changes to help save ocean ecosystems, from our personal day-to-day choices to macro corporate production decisions. I was honored to work with them all and learn how I could adopt eco innovation personally and professionally. In 2016, Starboard invited me to the “Parley Ocean School” in the Maldives.

GSB: …The small island nation off the southern coast of India that is at serious risk now, in real time, from the effects of climate change.

Zane: Youʻre right. This became a pivotal point in my evolution as an eco-warrior and environmental ambassador! For eight days, our group of 16 was taught lessons from people like ocean health experts Silvia Earle and Paul Watson, along with leaders from a variety of arenas. I had a chance to host an engagement, sharing with the group, 1) my connection to the environment through sports and, 2) how I run nonprofit events for kids worldwide to inspire future generations to embrace a healthy, active, and environmentally respectful lifestyle.

We scuba dove together with local climate change experts and saw the devastation to coral reefs and Maldivian islands first hand. It was a pivotal moment in my life.

GSB: Was Parley Ocean School solely a gathering of elite water sports athletes?

Zane: No, it was an eclectic group of influencers that included actors like Chris Hemsworth and Diego Luna as well as Victoriaʻs Secret models, recognized environmental photographer/videographers, marine biologists and more! Ocean school was about sharing experiences, lessons as well as telling stories. The goal was to shift our minds and actions so we would make better environmental choices — and share that approach with as many people as possible.

 

parley ocean school maldives

Plastic ocean waste washed up on the shore of the Maldive Islands during Parley Ocean School in 2016 (Photo credit: Parley for the Oceans)

 

GSB: How did you go about doing that?

Zane: I decided then and there to refocus my purpose towards environmental action and to inspire my community to take responsibility for the health of our environment with our own daily choices.

I committed to making “Blue Life Choices” such as:

  1. Adopting a plant-based, vegan diet,
  2. Only working with brands as sponsors whose values and actions on the environment mirror my own,
  3. Packing my own water bottle and lunchbox to avoid daily single use plastic consumption,
  4. Investing only in likeminded companies as far the environment is concerned,
  5. Hosting beach cleanups on my travels and even during competitions

I also pledged to show off my “Pocket of Plastic Challenge,” a fun campaign I started in 2015 that asks surfers and beachgoers to put their pockets to use by leaving the water and beach with a few pieces of plastic they may have found in the water or sand and dispose of them appropriately.

GSB: Brilliant!

Zane: Then I began advocating against single-use plastics. Wanting to give as many people as possible a taste of the Ocean School, I started partnering with nonprofits like Sustainable Surf, 5 Gyres, Eat Less Plastic, Surfrider Foundation in addition to Parley for the Oceans to spread the word. As mentioned earlier, I only work with sponsors that are the greenest in their product categories. Starboard is leading the charge for eco-innovation in its class. Did you know they plant mangrove trees for every product sold to offset their carbon footprint?

GSB: I had no idea. That’s fantastic!

Zane: I know! I also work with Indosole, a B-Corp that makes shoes out of old car tires…

GSB: …A B-Corp is a for-profit business that is managed to balance profit and purpose, not solely the former.

Zane: B-Corps are phenomenal but having them sponsor me was not enough. I chose to adapt my lifestyle and also my business to continue innovating and inspiring, so in 2017 I started hosting more events — such as Surf, SUP and Hydrofoil clinics — and retreats that included beach cleanups and environmental education. I also published a book, “Beneath The Surface,” based on 15 years of journaling that allowed me to further share with people how to innovate and inspire and live a Deep Blue Life.

 

beneathsurface

 

GSB: What do you mean by “living a Deep Blue Life”?

Zane: It’s the idea that, since pretty much all waste ends up in oceans or other bodies of water, we need to make a collective mindset shift towards making ocean health a priority in our everyday lives. I’ll take it from the words of Sustainable Surf: “We believe that the key to solving most environmental problems, including climate change, is for individuals and organizations to begin making sustainable choices in their everyday lives that are engaging, cost effective, fulfilling – and yes, even fun.”

That’s living a Deep Blue Life. I can help because of my platform. If I see a dead animal on the beach with plastic inside it, I embrace the grief I feel, because there’s nothing more that makes me want my community to stop using plastic bags and straws than when I see these daily conveniences leading to the death of life. After praying for the life lost to single use plastic, I may snap a photo and post it on social media because I want my community to embrace that grief as well, and make “Blue Life Choices” themselves. And, since blue is a key component in the color green, living a Deep Blue Life also encompasses going green — from renewables to EVs to energy efficiency. So I’ve created a tribe of sorts, a following, via the hashtags #DeepBlueLife #BlueLifeChoices and #MyBlueLife.

I talk to high school and middle school kids about the Deep Blue Life — they get it immediately — as well as to corporate audiences through my partners such as Parley for the Oceans.

 

“Zane’s Deep Blue Day,” a 7-minute video, details Zane Schweitzer’s commitment to the environment

 

GSB: I bet the audiences love your messaging. Finally, how much do you engage your audiences on climate change? It is of course intimately connected to ocean health, from sea level rise to ocean acidification to death of coral reefs and much more.

Zane: I try to connect my audience with our changing environment through my personal experiences. I have not yet focused on climate change per se. However I am only 25 years old, have witnessed entire beaches near home vanish, species go extinct, reefs bleached to the point of no return, record rain falls causing deadly flash floods, and islands once lived on sinking into the ocean such as in the Maldives. The phrase, “climate change” may not be a highlighted topic in my engagements, but the message is clear that the actions of humans have caused these accelerated changes and its up to us whether we decide to contribute to the solution or the problem. I’m definitely looking to contribute to the solutions. That’s why I’m happy to endorse a carbon-pricing bill, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which was introduced with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress in the fall.

GSB: That’s great news, Zane! You’ve joined a growing group of athletes from a variety of sports who are backing EICDA. And I’m confident the lion’s share of your audience of GenZ-ers and Millennials will be happy to hear about your endorsement.

Zane: My hope is that sharing my endorsement as well as my experiences of seeing environmental damage firsthand will resonate with my fans, leading them to take actions that will put them on the positive side of climate change.

 

zane jungle

Zane Schweitzer, in the jungle of Hawai’i (Photo credit: Matt Schweitzer)

 

 


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Leilani Münter, “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car,” Reacts to Winning Best Green-Sports Story of 2018

Leilani Münter drove her Vegan Strong car to eighth and ninth place place, respectively, in ARCA (NASCAR developmental series) races at Daytona and Michigan International Speedways earlier this year. 

But those results were mere (vegan) appetizers to her big win in December when Münter became GreenSportsBlog’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018. 

The “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car” spoke to us about what winning the award means to her and more.

 

Leilani Münter has long been on our radar BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018.

She’s had the “Green” part down pat. After all, Münter adorns her race car with vegan sponsors. She samples vegan food to ARCA series race fans. Her personal car is a Tesla that she powers with electricity generated by solar panels on her roof. And much more.

 

Leilani2

Leilani Münter (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)

 

But it was the “Sports” part that always held Münter back from winning GSB’s Best Green-Sports Story award. Her main problem was that she had a very difficult time getting the vegan sponsors to fund more than a one-race season.

Until 2018, that is.

She signed A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com to sponsor her ARCA car for an eight race campaign, by far her busiest season in that series. Thus the decision to give the award to Münter became relatively easy this yearespecially with her record of two top ten finishes, and the 30,000 vegan Impossible Burgers that were served in her name to 30,000 racing fans at five Fan Zones.

 

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Leilani Münter (r) with NASCAR’s Danica Patrick at Daytona International Speedway this February (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)

 

In accepting the award, Münter shared that it’s been a long road for her.

“I am completely honored to be recognized by GreenSportsBlog,” Münter said. “It was also an honor to be able to drive the Vegan Strong car, thanks to my partnerships with A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com. I pitched vegan sponsors for six years and am grateful they finally saw the value of reaching out to a non-traditional audience for them — auto racing fans — and getting them to try tasty vegan food in a fun atmosphere.”

Although the reaction was universally positive, even Münter was surprised about at least one racing fan who became a vegan food fan.

“So this was at the Media Day during Daytona 500 week,” Münter recalled. “Not surprisingly, the ARCA racers were ignored in favor of the NASCAR Monster Energy series (the top level of NASAR) drivers. Luckily, an AP reporter saw a tweet on Twitter saying that vegan burgers are being sampled out in the Fan Zone. So he went over there with a camera guy. When he gets there, he sees a guy in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap and an anti-PETA* t-shirt. And the guy LOVED the Impossible Burger!”

Don’t believe me? Check out this 50 second video:

 

 

GSB’s Take: Perhaps Münter is thinking too small with this whole “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car” thing. It says here that she might want to explore the idea of taking her Tesla, tasty vegan food, and pro-PETA messaging to Iowa and New Hampshire in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary season. Because maybe the best way to reach folks who are opposed to reducing their meat consumption (and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and/or deny climate change is through their stomachs.

Run, Leilani, Run! Heck, everyone else seems to be running.

 

* PETA = People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. So an anti-PETA t-shirt means the wearer is for unethical treatment of animals? As my Grandma Lena used to say, “It takes all kinds!”

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Brent Suter, Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher and Climate Change Fighter

Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter is not your typical major league pitcher.

He played his college ball at Harvard. His fastball, when he really airs it out, barely reaches 90 miles per hour in an era when 97-100 mph heaters are commonplace.

But what really sets the 29-year-old lefty apart from his peers is his interest in climate change and his willingness to speak up about it.

GreenSportsBlog, always on the lookout for eco-athletes, was pleased to read Suter’s OpEd on the urgency of climate action that appeared in a recent issue of Fast Company magazine. And we were even more pleased to be able to talk with Suter about his baseball career and his relatively newfound role as a climate change fighter.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Brent, thank you so much for talking with us today. I will get to your interest in the climate change fight in a bit. First, tell our readers how you got your start in baseball.

Brent Suter: My pleasure, Lew. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Born in Chicago, moved to California when I was two, then to Atlanta when I was four and finally to Cincinnati when I was seven.

GSB: Were you a Cincinnati Reds fan growing up?

Brent: Oh yeah! When Ken Griffey, Jr. came to the Reds, that was THE BEST!

GSB: Was baseball your first love?

Brent: No doubt about it. I did play football and basketball as well — I was a role player in the latter. But baseball was always number one. I was primarily a pitcher but also played first base and centerfield.

 

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Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter looks to apply the tag to a Kansas City Royals runner (Photo credit: Benny Sieu, USA Today Sports)

 

GSB: When you were in high school did you think to yourself, “Hey, I’m really good at this; I’m going to be a big leaguer,” or was it more like “Hopefully baseball can help get me into college”?

Brent: It was definitely more the latter. I wasn’t thinking big leagues when I was a kid or in high school. I did believe in myself, worked hard and enjoyed it. But my goal was to get into college.

GSB: Were you heavily recruited coming out of high school?

Brent: Not so much. Actually I had to sort of sell myself. I do remember going to a college showcase the fall of my senior year at which high school players try out for a bunch of recruiters. I threw harder than I ever did before. I had a video made and sent the tape, along with an email to the Harvard baseball coach. He loved it and sent an assistant down to Florida to see me pitch at another showcase. It went great.

GSB: Were you always looking to go the Ivy League route?

Brent: Not really. I always wanted to go to a good school and play baseball there. Harvard was the only Ivy League school I was in serious contact with and it turned out to be a perfect fit!

GSB: What did you study at Harvard?

Brent: Environmental science and public policy…

GSB: …What a great combination!

Brent: Absolutely! I love math and science. Got to learn about renewables, the policy implications of decarbonization and much more.

GSB: What got you into the environment, renewables and climate change?

Brent: I always had affinity and an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. But the big thing for me on climate change was seeing Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” while I was in high school. Say what you will about Al Gore from the political point of view, his film was able to communicate the serious reality of climate change in a way that inspired many, including me. Before seeing that film, I really had no idea about climate change.

GSB: It inspired me too! In fact, I was trained by Vice President Gore and his Climate Reality Project in 2012 to give the slide show presentation that was at the heart of the movie to community groups in my area. Back to your time at Harvard, how hard was it to balance your academic load and baseball?

Brent: It was challenging at times. You have to be so efficient with your time. That said, Harvard has tremendous resources and I met such an interesting, high quality group of people. It was a whirlwind but an incredible one at that. I loved Harvard and the connections I made there will last a lifetime.

 

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Brent Suter on the mound for Harvard (Photo credit: The Harvard Crimson)

 

GSB: Did you have a sense from early on at Harvard that you were on track for the big leagues?

Brent: Not at all. It wasn’t until after my junior year that I started to think pro ball might be a possibility. I was lousy as a junior but I had a strong Cape Cod Summer League season after that. And I backed that up with a decent senior year. Still I wasn’t on scouts’ radars so I went to a showcase for New England regional scouts in Amherst…

GSB: …I didn’t know these showcases existed.

Brent: Oh they’re a big thing all over the country. Anyway, the day of my showcase, it was really cold out and only two scouts showed up. And I was very sick. But somehow, I threw the best I ever had!

GSB: Kind of like Michael Jordan scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals when he was sick with the flu?

Brent: I wouldn’t go that far but I guess I got the attention of at least one of the two scouts because the Brewers picked me in the 31st round of the 2012 draft.

GSB: Amazing! Where did you go then?

Brent: To the Brewers’ team in the Arizona Rookie League, made up mostly of high school prospects. I thought to myself, “Sheesh, I’m one of the oldest guys here!” And then things started to fall into place for me in some unusual ways.

GSB: Please explain…

Brent: Two days after I showed up in Arizona, a pitcher on the Brewers’ club on the next level up punched a wall in frustration and injured himself. So I got sent up to the Helena (MT) Brewers in the High Level Rookie League. I struggled at first but then turned it around. The next month, the Brewers’ team in Single A ball — the next level up — needed a pitcher for their stretch run. I got the call and was able to close out the championship game. That led to an invitation to the Fall Instructional League — that was a big deal. It seemed like I was always the right guy in the right situation. And that continued until I made it up to the big club.

GSB: Aside from being in the right place at the right time, how did you make it and stick in the big leagues with a pedestrian fastball?

Brent: Great question. One of my first days in rookie ball I realized I had a natural cut on the professional baseball which has lower seams than college baseballs.

GSB: I had no idea that was the case…

Brent: …Now I use that cut to elevate the ball over swings and thus miss the barrel of hitters’ bats as much as possible.

GSB: …Even if the speed isn’t blowing them away.

Brent: That’s right.

GSB: And that cutter put you in the Brewers’ starting rotation…

Brent: Eventually I became the club’s fourth or fifth starter. My approach is to attack the strike zone and give the team a chance to win the game every time I take the ball. I felt like I was starting to find my stride this year when injury struck. I suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in my pitching arm in July.

 

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Brent Suter (2nd from right) with Milwaukee Brewers teammates (from left) Junior Guerra, Manny Piña, and Freddy Peralta (Photo credit: Milwaukee Brewers)

 

GSB: Which led to Tommy John surgery — in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm is used to replace an arm’s torn ligament — which means a year-long rehab. How’s that going?

Brent: Rehab is going great and my arm feels strong. I’m working out five to six days a week and rehab three times a week. My goal is to make it back by August or September of next year…

GSB: …Which would put you smack dab in the middle of the stretch run to the playoffs. And, from afar, it seems like the Brewers are a great team to want to come back to.

Brent: Oh yeah! We really are a team that plays for each other; it’s a great group of guys. And this season we were were so close to getting to the World Series, losing to the Dodgers in seven games in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). So we have some unfinished business for sure!

GSB: Good luck with that! Now we know you’re interested in the environment and climate change. How did that turn into you writing an OpEd in Fast Company?

Brent: Since I’ve been in pro ball, I’ve wanted to play with a higher purpose in mind. Given my interest in climate and the environment since seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” in high school, and given the recent onslaught of extreme weather, it seemed natural for me to move in that direction. About a year ago I got involved with the Urban Ecology Center, a great nonprofit in Milwaukee. They work to return abandoned waste lands back to their natural, pristine states. Then they bring kids who don’t have access to nature out to the newly restored lands. Urban Ecology Center does an awesome and important job. I also connected with ECO, the environmental collaboration office of the City of Milwaukee.

GSB: What do they do and what is your role with them?

Brent: They are a small city government agency that is working to make Milwaukee a green hub, environmentally and economically. Their initiatives include Milwaukee Shines, which provides financing solutions for residential and business customers to reduce the up front cost of solar, and Milwaukee Energy Efficient (Me²). We’re just starting our relationship. I’ve filmed a short video with them and we have had some brainstorming sessions about everything we can do next season. I also wrote the article that ran in Fast Company for ECO. ECO had a relationship with the magazine and the next thing I knew, the article went live.

 

Brent Suter teamed up with the City of Milwaukee’s ECO initiative for this 50 second video

 

GSB: Did your Brewers’ teammates know about your interest in climate before the Fast Company piece? And if so what do they think?

Brent: Oh they all know about it! I mean, some people give me the “side eye” look and some good-natured ribbing when I would bring in reusable water bottles and tupperware. The truth is they really respect my passion for the environment and climate change. A couple of guys have really bought into it. Ryan Braun is one…

GSB: …The former National League MVP.

Brent: Exactly. And our manager Craig Counsell has been involved with Urban Ecology Center!

GSB: Craig Counsell seems like a guy who really gets it in a number of ways. Now are there any guys in the Brewers’ locker room who are deniers or skeptics on climate change? And how do those conversations go, if you even have them?

Brent: Oh there are a few. I’ve gotten into debates on climate with some of the guys. I find them both entertaining and frustrating. On the latter, I just find it is hard to change any minds. It doesn’t get ugly but we just don’t move the needle with deniers. But I think, in the big picture, the pendulum is starting to swing in the direction of sanity and science. And I want to play a part in continuing to move the conversation in the right direction on climate.

GSB: That’s great as the Green-Sports world is desperate for eco-athletes. Of course I hope your career lasts for a long, long time. But as far as your post-baseball career is concerned, does the environment and/or climate change figure into your thinking?

Brent: No doubt about it — 100 percent! I’m interested in environmental consulting, the renewable energy business. It’s early days in terms of my networking; I’ve talked with an environmentally-focused hospital cleaning company. There will be more to come.

GSB: Fantastic! I wish you the best with that, along with your rehab, and getting to the World Series — where hopefully the Brewers will play the Yankees! And, please, keep spreading the Green-Sports word.

Brent: You don’t have to worry about that!

 


 

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Eco-Athlete’s Journey: Stacey Cook, Olympic Skier, Climate Activist

One of GreenSportsBlog’s major initiatives this year is to feature “eco-athletes” whenever we can. They are a small but growing breed and they need the oxygen to share their views and passions when it comes to the climate change fight and other environmental issues.

Winter sports athletes make up a big percentage of the eco-athlete”population. That is no surprise since their playing fields — snowy mountains or valleys — are at high risk due to the effects of climate change. It is great to see alpine and nordic skiers, snowboarders, and more, go outside of their comfort zones by lobbying for climate action in Washington and in state capitols. One such athlete is the recently retired U.S. Olympic downhiller, Stacey Cook.

GreenSportsBlog chatted with Stacey about her journey from tagging along on ski outings with her big brother to developing her own talents on the slopes to discovering her voice beyond skiing through climate change.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Stacey, I am so heartened to see so many elite winter sports athletes getting involved with the climate change issue. And that’s why I am happy to talk with you, an Olympic alpine skier who went way beyond her comfort zone to get involved with climate activism. My guess is you’ve been skiing your whole life. Is that right?

Stacey Cook: Right you are, Lew. I grew up in the Lake Tahoe area of California in a tiny town called Truckee. Snow was a constant so I got into winter sports, skiing in particular, from the time I was four years old. Dad taught my older brother and me — that was the only thing to do in winter — and I had a raw passion for it almost from the get go. And I grew up with great skiers — Julia Mancuso, an Olympic gold medalist in giant slalom, is a lifelong friend.

GSB: Did you go for the alpine events from the beginning — downhill, giant slalom, and slalom — or did you try cross country?

Stacey: Alpine all the way! I loved it. It was total freedom. I was on a team with my older brother and his friends — I was on the slopes from 9-to-5, basically.

 

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Stacey Cook (Photo credit: US Ski Team)

 

GSB: Did you know you were good? Were you kicking your brother’s backside?

Stacey: No clue. I did some recreational racing when I was a kid, nothing serious. But I really owe a lot of my success to my older brother Gary — a very strong skier who ended up focusing on football, playing at UNLV plus one season with the Oakland Raiders — I spent so much time chasing him around that I had to get good just to keep up. Someone told my dad he should enter me into a race when I was ten. He did and, you know what? I won!

GSB: WOW!! Did that get you into the competitive youth skiing circuit?

Stacey: Not really. Tell you the truth, I was oblivious to all that. Really, I was passionate but I wasn’t on a travel ski team at all. But what happened was that, in my teens, people I used to beat started to beat me. They were on a team and took it more seriously than I did. And you know what? It pissed me off! So I committed, when I was 16, to make myself a real skier.

GSB: How did you do that?

Stacey: Well, I had a great coach who gave me confidence. So I made a presentation to my parents. I wanted to move to Mammoth Mountain three hours away. I went into the costs, the benefits…

GSB: …How old were you?

Stacey: I was going into my senior year in high school. I had enough credits to graduate after the fall. So after my fall soccer season, I moved to Mammoth on my own and lived with a host family along with other athletes from Washington. Mammoth Resort was founded by Dave McCoy (now 103 years old), who helped back me. It made things much cheaper for my family. So I could follow my passion and become a strong racer. I stayed there and two years later, I made the national team. And from there I went from being unranked to the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

GSB: What event?

Stacey: I was all about the speed events — downhill and Super G.

 

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Stacey Cook in action at the 2015 Alpine World Championships in Vail, Colorado (Photo credit: Nathan Bilow, Getty Images)

 

GSB: Wow! A daredevil. High risk, high reward?

Stacey: You know what? I was abnormally healthy over my career — no surgeries — but unfortunately, my crashes came at the Olympics. I crashed in Vancouver in 2010, crashed in practice in Sochi in 2014 and then, in Pyeongchang this year, I got something called “compartment syndrome” in my legs two days before the Games.

GSB: Never heard of it. Sounds serious.

Stacey: It can be very serious. It cuts blood flow to the nerves and muscles. I did 12 hours of rehab a day to try to compete but I couldn’t even do a training run. I was in tears but I was able to make it to the Opening Ceremonies. Which was huge because that was my last Olympics.

GSB: So what to do next? And where does the environment and climate change come in to the mix?

Stacey: Well, I’ve been outside in nature basically my whole life. And my dad was a water fowl hunter, the California Waterfowl Association has a great wetlands and species preservation program. That was my introduction of sorts into environmentalism. But it was traveling all over the world over the many years of my career that really drew my attention to climate change. I saw firsthand how ski communities were being impacted by snow shortages and how that problem was increasing over time.

GSB: That is something I’ve heard from talking to a number of your friends-competitors. So what spurred you to action?

Stacey: I really have to thank Clif Bar, which sponsored me. They were the impetus. Clif makes it easy for athletes to join the climate conversation. I mean, we live in our own bubbles and to take on a complicated issue like climate change is not easy at all. That’s why their resources allowed me to expand my horizons. Plus they have many other athletes in similar situations.

GSB: When did your relationship with Clif, the company with a quintuple bottom line ethos, start?

Stacey: I met folks from the company back in 2008 and loved what they were all about. But Nature Valley was still the US Ski Team sponsor in that category at the time. But when Nature Valley dropped out and Clif replaced them, the door opened and I walked through.

GSB: They are an incredible company.

Stacey: They really are. I spent a lot of time at their headquarters, talking with sports marketing and other folks. They actually listen to your concerns.

GSB: What a concept!

Stacey: Right?? Clif really educated me on climate change. So I was ready this spring when I went to Washington with Protect Our Winters (POW) for the first time to lobby Members of Congress on climate change from a snow sports perspective.

GSB: How did that go?

Stacey: I hate to say it but I was scared. I’m from a tiny town and I’d never done anything like this. I mean, talking to congressmen and women? Senators? Are you kidding?

GSB: I can understand that to a point. I mean you’ve been in the Olympic downhill. THAT’S scary…

Stacey: To you, maybe. But I’ve been skiing my whole life. No, talking to congress members about climate change was much scarier.

GSB: So how did you do?

Stacey: I was a little shaky at first but became energetic by the end. What turned it around was simply telling stories — stories about the changes we’ve seen to the environment. This turned out to be easy. I mean I’ve seen glaciers recede past chair lifts in some areas. And that change happened within the time span of my career. In the end, winter sports athletes are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. We see its effects first.

 

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Stacey Cook (center), alongside four other U.S. Winter Olympians for their lobbying day on Capitol Hill this spring. From left, it’s Maddie Phaneuf (biathlon), David Wise (halfpipe), Stacey Cook, Arielle Gold (snowboard) and Jessie Diggins (cross-country skiing). Protect Our Winters and CLIF helped organize and fund their trip (Photo credit: Citizens’ Climate Lobby)

 

GSB: With whom did you meet?

Stacey: Senators and House members from states with big winter sports industries. We met Dean Heller, Republican senator from Nevada…

GSB:  …He will soon be an ex-senator as he lost his race to Democrat Jacky Rosen…

Stacey: True. We also met with House members from Colorado, Minnesota and New York. We impressed upon them the economic costs of climate change on their economies. We weren’t making any hard asks but I believe we get them and their staffs more engaged on climate than.

GSB: That’s a great start and then I heard you followed it up by lobbying for the bill in the California state legislature in Sacramento that the state be powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2045.

Stacey: It really was incredible. Ceres, the nonprofit that is helping to transform the economy to build a sustainable future, led the lobbying effort. Clif, Target and Kleiner Perkins

GSB: …The venture capital firm?

Stacey: Yes…They were all involved. I got to learn what big companies are doing around climate change, which was fascinating and impressive. Thing is, Ceres had never used an athlete to help lobby.

GSB: So you were the first? That is SO GREAT!

Stacey: I know! We created a bit of a stir. Having an athlete as part of the team perhaps allowed us to catch the ear of more Assembly members than would have otherwise been the case. And the bill passed the Assembly in late August.

GSB: The California State Senate had already passed its version of the bill back in May 2017 so the Assembly’s passage meant that outgoing Governor Jerry Brown had something to sign. And he did! Congratulations for your role in all this.

 

California SB100

 

Stacey: Thank you, Lew! I can’t wait to see the great things this new law does for the climate, environment and business in my home state.

GSB: What’s up next for you? Running for office?

Stacey: No way! My plans are in flux a bit. For now, I’m continuing to work with Clif, in particular working with other Clif athletes on the environment, helping them get their voices out there. And I will do more with POW. I do know that, whatever my work turns out to be, the environment will be part of it.

 


 

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