The GSB Interview: Previewing the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit with Executive Director Roger McClendon

Philadelphia is known for its birthplaces.

Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, is the Birthplace of America.

About three and a half miles south sits Lincoln Financial Field. In 2003 the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles arguably became the Birthplace of Green-Sports. It was then that the club, under the leadership of principal owner Jeff Lurie and, in particular, minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie, launched its groundbreaking Go Green initiative.

Fast-forward 15 years and, on June 19-20, “The Linc” will play host to the ninth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit, the first under the direction of new Executive Director Roger McClendon.

With the Summit’s PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION theme as backdrop, GreenSportsBlog chatted with McClendon about his first four months on the job as well as the new programs and initiatives he and his team have in the incubator for summiteers in Philly. 

GreenSportsBlog: Roger, it’s been four months since you started as Executive Director at the Alliance and we are less than a month out from your first Summit as leader of the organization. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, could you reflect on your tenure so far?

Roger McClendon: Lew, it’s been an exciting, productive and busy 120 days or so. We took this time to do a lot of listening. Met with our league partners in New York, spoke with teams and venues across North America, finding out what they need and think are the best ways forward. Looped in our corporate partners, board members and other stakeholders to find out if we’re delivering All-Star level value to our nearly 600 members from the pro and collegiate sports worlds.

I was impressed by the energy and ideas generated at the Alliance’s Sports & Sustainability Conference at Arizona State University in January. We most recently partnered with the Portland Trail Blazers organization and completed a successful symposium in April. Internationally, we connected with the UNFCCC, signing on to their exciting new Sports for Climate Action Framework. We’re in the infancy of an engagement with Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) through our connection with ex-Alliance President Allen Hershkowitz, so that’s exciting too.

 

roger mcclendon suzanne

Roger McClendon (Photo credit: Suzanne McClendon)

 

GSB: That is a whirlwind four months! What have you learned?

Roger: So many things, Lew. #1. Many sports teams and vendors now believe and manage towards a triple bottom line model — people, planet, profit. #2. Teams and venues and leagues seem ready to change. #3. When sports organizations look at environmental impact, it cannot only be from a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction standpoint. In some cases, cost reduction will take the lead role, based on an owner’s priorities, the fan base. Sometimes, a team will emphasize environmental benefit. It’s really a case-by-case basis thing.

GSB: That makes sense, even if I personally would like to see GHG reductions always be the Green-Sports hero. Widening out the lens a bit, that you’re having these fan engagement questions — what we call Green-Sports 2.0 as compared to Green-Sports 1.0, the greening of the games — represents important progress. What say you?

Roger: As we move forward with fan engagement on the environment, on climate, we have to accept that some sports fans just…don’t…care about it. Sometimes, they simply want to go to the game. What I’ve learned is that we need to listen to fans to get relevant fan/consumer insights. That feedback will show us how to communicate with fans more powerfully on environmental issues so more of them care more about it. It’s not easy and there’s not one answer. The Portland Trail Blazers and LA Kings have done some great work in getting fan feedback and enacting green-themed programs and events.

GSB: If memory serves, the last time the Alliance funded projectable, quantitative fan research was five years ago. It provided valuable insights. Will the Alliance fund new fan research in 2019 or 2020? If not, why not?

Roger: Yes, in the next year or two we plan to go deeper into the research, particularly around stadium owners/operators and what they can do to directly impact their consumers, the fans. We are likely to work with partner organizations and members to gather additional quantitative and qualitative data in years to come. Part of the challenge surrounding fan engagement is the actual measurement component. Some organizations like the Portland Trail Blazers have been tracking it via the Eco Challenge platform and others have been working to develop surveys for fans and season ticket holders about what they see value in and what’s important to them as fans. We hope to push the envelope to create different ways to track what fans are doing at home and in their communities and to determine if there is any correlation to a sports team influence, program, or initiative on the fan’s behavior. Exciting stuff, albeit challenging!

GSB: I look forward to seeing the next round of fan-based research, hopefully in 2020. Last time we talked, you said you were interested in moving to Green-Sports 3.0! What does that mean?

Roger: [LAUGHS] Hey Lew, we’re pushing the Green-Sports envelope here at the Alliance! So Green-Sports 3.0 focuses on WHAT’S NEXT; specifically how sports can help publicize and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not all team and league executives know the 17 SDGs exist; even fewer fans are aware. PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION, the theme for the Summit in Philadelphia, is a nod to Green-Sports 3.0 — how the movement can push the SDGs forward — while also providing us with an opportunity to celebrate the present, and the past, the folks who’ve made a difference over the past 10, 15 years.

As far as the past is concerned, it’s fitting that the Summit is being held at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The team, from owners Jeff and Christina Weiss Lurie on down, have been Green-Sports pioneers since they launched Go Green in 2003 So the Eagles will have a prominent role. In terms of the present, we will of course celebrate our annual award winners, including awarding the USTA, Billie Jean King and Lauren Tracy [the USTA’s director of strategic initiatives] with the 2019 Environmental Leadership Award — the Alliance’s highest honor.

Regarding the future and WHAT’S NEXT, young people will have a big role, in particular students from the many Philadelphia-area colleges and universities and beyond. They will get to see up close how folks in their 20s and 30s are making their marks as practitioners in various corners of the Green-Sports ecosystem. And, we are looking forward to our annual, forward-leaning Women, Sports & the Environment Symposium. This year’s WSE includes Melanie LeGrande with MLB, Jan Greenberg with MLS, Heather Vaughan with Pac-12 Conference, and the aforementioned Lauren Tracy with USTA.

But if we stopped there, that would mean we were running a “same old, same old” type of Summit. And we can’t afford to do that.

So we’re breaking the mold with many of our plenary sessions and panels, taking on topics that we’ve more or less glossed over in past years: Climate action, global income inequality, gender issues, and more.

 

Lincoln Financial Field

Solar panels cover the east wall of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles and site of the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit (Photo credit: Mark Stehle/Invision for NRG/AP Images)

 

GSB: Bravo, Roger! There’s no time to waste. As you know, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said humanity has 12 years — the length of Anaheim Angels star Mike Trout’s contract extension — to decarbonize by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous consequences of climate change. In the interest of full disclosure, I am excited to be moderating a panel discussion called “Sports, Carbon and Climate.” These are the types of discussions that are necessary at Alliance Summits. What other panels and plenary sessions would you like to highlight?

Roger: We’re excited to offer our first ever environmental justice-focused main stage panel “Beyond the Ballpark: The Role of Sports in Environmental Justice Reform” featuring Alliance Board member Kunal Merchant with Lotus Advisory and Mustafa Santiago Ali, Co-Host, Hip Hop Caucus’ “Think 100% – The Coolest Show on Climate Change” and former Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization, Hip Hop Caucus.

Attendees will hear from Federico Addiechi, Head of Sustainability & Diversity at FIFA; Mike Zimmer, President of the Miami Super Bowl LIV Host Committee; and Bill Reed, Principal, Integrative Design and Regenesis. The Thought Leadership Forum is back with an impactful lineup of speakers including Elysa Hammond, VP of Environmental Stewardship at Clif Bar & Company and Jami Leveen, Director of Communications & Strategic Partnerships at Aramark.

Twelve breakout sessions will feature various topics, from the role of sport in resilience and climate preparedness, to speaking science and making climate change and sustainability relevant to fans. Check out the full program lineup on our website here.

 

Mustafa Ali Santiago

Mustafa Santiago Ali (Photo credit: Larry French/Getty Images North America)

 

 

Elysa Hammond

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

 

GSB: That’s an impressive, “break the mold” lineup. We interviewed Elysa Hammond of Clif Bar about 18 months ago — she’s terrific. See you in Philadelphia!

 

If you would like to register to attend the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Philadelphia, June 19-20, please click here.

 

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

Greening the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Seattle

How great is it when an iconic cause-based event like the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games embraces another cause — in this case, environmental sustainability? We’re talking really great.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with the sustainability team for Special Olympics USA 2018 Seattle — Karlan Jessen, Director of Volunteers and Sustainability; David Muller, Sustainability Consultant; and Tim Reeve, Sustainability Advisor — to find out how it came together, what worked well and what could’ve been better.

 

It was about a year before the July 1, 2018 Opening Ceremonies for the Special Olympics USA Games Seattle took place at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus, and an environmental sustainability plan was nowhere in sight.

And, since there had never been a sustainability effort at any of the three prior quadrennial USA Games, the odds were that Green would not be a part of the 2018 version.

Karlan Jessen, David Muller and Tim Reeve collectively and figuratively said “to heck with those odds,” and formed a Sustainability All-Star team of sorts. They created and implemented a greening program in what had to be record time.

 

Special Olympics Karlan_Headshot

Karlan Jessen (Photo credit: Karlan Jessen)

 

Special Olympics David Muller and Tim Reeve

David Muller (l) and Tim Reeve at the University of Washington (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

Jessen’s experience owning two used sporting goods stores, managing bicycle tours and running events made her an ideal pick for the Director of Volunteers and Sustainability role. Muller has deep experience consulting on sustainable events, focusing on environmental impact mitigation and positive social impact. And the Vancouver-based Reeve heads Reeve Consulting Group, a sustainability advisory firm. He’d worked with the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on sustainability and responsible sourcing issues.

 

“I THOUGHT THERE SHOULD BE A SUSTAINABILITY EFFORT SO I RAISED MY HAND”

As general planning for the Seattle Special Olympics got started in earnest, Jessen started to get questions about sustainability from some of the event’s existing corporate partners. “ESPN in particular asked about what could be done. Nothing was being planned at the time” Jessen recalled. “I thought there should be a sustainability effort, and even though we only had a year or so to make it happen, I raised my hand. I knew David from our sustainability studies at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (which later merged with Presidio Graduate School), so it was natural to team up with him.” It wasn’t long before Reeve joined to make the group a triumvirate.

The team quickly established a plan that was made up of six sustainability pillars. Four were environmentally focused, while the other two fall in the social portion of the broad Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) definition of sustainability:

Environmental Pillars

  1. Waste/Recycling
  2. Transportation
  3. Food/Beverage
  4. Sourcing

Social Pillars

  1. Accessibility/Inclusion
  2. Legacy/Education

Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond and the title sponsor of the 2018 USA Games, quickly bought into the social pillars. “Education and legacy were very important to Microsoft,” Jessen noted. “Inclusion, especially fair hiring practices, also was a big deal to them. And when you think about it, the Special Olympics demonstrates inclusion by its very existence!”

“Education and legacy was a home run,” chimed in Reeve. ”

 

BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL SUCCESSES: WASTE AND TRANSPORTATION

The environmental sustainability portion was more challenging. The success stories came from waste and transportation.

“Our waste-to-recycling program and food donations programs worked really well, thanks in large part to the University of Washington food service team,” reported Reeve. “Recycling is one of the most highly visible examples of a greening program at a sports event so we had to get that right. And we did.”

 

Special Olympics Green Team Volunteers success story

Green Team Volunteers sorting recycling, compost, and food donations (Photo credit: Tim Reeve)

 

Coca-Cola pitched in by bringing their reverse vending machines to the event. Fans and athletes would put empty plastics into the machine and a 5¢ donation would be made to Special Olympics for each donation. Per Muller, “Final numbers were not made public but it’s safe to say that thousands of bottles were recaptured.”

“Transportation was also a big win — that’s where we saw the biggest greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” added Muller. “The University of Washington was a great set up — it’s compact, very walkable and is located on a transit route. There is a robust bike share infrastructure at UW. Energy efficient shuttles ferried athletes and their families to and from events. And Lyft provided discounted as well as free ride sharing.”

 

Special Olympics Light Rail

Athletes and coaches taking light rail to T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) for the Special Olympics’ Night at the Ballpark (Photo credit: Cori Dixon)

 

The nearly 4,000 athletes and their families noticed Seattle’s greening efforts around the Special Olympics.

“We had numerous conversations with athletes and their families during the Special Olympics and they were really impressed by the city’s commitment to making this a green event,” recalled Reeve. “A sustainability passport was provided for the athletes for things like transportation so they were involved with the greening effort almost as soon as they arrived in the city.”

In a survey conducted after the Special Olympics among athletes and their families by Brian McCullough of Seattle University showed that 60 percent said, “My attitude toward environmental sustainably has improved due to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games initiatives.”

 

TIME WAS THE SUSTAINABILITY TEAM’S BIGGEST ENEMY

Here’s a note to the leadership group that is organizing the 2022 Special Olympics USA for Orlando: Jessen, Muller and Reeve agreed that a year was not nearly enough time to maximize the effectiveness of a sustainability plan.

“Lack of time really challenged us in terms of getting buy-in on the value proposition of a robust sustainability effort from the CEO and Executive Committee,” noted Reeve. “That kind of early support would have been crucial in terms of being woven into the budgeting and sourcing processes, as well as securing sustainability-focused sponsors. That would have helped us on food donation, signage and more.”

The team had a plan to offset emissions but there was no budget for it.

“About 90 percent of event emissions came from air travel,” Muller said. “We were looking at offset costs ranging from $25,000-$60,000 but there was no budget for it. Had we started earlier, we certainly could’ve found a partner to fund the offsets.”

What kind of time frame would be ideal to develop and manage an effective sustainability effort at a Special Olympics?

Consider that planners for the FIFA 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA will have eight years to get sustainability right, and the organizers at the LA 2028 Olympics will have had eleven years since being award the Games in 2017.

Now, no one is saying that the Special Olympics USA is of a similar scale as those two mega events.

Given that’s the case, what is the ideal length of time to put a sustainability plan in place that the team would be proud of?

The verdict was unanimous:

“Three years!,” said Judges Jessen, Muller and Reeve.

 

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

 

GSB News and Notes: Eco-QB Josh Rosen Keeps Up Climate Fight; Green Sports Alliance “Plays for Next Generation”; Netherlands’ Get-Paid-to-Bike-to-Work Scheme Spreads

Happy Friday! In our TGIF GSB News & Notes column:

— The trade of quarterback Josh Rosen was one of the biggest stories to come out of last weekend’s NFL Draft. Post-draft, Rosen’s climate and environmental activism somehow became linked to the trade, at least on social media.

— Meanwhile, the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform received a huge boost when the Green Sports Alliance agreed to sign on.

— And the Netherlands continues its environmental leadership by paying people to ride their bikes to work. 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE COMES UP IN SOCIAL MEDIA DISCUSSION OF JOSH ROSEN TRADE

There were two bizarre aspects to the trade of quarterback Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals to the Miami Dolphins during the second round of last weekend’s NFL Draft in Nashville.

#1 The Arizona Cardinals selected quarterbacks in the first round two years in a row, something that has only happened once before in NFL history¹.

In 2018, the Cardinals moved up in the first round to choose Rosen with the tenth overall pick. Given the high value of that pick, Rosen was seen as the future of the franchise. That future lasted one frazzled season — his surrounding cast was weak, the UCLA product struggled, the team ended up with the worst record in the league, the coaching staff was fired, a new coach was hired, and the new head man professed unabashed love for Kyler Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winning QB from the University of Oklahoma.

As a reward for having the worst record in the NFL, Arizona owned the first overall pick in the draft, and they used it grab Murray.

That meant Rosen had to go and the Dolphins, with one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, were happy to grab him for only a second round draft choice.

#2 Rosen’s interest in climate change and the environment became a rationale for Arizona’s desire to get rid of him.

The Rosen trade went down last Friday, the second day of the three-day draft. This tweet went up on Monday:

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 2.40.37 PM

 

WQAM is a Miami sports talk radio station.

Rosen’s interest in the environment seemingly plays into one of the main criticisms about him: Too smart for his own good, always questions things, wants to understand the why of everything.

Color me crazy, but all of those critiques sound like strengths.

And how does an interest in the environment have anything to do with the way Rosen actually plays quarterback? I’m sure he is not thinking about the parts-per-million of CO₂ in the atmosphere as he’s about to get clobbered by a posse of hungry and angry defenders.

Back to Twitter.

A couple hours after the first tweet, Rosen was quoted in another, reacting to the media kerfuffle that resulted from his decision to unfollow the Cardinals on Instagram after they drafted Kyler Murray to replace him.

 

JOSH ROSEN 1

 

Parley for the Oceans is a non-profit that partners with adidas to produce apparel and footwear made from plastic ocean waste.

Rosen nailed the idiocy of people getting annoyed that he unfollowed the Cardinals, generating free publicity for Parley’s important work cleaning the oceans at the same time.

While the jury is still out on Rosen as an NFL quarterback — he had a statistically awful rookie season but, as mentioned above, he was stuck in a bad situation, including playing behind a leaky offensive line in Arizona — it is clear he knows his stuff when it comes to climate change.

Here’s a quote from Rosen in the run-up to the draft a little more than a year ago that shows he is an eco-athlete to watch:

One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.

Being traded to a quarterback-needy team located in sea level rise-threatened South Florida could be a win-win; for the Dolphins and the climate change fight.

 

GSB’s Take: I’m seriously conflicted here.

On the one hand, I love that Rosen is an eco-athlete who actually talks about the environment and climate change in public. If he does well on the field and continues to speak out on climate off of it, that will be a very good and important thing indeed.

On the other hand, I’m a New York Jets diehard. They and the Dolphins are big rivals so cheering for Miami has never been an option. And in last year’s draft, the Jets picked a rookie quarterback of their own in the first round. Sam Darnold of USC showed flashes of potential to be their first franchise signal caller since the days of Joe Willie Namath a (very long) half century ago. So he and Rosen will also be rivals for perhaps the next 10-15 years.

What to do?

I can’t switch from the Jets and Darnold — that’s too ingrained in my DNA. But aside from the two annual Jets-Dolphins matchups, I will pull for Josh Rosen.

 

GREEN SPORTS ALLIANCE ENCOURAGES MEMBERS TO COMMIT TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK VIA “PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION”

The Green Sports Alliance marked Earth Week by launching “Playing for the Next Generation,” a campaign designed to encourage its members and partners to commit to the United Nation’s Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The Framework, which the UN kicked off in December, is buttressed by five overarching principles: 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
  2. Reduce overall climate impact;
  3. Educate for climate action;
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption;
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication.

Sports for Climate Action’s charter members represent a Who’s Who of sports governing bodies, leagues and events, including the International Olympic Committee, Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, French Tennis Federation (Roland Garros), International Sailing Federation, World Surf League, and Formula E.

Forest Green Rovers, the English League Two football club and, it says here, the greenest team in sports, is also a charter member. And, as reported in GreenSportsBlog on April 23, the New York Yankees became the first North American sports organization to sign a pledge to support Sports for Climate Action.

Yankees Earth Day

The Yankees’ Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony on April 21 commemorated the club’s commitment to operate by the tenets of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform. From left to right, it’s Doug Behar, Yankees Director of Operations; Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary General; Yankees manager Aaron Boone, and Allen Hershkowitz, Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

Now the Alliance has stepped up to encourage its 500+ members, including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL, to commit to the Framework.

“The Alliance recognizes the vital need for the sports industry to address climate change and play a significant role in combatting it,” said Roger McClendon, Executive Director of the Alliance. “By supporting this Framework, sports teams are committing to work collaboratively with peers, sponsors, fans, and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”  

GSB’s Take: The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework just got a big momentum boost with the addition of the Green Sports Alliance to its roster. The Alliance will no doubt promote support of the Framework to its many members. GSB expects to see 1) Alliance members large and small sign on, and 2) Sports for Climate Action to get a lot of attention at the Alliance’s annual Summit in Philadelphia in June. As for the Framework’s five principles, GSB hopes the Alliance and its members put particular emphasis on #3 (Educate for climate action) and #5 (Advocate for climate action through communication).

DUTCH WORKERS GET PAID FOR COMMUTING TO WORK; NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES GET INTO THE ACT

The Netherlands is a Green-Sports leader.

Ajax (AH-Yax), the country’s top soccer club with 25 first division championships and a contender for the European Champions League title this season, has deployed a Nissan Leaf storage battery at Amsterdam ArenA

But it is at the grassroots level where the country’s Green-Sports leadership really shines through. Consider these two factoids:

  1. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands;
  2. Bikes account for almost half of all journeys between home and work in  Amsterdam. 

Yes, the pervasiveness of bike paths makes commuting on two wheels safe. And the country’s flat terrain makes it easy for people to get around on their bikes. But, according to a story by Sean Fleming in weforum.org, the Dutch government gives the public a helpful leg up on to their bikes in the form of tax credits.

Every kilometer cycled to and from work can earn a Dutch citizen up to an extra 22¢US tax-free. And this is no longer unique to the Netherlands: A similar incentive is now available to bike commuters in neighboring Belgium. 

Netherlands

Commuters are paid to ride their bikes to work in the Netherlands (Photo credit: Yves Herman/Reuters)

I know what you’re thinking: “What about the third Low Country, Lew? What about Luxembourg?!”

Not to worry. Luxembourg workers can take advantage of a $340 tax rebate to be used to buy a bicycle.

France, clearly looking to their Low Country counterparts, will enact a cycle-to-work reimbursement program next year.

While Great Britain is trying to figure out how to (Br)exit the EU, their Cycle to Work program mimics their counterparts (for now) on the continent. The UK operates a lease-to-own model allowing employees to get discounted bikes and equipment through their employer.

The employer buys the bike and leases it to the employee. Monthly lease payments are deducted before taxes, resulting in an after-tax savings of 32 percent for most taxpayers. A mileage allowance is also available for British cyclists who use their bikes for business purposes.

What about the USA?

Fleming reports there are “a range of tax breaks aimed at commuters in the US, too, including a $20 per month allowance for cycling expenses. However, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (aka “The Trump Tax Cuts”) changed all that and cycling costs can no longer be deducted from pre-tax pay, effectively making it a little more expensive for some American cyclists.”

GSB’S Take: GSB is not surprised the Netherlands leads on providing incentives for bike commuting. After all, with much of its coastline lying below sea level, the country has by necessity led the world in developing technologies to fight climate change-caused sea level rise. Sadly we are also not surprised that the Trump Tax Cut law made it less rewarding financially for American cyclists.

¹ The Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts selected Ohio State’s Art Schlichter in the first round in the 1982 draft and then chose John Elway out of Stanford with the first overall pick of the 1983 draft.

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GSB Interview: Chris Mazdzer, US Olympic Medal-winning Luger & Eco-Athlete

Chris Mazdzer is a true pioneer.

He became the first American male to win an Olympic medal in Single’s luge when he took home silver at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. And he is leading a burgeoning movement among world class lugers to engage fans on the climate change fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Mazdzer about his work on the luge track and as an environmental activist.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris, before we get into your very important work with your fellow lugers on the environment and on climate, I’d like to know how you got into the sport in the first place.

Chris Mazdzer: Thanks, Lew. So I grew up in Peru, New York near Lake Placid…

GSB: …Site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” — “Do you believe in miracles?? YES!!!!” — and one of the few places in the U.S. with a bobsled/luge run.

Chris: That would be the place. I was exposed to luge at eight years old and it was natural for me. I loved sledding — would go sledding through apple orchards for hours. Luge was like ultimate sledding for me. Anyway, I showed some talent for it at a young age. I was on a development team when I was 12; at 13, I showed enough promise that I was picked for a junior team that went to Europe for a competition.

GSB: Sliding down a sheet of ice on your back, with no protection. Yikes! I guess when you’re young, you’re more likely to be fearless, right? How come you picked luge over bobsled?

Chris: First of all there were many more kids bobsledding so there was a long line and not as many runs. Plus you’re only driving 50 percent of the time — that’s really where the action is. And luge was just SO MUCH FUN! It’s as simple as this: two runs with bobsled or ten with luge. Anyways, when I was 17, I was having a breakout season and tried out for the Olympic team for the 2006 Torino Games. I missed the last spot by 0.161 seconds total over three runs; lost out to my roommate.

GSB: You must’ve been devastated…

Chris: …Disappointed but not at all devastated. It gave me motivation and the confidence to really believe, “Hey, I can do this!” So I made the team in 2010, finishing 13th in Vancouver. Same thing happened in 2014 in Sochi. Finally, I broke through last year in Pyeongchang, winning silver

GSB …In the process, becoming the first American male luger to win a medal of any kind in singles. Congratulations! Do you compete in doubles?

 

Chris Mazdzer

Chris Mazdzer (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 

Chris: Thank you, Lew. I did doubles in juniors but ended up specializing in singles, until now that is. My goal is to give the Olympics one more shot in Beijing in 2022, both in singles and for the first time in doubles.

GSB: How about medaling in both? Not to put any pressure on you or anything like that! OK, now pivoting to the environment. How did you get involved?

Chris: I’m 30 years-old. Growing up in the Adirondacks and being involved in winter sports, I’ve seen changes to our winters just in the time that I’ve been active. From bigger thaws to more rain during winter when it would normally snow. But it’s not just in winter. I travel a lot — I was in Indonesia and saw massive amounts of plastic on the beaches, in the oceans. I live in Salt Lake City these days, and the air quality is really, really bad. I don’t need the science to tell me — it’s clear, the climate is changing, the environment is worsening and it is humans that are helping to cause these adverse effects. And studying the science only confirms this. Without a doubt.

GSB: So what did you do, what are you doing to have an impact?

Chris: Well, I started out looking to offset the carbon emissions for which I’m responsible from all my flights. But, because I fly over 150,000 miles per year, that becomes quite costly. So I try to offset at least half for now. But then I became an athlete member on the International Luge Federation (FIL), sitting on a lot of committees. And I realized this is where I could have an impact! We’re starting small, working to have reusable cups at major competitions. But then I saw a video featuring several skiers at the World Championships in Finland, talking about why they love winter and why it’s important to take action on climate to protect it. I thought to myself, ‘We could do something similar.’ People don’t believe politicians; they don’t believe scientists. Who do they trust? Their peers and athletes! Scary but true: They trust athletes more than scientists. Thing is, athletes generally don’t engage on climate. And so I aimed to change that, at least with lugers.

GSB: You’ve put yourself on the hot seat, Chris: Qualify for the Olympics and getting athletes — in this case — lugers to care about and talk about climate. How are you doing the latter?

Chris: Well, I started in January by putting together a seminar for lugers competing at the 2019 World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. I was able to secure funding from one of my personal sponsors and brought in an expert and amazing speaker, Michael Pedersen of M Inc., a leader in sport governance. Tragically and unbelievably, Michael passed away suddenly a few weeks after our event due to a heart attack. He was 43.

GSB: I heard about that. What a tragic, unfathomable loss.

Chris: It’s still hard to believe. And his presentation to our group was incredible. He shared that athletes are in a unique position, with a powerful megaphone. He showed videos of people who’ve stood up and spoken up on a variety of issues, including climate, including Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish girl who recently was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for starting what has virally become a global student “climate strike” movement.. He did not focus on the science — the athletes are already on board there — but rather the need to use our platform to talk about the environment, whether it be climate, plastic ocean waste, pollution, etc.

 

Michael Pedersen

The late Michael Pedersen (Photo credit: M Inc.)

 

GSB: How did the lugers react and how many showed up?

Chris: Michael did such a great job — they really bought in. We had 15 lugers there. It was not as many as we would’ve liked but it was World Championship Week, the guys had to train, had media requirements so it was tough to get a bigger group. And it was a first time, so we learned a lot and am confident we’ll do better going forward.

GSB: How did you do on the track in Winterberg?

Chris: I only competed in doubles and doubles sprint this year due to a neck injury I sustained earlier in the week.  My partner Jayson Terdiman and I finished fifth in the Doubles sprint and eleventh in Doubles. Being it was our first year together I felt that we did we really well.

GSB: Good to hear. What else are you working on, sustainability-wise?

Chris: I’m working on the single use plastic issue among athletes and also with the IOC to see how they can help athletes reduce their carbon footprints. It’s a bigger issue than you might think — we get killed by some critics. Because of going from event to event all over the world, my carbon footprint is 10 to 15 times that of the average American. I think that finding creative ways to partner with the IOC, FIL and sponsors to help fund the offsetting of athlete travel-related emissions will allow athletes to stand on firmer ground when discussing this important topic.

 

Luge - Winter Olympics Day 1

Chris Mazdzer navigates Turn 14 at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

 

The GSB Interview: JoAnn Neale, Helping Major League Soccer Reach its Greener Goals

Welcome to Day III of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Week extravaganza!

Click here for Monday’s brainstorm among Green-Sports luminaries to find big, “Moon Shot” ways for sports to impact the climate change fight. And click here for Tuesday’s story about the New York Yankees’ strong climate change statement.

Today we turn to Major League Soccer, which just completed its “Greener Goals Week of Service.” 

MLS’ efforts surrounding sustainability earned it the title of No. 1 most responsible football league in the world according to ResponsiBALL, an annual report ranking the most prominent soccer leagues based on actions related to community and environment.

GSB believes MLS is perfectly positioned to lead on Green-Sports. Its fan base is the youngest of the five North American major professional men’s sports leagues. Young people “get green” at far higher percentages than their older counterparts.

We spoke with JoAnn Neale, MLS President and Chief Administrative Officer, about the league’s sustainability efforts, including what’s new this season. Before that, we delved into how Neale came to her unique role as one of the most senior female executives across all major professional sports leagues.

 

GreenSportsBlog: JoAnn, I have so many things to get to — the history of Major League Soccer and its Greener Goals program, how the league can leverage green more powerfully than it has to this point, where climate change fits into the league’s green messaging. But first, how did you come to run MLS’ greening initiatives?

JoAnn Neale: I grew up on Long Island and started playing soccer when I was five years old. Playing soccer and being an athlete was a big part of my identity. I also always had a dream of being a lawyer and an intention of going into litigation.

GSB: …Saying “I object!” and “May I approach the bench?” always sounded exciting to me! Was it?

JoAnn: While at NYU Law School, I had an internship in a firm’s litigation division and realized it wasn’t for me. The idea of going to court was exciting, but the reality was most cases take years before they get to court and a heavy focus is on research.

 

JoAnn Neale1 - Primary

JoAnn Neale (Photo credit: Major League Soccer)

 

GSB: So what did you do?

JoAnn: After law school, I was fortunate to land a job at Latham & Watkins. I did transactional work and realized my love for negotiating and working with clients in a collaborative way. The concept of getting alignment from both parties and overcoming obstacles to have the same end goal was always intriguing. It was really fulfilling work.

GSB: How and when did soccer come into the picture?

JoAnn: While studying for the bar exam in law school during the summer of 1994, my friends and I would take breaks and watch the World Cup games that took place in the USA that year. It was then that the formation of Major League Soccer was announced. I recall thinking it would be interesting to be part of the creation of the league. Ultimately, two lawyers at Latham & Watkins were involved with the founding of MLS. Fast forward a couple years and a friend of mine had gone to work at the league. Two months later, she said there was an opening in the law department and I joined in 1998.

GSB: What did your friends and family say? Going from a big firm to a new soccer league?

JoAnn: People said, “You’re crazy!” and ‘Why would you want to do THAT?!’ But it felt right and it was.

GSB: It must’ve been very exciting being at what was essentially a startup. What was your role in those early days?

JoAnn: The first four-to-six years I primarily did legal work. After that, I expanded into other areas like Human Resources and projects like spearheading a team responsible for all the logistics of moving MLS to our current headquarters in Manhattan.

In 2006, the executive team discussed the need for creating a social responsibility platform. We believed it was important to give back to the communities in which we live and play our games, as well as to our fans. I raised my hand and said I would like to lead the charge in developing the platform. MLS WORKS launched in 2007.

GSB: Congratulations! What is MLS WORKS’ mission?

JoAnn: MLS is dedicated to using soccer as a vehicle for positive social change. Through MLS WORKS, MLS and its clubs seek to enrich the lives of those in need across the United States and Canada.

From executing national programs and legacy projects, to charitable giving campaigns, MLS creates sustainable communities and promotes inclusion at all levels of the game. MLS WORKS has a strategic four-pillar approach to corporate social responsibility.

  • Soccer For All – This signifies that everyone is welcome to MLS, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
  • Youth Enrichment – This includes our work with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build soccer pitches in inner cities.
  • Kick Childhood Cancer – The league “goes gold” throughout the month as part of the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign to raise awareness and funds for Children’s Oncology Group.
  • Greener Goals – The initiative kicks off this week with the Fourth Annual Greener Goals Week of Service leading into Earth Day weekend.

 

GSB: Not surprisingly, I’d like to hear more about Greener Goals. What kinds of programs are under that heading?

JoAnn: MLS has committed to measure, reduce and offset the league’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote healthy, sustainable communities throughout the United States and Canada, and areas in need throughout the rest of the world. Our clubs activate in different ways. Some have been heavily focusing on reducing food waste, others on raising awareness around plastic pollution, others on recycling, etc.

GSB: Can you share some examples?

JoAnn: Of course! On food waste, Sporting Kansas City provides fans with easy-to-implement tips on reducing food waste. Orlando City SC is partnering with the city of Orlando to deliver food waste to an energy/fertilizer plant at Walt Disney World. Seattle Sounders FC use compost from CenturyLink Field to grow vegetables at a nearby farm. On plastic waste, FC Cincinnati

GSB: …The league’s newest expansion team…

JoAnn: That’s right. The club worked with Newport Aquarium to drive awareness, attention and action around Earth Day. Fans bring single-use plastic bags to the team’s matches and the Newport Aquarium where collections will be taken on-site. On Earth Day, a special event was hosted to demonstrate the impact the bag collection will have on local Cincinnati-area waterways and its wildlife, and at a larger scale in oceans. Students at local schools and after-school programs will help repurpose the bags into useful items, including sleeping mats for the area’s homeless community.

 

IMG_1887a

FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma (l) and Greg Garza show off their new reusable bags created using recycled plastic bags at the Newport Aquarium (Photo credit: FC Cincinnati)

 

On energy, Real Salt Lake has a 2020-kilowatt (kWh) solar panel system at Rio Tinto Stadium which offsets approximately 73 percent of the organization’s total annual stadium power needs.

GSB: I knew about their solar installation but I didn’t know it offset such a high percentage. That’s great news. The Seattle Sounders recently committed to go carbon neutral. What does that mean exactly?

JoAnn: You’re right. The Sounders are the first professional soccer team in North America to go carbon neutral. The club worked with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For sources unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – Sounders FC is offsetting the club’s emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a nonprofit that works for regional sustainability. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and its fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover.

GSB: That’s impressive, JoAnn. I know the league is also involved in carbon offsetting as part of Greener Goals. What emissions is MLS offsetting and what kind of offsets did the league purchase?

JoAnn: Well, first I want to thank Allen Hershkowitz

GSB: …Environmental Science Advisor for the New York Yankees…

JoAnn: …and also Doug Behar, VP of Operations with the Yankees. They shared the offset program the Yanks embarked upon and we said, “MLS has to be involved!” So we started by offsetting emissions, including executive travel, surrounding the MLS All-Star Game. It was fitting that the 2018 All-Star Game was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a venue that is LEED Platinum. In 2018 MLS compensated 5,400 tons of CO2 equivalent associated with hotel accommodations, ground transportation, staff, player, executive and MLS guest travel, and stadium operations as part of MLS All-Star Week and MLS Cup in Atlanta, in addition to player travel during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs

To date, MLS’ investment has created tangible, constructive impacts for local communities that were generated by the distribution of 4,407 improved cook stoves in rural communities in Kenya. As of October 2018, the use of these cook stoves are estimated to have positively impacted the lives and wellbeing of 15,000 women and children.

 

GreenDayMariettaSixthGradeAcademy_0031a

Mercedes Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum football stadium in the USA, hosted 60 Marietta Middle School students for the stadium’s first sustainability tour in which the students learned about the venue’s greenness. In conjunction with the tour, Atlanta United’s players helped educate students about sustainable food choices, healthy eating and the environmental impact of locally sourced foods, followed by a taste test competition. Here Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann serves up some of the tasty dish he cooked up (Photo credit: Atlanta United)

 

GSB: That’s important work. How did you communicate the Greener Goals expansion to MLS fans? Did you air PSAs in stadium and/or on TV broadcasts?

JoAnn: Social media was big for us — Facebook and Twitter in particular. Our Greener Goals messaging focuses on what MLS and our clubs are doing in or near the stadiums and in the communities that our teams play. Our Greener Goals PSAs focus on what we’re doing in or near the stadiums from an environmental perspective.

GSB: Really? I think the carbon-offsets-cookstoves project would make for a great PSA. Beyond the offsets, how else has MLS expanded Greener Goals?

JoAnn: All 24 MLS clubs wore special adidas-Parley eco-friendly kits over Earth Day weekend. These innovative uniforms are made with Climalite technology and built of technical yarns created with Parley Ocean Plastic™, made from up-cycled marine plastic waste, as a part of the global adidas x Parley initiative. The collaboration with adidas to support Parley for the Oceans also serves to encourage fans to decrease their use of single-use plastics and reinforcing the importance of changing human attitude and behavior towards plastic pollution.

 

Parley Timbers

The Portland Timbers version of the adidas Parley for the Oceans eco-friendly jerseys worn by all MLS players over Earth Day weekend (Photo credit: MLS)

 

GSB: Love that program — but why only use the Parley uniforms during Earth Week? Couldn’t all teams use Parley unis all the time?

JoAnn: Great question, Lew. We’re exploring that option.

GSB: Good to hear. I have one last question: Does MLS include climate change in its Greener Goals messaging?

JoAnn: Not yet. MLS does not want to get into a political debate on climate change. Rather, we want to focus our efforts on improving lives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing recycling, and more.

GSB: I think MLS is missing an opportunity by not directly talking about climate change with its fans. As discussed earlier, the demographic groups that make up the MLS fan base — Millennials, Gen-Zers, Hispanics — are also demanding real action on climate. My bet is that MLS fans would reward the league for linking its Greener Goals program to the climate change fight.

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

The GSB (Mock) Interview: Tiger Woods, on His Comeback, Kids and Climate Change

Google “Tiger Woods” and “2019 Masters” and you will get millions of links to stories about his jaw dropping, dramatic, instant classic win at Augusta National on Sunday.

Google “Tiger Woods” and “climate change” and you get…nothing meaningful.

So even more remarkable than Woods’ winning his first major championship in 11 years and first Green Jacket since 2005 — at age 43, with a back repaired surgically four times no less — is that he agreed to talk with GreenSportsBlog!

Who knew he cared about the environment and climate change? The fact he’s a golfing buddy of President Trump makes that even harder to fathom. 

OK, OK…

We didn’t really talk to Tiger — his people said he was busy at the driving range getting ready for the next major, the PGA Championship at Long Island’s Bethpage Black next month.

So we’re doing the next best thing: Imagining a conversation with Woods in which he expresses concern about climate change, bubbling up from his kids Sam(antha) and Charlie.

Here then is our GSB (Mock) Interview with Tiger Woods, 2019 Masters Champion.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Tiger Woods, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to GreenSportsBlog. And let me be the 27,340,945th person to congratulate you on your win at Augusta on Sunday. To borrow from the great CBS Sports announcer Verne Lundquist, never in my LIFE did I think I’d see you wearing a fifth Green Jacket.

Tiger Woods: Thank you, Lew. For much of the last few years, I never thought I’d be wearing a new Green Jacket. I was just concerned about being able to put my old Green Jackets, or any jacket for that matter, on by myself, without pain. I wanted to be able to walk pain free. I knew that if I could get healthy, if I could feel comfortable out on the golf course, well let’s just say I did not doubt I could win a major championship in that case. So I’m blessed that my doctors, surgeons and physios all did their jobs so well so I could do my thing. It is amazing.

 

Tiger Woods Patrick Reed

Tiger Woods dons the Green Jacket for winning his fifth Masters on Sunday. Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, placed it on his back (Photo credit: Mike Slocum/Associated Press)

 

GSB: Amazing is right. Also amazing is that you’re talking to us — I’ve never heard you speak about the environment or climate change. So where is this coming from?

Tiger: You’re right. I’ve not been interested in or paid much attention to climate change at all. I’m not a politics guy nor am I a scientist…

GSB: Most people engaged on climate are neither, just for the record. It’s not a prerequisite.

Tiger: It just wasn’t my thing. I know it’s real…

GSB: …Unlike your golfing pal who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Tiger: …I’m not going there. I know it’s real and serious but the honest truth is, I just don’t think much about it. Or, I should say, I didn’t think much about it.

GSB: What changed?

Tiger: Two words: Sam and Charlie.

GSB: Your kids…

Tiger: Sam is 11. About two, three years ago, she started asking me things like “Why do you drive such a big gas guzzler?” and “Why don’t you get a Tesla?” My first thought? “Buick Enclave sponsors me, that’s why!” It’s a great car. I also drive a Porsche Carrera GT for fun.

But Sam got me thinking about it, and it just became obvious that burning less fossil fuels is a good thing. So I started to ask my Buick guys questions; they tell me the next generation Enclave, which should be coming to market in the next four-to-five years, will have a plug-in hybrid or even be 100 percent electric.

 

Tiger Woods family

An ecstatic Tiger Woods immediately after winning the 2019 Masters on Sunday. Son Charlie (left) and daughter Sam (2nd from right), who have been instrumental in their dad’s newfound interest in climate change, flanked Tiger, along with his mom Kultida (r) and girlfriend Erica Herman (Photo credit: CBS Sports)

 

GSB: I don’t know if Sam told you this — but according the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, basically the best climate scientists in the world, humanity has 12-15 years to significantly decarbonize if we are to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. So isn’t continuing to drive a fossil fuel Enclave that gets 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, reckless?

Tiger: Oh I get it. Sam lets me know every time we get in the car to go to her soccer games. So we made a deal — I’m going to trade in the Porsche Carrera next year for a Porsche Taycan EV. That will be the car we drive most of the time. And, when I go to tournaments, I’m going to make sure that my team and I get driven in EVs or hybrids when EVs are not available.

 

Porsche Taycan

The 2020 Porsche Taycan EV (Photo credit: Porsche)

 

GSB: That’s a great start! Does Charlie get on you too?

Tiger: No doubt about it. Sometimes they double team me, especially after Sam and Charlie, who’s 10, saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Sequel,” in school last year.

GSB: Did it scare them?

Tiger: Yeah, but it also made them angry. They bugged me to see the original, “An Inconvenient Truth.”. I was like, “don’t you want to see the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie, or the highlights of my 1997 Masters win?” You may find it hard to believe from the cute Charlie you saw Sunday on TV but he is one stubborn kid. So it was “An Inconvenient Truth” or bust. So we saw it. I was blown away. Then I saw the sequel. Then I saw “Chasing Ice” and that was more than enough.

GSB: Good going, Charlie! Then what happened?

Tiger: To be honest, not much. I mean our green movie triple feature was last spring and since then, I’ve been working 24-7 getting my back right, getting my game right. Contended at the Open Championship, gave it a good run at the PGA, finally won the Tour Championship. We’ll forget the Ryder Cup disaster, thank you very much. And then it was getting ready for 2019. But there has been some time here and there for them to sell me and they did. Charlie suggested we get solar panels on our house.

GSB: At 9,700 square feet, that’s a lot of house!

Tiger: We use a lot of energy, they let me know about it all the time. We’re looking at the solar options.

GSB: That would be great. Even if you go solar, you’ll still be using a ton of energy generated from fossil fuels to power that house. Would you consider offsetting your energy use — from your home, cars, boats, air travel — by investing in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and more? It’s easy to find reputable outfits to help you do this.

 

Tiger Woods House

Tiger Woods’ home and golf course backyard in Jupiter Island, Florida (Photo credit: ThoughtCo)

 

Tiger: I never thought about it but I’ll have my people look into it.

GSB: It’s fairly simple. Are there any other guys on the tour who talk climate change and the environment?

Tiger: Michael Campbell from New Zealand, the 2005 US Open winner, comes to mind. He’s been injured a lot lately too, missed the last couple of years. Trying to come back on tour this year. He started an environmental charity back in New Zealand if memory serves.

GSB: Yes! His organization is called Project Litefoot — it helps local sports clubs save money by reducing their carbon footprint. You could do something like that with the Tiger Woods Foundation! Think of the impact!

 

Campbell Project Litefoot

Michael Campbell, 2005 US Open champion, leads Project Litefoot in New Zealand (Photo credit: Project Litefoot)

 

Tiger: We’re already doing it. Two of our current Earl Woods Scholars — named after my dad — and a number of our graduates dating back 2011 are or were environmental science majors.

GSB: I’d say that’s a start but think of the impact if you’d create a Tiger Woods-branded climate change platform for students through the foundation. That would be breakthrough. I know, I know you have to talk to your people. Let us talk to them.

Tiger: You’re just like Sam and Charlie!

GSB: Thanks for the compliment, Tiger. Seriously, we need to think of climate change in terms of a World War II-level crisis. It’ll take a Herculean public mobilization to get us off of our carbon addiction and you could be one of that effort’s biggest, most important voices. Iconic, really. Doing something bigger than yourself. For your kids.

Tiger: I get it but I still have my back to manage, major championships to try to win.

GSB: I get that, Tiger. I am just going to ask you two things: Number one, when you get solar on your roof, tell that story to the press.

Tiger: I could do that — if we get solar.

GSB: When

Tiger: OK, when. Here’s what I will do: Next time an interview gets to the subject of Sam and Charlie, I’ll talk about how climate change is important to them and that it’s rubbing off on their old man.

GSB: That would be FANTASTIC! Now, here’s #2: Become an advocate for carbon pricing, specifically a carbon fee and dividend approach.

Tiger: What is that?

GSB: The gist: We need a price on carbon to accelerate the deployment of renewables, scalable energy efficiency technologies, energy storage and the like — to make all these technologies more competitive vs. fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based products.

The idea of the dividend is crucial. Instead of the revenue raised from the carbon fee going to the federal treasury, it would be distributed to all American households in the form of a monthly dividend. The same amount to every household. So low carbon users — about the lowest two thirds of all American households on the income scale — would make more in dividends than what they would pay in the form of higher prices due to the fee.

Tiger: OK, OK. This is interesting, could make a difference on emissions. But it sounds like I’m going to pay a lot more.

GSB: You will pay more but the more you decarbonize, the less you’ll pay.

Tiger: It also sounds political. I need to talk to my people on this.

GSB: Remember, in this case, your people are Sam and Charlie.

Tiger: Touché, Lew, touché.

 

 


Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

The GSB Interview: Ex-Atlanta Falcon Ovie Mughelli, Creator of “Gridiron Green” Comic Superhero

Ovie Mughelli (moo-HAY-lee) is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in the five plus years since I started GreenSportsBlog. College and pro football star. Announcer. Gets interested in the climate change fight. Comes up with “Gridiron Green,” an African American, environmental comic superhero.

We were fortunate to be able to sit down with Mughelli to hear his incredible story and his plans for Gridiron Green.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Ovie, we’ve been wanting to talk with you for a long time so thank you for the opportunity. Before getting to your evolution as a climate change fighter and to Gridiron Green, tell us your back story.

Ovie Mughelli: Thanks for the opportunity, Lew. And I’ll tell you, I’ve been blessed from the beginning. My parents both were born in Nigeria who moved here at 18, 19, looking for a better life. They gave me, my two sisters and my brother a very strong work ethic combined with a duty to others. The idea of, if you can make someone’s life better, you do it. And this was our ethos from the beginning, giving even as we received help. It was a humble beginning, all of us in a one bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor. Grew up in New York City until third grade, then moved to Charleston, South Carolina through my high school years. My dad, Olumide, became a successful OB-Gyn, is a Big Brother and involved with the Charleston Boys Club. My mom, Agnes? She got her MBA and runs his office.

 

Ovie Mughelli

Ovie Mughelli (Photo credit: Ovie Mughelli)

 

GSB: This is an American Dream story if I ever heard one. Did you dream of an NFL career in high school?

Ovie: Not really. I did well enough in high school, both in the classroom and on the football field to get a scholarship to Wake Forest as a fullback. Went there as a pre-med student, you know, to follow dad. Was interested in sports medicine, took organic chem, bio mechanics…

GSB: …Sounds like the med school track to me…

Ovie: Absolutely. My older sister, who went to the University of Richmond and then the University of South Carolina Medical School, gave me the MCAT study guides!

GSB: Doesn’t sound like the NFL was where you were headed…

Ovie: I didn’t think so early in my college career, just didn’t see it as a real possibility that I could play in the NFL. Med school beckoned but my parents and coaches believed I could do it. And, lo and behold, the Baltimore Ravens selected me in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

GSB: Fourth round out of a seven round draft is impressive, especially as a fullback — a position that was beginning a deemphasis that continues to this day.

Ovie: Thanks, Lew! I couldn’t believe it. And, even though I was drafted I just tried to survive that first training camp. Didn’t think I’d make it.

GSB: Man, you need to have more confidence in yourself! Or maybe that self-doubt is what propelled you to success?

Ovie: That and special teams¹. Back then teams still had two fullbacks on the 53-man roster. No team kept three. Except for the Ravens that year because I showed them what I could do on “specials.” That’s how I made the team. Once I established myself in Baltimore, I started thinking about how I could give back. Started the Ovie Mughelli Foundation in my third year there — it wasn’t environmentally focused; rather it was really a classic, “give back” with education and life skills being the main thing.

GSB: And you became a Pro Bowler (aka All-Star) as a special team ace…

Ovie: Again, something I wouldn’t have predicted. That allowed me to sign a six-year free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 which made me the highest paid fullback in the league. So my “give back” instinct kicked into a higher gear as far as the foundation was concerned.

 

Ovie Mughelli Falcons

Ovie Mughelli during his days with the Atlanta Falcons (Photo credit: Ovie Mughelli Foundation)

 

GSB: So how and when did environment and climate change become your thing?

Ovie: This is a crazy story, Lew. First, let’s go back to my childhood in Charleston. I remember watching Captain Planet environmentally-themed cartoons back in the 1980s…

GSB: The cartoons created by CNN founder Ted Turner…

Ovie: Yes. I thought at the time that it was so cool there was a character, Kwame, who was from Africa. You didn’t see anything like that on TV. So, now, flash forward to 2007. I’ve signed with the Falcons. went to this random event in Atlanta where I met Ted Turner and his daughter, Laura Turner Seydel. They eventually became second family to me. At that time, Laura started asking me, ‘What does your foundation do? What are you doing on the environment?’ I said, ‘Nothing. It’s not so important as access to education, life skills.’ Laura’s response? ‘The environment is connected to everything. If you love kids, you have to get involved with the environment!’ That really opened my eyes. I had thought the environment was for tree-huggers, for rich folks who didn’t have to worry about their basic needs so they had the time and means to care about the environment. But then I started to delve into it, and the more I did, the more I got it.

 

Ovie Laura Leilani

Ovie Mughelli flanked by Laura Turner Seydel (r) and Leilani Münter, the self-described eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

GSB: What did you start to understand?

Ovie: I learned that climate change is not just about polar bears. It’s also about Hurricane Katrina, wildfires in the West, food deserts, the Syrian crisis and much, much more. Thanks to the Captain Planet Foundation and the Turner Seydels, I got to attend numerous climate change-related seminars and conferences. It became crystal clear: You couldn’t argue the science.

I also learned that people of color are the most affected and the least able to adapt to climate change. Underserved and unengaged communities are impacted by climate issues for a longer duration. It effects health, economy and education due to the residual implications. And yet robust conversation with these communities are not heavily pursued to make these folks change agents.

So the question became how to combat climate change? Laura Turner Seydel urged me to get involved, to use the platform of sports to engage fans who, she said, ‘Love clean air, clean water and God’s Green Earth. You have to give people the mindset to make green normal.’ And Laura again pressed me about kids, saying, ‘Ovie, you can’t say you love kids if you don’t advocate for the environment!”

That hits home because my wife and I have three kids — our first two are girls and then a boy. Our daughter Nesia and our son Obasi were both born prematurely. We weren’t able to hold Obasi until he was 16 days old and could take either of them out of the NICU² for a long time because of the poor air quality in Atlanta — thankfully, they’re fine now. This brought environmental problems home more than anything and was unacceptable! So I felt I had to do something.

GSB: So what did you do with your interest in climate, and with Laura’s nudges?

Ovie: Through the Ovie Mughelli Foundation, I started to run football camps with an environmental theme. We had “Recycle On the Run” drills, had them answer environmental questions, take positive environmental actions and more. I also started to give climate change-themed speeches as part of a Green Speaker Series.

GSB: What were you talking about?

Ovie: Basically I said we have to go beyond complaining about the environment, about climate change. We had to shift from complain to action! I also emphasized that shifting to a greener, cleaner economy would be a winner job-wise and otherwise.

GSB: Did you talk about environment and the climate in the locker room with your Falcons teammates? If so, how did they react?

Ovie: I sure did. And look, teammates in an NFL locker room, we’re like brothers, supporting each other out on the field. So I felt comfortable talking about my climate activism with them. Now, it did raise some eyebrows among the guys like Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White. They basically asked, ‘is climate change real?’ I told ’em, ‘Yeah, it’s not only real, it’s human caused and we need to deal with it, sooner rather than later.’ And they came around on it. Other guys fought fiercely with me, saying ‘it’s a hoax,’ or ‘climate change is just a way for the government to take more of my money.’ I don’t know that I changed those minds.

GSB: Sounds like, from talking to eco-athletes who are active today, that the locker rooms sound similar as they did a decade or so ago. That needs to improve, fast. So I get the environmental football camps and the speaking engagements. But how did your environmental super hero cartoon idea — Gridiron Green — come to pass?

Ovie: Well, it goes back to Captain Planet! I always wanted to recreate an environmentally-themed comic book, but with a black super-hero — Kwame times 1,000! — for planet earth. Environmental justice, the right to clean air and water, the right to live healthy, were the themes. I sketched out a rough version in 2009, showed to some corporations and the NFL for sponsorship back then; they showed some initial interest but not enough to fund it. Still, I kept going and in 2012 I had a friend-of-a-friend who is an artist, do an even better sketch.

 

Captain Planet Kwame

Kwame from Captain Planet (Credit: Captain Planet Foundation)

 

GSB: Then what happened?

Ovie: It kinda went on the back burner for several years — I didn’t really know how to market a comic book. Then, in 2016, I went to a youth summit led by John R. Seydel — Laura’s son. One of the sessions, “Comics Uniting Nations,” not surprisingly caught my eye.

GSB: I can see why! What was it about?

Ovie: The UN had recently published 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). They were wordy, wonky and a bit confusing. So folks at Comics Uniting Nations and UNICEF thought ‘how about a comic book or books to make the SDGs clear and even fun.’ I thought, ‘Wait a second — I got this!!!” They liked it and gave some initial seed funding to help get Gridiron Green to get to the next level. That allowed me to hire a top flight artist, Matt Bahr, to work with me to tighten up the look, feel and story.

GSB: How has that gone so far?

Ovie: It’s been a two-year journey for Matt and me, sharing our drawings with folks at the NFL, as well as at environmental and social justice nonprofits. We want to use Gridiron Green to reach people who have not engaged on environment and climate yet, who don’t know what a carbon footprint is. Gridiron Green can be an important gateway to get people involved on climate, including conservatives, especially conservative sports fans! And we’re looking at more than a comic book, from curriculum to video games to toys to even feature animated films. We’ve asked for buy-in and financial support, moving the ball forward a bit but not enough to publish yet.

 

Ovie Gridiron Green

Prototypes of Gridiron Green (Photo credit: Ovie Mughelli)

 

GSB: It sounds like you’re moving towards the goal line; what has to happen next so you guys can finally make Gridiron Green a reality.

Ovie: Right now, we’re working on tightening up the business plan — we’re looking for funding in the neighborhood of $100,000, which includes curriculum.

GSB: This seems like a doable number to me; please keep us informed as to how fundraising goes!

 

¹ Special teams are the “third phase” of American football (offense and defense being the other two). They consist of the players on the kickoff and punt coverage, kickoff and punt returns, as well as field goal units.
² NICU = Neo-natal intensive care unit

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

GSB News and Notes: Brewers’ Pitcher Brent Suter Launches Strikeout Waste; Winnipeg Jets Go Green

In today’s TGIF GSB News & Notes:

  • Eco-athlete and Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter launches Strikeout Waste to encourage major league ballplayers and their fans to switch to resusable water bottles

  • The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets hosted their second annual Go Green Night, with a climate change nonprofit showing fans — via tabling on the arena’s concourses — how they can engage on the issue.

 

BRENT SUTER LOOKS TO STRIKEOUT WASTE BY RIDDING BREWERS OF ONE-TIME USE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

Twenty-nine year-old Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter has more free time than usual this spring training as he is rehabbing from Tommy John arm surgery. And the eco-athlete is taking advantage of it, last month launching Strikeout Waste — an initiative designed to drastically reduce usage of plastic, one-time-use water bottles by Brewers players and staff — with his cousin Lauren Burke.

 

Suter Instagram

Brent Suter announced the launch of #StrikeOutWaste on Instagram in February

 

The Harvard grad is two thirds of the way through the year-long rehab process. If there are no major setbacks — Suter says he feels great and should be throwing off a pitcher’s mound soon — Brewers’ fans can expect to see the lefty back on a major league mound sometime in July, as the pennant race starts to heat up. 

In the meantime, Suter and Burke are working to move Strikeout Waste from the drawing board to the dugout. The goal is to show fans that, if their favorite players and teams can reduce plastic waste, so can they.

“Think about a baseball TV broadcast immediately after the game’s final out,” offered Suter. “There’s always a shot of the players heading from the dugout to the clubhouse, with empty plastic water bottles strewn all over the place. This is not a good look, to say the least. So we aim to change the look along with player and fan behavior with Strikeout Waste.”

The idea for Strikeout Waste began to percolate between the cousins two and a half years ago but Suter’s main focus was on making the Brewers and, once he did, sticking with the big club. With more free time since his injury and subsequent surgery last summer, Suter started to take eco-action.

“We thought going with reusable water bottles would work on several levels,” Suter recalled. “It’s something everybody can do to save a lot of plastic waste. Fans can easily relate to it. And it shouldn’t be that hard to change players’ and fans’ behaviors, ideally taking most people just a few days to get used to using a reusable water bottle and have it become like an appendage.” 

Suter and Burke engaged Chicago-based LW Branding to help them flesh out the concept during the offseason. Then, at the start of spring training, they created a partnership with Suter’s favorite water bottle brand and had reusable bottles shipped to the spring facility. 

“We ended up choosing a bottle from Zulu Athletic,” reported Suter. “It’s made out of high-quality glass that is also hard to break, with a pop-off lid perfect for frequent use in the dugout, clubhouse and everywhere else.”

The duo is starting small — Suter distributed about 100 total bottles from several test vendors during the early part of spring training to eager Brewers players and staff and he expects his first order of 100 Zulu Athletic bottles to arrive in the next week so the rest of the organization has them — but they have big plans.

 

Suter Murph H2O Bottles

Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy holds a water bottle, surrounded by Brent Suter (2nd from left) and other members of the ball club (Photo credit: Brent Suter, Milwaukee Brewers)

 

“Since I will still be rehabbing here in Arizona once spring training ends next week, I am going to try spreading the campaign to the Arizona Diamondbacks through shortstop Nick Ahmed, who is already into it!” Suter said. “Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett is another guy who I am confident will advocate for it.”

Suter’s and Burke’s plans go beyond baseball — they can envision a Slam Dunk Waste for the NBA, a Sack Waste for the NFL. You get the idea.

Brent Suter gets the last word: “We need to show fans that their favorite athletes care about about plastic waste, climate change and the environment more broadly. Some portion of those fans will take positive environmental action. Of that I have no doubt.”

 

WINNIPEG JETS INVITE CLIMATE CHANGE-FIGHTING NONPROFIT TO CONNECT WITH FANS AT GO GREEN NIGHT

“Green Games” are rapidly becoming commonplace among a wide swath of North American pro and college teams, a sure sign that Green-Sports 2.0 — i.e. fan engagement — is here.

So I wasn’t all that excited when the news that the Winnipeg Jets hosted their second annual Go Green Night at Bell MTS Place last Thursday came across my transom. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the Jets are having Go Green Night — it’s just that it didn’t seem that newsy anymore.

 

MTS Place

MTS Place, home of the Winnipeg Jets, hosted its second Go Green Night last week (Photo credit: Winnipeg Jets)

 

I was wrong.

That is because the Jets invited Climate Change Connection (CCC), a program of the Manitoba Eco Network, to interact with fans in the arena’s concourses during the Green Game. CCC’s mission is to make Manitobans aware of the facts surrounding climate change and to inspire them to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build climate resilient communities. The organization promoted ways for Jets fans to act on climate, and provided easy-to-digest information on how to go about it. 

 

Winnipeg Jets Go Green Game

 

Of course, you may ask, “Lew, the Jets Green Game partnership with CCC doesn’t sound unique. Why are you so excited about it?”

I am excited because True North Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Jets and MTS Place felt comfortable having an organization called Climate Change Connection interact with its fans in a very public way.

Since the Green-Sports movement’s beginnings around 15 years ago, teams and leagues have done a terrific job greening the games, from improving energy efficiency to on-site renewables, to much, much more. But they didn’t communicate about their greening initiatives much to their fans during this Green-Sports 1.0 era. Climate change? It was mentioned rarely.

We are in the early days of the movement’s fan engagement-focused 2.0 iteration. This era is unfolding in the same time period as the release of a devastating report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It asserted that humanity has 12-15 years to decarbonize significantly if it is to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. With that as backdrop, it says here that the sports world can no longer afford to play it coy when it comes to talking about climate change.

This does not mean fans should be bludgeoned by climate change. After all, they’re at the arena or stadium to enjoy a game.

But there’s a great deal of space between bludgeoning and saying nothing.

Climate change-themed public service announcements on the scoreboard here and there wouldn’t hurt.

Nor would having a group called Climate Change Connection interact with hockey fans at an arena concourse.

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

Tommy Caldwell and Other Elite Rock Climbers Team Up to Fight Climate with POW Climb

A group of the top U.S. rock climbers who are also concerned about climate change have worked with Protect Our Winters to launch POW Climb, a new division that will focus on engaging the climbing community to join the climate fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with elite professional climber Tommy Caldwell to find out how he came to support POW and POW Climb as well as what he hopes will result from his efforts.

 

“It’s time to give the climbing community a platform to speak up about climate change.”

So said Tommy Caldwell regarding Monday’s launch of POW Climb, a new division of the Protect Our Winters’ (POW) Alliance.

Protect Our Winters turns passionate outdoor and winter sports enthusiasts of all levels into effective climate advocates. The Alliance is POW’s community of elite athletes (skiers, snowboarders and more), thought leaders and forward-thinking business leaders working to affect systemic political solutions to climate change.

One of the top professional climbers in the U.S., Caldwell joins fellow climbers and Alliance members Conrad Anker, Adrian Ballinger, Emily Harrington, Angela Hawse, Beth Rodden, Matt Segal, and Graham Zimmerman as charter members of POW Climb.

 

LIFELONG CLIMBER AND ENVIRONMENTALIST SEES THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE 

That Northern Colorado native Tommy Caldwell is a world class climber and an up-and-coming climate change fighting eco-athlete would surprise absolutely no one once they learned the outlines of his story.

“I grew up climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park,” Caldwell recounted. “My dad, who taught during the school year, was a mountain guide there. We climbed every weekend. I was climbing in Yosemite when I was three years old. In my teens, I climbed in the Alps and Bolivia. Of course this meant I was in nature all the time and developed a deep passion and appreciation for it.”

 

Tommy Caldwell

Tommy Caldwell of POW Climb ascends the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park (Photo credit: Brett Lowell/Red Bull Media House)

 

Rock climbing globally for more than three decades means Caldwell has experienced the impacts of climate change up close.

“I’ve been climbing in the Argentine part of Patagonia since my early twenties,” Caldwell recalled. “You can’t miss or doubt climate change when you go there over a period time. There’s one incredible mountain, Aguja Poincenot, its east face is accessible only by traversing a glacier. Or, should I say was accessible. Fellow climber Topher Donahue told me the glacier was passable in the 80s and up through part of the 90s. By the time I first visited there in 2003, the glaciers had receded and broken up to the point where crevasses blocked the passage. The beautiful approach from the east is now virtually inaccessible.”

 

Aguja Poincenot

The lower east face of Aguja Poincenot in the Argentine section of Patagonia is now virtually inaccessible to climbers. (Photo credit: Elvis Acevedo)

 

Sadly, reported Caldwell, the weight of climate change’s impacts is heavier on mountains that are still being climbed: “Now, in some parts of Patagonia, virtually when there’s a good weather window for climbing, someone dies. That’s because the mountains are thawing for the first time since climbers started visiting the area. Rocks loosen and ultimately fall. Death from sporadic rock fall is becoming common. I question weather I should climb in those mountains anymore — hey, I have kids now.”

 

ON BECOMING A CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHTER AND PART OF POW CLIMB

Patagonia played a key role in Caldwell joining the climate change fight.

Patagonia the outdoor apparel company, that is.

“I got into climate activism when I became an Ambassador for Patagonia, a sponsor of mine,” said Caldwell. “Then, as a board member of the Access Fund, the advocacy organization for climbing, I got into lobbying in DC on climate change as well as other issues that are clearly important to climbers. In fact, my Access Fund colleagues and I lobbied, through our ‘Climb The Hill’ initiative, on behalf of the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund Act which became law as part of a bigger bill that was signed by the President on Tuesday.”

Caldwell, who was featured in the must-see “Free Solo,” which won the Academy Award last month for Best Documentary, sees POW Climb as the next step in his climb up the climate change activism mountain, with the next challenge being carbon pricing.

“POW reached out to me a few months ago. I then went to an Alliance athlete training, heard from the scientists, saw their legislative and electoral strategies and I was all in. I’m excited to push on carbon pricing and to help elect candidates who will support it and other climate change fighting actions. Now is the time.”

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://greensportsblog.com
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

 

Kevin Anderson, World’s #6 Tennis Player, on Plastic Ocean Waste Fight

Kevin Anderson, the sixth-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, recently showed himself to be passionate about the plastic ocean waste issue in Jon Wertheim’s SI.com tennis mailbag column. GreenSportsBlog reached out to the Delray Beach, Florida-based South African to dig a bit deeper into his environmentalism and to get his take on climate change. Before heading out to Southern California for the Indian Wells tournament that is now underway, Anderson took a few minutes to answer our questions.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Kevin, when did you become an environmentalist and what got you into it?

Kevin Anderson: Well, Lew, a part of me has always been very mindful about how my life impacts the environment. Last year I watched a documentary called “A Plastic Ocean” and it really opened my eyes.

 

Anderson_Kevin

Kevin Anderson, fifth ranked men’s tennis player in the world and eco-athlete (Photo credit: Kevin Anderson)

 

GSB: That is a must-watch film from 2016. Journalist Craig Leeson joined forces with retired free diver¹ Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers to document the the scale of the plastic ocean waste pollution problems, and offered potential real world solutions.

Kevin: It definitely encouraged me to see what I could improve upon in my daily life and — as a tennis player — what athletes, tournaments and the organizations we are associated with could do better to make a change.

 

Plastic Ocean

 

GSB: What environmental initiatives have you led or joined?

Kevin: I’m a huge supporter of the “Skip the Straw” campaign in Delray Beach, Florida. Hopefully that new rule will be approved, which means restaurants in the city will only give patrons plastic straws when requested. Living in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes this initiative very important for our city and I hope more residents will continue to adopt practices using less plastic in their lives.

GSB: Good news: According to Boca News Now, the Delray Beach City Commission just passed the ordinance that will ban plastic straws. It will take effect January 1, 2020. How have your colleagues/competitors reacted to your leadership on environmental issues? Who have joined you?

Kevin: Many of my fellow players see the importance of reducing the use of plastics. Dominic Thiem of Austria is one who I’ve discussed this; he has an organization he supports…

GSB: …Thiem, the eighth ranked player in the world, is involved with 4Ocean, a nonprofit founded by two surfers that removes plastics from the oceans and other waterways. It sustains itself by selling bracelets made from that waste. 4Ocean reports that, in just two years, they and their teams of fishermen and others, have removed over 4 million pounds of trash from the oceans and coastlines.

Kevin: I know Dominic is very passionate about it. Overall, the players have been very supportive in helping me encourage the ATP Tour and tournaments to create more plastic-reducing initiatives and make it possible for us players to lead more environmentally-friendly lives.

 

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, the world’s eighth ranked men’s tennis player, sports four bracelets made from ocean waste by 4Oceans (Photo credit: Polygram)

 

GSB: Widening the lens beyond plastic ocean waste, what are your thoughts on climate change, its human causality, and how elite athletes can engage on the issue? I ask this question mindful of the severe water crisis in Cape Town in your home country of South Africa.

Kevin: I’ve definitely become more in tune with the climate change topic and it’s something I’m continually educating myself on. I think education is one of the most important parts when it comes to environmental issues, so I look forward to learning more.

GSB: Do you discuss climate change with your competitors/colleagues in the locker room, on the tour? If so, what have those conversations been like?

Kevin: Currently our most engaged topic relating to the environment is reducing our use of single-use plastics and encouraging recycling.

GSB: Athletes have been, with some notable exceptions, relatively quiet on climate change, although that is starting to change. Why do you think that is? What might change that?

Kevin: I know in tennis, we are all extremely focused on our training, fitness, matches, travel arrangements, etc. This takes up a large portion of our time because tennis is 24/7. But I do think in moments of downtime, we can focus on learning more. Again, education is key, and then perhaps athletes will feel more comfortable coming forward with their opinions.

 

GSB’s Take: Tennis is, per data compiled by World Atlas in 2018, the fourth most popular sport in the world with an estimated 1 billion fans. That makes the sixth ranked Anderson — and eighth-ranked Thiem — among the world’s most prominent eco-athletes. His responses here and in the Wertheim mailbag show him to be committed and knowledgable about the plastic ocean waste issue. Anderson had an in-depth conversation about his environmentalism with Wertheim on his “Beyond the Baseline” podcast, produced by SI.com and Tennis Channel. Click here to give a listen — the environment is discussed for an impressive 18 minutes, starting at the six minute mark.

Anderson’s comment about climate change — that tennis players, need more education on the subject but have precious little time to absorb it given the 24-7 nature of their work — tells me there needs to be a time-sensitive yet substantive climate education program for athletes. It could be modeled on what’s being done with skiers and snowboarders with Protect Our Winters.

Watch this space. 

 

¹ Free diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on breath-holding until resurfacing rather than the use of breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports