Mascots of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Teams are Threatened By Climate Change: Report

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Villanova won its second men’s NCAA basketball championship in three years on Monday, taking out the University of Michigan 79-62. According to a report by the National Wildlife Foundation, highlighted in a recent story in Yale Climate Connections, the Wildcats of Villanova and Michigan’s Wolverines are just two of a number of college sports’ iconic mascots to be under threat from the effects of climate change.

 

Mascots are integral to the color and pageantry that is college sports.

While some mascots take human form (like the Scarlet Knights of my alma mater, Rutgers), some are colors (like the Violets of NYU, where I went to grad school), and some are quirky (what, exactly is an Eph, the mascot of Williams College# in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts?), many are animals and many of those animal mascots are facing climate change-related threats to their existence.

Samantha Harrington delved into that topic in “These March Madness Mascots are in Danger from Climate Change,” which ran in the March 13 issue of Yale Climate Connectionsthe newsletter of the terrific Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Harrington quoted Tara Losoff of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which issued a Mascot Madness report, as saying that “Many of the animals that inspired [college] team names, these mascots, are at risk of being impacted by climate change.”

While Villanova’s Wildcats were dominant during this year’s run to the NCAA championship — they won all six of their games by 12 points or more — the report points out that wildcats are enduring existential challenges due to climate change:

“North America is home to wildcats like the Canada lynx, ocelot, and Florida panther (the mascot of Pitt, Northern Iowa and Florida International — not to mention the NHL’s team in South Florida)…Climate change is causing a decrease in lynx and could lead to disappearance from the lower 48 states in the next 50 years. The lynx depends on deep snow cover and as the climate warms, it could be unable to field a full roster. As sea levels continue to rise, the Florida panther may be run out of bounds. Just three feet of sea level rise, expected by the end of the century, would flood 30 percent of panther habitat. Droughts driven by climate change are already threatening the reproductive health of ocelots and sea level rise is expected to wipe out some of [their] coastal habitat.”

 

Villanova Wildcat

Villanova’s wildcat. According to a National Wildlife Foundation report, wildcats are one of many mascot species under threat from the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Mark Konezny, USA TODAY sports)

 

On the court in San Antonio Monday night, Michigan’s Wolverines did not fare well against Villanova’s relentless rebounding, championship level defense, and the three point shooting of Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo. In the wild, per the NWF report, the wolverine is having a much tougher time:

“The cold-weather wolverine is rapidly vanishing from continental America as climate change continues to warm the planet. The deep snowpack, so essential for denning and raising their young, is harder and harder to find. The wolverine population in the lower 48 states is struggling to hold on and now numbers only 250 to 300. Unless we act soon, climate change could turn this losing battle into a blowout. The rapidly disappearing wolverine may soon be declared a threatened species as the climate warms even more.”

 

 

Wolverine Daniel J. Cox

A wolverine in the Bridger Mountains north of Bozeman, MT (Photo credit: Daniel J. Cox, naturalexposures.com)

 

Other mascot species under threat from climate change go beyond the Wizard of Oz trio of Lions (Columbia, Loyola Marymount), Tigers (Clemson, LSU, Memphis, Missouri) and Bears (Baylor, Cal-Berkeley) to include Bison/Buffaloes (Bucknell, Colorado, North Dakota State), Rams (Colorado State, Fordham, VCU), Ducks (Oregon), Falcons (Air Force Academy, Bowling Green) and Turtles (Maryland Terrapins).

 

clemson tiger

The Clemson Tiger (Photo credit: Dawson Powers)

 

The NWF report makes clear that the harmful effects of climate change go beyond animal mascots to include crops like Buckeyes (Ohio State), Corn (Nebraska Cornhuskers), and Oranges (Syracuse Orangemen). These impacts include more intense bouts of extreme weather like Cyclones (Iowa State), Hurricanes (Miami) and Storms (St. John’s Red Storm).

Losoff told Harrington that making a connection between mascots and climate change can help get people thinking and talking about global warming: “Talking about a beloved animal mascot being impacted by climate change could be a way to engage friends and family members who might not otherwise be interested or engaged in talking about climate.”

I agree and would go even further.

It seems to me that the “Mascots Being Threatened by Climate Change” story angle provides a big marketing opportunity — and a chance to do some real good — to two key players in the college sports ecosystem: Colleges and university athletics departments and the corporations that sponsor and/or advertise on them. Especially those corporations and brands that promote their greenness.

Think about it.

Some companies and brands embracing (the very neutral-sounding) sustainability still don’t want to deal with climate change — seen by many as too controversial and political — head on in their marketing messages.

This is a faulty strategy, in my humble opinion. Corporations, as well as sports teams — pro and college alike — are falling all over themselves to figure out how to appeal to millennials and Generation Z. These cohorts, far more than their predecessors, see climate change not as an if, but rather as a what are we going to do about it question.

Gun violence is a much more immediate, high profile issue than climate change, but the reaction of many Generation Zers and millennials since the Parkland High School tragedy is instructive. It shows that a significant cadre of these young people seem to run towards controversies and politics. Brands, it says here, will start to take note. Which means that the climate is likely safer than it’s ever been for corporations/brands — including college sports advertisers like General Motors and Nike — to promote their climate change fighting efforts, like generating renewable energy at and/or purchasing renewable energy for their factories.

But if companies — concerned about being called out by climate change skeptics and deniers on the one hand or for greenwashing, for not being perfect on the other — are still not ready to make the jump into the climate change waters, the NWF report provides the perfect way to wade in.

You see, almost everyone loves animals and animal conservation. And almost every college sports fan loves their team’s mascot. Corporations/brands and their college sports partners can wrap themselves in mascot preservation as a way to engage on climate change.

Watch this space.

 

# The Williams College Ephs (pronounced “Eephs”) are named for the school’s founder, Ephraim Williams

 

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Guest Blog Post: Eco-Athlete Erika Flowers-Newell on Her “Dream Endured”

Back in November, GreenSportsBlog interviewed cross country skier, purpose-driven marketer, and environmental advocate Erika Flowers-Newell as she was about to embark upon what would likely be her last attempt to qualify for a U.S. Olympic team.

Erika’s 2018 Olympic qualifying campaign came down to the U.S. Cross Country Ski National Championships in Anchorage, AK two weeks ago. 

I planned to report on how Erika fared until I read “A Dream Endured,” her powerful post on her blog, Klister^ And Cookies: Living Life Out of Suitcase and Ski Bag, about her experience in Anchorage, and much more.

What a great read! Here is Erika’s post in its unedited entirety. 

 

“A Dream Endured”

by Erika Flowers-Newell

 

 

The most common way to leave Alaska is under the cover of total darkness. The large majority of flights leaving Anchorage depart around midnight (in order to make connections in the Lower 48), an hour when most people are fast asleep. In the winter, this means your farewell can easily go unnoticed save for the flashing light of the plane that children sometimes confuse for a shooting star. As we departed Alaska last week, I was, for once, grateful for the long night.

 

Sunset in Anchorage (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

I traveled to Alaska before the New Year with a single goal. Over four years ago I scribbled it at the top of my training plan. Since then, I’ve written it in the upper left hand corner of every single page in a half dozen journals I’ve carried with me at one point or another. I’ve drawn it at the top of goal pyramids and training plans and visualized it too many times to count. My goal was not to make the Olympics. My goal was to win the 10km skate at U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships. I’ve never stood atop a Championship podium but even four years ago I believed I could. I LOVE the 10km skate, I’ve had success in it before and I knew that if I sunk all my teeth into that dream, I could make it happen.

 

Racing the 10km Skate at U.S Nationals (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

Yes, I also really wanted to make the Olympic team, a dream I’d thought about since I first stood on skinny skis. I knew that if I could win that 10km skate at Nationals I would put myself in the running. But I also recognized that the Olympics are not the be-all end-all for skiing success-at the end of the day, its just another race (with a bit more press and free clothes). Instead, I planned to show up stronger, fitter and better prepared than I have ever been for U.S National Championships and I wanted to prove that to myself by winning the National Title. If I’m being 100 percent honest, I think a part of me also wanted to prove it to everyone else. A nod for the Olympics would have been the cherry on top.

 

Solo skate intervals this summer with an eye on U.S. Nationals (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

Perhaps that burden of proof was my achilles heel. Over the years I’ve had coaches tell me I’m good at skiing, just not quite good enough. Others have dismissed my racing as fun hobby, feigning interest but never taking my aspirations seriously.  On the flip side,  I’ve had people like my mom, who told me “you can do anything you set your mind to.” I’ve also had the unquestioned support of many, both financially and otherwise, to help me pursue racing at the highest level. I wanted so badly to prove the doubters wrong, to show them that I can in fact be great at this sport. And I wanted to show my friends, family, sponsors and most importantly myself that I could, in fact, do anything I set my mind to. I wanted to prove my mom right.

 

 

One of my first “races” on skinny skis. It appears I may have taken a wrong turn. My mom would braid my hair before the races. At this point in my ski career I was psyched to just bring home a participation ribbon (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

 

In short, I came up short. I finished 5th for Americans in the 10km skate — a good race but well over a minute from the top of the podium and a far cry from the race I’d visualized and prepared for. Over the next three races at U.S. Nationals I finished well, but again, not great… A mediocre skate sprint in 14th (11th American), a decent classic 20km in 10th (6th American), and a personal best but otherwise unremarkable 10th in the classic sprint (7th American). I finished the week deflated, like a helium balloon that had lost its lift.

 

Photo credit: James R. Evans

 

I don’t write this blog for sympathy and I don’t aim to tell a sob story — I just hope to tell a true story. While we often sugar coat the harder parts of this sport I *think* (or at least I hope) there is something to be gained by sharing a less curated version. Going into the last race of the week, a fellow athlete and I shared a brief exchange. I could see the same look of disappointment in her eyes. Muscles and mind exhausted after a long week of racing, she said aloud and, to know one in particular, “I’m just so tired of caring.” And in that moment I could relate. It is freakin’ exhausting to care that much about something! You invest your entire soul into something every single day, foregoing money, stability, a home and even people you love to devote your entire life to something you love. You live and breathe your sport, willing every cell in your body to go when you say go, to rest when you need to rest and refocus again and again and again and again. When it doesn’t work out, it hurts like hell.

 

 

Trying to find some perspective while cooling down after the races (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

BUT! And there is a big “but” in there, I think that THAT might also be the most rewarding part of skiing and the part I hope never goes away. If you take away the Olympics and the Championships, the Junior Nationals and first place ribbons, anyone who does this sport, especially at the elite level, must truly love it. To care about something that deeply and to pursue it with that much passion is worth gold. It’s also the thing that scares me the most about life after skiing. I don’t fear the end of my race career. I fear never finding another thing that I care about so damn much. People say ski racing is like a roller coaster whereas real life is more like a merry-go-round. On a roller coaster, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. As much as those lows really suck sometimes, I’ve still always liked the thrill of the coaster the most. To dream big is to endure both the wild successes and the trying failures along the way and to come out the other side richer for both.

 

Lucky to have my sister and dad in Anchorage to cheer me on! (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

They completely surprised me, showing up unexpectedly and dressed as narwhals! (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

Squished against the airplane window among fellow economy class passengers, I was grateful for the dimmed cabin lights as we departed Anchorage. I needed a few moments of darkness to clear the saltwater from my cheeks. I took stock of the last year, the last four years, the last ten…wondering what I might have done differently, what I may have missed in training or otherwise. I racked my brain reviewing the back-to-back uphill run tests in the heat of August, the strength sessions that left me curled up in a ball on the floor, the post-workout snacks and dry clothes that I diligently packed for every workout, the exercises with mental strength coaches and planning meetings with ski coaches, the on-snow camps, the lactate testing and hill bounding and double pole pain trains. Soon the yellow glow of Anchorage disappeared from view and my window showed only the small blinking light of the airplane wing. It looked nothing like a shooting star up close. Still, I’m glad I wished on one as a kid.

 

Not the Path to Pyeongchang I’d hoped for…but beautiful nonetheless (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

^ According to Dictionary.com, klister is a sticky wax for use on skis. According to Erika Flowers-Newell, it is also shorthand for “struggle”

 


 

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Oregon State Student Athletes Represent Best of Green-Sports with BAST Program

Cadres of green-minded students and the growing popularity of sustainability as an academic discipline are just two reasons why there is a growing intersection of Green & Sports on campuses across the country. But while athletics and sustainability departments have driven the green-sports bus, student-athletes have taken a back seat to this point. At least, that is, until Oregon State University’s Samantha (“Sam”) Lewis, a cross-country/track runner, and Jesikah Cavanaugh, a swimmer, decided they, along with three other student-athletes wanted to accelerate the greening of OSU sports. GreenSportsBlog talked recently with Sam and Jesikah to get their takes on how they came to take on leading roles in the birth of the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team (BAST), what it has accomplished so far and where they think it will go from here.

 

If you wanted to draw up two characters to be green-sports student athlete pioneers, you would have conjured Sam Lewis and Jesikah Cavanaugh. They helped create the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team or BAST at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Both are life-long environmentalists.

Sam, a runner who grew up in Boulder, CO, told GreenSportsBlog that “sustainability was embedded in my life from an early age. We composted, recycled, rode bikes and snowshoed.” Oregon State was a natural choice due to her “love of the outdoors and of running in the rain.” I get her first love but running in the rain? Not so much.

 

Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis, Oregon State Class of ’17, founding member of BAST, and member of the cross-country/track team  (Photo credit: Oregon State University Athletics)

 

Jesikah’s lifelong appreciation of the environment was nurtured in Anchorage, AK, where, she reports, “everything is clean.” A swimmer by the age of four, Jess says she was inspired by her older, faster sister Meghan. Recruited by Division III schools in Colorado and Pittsburgh, PA, Jesikah applied to OSU almost as an afterthought: “My dad went to Oregon State and I didn’t want to go there. But I was interested in environmental engineering and I liked that their program was tied to chemical engineering rather than civil, as was the case at most schools. I ultimately want to work on water remediation—cleaning and restoration—so that link with chemical engineering was a key reason I ended up in Corvallis.”

 

Jesikah Cavanaugh OSU BAST

Jesikah Cavanaugh, Oregon State Class of ’17, founding member of BAST, and member of the swim team  (Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics)

 

Both overcame serious obstacles in their sports.

Sam, who ran the 6K in cross-country, “suffered lots of injuries,” including a stress fracture in her back during her sophomore year. “It was so frustrating. I was recruited to be a Division I runner at a Pac-12 school and I couldn’t even walk my dog,” shared Sam, “It took a couple of years to be able to compete again, but the work it took to come back was so worth it—it was the best feeling ever.” And the women’s cross-country and track team has faced its own challenges. “The sport was dropped at Oregon State in 1988, rebooted in 2004, so we have been playing catch up against some of the best teams in the country,” explained Sam. But, reflecting her grit, the cross-country squad was able to finish a respectable 12th in the powerful, 35-team West region last year, an improvement of seven places from 2015.

Jes was not offered a swimming scholarship. No problem. She walked on to the Oregon State swim team as a freshman, swimming the 100- and 200-meter butterfly. Her consistent performances (“I never missed a meet!”) earned her a scholarship by her junior year.

With passion for the environment and grit, all that was needed for Sam and Jes to enter the green-sports fray was a cause.

 

The cause turned out to be recycling bins.

You see, Sam was the women’s cross country/track team’s representative on something called the OSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which exists to make the student-athlete experience the best in can possibly be. Per Sam, “It’s not like there was talk of sustainability or climate change at SAAC. I simply asked about getting recycling bins in our locker room. Runners drink tons of chocolate milk so there were empty bottles all over the place and no bins in which to put them. I couldn’t believe that so I had to say something. THAT got discussion going — folks from other sports spoke up about recycling and other environmental issues.”

Associate Athletic Director Kimya Massey saw there was a group of sustainability-minded student-athletes in SAAC, introduced Sam to Jesikah, and suggested they form a green-themed subgroup. He believed a student run group would be unique, gain immediate credibility and could garner broad student and fan interest.

And so in the spring of 2016, the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team or BAST was born with Sam, Jesikah and 6-8 other student-athletes forming the rest of the initial team. Jesikah said the initial support provided by the Athletic Department was crucial: “They were great from the beginning, allowing us the freedom to create our own initiatives and the opportunity to create change.”

Also per Jesikah, the spring 2016 semester saw the nascent BAST group act in a deliberate, strategic and determined fashion, to “define our three organizing pillars.”

 

Those pillars are as powerful as they are simple.

  1. Encourage and implement sustainable ideas within the athletic department
  2. Educate our fellow student-athletes about sustainability and environmental issues
  3. Work to engage with the rest of campus and the broader Corvallis community

With the pillars in place, Sam, Jesikah and the team knew they had to pivot from planning into action and events.

They staffed an Earth Day booth to let the campus know BAST existed and to learn the community’s view of athletics’ waste and its impacts on the environment. But the group’s big launch took place last fall at Reser Stadium, the home of Oregon State football.

“Tons of ‘stuff’ is given away for free at football games as promotional items,” offered Sam. “Things like pom-poms. Most people use them once; they get thrown out and go right to the landfill. We worked with the marketing team at the athletic department — we brought them in early on and they’ve been super supportive — to run a tabling effort at the Cal (Berkeley) game at which fans would return their pom-poms. Of the 750 pom-poms that were given out, about 500 were collected by BAST members. They were used again at one of Jes’ swim meets this spring.” At the Arizona game, BAST was able to collect about half of the LED light sticks that were given out. Fan engagement was the main goal at one OSU men’s basketball game and one women’s contest as BAST members manned a recycling-education table on the main concourse of Gill Coliseum.

 

OSU Pom Poms

Sam Lewis (l), Jesikah Cavanaugh (front) and the BAST team managed the “Return Pom Pom” effort at select Oregon State home football games in 2016. (Photo credit: OSU Campus Recycling)

 

But it may have been OSU baseball where BAST made its biggest first year impact. Per Sam, “The athletic department provided several clear recycling bins to Goss Stadium and BAST staffed the games to maximize the number of fans who recycled. The clear bins made it easy for fans to see what and how much was going in. This helped increase the amount recycled at the ‘clear bin’ games by a significant amount.”

 

OSU Baseball Recycling

Jesikah Cavanaugh (r), along with teammate Alice Ochs and assistant swim coach Michael Wong collect the clear recycling receptacles from an Oregon State home baseball game (Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics)

 

BAST was honored for its efforts when the Green Sports Alliance recognized the group as its Innovator of the Year at its June summit in Sacramento.

Sam and Jesikah were a bit lonely at the summit, as well as at the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, as they were the only student-athletes to attend. “Athletic directors, facilities managers and sustainability departments are all very into it,” noted Sam. “We showed that student-athletes can drive action and interest in sustainability. Hopefully, more groups like BAST will take off at other schools.”

 

Sam Bill Walton jesikah

Sam Lewis (l), Bill Walton, member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and Jesikah Cavanaugh at the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference in June. (Photo credit: Sam Lewis)

 

BAST will have to grow without Sam’s and Jesikah’s day-to-day leadership as both graduated in May; Sam with an Exercise and Sports Science (aka Kinesiology) degree and Jesikah as an Environmental Engineering major. But both plan to keep tabs on BAST and also to figure out how to further amplify the voice student-athletes have at the intersection of Green & Sports.

Sam landed at the University of Idaho to work as a graduate assistant with the track team there — she hopes to help student-athletes at the Moscow, ID school start their own version of BAST. Jesikah, who will be in Portland for at least the next six months, working at an internship with Clean Water Services, is bullish on BAST’s future: “The group is in great hands with Marie Guelich (women’s basketball), Sam McKinnon (women’s cross country and track) and Mimi Grosselius women’s rowing) taking the reins.”

The new leadership team is expected to make climate change a bigger focus of BAST’s agenda by, per Jesikah, “measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of OSU athletics, showing a BAST video on the scoreboard at Reser Stadium, and, on a micro-level, bringing composting to the athletic training tables


 

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The GSB Interview: Ryan Hall, Greening the College Football Playoff

With the 2017 college football season set to move into high gear this weekend, GreenSportsBlog takes a look for the first time at the Greening of the College Football Playoff (CFP). The CFP, now about to enter its fourth season, draws higher television ratings than just about any other non-NFL sports event in the United States. Given its incredibly high profile, a strong greening program could resonate throughout broad swaths of American sports fandom. To understand what the CFP has done, sustainability-wise and where its green efforts are going, GreenSportsBlog talked with Ryan Hall, its Director of Community Relations.

GreenSportsBlog: Ryan, before we get to the nuts and bolts of the greening programs at the College Football Playoff (CFP), I gotta ask you: How did you get to be the CFP’s Director of Community Relations?

Ryan Hall: Well Lew, I grew up in Austin and went to Rice University there as an undergrad. Went on to Notre Dame for law school…

GSB: A step up in class in terms of football and basketball I’d say…

RH: You’d be right about that but I didn’t drink the Notre Dame Kool-Aid, didn’t become a huge fan. But I did meet my future wife the first day of orientation in South Bend.

GSB: Congratulations!

RH: Thank you. Anyway, I practiced as an attorney in Cincinnati for three years before going to work for the NCAA in Indianapolis in the compliance department. Did that for seven years. Then my wife’s firm opened a Dallas office so we moved down there — strong family connections.

GSB: And Dallas is where the College Football Playoff headquarters is…

RH: Given my experience at the NCAA, I was able to make some connections at the CFP. I ended up taking the job of Director of Community Relations in 2015, right after the first CFP. Sustainability, through our “Playoff Green” initiative, is a core part of my job, in addition to developing and ultimately executing the community relations programs during CFP Week, communication of, and enforcement of regulations, as well as membership relations.

 

Ryan Hall CFP

Ryan Hall, Director of Community Relations, College Football Playoff (Photo credit: College Football Playoff)

 

GSB: So talk about Playoff Green. What is it?

RH: The folks at the CFP knew from the very beginning that we needed to have a strong green commitment and thus a fan-facing program. Early on, we engaged Jack Groh, who manages the greening programs for the NFL, including at their premier events, the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, to build Playoff Green for us.

GSB: Jack is a natural fit for yo…

RH: You got that right!

GSB: Why do you think green was so central to the CFP?

RH: Well, from before the time I got here until now, the organizers of the CFP have realized that we have a responsibility to do more than put on a great semifinals and national championship. Of course, that is our primary task but, since we see the CFP as being a game changer in the “Big Game” landscape, we also want to be a positive game changer on societal issues…

GSB: Like sustainability and climate change? That makes sense to me, especially since colleges and universities have millions of students who study climate change, sustainability and the like…

RH: Exactly right. For those reasons and more, we knew we had to make the CFP a green event and get students into it. Not only college students, but also young people all the way down to the grammar school level. So we need our green program to have strong educational components down to the district level, including curriculum. And there are, of course, strong “big game” precedents for green community programs, including the Super Bowl, Olympics and FIFA World Cup. But, along with the Final Four, we’re the only big game event that has a potential army of college students, passionate about sustainability, at our disposal.

GSB: So how did you go about building the CFP greening program? Is climate change a part of it?

RH: Well, we created a foundation almost at our creation, the CFP Foundation. Our greening curriculum that gets deployed in the markets where our games are played each year has climate change as a core pillar. Our team has educators and it’s on us to 1) be leaders, educationally-speaking, and 2) leave the cities and towns that host us in better shape than when we arrived.

GSB: So talk about the specifics of the CFP greening programs…

RH: The true heart of Playoff Green has been tree planting. It started as a challenge, as a competition between groups of students from the four competing schools in parks at the game sites. The students were really into it, as were the localities. Then, with Jack Groh’s guidance, we broadened the project from parks into schools. For our 2017 game in Tampa, we ran a semester-long project in which we planted trees on the grounds of underserved public schools. In 2018, we expect Atlanta, host of the the championship game, to go even bigger as our curriculum and tree planting will reach even more schools.

 

Jack Groh CFPO 2017-bailey-50

Playoff Green Campus Challenge at Bailey Elementary, Dover, Florida, January 6, 2017 (Photo credit: College Football Playoff)

 

GSB: Atlanta is a great place, from a green-sports point of view, especially with the championship game being played at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, expected to be the NFL’s first LEED Platinum-certified stadium.

RH: We are very excited about being in, arguably, the greenest football stadium in the USA. It will be our biggest Playoff Green yet, especially with our partners at the Atlanta College Football Playoff Host Committee working with Jack Groh. The campus challenge will be bigger and better, involving more kids, from grammar schools to middle schools to high schools. We are also working with DonorsChoose.org the great nonprofit that helps fund teachers’ projects in underfunded districts. As schools become involved and meet the parameters of the Playoff Green challenge, we provided gift cards to DonorsChoose.org that help teachers at the school fund projects. We put resources directly into the school and classrooms.

 

CFP Bins 2017

An example of enhanced Trash and Recycling efforts at 2017 College Football Playoff events in the Tampa, FL area (Photo credit: College Football Playoff)

 

GSB: Are CFP corporate sponsors getting involved with Playoff Green, and if so, what does that look like?

RH: Corporate sponsorship is coming but we need to do it right — it’s a bit of a challenge, as we want to make sure there’s not a whiff of greenwashing. So we will be careful but it will happen.

GSB: That makes perfect sense. Finally, how are you and the CFP going to get the Playoff Green story out to the broader public? Will ESPN promote it? Because my biggest concern, and it’s not limited to the CFP, is that mega-events will keep their greening good works under the radar. This has largely been the case with the Super Bowl — my sense is that precious few know that the Super Bowl has been carbon neutral for more than a decade — and with the FIFA World Cup. Thankfully, the organizers of the Rio 2016 Olympics produced a vignette on climate change during the Opening Ceremonies that was viewed by an estimated worldwide audience of 1 billion people. Will ESPN tell the Playoff Green story on air?

RH: Great question. Outsiders really don’t know how great a partner ESPN has been, especially as it relates to Playoff Green. They’ve provided resources in terms of the implementation of Playoff Green and the tree planting, including funding. Playoff Green public service announcements (PSA’s) will be aired in stadium in Atlanta.

GSB: What about on air? Because 25 million people will watch the game on ESPN as compared to maybe 75,000 in stadium.

RH: That’s something we’ll work on in future years with our TV partner, ESPN as well as future partners.

GSB: That’s great…you know we will follow up on that down the road.

 


 

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Looking Back at the First PAC-12 Sustainability Conference

The Pac-12 Conference is a leader on the field and court — member schools UCLA and Stanford are at the top of the “total NCAA championships won” list. And, the conference also leads in Green-Sports: It is the first conference to have all of its schools become members of the Green Sports Alliance. And, in late June, it became the first conference to host a sustainability conference. GreenSportsBlog spoke with University of Colorado Athletic Director Rick George, Dave Newport, the University of Colorado Environmental Center Director, and Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner Jamie Zaininovich, to get a sense of why green sports are important—and how the Pac-12’s leadership can influence all of college sports.

 

For basketball fans, Hall of Famer and announcer Bill Walton’s enthusiastic, stentorian tones are instantly recognizable. But, in late June, instead of intoning, slowly and dramatically, about, “the incredible three point genius of Steph Curry,” Walton talked Green-Sports at the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference: “[Sustainability is] good policy, good economics, and it’s good for all of us! What more can you ask for?…The Pac-12, the Conference of Champions, we’re leading the charge forward.”

The genesis of the recent Pac-12 Sustainability Conference came from University of Colorado Athletic Director Rick George. “We are the first NCAA Power 5* league to join the Green Sports Alliance,” said George. “So it seemed fitting to me that we be the first Power 5 league to host a sustainability conference.”

 

Rick George UofC Ath

Rick George, University of Colorado Athletics Director (Photo credit: University of Colorado Athletics)

 

According to Dave Newport, the University of Colorado Environmental Center Director, “Rick George’s main goal was to create a forum at which the 12 schools could help each other raise our ‘Green Games’.”

Jamie Zaninovich, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer of the Pac-12, thought more broadly, looking to host a conference that would “bring together athletics professionals, sustainability professionals, rights holders, and marketers from both inside and outside (my italics) the Pac-12 to have productive conversations on further integrating sustainability into intercollegiate athletics.”

 

NCAA: WCC Staff Headshots

Jamie Zaininovich, Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer (Photo credit: Pac-12 Conference)

 

With those goals in mind, Newport, his colleague at USC Halli Bovia, and sports and sustainability staffers at the 10 other Pac-12 schools created an ad-hoc “sustainability conference planning group” to put things in motion.

While George initially offered to host the event in Boulder, it quickly became apparent to the planning group that attaching the Pac-12 Sustainability Conference to the June, 2017 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Sacramento made the most sense. “Sacramento, right in the Pac-12’s backyard — the league office is in San Francisco — is a great location for our member schools, so costs would be kept low,” said Newport. “Plus it would be easier to draw people from non-Pac-12 schools since they’d already be out there for the GSA. And the late June timing was right.”

 

Bill Walton Poster

Poster for the Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, designed and created by Bill Walton (Credit: Pac-12 Conference and Bill Walton)

 

Over 150 people registered — the Pac-12 expected about 100 — small enough, per Newport, “so people could really learn from each other,” yet big enough to generate buzz and energy. Interest was not limited to the Pac-12. Attendees included an NCAA senior executive — more Newport: who was “very interested in figuring out how to seamlessly weave sustainability in to the 92 championships they administer” — as well as representatives from the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC schools.

As for what was discussed, perhaps not surprisingly, Sustainability Sponsorships (how to raise money for green-themed initiatives) and Engaging Fans (to be sustainable at home, work, and play) were the two subject areas that bubbled to the top of the conference agenda.

 

Sustainability Sponsorships

Seth Matlins, Executive Vice President of Branded Impact at IMG/IMG College, the sports marketing and sponsorship sales firm for six Pac-12 schools#, dug into the aspects of sustainability that should appeal to sponsors of college sports. Matlins holds that fans tell the story: “87% of [college sports fans] believe business should place equal weight on societal issues and business issues. 68% want the US to lead global efforts to slow climate change,” he said, citing the College Sports Fans over-index.

Colorado’s sports marketing and sustainability teams presented a case study highlighting Ralphie’s Green Stampedethe green-sports sponsorship platform that has yielded fruitful partnerships with BASF, Eco-Products, Pepsi, Wells Fargo, White Wave and others.

 

Fan Engagement

“CU Boulder and the Green Sports Alliance hosted a “Think Camp for Fan Engagement” last fall to develop a ‘Fan Engagement for Sustainability Playbook’,” said Newport. “We rolled out the skeleton at the GSA Summit and it was very well received, the evaluations were through the roof.”

 

dn.mug.2014.grin.gsa

Dave Newport, University of Colorado Environmental Center Director (Photo credit: University of Colorado)

 

The Playbook walks users (sports marketers, school sustainability professionals and more) through the steps needed to create and measure effective sustainable behavior change campaigns. And it connects fans with their teams’ sustainability initiatives and encourages them to participate in sustainable actions both in and out of the stadium.

After quick tutorials on how to 1) choose sustainability topics and 2) develop effective campaigns, attendees worked with their school groups to follow steps laid out by the Playbook and plan their own fan engagement-sustainability campaigns. Many focused on getting fans to properly recycle and/or compost in stadium and while tailgating.

Colorado Athletic Director George has no doubts that fans will enjoy engaging with green-themed initiatives from their favorite Pac-12 school: “Green/sustainability is a natural connector between the schools and the various communities we serve. Everyone wants a cleaner, healthier environment, after all. So people get this.”

But for fans to get it, they have to know about it. 

And they will.

“Pac-12 Networks covered the conference and produced a video that is being aired throughout the summer,” shared Zaninovich. “We’ve also included coverage of our schools’ sustainability work on various Pac-12 Networks live broadcasts, including football games.”

 

What’s Next?

The Pac-12 Sustainability Working Group was born at the conference. Made up of representatives from each of the league’s 12 athletic departments and from each school’s sustainability office, the team will work to ensure that the conference keeps pushing the green envelope on sponsorships, fan engagement, and overall awareness of the league’s sustainability advancements. This is a big deal.

“Hard as it may be to believe, before the Sustainability Conference, many sustainability people didn’t know the athletic directors,” noted Newport. “The Conference helped and the Working Group will help, too. We walked in as 12 schools; we walked out as one Athletic Conference, committed to growing the impact of sustainable college sports.”

Will there be a 2018 PAC-12 Sustainability Conference? And will other Power Five Conferences follow the Pac-12’s lead?

Atlanta is likely to host the next Green Sports Alliance Summit, not exactly a good geographic fit for a conference whose easternmost school is in Boulder, CO. But there are Pac-12 Athletic Directors meetings to which a Sustainability Conference could be attached.

Given the enthusiasm and initiatives coming out of the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, I doubt it will be the last.

 

* “Power 5” are the biggest, most powerful NCAA sports leagues/conferences. They include the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference (SEC)
^ In addition to Colorado, the PAC-12 schools are Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State.
# Arizona, Cal-Berkeley, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State are the IMG schools. Learfield, IMG’s main competitor, handles Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford and Utah.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Formula-E Is a Hit In Brooklyn; D.C.’s New Audi Field Goes Green via Green Bonds; Study Shows Winter Sports Fans Support Athlete Engagement on Climate Change

Here is a GSB News & Notes column for your mid-summer reading pleasure: Formula-E, the all-electric vehicle racing circuit, came to New York City (Red Hook, Brooklyn, to be exact) for the first time ever with two races over the weekend. Audi Field, the future home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, will open with both a solar array and stormwater storage that was funded in part by an innovative, DC-based green bond program. And a small research study conducted at the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland this February demonstrated that fans are very receptive to climate change statements from professional skiers.

 

FORMULA-E A HIT IN BROOKLYN

The Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn is not normally associated with great New York City sporting events. There are no stadiums nor arenas nearby. Subways are nowhere to be found.

But this weekend, the quiet if increasingly hip waterfront section of town was quiet no more as its streets played host to the first-ever automobile road race in New York City history—and it happened to be one that featured only electric vehicles (EVs).

England’s Sam Bird won both rounds of the Qualcomm New York City ePrix, the ninth and 10th rounds of Formula-E’s 2016-17 season on Saturday and Sunday. Bird drives for DS Virgin Racing, owned by sustainable business innovator Sir Richard Branson. Formula-E, now nearing the end of its third campaign, is the world’s first and only all-EV racing series.

 

Formula E Bird 2nd Steven Tee:LAT Images:FIA Formula E via Getty Images

Sam Bird, driving in the red car on the left, starts off in second place in the Qualcomm New York City ePrix on Saturday in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

Formula-E Branson Bird Stephane Sarrazin

But while Bird (c) started in second, he finished in first in both the Saturday and Sunday legs, earning a Champagne Shower from Sir Richard Branson (l) and DS Virgin Racing teammate Stéphane Sarrazin. (Photo credit: Kevin Hagen, Getty Images)

 

While exact attendance figures have not been released, the Associated Press reported that “thousands attended thraces, packing two metal grandstands overlooking the track…Organizers ran shuttle buses from Barclays Center to the race site about three miles away. There were also ride-share stations, a bicycle valet and water taxis and ferries from Manhattan.”

And, according to a CNN.com story by Matthew Knight, Brooklyn and Formula-E share an understandable affinity for renewable energy: “Formula-E [didn’t provide] too much of a drain on local electrical supplies during its visit — all the race cars [were] charged using carbon-neutral glycerine generators provided by British firm Aquafuel.”

New York City’s entrance into EV road racing adds another top tier metropolis to Formula-E’s already impressive roster, which includes Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Paris and Montreal, host of the season finale at the end of this month.

 

AUDI FIELD TO SPORT SOLAR, STORMWATER STORAGE, FINANCED BY GREEN BOND

Audi Field, the new home of Major League Soccer’s (MLS’) D.C. United that’s set to open next year, will be on the forefront of green stadium design and performance:

  • An 884 kW solar array, installed by local vendor New Columbia Solar, will be situated on the stadium’s canopy and in other areas of the site.
  • There will storage for more than 55,000 cubic feet of stormwater on site through green roofs, bio-retention areas, and infiltration basins.
  • Energy and water efficient technologies will be employed throughout the stadium.

 

Audi Field

Artist’s rendering of Audi Field, the new home of D.C. United (Credit: D.C United)

 

According to a story by Jennifer Hermes in the July 10 issue of Environmental Leaderthe measures described above “are being funded through the [capital district’s Department of Energy and Environment’s] D.C. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program’s green financing solution, which operates through a public-private partnership, allowing local lenders to fund environmentally beneficial projects at no cost to taxpayers.” The $25 million deal, done through a relationship with locally-based EagleBank, is the nation’s largest single PACE note issued to date, according to D.C. United.

Per Hermes, PACE’s funding will also include resources for “high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, LED field lighting, additional building insulation, and low-flow water fixtures.” D.C. PACE asserts these measures will result in a 25% reduction in energy use and will reduce emissions by 820 metric tons of CO2 annually, saving the club an estimated $125,000 annually on utility bills.

Writing in the July 6 issue of CurbedPatrick Sisson noted that, in addition to PACE’s clean energy deal, the project also includes a $95 million loan from Goldman Sachs.

While public financing of stadiums and arenas has, in the main, not proven to be a good deal for taxpayers, perhaps Audi Field’s green bonds approach will provide an innovative exception—as well as become a model for other stadiums and cities. Writes Sisson: “Funding these types of designs or retrofits saves owners money, may prolong the useful life of an existing stadium, helps cities cut emissions, and sets an example for other projects in the community (In less than two years, the D.C. PACE program has provided $30 million in private capital for projects including small businesses, affordable multifamily housing, and a charter school).”

While D.C. United’s colors are red and black, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has bought in to the club’s greenness, saying in a statement that the stadium will boost local economic development and create good green jobs for District workers, “all without costing DC government a cent.”

 

RESEARCH SHOWS SKI FANS REACT POSITIVELY TO CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENTS FROM ATHLETES

The sample size was very small, so the conclusions drawn can only be directional rather than definitive.

But.

Research conducted in February by M Inc., in collaboration with Protect Our Winters Finland, at the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland demonstrated that sports fans—at least a small sample of Nordic skiing fans in Europe— welcome climate change messaging from athletes.

A group of athletes who took part in the Championships gave video statements to their fans as to 1) why it is important to care about climate change and, 2) how we all can help in the climate change fight by changing a few specific behaviors. 44 spectators, chosen at random, were asked to view this 45-second edited video athlete statement and fill in a short questionnaire to measure what they thought of it.

 

 

The study’s conclusion?

Fans at the Championships were very receptive to climate change statements from pro skiers – across age, gender, nationality and whether they ski themselves or not. Fans also said that they felt much more motivated to change some of their behavior in support of the climate change fight (8.12 average on a scale of 1-10).

When asked, in an open-ended question, what they liked the most about the video statement, 51 per cent of the fans mentioned that professional athletes were giving the statement. Some of these fans also emphasized that professional athletes were showing their passion about the issue, that they formed an international mix and that it was a positive message.

GreenSportsBlog’s conclusion?

The Green-Sports world needs to fund and conduct more research, among a wide cross section of sports fans, on fan attitudes, in North America, Europe and beyond, towards environmental issues, including climate change. The studies must consist of fans who go to sports events and, this is important, the much larger group of fans who consume sports on TV, online, radio and newspapers. In fact, these studies need to be conducted every 1-2 years to see how fans’ awareness of, and attitudes towards green-sports are changing over time.

The only major, quantifiable study that I know of was conducted on North American sports fans (defined as people who attend at least two sports events per year) by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in 2014 and funded by the Green Sports Alliance. In research terms, that’s ancient history. And, while the M Inc. study is helpful, the small sample size means that the takeaways have to taken with a grain of salt.

 


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Stanford University: Leading the Way on Green-Sports

You don’t need GreenSportsBlog to tell you that Stanford University is one of the most highly rated academic institutions in the world. You may well be aware that the Cardinal own 128 national championships across all sports, making it one of the most successful collegiate athletics programs in the US. But you may not know that the Stanford was an early Green-Sports adopter and has become one of the leading lights of the college sports greening movement.

 

 

GREENING STANFORD ATHLETICS

I never understood why Stanford’s mascot is a tree that runs around football fields and other sports venues. They’re known as the Stanford Cardinal, not the Stanford Oaks, after all.

But, after talking with Stanford sustainability and athletics department leaders, the tree; symbol of life, absorber of CO2, makes perfect sense for the Palo Alto, CA university. You see, while the school’s colors are cardinal red and white, the athletics department is a leader at the intersection of Green & Sports.

Moira Hafer, Sustainability Specialist in the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, has had a front row seat for the greening of Stanford sports, as well for the greening of the rest of the university for the better part of a decade. A Stanford grad with an Environmental Science major, Ms. Hafer returned to the sustainability department on “The Farm” after a stint at an energy efficiency-focused nonprofit. She sits in the Office of Sustainability, whose main role is to steer the university’s vision on sustainability. Moira helps it do so in two ways: by 1. Raising awareness among all stakeholders on campus about sustainability, and 2. Managing campus-wide sustainability programs—for example, making office buildings more efficient.

Stanford LBRE 340 Bonair Siding

Moira Hafer, Sustainability Specialist in the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management at Stanford University (Photo credit: Stanford University)

 

The Office of Sustainability initiated its partnership with Athletics in 2012, although the latter had undertaken some initiatives on its own as far back as 2009. “The joint effort made sense on a lot of levels,” offered Ms. Hafer, “Stanford had become a member of the Green Sports Alliance in 2012, as had the entire PAC-12. Sports is obviously very high profile and the Athletics Department has a significant facilities and carbon footprint.”

According to Jamie Breslin, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Facilities, Operations and Events, “We’ve seen a tremendous acceleration in terms of greening initiatives since I got here four years ago.” Examples include:

  • A 636 kW rooftop solar panel array went live this March at Maples Pavilion, home to Stanford men’s and women’s basketball. This is on top of the university’s new 72 mW solar farm in Southern California that is now providing more than 50 percent of the university’s electricity needs, including athletics’.

Stanford Solar Farm Linda Cicero

A close up view of the Stanford solar farm in Southern California (Photo credit Linda Cicero)

 

  • In addition to Maples, five athletics facilities were retrofitted since 2015 for energy efficiency, including Stanford Stadium (home of Stanford football) and Avery Aquatics Center.
  • Some Athletics servers were moved from the Arrillaga Family Sports Center to the university’s central data center, resulting in significant electricity and chilled water savings.
  • All new facilities construction on campus, including athletics buildings, is done to LEED Gold standards even though the university is not pursuing LEED certification.
  • LED lighting systems have recently been installed at Maples, Avery Aquatics Center and the new recreation center. LED floodlights now illuminate Sunken Diamond, home to Stanford baseball.
  • A state-of-the art HVAC system that heats and cools the rec center is a constant source of amazement for athletes and other visitors.

 

The epochal four year California drought not surprisingly moved water usage efficiency up the Sustainability-Athletics partnership priorities list. “The Stanford Water Efficiency Group looked across all facets of the university for significant water savings,” said Ms. Hafer, “Athletics looked to reduce water usage by 30 percent starting in April, 2014. It got there by November, 2014. The water usage reduction now stands at 37 percent.”

Golf helped lead the way to water efficiency, with course superintendents reducing irrigated acres on the Stanford course by 20 percent through the use of new, weather-based irrigation techniques and the latest high-efficiency sprinklers. “Overall water usage at the golf facility has been lowered by 25 percent,” reported Mr. Breslin.

 

GETTING FANS INTO THE GREENING GAME

In a February, 2016 interview with Kathleen J. Sullivan of Stanford News, Bernard Muir, the Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics at the university, demonstrated that he “gets it” when “it” means fan engagement: “Every time we host an event, whether it is a practice, a contest, a clinic or a camp, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our department’s commitment to sustainability. Last year, we hosted nearly 500 events on campus. We have an audience of millions.”

A good chunk of that audience tailgates at home football games. Emily McLaughlin, Director of Marketing at Stanford Athletics, shared that “We support Green Tailgating to our fans by encouraging tailgaters to use compostable cups and flatware or rent trash, recycling and compostable bins, and promoting alternative forms of green transit and in greater numbers. We mainly do this though our email and website communication. Anyone who purchases or reserves a tailgate space online or over the phone receives an email confirmation, which includes resources for greening tailgates. We also send a Gameday email to all ticket buyers promoting  alternative transportation and before the Game Day Challenge game, we had a section dedicated solely to sustainability, encouraging fans to compost and recycle, among other things.”

Ms.Hafer added, “Waste reduction is our biggest fan sustainability touch-point because fans generate tons of waste. So we had to ramp up our waste diversion infrastructure, increasing the number of recycling bins, and adding composting and compostable service-ware to the mix. Many of our fans have bought in.”

Men’s and women’s basketball got into the act in February with the Game Day Basketball Challenge sponsored by RecycleMania. Pac-12 schools competed on recycling and waste minimization efforts. At one designated men’s and one women’s contest, Stanford student volunteers educated fans at all of the waste stations about how to properly sort waste into recycling and compost bins. They also collected in-person pledges to support ReycleMania’s mission.

Stanford game day volunteers Sophie Cristel

Stanford University student volunteers outside a basketball game (Photo credit: Sophie Christel)

 

During halftime, Stanford showed its 2015 parody video, “All About No Waste,” a student parody of the hit song “All About That Bass,” that showed Stanford students how to recycle and compost.

“All About No Waste” parody video (3:12)

 

STANFORD ATHLETES ARE ALL IN FOR GREEN

Athletes have embraced the Greening of Stanford Sports with gusto, with a student-athlete group called Stanford Carbon Offsets to Reduce Emissions or SCORE, launching in 2015. The group conducted research to determine the carbon emissions generated by Stanford varsity student-athlete travel and then won a grant to help fund the offsetting of said emissions. A Sustainability in Athletics internship program was launched to drum up further support for Green-Sports initiatives among athletes.

Mr. Breslin said, with some amazement in his voice, that “Our 900 or so student-athletes are very energetic about sustainability. They often come up to me to talk about how we can do better in terms of our flight offsets, about recycling. A group of them pressed for and got a meeting with Director of Athletics Muir to discuss how we can do better.”

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Recycling and composting is one thing (actually, two); linking greening actions by fans to climate change is another. “The good news is climate change mitigation is a major focus university-wide and if we can get even more buy-in from Athletics fans and other stakeholders, it will really help keep the momentum going” said Ms. Hafer.

Solar provider SunPower and Energy Upgrade California are already sponsors of Stanford Athletics but, there’s great room for growth of green sports sponsorships. According to Adam Requarth, Stanford’s Assistant Athletic Director, Corporate Sponsorships, “the Athletics Department sees the Greening of Stanford Sports as a way to attract new, sustainability-focused, corporate sponsors.”

The one thing that, to my eyes, is missing from the aggressive, comprehensive approach to Stanford’s Athletics-Sustainability team has taken regarding Green-Sports, is the relative lack of targets, especially in terms carbon emissions reductions. What gets measured gets managed and what gets managed matters. The Sustainability-Athletics team certainly get this so I would expect a healthy sustainability measurement increase sooner rather than later.

 


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