Green-Sports Corporate All Stars: adidas Launches Shoe Made from Plastic Ocean Waste; Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” College Tour

Conventional wisdom has it that, given the anti-environmentalist attitudes of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the corporate sector will need to step up, bigly, on behalf of serious action on climate change. With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog will, from time to time, highlight “Green-Sports Corporate All Stars” taking the lead at the intersection of Green + Sports. Today we feature adidas, and its recently launched sneaker made primarily from plastic ocean waste, and Patagonia, the über-Green outdoor sports apparel designer and retailer as it encourages longer life spans for its (and its competitors’) garments. 

 

CORPORATIONS NEED TO STEP UP THEIR CLIMATE CHANGE GAME

The forecast for positive climate change action from the current administration is stormy.

At Tuesday’s sort-of State of the Union, President Trump did not mention climate change. One of his executive orders is designed to eventually allow coal companies to more easily dump waste into streams. Newly installed EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, talks longingly about dismantling the very agency he was hired to run and is a climate change skeptic at best.

All is not gloomy on climate in Washington, D.C.—Republican éminences grises James Baker, Hank Paulson, and George Shultz all endorsed, through their newly formed Climate Leadership Council, a revenue-neutral price on carbon; nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby^ continues to press for something similar among members of Congress from both parties, with some modest successes among House Republicans. But with climate change skeptics and deniers in charge of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, concerted pressure for meaningful, positive climate action will be needed from large corporations that have the heft to force real change, now more than ever.

The news from the corporate sector is mixed. Many have been and are doing great things: from pledging to reduce their carbon footprints and that of their supply chains, to curbing waste, to buying renewable energy and more. But—and this is a huge but—corporations have been much less likely to tout their environmental bona fides to consumers even though they are doing great things. And they have been mute when it comes to lobbying Congress on behalf of action on climate change. 

The good news-bad news on the climate for corporate climate action is also the case in the sports world. Many companies involved in sports are doing the right things, sustainability-wise; fewer are engaging their consumers and/or talking about it.

With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog is today launching a new occasional series, “Green-Sports Corporate All Stars,” in which we highlight the corporations that are making positive things happen at the intersection of Green & Sports.

 

ADIDAS DIVES DEEP TO BRING SNEAKER MADE FROM PLASTIC OCEAN WASTE TO MARKET

“Our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”

So said Eric Liedtke, adidas Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing, in a November, 2016 press release announcing the launch of the company’s UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneaker, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste.

Talk about thinking—and acting—big!

GreenSportsBlog first got wind that adidas’ plastic ocean waste shoe plans back in July, 2015. It took 16 months for the Herzogenaurach, Germany-based company to turn concept into reality.

The sneakers are made as part of a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental nonprofit that draws much-needed attention to ocean pollution and waste. Each shoe’s “upper” (the part that goes over the top of the foot) is made from 5 percent recycled polyester and 95 percent waste plastic (plastic bottles, containers, etc.) dredged from the ocean around the Maldives, an archipelago that is existentially threatened by climate change off the southern coast of India. Most of the rest of the sneaker (including the heel, lining, and laces) is also made from recycled material. 

adidas

adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneakers, made from 95 percent ocean waste. (Photo credit: adidas)

 

Priced at approximately $US220, the Uncaged Parley started slowly—only 7,000 pair were stocked at adidas retail outlets worldwide at launch in November—but the company is ramping up quickly, with audacious goals for this year: “We will make one million pair of [Uncaged Parley] shoes in 2017,” said Liedtke.

And adidas is not limiting its recycled-content vision to shoes.

In the February 1 issue of The Druma digital marketing-for-good news source, Tony Connelly reports that adidas brought the SS17 Parley swim collection to market. It  features two designs: a wave print that references the source of its fabric, and a Parley inspired graphic. The swimsuits are made from used fishing nets as well as the upcycled ocean plastic waste similar to that used in the sneakers. 

Speaking to Swimming World magazine, Tim Janaway, general manager of adidas Heartbeat Sports said: “Created with the ethos ‘from the oceans, for the oceans’, the Parley swim collection represents our dedication to consistently deliver swim products that protect that waters in which we perform.” Currently, 50% percent of the company’s swimwear is made from recycled material; that percentage is clearly going to rise.

Check out this spot that brings home the true power of the adidas-Parley for the Oceans collaboration:

The SS17 Parley Swim Collection ad (1:37)

 

PATAGONIA ENCOURAGES COLLEGE STUDENTS TO WEAR CLOTHES LONGER 

Athletic/outdoor-wear designer and retailer Patagonia is one of the greenest companies in the world.

It is also one of the most radical. Don’t believe me? Here is an excerpt from CEO Rose Marcario’s 2016 year-end letter:

For the sake of Planet Earth, let’s all become radical environmentalists. This sounds like a big leap—but it’s not. All you need is a sewing kit and a set of repair instructions. As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.

Why is repair such a radical act? Fixing something we might otherwise throw away is almost inconceivable to many in the heyday of fast fashion and rapidly advancing technology, but the impact is enormous. I tell you this as CEO of a clothing company that, despite a deep commitment to responsible manufacturing, still takes more from the earth than it returns.

Ms. Marcario can’t mean we should wear clothes longer, thus buying less frequently from, say, Patagonia, can she? Oh, yes she can.

You see, Patagonia has embarked on the Worn Wear program which teaches consumers to repair their gear to keep it in action longer, along with providing an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’re beyond repair.

This year, the Patagonia Worn Wear College Tour repair team is bringing its truck, Delia, to campuses all across the country. The team fixes about 40 garments per day of any brand, free of charge, on a first come, first served basis. They also give quick lessons on how to repair clothes, sell used gear at marked-down prices and screen a short film about the Patagonia ethos, The Stories We Wear.  

patagonia-we-wear

patagonia-worn-wear-donnie-hedden

Images from Patagonia’s Worn Wear College Tour. (Photo credit: Donnie Hedden)

 

The Spring 2017 tour started on February 16 at College of Charleston (SC). It’s in the midst of an east coast/New England swing, stopping at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City today and at Yale University on Monday.  The tour wraps up at UC Santa Barbara on April 26. Click here for the entire spring Worn Wear College Tour schedule.

 

^ In the interest volunteer my time on behalf of Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us: @GreenSportsBlog

Two Less-Than-Stellar Views of the Greenness of College Football’s National Championship Game and Bowl Season

Clemson’s 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa, FL on January 9 was an instant classic. Unfortunately, the greening initiatives surrounding the game didn’t come close to living up to what took place on the field. And, according to Todd LeVasseur of the College of Charleston (SC), that’s nothing: The entire premise of college football’s 42-game postseason bowl bacchanal is an unsustainable “Carbon Bomb.” 

 

AN UNINSPIRING GREENING EFFORT AT THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

With sincere apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of the sustainability of mega sports events bends towards greening, but sometimes the gears shift into reverse. The green success stories (London 2012 Olympics, the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s stellar work in 2016, EURO 2016, etc.) generally build upon each other. But, along with the wins there are also the green draws/mixed bags (Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Rio 2016 Olympics), along with a loss (the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee does not have a greening program) here and there.

The greening efforts surrounding the third annual College Football Playoff National Championship game, known as Playoff Greenfall squarely in the mixed bag category, failing to live up to the stellar quality of the game on the field.

It should have been a win.

Given the innovative sports-greening work being done on campuses from Ohio State to Colorado to UCLA and beyond, one would think Playoff Green would offer up state-of-the-art sustainability measures. Instead, Playoff Green seemed to settle for a field goal instead of going for a green “bomb.”

Yes, Playoff Green handled the basic blocking and tackling of green mega events, including:

  • Recycling at Raymond James Stadium, where the game was played.
  • Unused Food Donation to the Feeding Tampa Bay food bank.
  • Repurposing of construction materials, signage and other event materials.
  • Renewable Energy Certificates from TECO/Tampa Electric powered Raymond James Stadium and the downtown Championship Campus.

raymond-james-stadium

Clemson fans celebrate their team’s 35-31 last second upset over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium (Photo credit: Julio Ochoa/WUSF TV)

 

The most innovative aspect of Playoff Green was the Gerdau Playoff Green Campus Challenge. Ten Hillsborough County schools were challenged to implement a series of sustainability projects on their campuses. Schools that successfully completed the Challenge earned grants for school supplies and urban forestry projects. This is a good program, especially for the students in Hillsborough County.

It’s just not good enough. Not at this point in the Mega Sports Event life cycle. We expect and deserve more. Here are some ideas as to what more could look like:

  • A Clean-Tech pitch-off from “green teams” from the four participating schools in the college football playoff plus local schools like University of South Florida.
  • Borrowing from UCLA’s EcoChella concert series, a concert the Saturday night before the championship game, powered by students from the competing schools and local Atlanta universities riding stationary bikes.
  • Power the Fan Village by mobile clean bio-fuels or other renewables
  • Playoff Green scoreboard and pre-game broadcast mentions (game broadcast would be better but pre-game would be a good start) as well as a section in the game program.

To the people managing the operations 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, we say you’re welcome.

 

MAKING THE CASE FOR RADICAL DOWNSIZING OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S CARBON FOOTPRINT IN FOOTBALL-MAD SOUTH CAROLINA

Todd LeVasseur, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Environmental and Sustainability Studies, and the Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan at the College of Charleston (S.C.) is an even tougher grader than yours truly when it comes to the greening (or lack thereof) of college football’s post season, and college sports more broadly. He also has a heaping helping of guts.

You see, LeVasseur penned “College Football Has a ‘Carbon Bomb’ Problem,” an Op-Ed that ran in the December 26, 2016 issue of the Charleston Post and Courier.  

The “carbon bomb” to which he refers is the environmental profligacy of big time college sports in general (“institutional prioritization of athletics and the hidden ecological impacts of that prioritization”), with the über-carbon intense college bowl season (teams and fans flying all over the country for 42 mostly meaningless games) his particular focus. LeVasseur asserts “Colleges [and universities] are living in a reality at odds with basic climate science when they think it is ethically just to fly student-athletes and students across the country to play in and support a game whose importance is blown entirely out of proportion when compared to the true point of college: to develop critical thinkers who can change the world for the better.”

levasseur-cofc

Todd LeVasseur, College of Charleston (Photo credit: College of Charleston)

 

Now, you might say, “LeVasseur is a pointy-headed, anti-sports snob.” And you would be wrong—he is a fan of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and English Premier League soccer/football. He says he is fine with college sports but would like to see a much more limited, constrained version than is currently the case. In LeVasseur’s college football (and basketball) dreamscape, teams would:

  • Be a train ride apart from their league rivals
  • Travel on buses powered by biodiesel
  • Serve vegan options at the stadium (a la Forest Green Rovers of English Soccer’s 5th tier)

His model sounds more like the Ivy League (schools from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire), than the Southeastern Conference, which runs from Florida to Missouri or the American Athletic Conference, which stretches from Storrs, CT to Houston.

For LeVasseur’s approach to go from column to serious consideration to anything close to reality, there are some, as of 2017, insurmountable obstacles to overcome: A relative lack of concern in the U.S. about environmental and climate issues. The nationwide religious fervor surrounding big time college football and basketball. And the gazillions of dollars that go with the color and pageantry and rah-rah. So one could imagine that LeVasseur’s column, appearing in a paper in the middle of Clemson/University of South Carolina Country, might have sparked a wee bit of controversy (which is why I cited his intestinal fortitude in writing the story.)

Controversy was exactly the reason LeVasseur wrote it: “When I was made Director of the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan devoted to sustainability literacy, I met with the College of Charleston’s Marketing Director about promoting the plan to students and the broader community. I jokingly stated that I would believe higher education, broadly, was taking sustainability seriously when institutions were ready to have an honest discussion about the impacts of college sports. He encouraged me to generate an opinion piece along those lines.”

He says only one virulently negative response (“maybe you should leave the country…”) made it to his desk. Of course that could be a function of the fact that he doesn’t “search out the comments, there’s too much hate out there.”

It says here there’s about as much reason to hate on LeVasseur’s ideas as there was a reason for a Carbon Bomb to be unleashed by the playing of the St. Petersburg Bowl between Miami, OH (a mediocre 6-6) and Mississippi State (sub .500 at 6-7).

 

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