The GSB Interview with Colin Tetreault: Part I — Former Phoenix Sustainability Director Helps Arizona State Become Green-Sports Leader

Colin Tetreault of Arizona State is both a Green-Sports visionary and top-level practitioner. This was made clear when he moderated the Thought Leader panel at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June. Next up, thought leadership-wise, for Tetreault is a home game of sorts: the Sports & Sustainability Symposium at ASU this winter. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Tetreault in a two-part interview.

Part I deals with Tetreault’s pre-Green-Sports life: His passion for the environment, as well as his sustainability work at Arizona State and in the mayor’s office in Phoenix. Tomorrow’s Part II delves into Tetreault’s and ASU’s Green-Sports leadership and where he thinks the movement needs to go.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Colin, you have an impressive — and, I have to say, long job title: Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. You’ve worked with Major League Baseball, USA Triathlon and others on innovative Green-Sports initiatives. And, as I experienced first hand at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June when you moderated the Thought Leader panel and workshop, you’re also working to push the Green-Sports movement forward faster. So I’ve been looking forward to this interview. How did you get to this place at the leading edge of Green-Sports?

Colin Tetreault: Thanks so much, Lew. Hey, I’m the proud product of a west coast business-guy dad and a Delaware Quaker mom. I grew up in the outdoors, climbed my first mountain when I was 9, learned contract negotiation at 12, did migrant refugee social work in my early teens, and gave thanks for the “return of a bull market” in high school. I have a background in capitalism and environmentalism, marketing and social work. Since my mom worked at ASU, I’ve been in that community since kindergarten. I did my undergrad and grad school work there.

GSB: You are a Sun Devil through and through! What did you study?

Colin: Well, after peaking in kindergarten I studied marketing and sociology as an undergrad. I was part of the inaugural cohort, back in 2007-08 in the sustainability graduate degree program, which emphasized the need for purpose in business.

 

Colin

Colin Tetreault, Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University (Photo credit: Colin Tetreault)

 

GSB: Ahead of its time…

Colin: I was very fortunate in terms of my timing, to say the least. While in grad school I started S2 Consulting. We showed corporate leadership how sustainability could drive business…How to do well while doing good. Clients included Intel, Starbucks, and PetSmart.

GSB: What did S2 Consulting do for these A-List companies?

Colin: We basically applied a sustainability lens to business consulting, showing our clients how leading on environment, as well as the social and governance aspects of sustainability, would help drive revenue, mitigate risk and drive brand image upward.

GSB: WOW! What did you do next?

Colin: I wanted to serve students, but didn’t want to go for a PhD — I didn’t want to write a dissertation that no one read, nor did I want to teach students to do the same. Instead, I wanted to help students interested in sustainability in a more practical fashion. In 2010, ASU offered a new Masters of Sustainable Solutions. It quickly became the most popular masters degree program at the School. It involved one year of studying and one year of doing.

GSB: That sounds right up your alley…

Colin: It was. I mean, if you want graduates to get hired in cool, sustainability-oriented jobs, what they needed was practical experience. So corporations would come to our program and we connected them to students, who then worked on sustainability projects that were material to the enterprise. And that set them up for jobs once they graduated

GSB: That is how a graduate school program should run. Now I understand you also got involved in politics at around that time. Talk about that…

Colin: Yes. I was a Director on the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce. This was 2011-12. There was a mayoral election then. If memory serves, there were 11 candidates running. They had a debate on sustainability. Eight of the candidates were on stage; two of them were respectable on environmental issues. One of them actually understood that sustainability was more than trees and recycling. That was Greg Stanton. He said “if I’m elected, I will appoint Phoenix’ first full time sustainability policy director.” I said to myself, “I want this job!” I was qualified, had the subject matter expertise and was known as an honest broker in the community. So when Greg won, I went for it and — what do you know — he appointed me to his team!

 

Colin 2013 Eugene Scott Mayor Greg Stanton. Grid Bike

Colin Tetreault (l), Eugene Scott (now a Washington Post reporter) and then-Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton promote bike share in the city in 2013 (Photo credit: Grid Bike)

 

GSB: That’s AMAZING! How did ASU react?

Colin: They were great about it. The university loaned me to the city. The city was able to save cost on a director level role and the university was able to be of service to its community.

GSB: That’s quite the win-win. What did you do in the sustainability policy director role?

Colin: Well, when I came into the city government, Phoenix was known as the “Bird On Fire,” the least sustainable city in the USA…

GSB: …So there was only one way to go: UP!

Colin: I served with a great team in the writing of the city’s first sustainability plans. We made sure they were 100 percent policy driven, not a political document. That way we could get much more buy in. After two years, I’m proud to say that we were able to author one of the best sustainability turnaround stories for a city.

GSB: What were some of its key tenets?

Colin: Let me frame the situation we faced: Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation. I was tasked with serving 1.7 million people over an area that is 520 square miles. You can fit Paris, Rome, Manhattan, and San Francisco into the legal borders of Phoenix. That doesn’t include the two dozen additional cities in our region. To add to the challenge, our state-level politics and historical orientations didn’t make sustainability practice difficult, it made it outright hostile. But that didn’t stop us. We rolled up our sleeves, made our work focused on cost efficiencies to create buy-in, and set out to create positive change.

Some of the big and fun ones were energy, waste, land use, and transportation.

In energy, we built a $25 million deal – the largest in the nation – in partnership with the Department of Energy and a regional bank – to accelerate home rooftop solar deployment in the city. It only makes sense that place with the best solar capacity should empower its residents to take control of their energy bills and reduce their environmental impact in perpetuity. We specifically carved out this program to be reserved for folks of low-to-moderate income areas. We believed — and still do — that we are judged not on how we treat those with the most, but how we treat those with the least.

We also authored the most aggressive approach to waste in the history of the state. Prior, the city and region had no waste management goals. None.

GSB: How was that possible for the fifth largest city in the nation?

Colin: Crazy, right? Well, we became the first American city to partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create a “circular economy”. We basically said there’s no such thing as trash. While setting a 100 percent Zero Waste goal, we also looked to transform “trash” into resources. We called the campaign Reimagine Phoenix, asking folks to reimagine a future with no waste…just resources and opportunities. We built, in partnership with ASU, a public-private tech accelerator to cultivate and build local companies that could address the waste stream and grow private-sector jobs. Here are a few examples: palm fronds. Yeah, those things people like to sip umbrella laden drink under…turns out that they are a pickle to compost. The fibrous nature of them precludes them from being incorporated into normal compost operations. For anyone who has been to Phoenix knows we’ve got trees in spades. The city partnered with a private enterprise to break those fronds into a material that is incorporated into an animal feedstock. Another venture takes hard to recycle plastic items and breaks the polymers into base-level monomers…the building blocks of other items. From there, they can make “stuff” and keep materials in play…not downgrading them or sending them to a landfill.

 

Reimagine Phoenix

 

GSB: That is very cool…What about land?

Colin: Land…oh boy…don’t get me started! There was a 2000 article indicating that nearly 40 percent of the Phoenix region was vacant land. Not only does that look terrible, it depresses property values, which reduces tax revenues, which means school budget cuts. It also adds to the urban heat island effect, and reduces community cohesion.

GSB: Not a good look.

Colin: Not at all. While certain land use policies are primarily the purview of the county and state, we showcased what reform could look like. We worked with Keep Phoenix Beautiful to transform 15 acres of vacant land in the heart of central Phoenix.

GSB: Fifteen acres of vacant land? Downtown?

Colin: It was the largest vacant piece of land in the heart of a downtown in the nation…and it had been that way for over 20 years. We — and a dozen community partners — built the largest and most impactful community space in the state. Refugee gardeners built and operated businesses. We hosted veterans therapy groups to help treat those with PTSD symptoms, built gathering collaboration spaces for LGBTQ youth bullied out of high school, hosted concerts and more. We called it PHX Renews. We wanted to renew our urban fabric. And we did. The fun part…everything on the site was made to be interim and moveable. Here’s the cool part…that giant piece of land…is going to be redeveloped. Our work didn’t disappear, it moved – like germinating seeds – to grow opportunities all over the Valley of the Sun.

GSB: Finally, on transportation?

Colin: We brought bike share to the city, accelerated the deployment of more light rail, and sought to create a policy of “complete streets” where thoroughfares are designed to move goods, ideas, peoples and services…not just cars. Instead of a banal streetscape that consists of 4 lanes of vehicular traffic with episodic, anemic tree or shade cover that is not just uncomfortable for, but openly hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists – in addition to vehicle operators – “complete streets” paints a more virtuous picture for all. By embracing slower vehicular speeds, with more purposeful pedestrian and non-motorized transit options and gathering spots, places and businesses flourish. Look to intersections from Manhattan to Curitiba. What were once solely car dominated areas are now bastions of commerce and culture. By the way, it also has positive environmental impacts by tailpipe emissions…so it’s got that going for it, too.

 

IN FRIDAY’S PART II: Colin discusses his return to Arizona State and how he helped it become a Green-Sports innovator.

 

 


 

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GSB Football Preview, Part I: Lauren Lichterman, Helping to Green Texas Athletics

With the American football in full kickoff mode, GreenSportsBlog is taking a look at two teams at different points on the “Green Gridiron” spectrum. Today, we talk with Lauren Lichterman who is helping to jumpstart the greening of The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Later this week, GSB will turn to the greening of Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, already a sustainability leader.  

 

GreenSportsBlog: Lauren, when I think of Green-Sports leaders in college sports, my mind goes to the Pac-12 — all 12 schools plus the conference itself are members of the Green Sports Alliance — and Big Ten schools like Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State, which all have been working towards hosting Zero-Waste football games. The Big 12, which basically spans Texas, the Plains states with West Virginia sprinkled in? Not so much, at least not yet. So I’m really glad to talk with you about the greening of The University of Texas. Did you go to Texas? And were you always an environmentalist?

Lauren Lichterman: I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Not a very green area, I’ll admit. But we always recycled. So I was an environmentalist. And I loved sports.  So when I did end up going to UT…

GSB: …Hook ’em Horns!

Lauren: Hook ’em Horns! I played intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee.

GSB: You were BUSY!!!

Lauren: Oh yeah! I thought I would be an international business major, but I started taking sports management courses and loved them. I always saw sports as a powerful forum for teamwork, equality and more.

 

lichterman_lauren_UT

Lauren Lichterman, operations and sustainability consultant at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: So did you switch to sports management?

Lauren: I did. And I worked in the Athletics Department while I was in school.

GSB: What did you do for them?

Lauren: Anything they needed. After graduation, a position opened up in the facilities and operations department. Since planning, operations, and logistics had become my passion I jumped at the chance. In fact, I got the job offer on graduation day so my timing was quite lucky.

GSB: What was your role at the start?

Lauren: I wore a lot of hats. I handled customer service, fan surveys, ran information tables at football, baseball, volleyball and softball games. It wasn’t glamorous but I loved it!

GSB: How great is that? How and when did sustainability enter the mix?

Lauren: In 2010, which was my first year working full-time, the Office of Sustainability came to Athletics, saying they’d like to start a tailgate recycling program. The Athletic Director at the time, DeLoss Dodds, said “OK, sounds great. What do you need?” I became the main point of contact on the Athletics side for supplies and logistics. Sustainability brought two or three full-time people to the effort. We ended up relying on a lot of student volunteers, which was great.

GSB: What did you and your team do?

Lauren: We roamed the tailgate areas and awarded those that really got it with the Recycler of the Game.

GSB: How did fans react?

Lauren: They really liked it. More and more tailgaters wanted to participate. That kind of reaction led Athletics to get more into greening Longhorns games. And from there, in 2014, our leadership decided that we need to go Zero-Waste.

GSB: From Recycler of the Game to “let’s go Zero-Waste” in four years. Green-Sports moves fast at Texas Athletics!

Lauren: We actually started our Zero-Waste efforts with baseball and softball during the spring of 2014. Both facilities and operations are obviously much smaller than football. Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of Texas football, holds about 100,000 people. UT baseball has a capacity of about 7,000 and softball’s capacity is 1,200.

 

UT Baseball

University of Texas baseball stadium, part of the school’s Zero-Waste efforts (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Big difference!

Lauren: So baseball and softball became our Zero-Waste pilots. We started with softball, trying to go Zero-Waste for a weekend home stand. Sodexo, our concessions partner, was fantastic.

GSB: How so?

Lauren: Here’s one example. We found out that we couldn’t recycle the plastic bowls that contained nachos and cheese — those were considered contaminated. So Sodexo came to us with a “paper boat” nacho solution…

GSB: …Who’da thunk it? Wasn’t that costly?

Lauren: It wasn’t cost prohibitive — and we thought it would be. It’s a misperception that going Zero-Waste will be super-costly. For example, by using compostable utensils, less trash is being sent to landfills — and sending trash to the landfill is expensive. Most of our local vendors get this.

GSB: I’m glad you mentioned local. Austin is a bit of a green oasis in Texas, right?

Lauren: Oh, it helps being in Austin. In fact, the city is going Zero-Waste, so vendors in town are starting to manage that way.

GSB: Fantastic! So back to softball and baseball…

Lauren: Yes! So we did one weekend of Zero-Waste softball in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, we added one weekend of baseball per season.

GSB: How come only one weekend per season? If you can do it once, why not all the time?

Lauren: I know! It was silly. By 2017, we went for Zero-Waste at both sports for the entire season.

GSB: GreenSportsBlog readers know that, to claim Zero-Waste status, a venue has to divert 90 percent or more of waste from landfill. How did you do?

Lauren: In 2017, baseball was Zero-Waste for the entire season, as they diverted 91 percent of waste from landfill. Softball just missed, attaining an 88 percent diversion rate. 2018 was similar for both.

 

Volunteers Baseball 4-20 2a

A group of UT “Sustainability Squad” volunteers flash the “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign during a 2018 baseball/softball weekend (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Kudos to baseball and softball. Have you tried going Zero-Waste at basketball?

Lauren: Basketball is an island of sorts. We’re planning to build a new arena in the next five years or so that would replace the Frank Erwin Center. The site is still being debated. So we’re not going to go for Zero-Waste at Erwin, but we have undertaken some small initiatives like having recycling bins available. We are also recycling at soccer matches and track meets, but we’re not going for Zero-Waste there. It’s a matter of resources.

GSB: Understandable. So let’s go back to the Big Kahuna, football…

Lauren: Ah yes…Football is a fantastic, complicated beast. First, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is land locked, with streets on three sides and the rec center on the fourth. So how waste leaves the stadium and where it goes is complicated. When we launched our Zero-Waste effort in 2014, we started to move our volunteers inside the stadium where could better control waste streams…

GSB: …Did that hurt the tailgate recycling program?

Lauren: Not at all. It’s still going strong. By the time we shifted our resources inside, tailgaters already knew what to do, recycling-wise. Back to the stadium, we used to have eight-yard long dumpsters around its perimeter. Fans would just throw waste in, unsorted. We needed to get the waste sorted first, then put into the dumpsters.

GSB: How did you manage that?

Lauren: Well, our former-tailgate-area-but-now-inside-stadium volunteers were deployed to educate fans. That moved the needle a bit, but we didn’t have enough volunteers to monitor 500 bins. Then, we thought, “What if, in addition to educating fans, the volunteers sort the waste?” The last home game of the 2016 season against TCU was our pilot. THAT was what moved the needle!

GSB: The volunteers didn’t mind digging through the waste?

Lauren: We asked them about it ahead of time, and they were good with it. And we have to get to Zero-Waste in football. In the spring of 2016, the campus-wide sustainability master plan was released. It said the entire Austin campus will be Zero-Waste by 2020. So, the pressure was on starting last season. Including the 2017 campaign, we’d have 18 games through the end of 2019 to get to Zero-Waste.

GSB: That’s really not a lot of games.

Lauren: I know! So for the 2017 season, our volunteer team had grown to 60. Most of them were deployed to our sustainability sort squad, with the remainder making up our sustainability spirit squad, directing fans on how to best sort through their waste. We were able to up our game from 38 percent diversion in 2016 to 50 percent by the end of last season.

GSB: That means you have 12 games total between now and the end of the 2019 season to get to 90 percent. Sounds daunting but doable.

Lauren: I agree. We learned a lot last season. Football generates 40 tons of waste per game. Before, we were sorting during and especially after games. But most of our home games are at night and volunteers won’t stay. So we tested sorting on Sunday. No one is in the way. It’s just us. We found Sunday to be the quickest, most-efficient sorting system we’ve ever had.

 

Jim Walker sorting allll the trash

Some of the 40 tons of waste generated at a Texas Longhorns home game  (Photo credit: Texas Athletics)

 

GSB: Did you get lots of Sunday volunteers?

Lauren: You bet. In fact, we sorted through the waste in an hour! So now we’re trying to work out Sunday sorts for all of our 2018 home games. The key is answering this question: Where can we stash the waste overnight? And have enough space to sort it in the morning? After working really hard all summer and collaborating with many different entities on campus, we were able to determine a specific parking lot that would suit all of our needs. So we’re going haul the waste to this parking lot on Saturday, and sort as much of it as we can before the waste disposal companies open up on Monday. This plan should get us halfway to Zero-Waste. Then we also need to work with the cleaning company that scours the seating bowl to sort properly — and that part is now in our contract.

GSB: Assuming the Sunday sort proves successful and the cleaning company steps up, will that get you to Zero-Waste? If not, what else can you do?

Lauren: We would have to take a closer look at the waste stream to see which products that go to landfill have not yet been switched to recyclable or compostable counterparts. If we find products like that, we would need to find a way to incorporate them.

GSB: Have you talked to your counterparts at Zero-Waste success stories like Ohio State and Stanford?

Lauren: Yes and we’ve learned a lot, but their systems and situations are different. Being able to bounce ideas off of them has been very helpful.

GSB: Pivoting beyond Austin, has UT Athletics’ greenness rubbed off on its Big 12 counterparts?

Lauren: Not to the same extent. But we hope that by going Zero-Waste, we will inspire other Big 12 schools to move in that direction.

GSB: Finally, what about getting fans involved in greening beyond their contacts with volunteers?

Lauren: We definitely want to engage fans more. Our social media platform, “Bleed Orange, Live Green” is growing in popularity. And, anecdotally, the feedback has been positive. You know, things like “Glad you’re doing this!” and, regarding the sorting, “Better you than me!” But we need to do more with fans…

GSB: …Two things I’d like to see are 1. Sustainability messaging to fans who follow the Longhorns on TV and online, and 2. Surveys of fans, both attendees and those who follow the team via media, about their attitudes on “Bleed Orange, Live Green”

Lauren: I would like to see those things too! We actually had a meeting with our communications team this summer to figure out how and when would be best to survey our fans about our sustainability initiatives. We want to make sure that the goals we are setting are things that our fans are passionate about as well. Our Athletics’ administration is fully on board with “Bleed Orange, Live Green.” so I think we will start to figure out more ways to support our sustainability program through increasing communications and visibility to our fans like you’ve mentioned.

GSB: Good to hear! Aside from getting to Zero-Waste, what are the next big sustainability initiatives for Texas Athletics? Are renewables on the horizon?

Lauren: Energy efficiency is a big part of the campus Sustainability Master Plan and Athletics will be a part of that. For example, when lighting needs to be replaced, we plan to replace with LEDs. Renewables are coming on campus but it’s been slow so far. That said, renewables are the “next big green thing” for athletics. I can’t give you a timetable just yet. Another big thing for us is water conservation. We are looking at a rainwater retention system to provide water for power washing the stadium

GSB: Lauren, I don’t know how the Longhorns football team will do this season, after an opening day loss at Maryland on Saturday. But I do know this. You will be a very busy woman these next couple of years, starting with Saturday’s home opener vs. Tulsa.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: U of Miami Football to Debut Eco-Conscious Uniforms; University of Louisiana-Lafayette Football Goes Zero-Waste; LA Galaxy and StubHub Center Go Strawless;

As our US-based GreenSportsBlog readers head out for the Labor Day weekend, we’re offering up a GSB News & Notes for your end-of-summer reading pleasure. The University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes will open their 2018 football season against LSU in Arlington, TX wearing eco-conscious uniforms from Adidas and Parley for the Oceans. But should the Hurricanes also be taking on climate change, given Miami’s vulnerability to it? About 60 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, the UL-Lafayette is embarking on a journey to host Louisiana’s first Zero-Waste football games. And, MLS’ LA Galaxy and the Stub Hub Center add to the growing number of teams and venues eliminating plastic straws.

 

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI HURRICANES DON ECO-FRIENDLY UNIFORMS; WHEN WILL THEY TAKE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

When the University of Miami Hurricanes take the field Sunday night in their nationally televised season opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, they will do so wearing new, alternate uniforms made from repurposed and upcycled materials, including plastic ocean waste. The uniforms are the result of a partnership between Miami, Adidas and Parley For The Oceans.

 

Miami Parley E-L

The University of Miami Hurricanes will take the field Sunday at LSU in eco-friendly alternate uniforms, thanks to a partnership with Adidas and Parley for the Oceans (Photo credit: Environmental Leader)

 

While the Hurricanes are the first American football team to partner with Parley for the Oceans and Adidas, they are following in the footsteps of European club soccer giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in wearing the eco-friendly alternate uniforms.

 

Real Madrid Parley

The Real Madrid, Parley for the Oceans-Adidas jersey (Photo credit: Adidas)

 

More than 70 percent of the special-edition uniform is fashioned from regenerated Econyl yarn (made by Aquafil of Trento, Italy), a raw material transformed from fishing nets and other nylon waste intercepted in marine environments, and from Parley Ocean Plastic, which also comes from waste that was intercepted from beaches and coastal communities. The result is a “durable, yet breathable fabric that is optimal for Adidas performance apparel,” according to a statement from the Hurricanes. Players will also wear cleats and gloves featuring recycled materials. The statement claims the cleats are the first-ever styles of eco-conscious footwear to be debuted on-field for NCAA football competition.

“Our players and staff are excited to wear the new adidas Parley jerseys and gear for our season opener,” Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We’re also excited that Adidas and Parley are teaming up with UM to help promote sustainability around the world.”

 

 

I am happy to see the University of Miami take the Adidas-Parley plunge and to engage on the plastic ocean waste issue. Sports teams engaging on the environment is still too rare so this is a positive.

But (you knew there was going to be a but, right?), from where I sit, climate change is by far the biggest environmental challenge humanity faces — in fact, I’d argue it is the biggest challenge humanity faces, period. Bigger even than the plastic ocean waste issue.

And the Hurricanes are arguably the most logical big time college football program to take on climate change. After all, Miami is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise. So I think UM missed the boat by not tying the Adidas-Parley uniforms to climate change as well as plastic ocean waste.

Maybe next year? What do you think?

 

 

UL-LAFAYETTE’S CAJUN FIELD LOOKS TO BECOME FIRST ZERO-WASTE STADIUM IN LOUISIANA

Take I-10 west 56 miles from the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and you arrive at the , University of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cajuns of the mid-level Sun Belt Conference play in the sizable shadow of perennial national power LSU of the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC).

But UL-Lafayette is second to none in the Bayou State when it comes to Green-Sports. They are making a concerted effort to host Zero-Waste football games at 36,900 seat Cajun Field, starting with Saturday night’s opening game vs. Grambling.

 

Cajun Field

Cajun Field, home of the greening UL-Lafayette Cajuns (Photo credit: UL-Lafayette)

 

“This year we’re making the really big leap forward in removing all trash cans from inside Cajun Field and we’re only going to have recycling and compost cans,” Gretchen Vanicor, the director of UL-Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability, told Lafayette’s News15.

The university introduced recycling cans in and around the stadium in 2014. And replacing trash cans with compost cans is part of the school’s plan to get towards Zero-Waste (which means diverting at least 90 percent of waste from landfill), while also saving money.

“The great parts about doing sustainable operations is usually it’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for our economics too,” shared Vanicor, “Diverting food waste from landfill by composting means we pay far less in tipping fees. When we can find those projects that are sustainable economically but also environmentally, then we always go after them.”

The Cajuns are quite serious when it comes to going after Zero-Waste:

  • Food will be served on biodegradable plates or in reusable containers.
  • Wooden spoons, forks and knives will replace plastic utensils.
  • Drinks will be served from either aluminum cans or recyclable plastic cups, and fans will be able to request compostable straws.
  • Styrofoam cups will be nowhere in sight
  • And, as UL-Lafayette sustainability coordinator Monica Rowand told Josh Meny of KATC-TV3, “we’re switching this year to eco-craft, compostable paper [to line pizza boxes]”

 

 

According to Vanicor, Zero-Waste at football games is only a first step at UL-Lafayette: “We really want to be leaders both in our region and in our state for sustainability and our goal eventually is to get to the point where we’re a zero waste university.”

It seems to me as though LSU can learn from UL-Lafayette, at least in terms of Zero-Waste if not on the football field. Hey, they should play each other but that’s a story for a different column.

 

STUBHUB CENTER AND LA GALAXY ELIMINATE PLASTIC STRAWS

StubHub Center, the Carson, California home of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and, until 2020, the LA Chargers of the NFL, is now offering paper straws upon request to minimize pollution from plastic straws.

Fans will be provided paper straws upon request, with a limited number of plastic straws still available to serve those with special needs. An estimated 250,000 plastic straws will be kept out of landfills annually due to this new approach at StubHub Center

The initiative, in conjunction with food and beverage provider Levy, as part of the Galaxy’s Protect the Pitch sustainability program, launched last Friday when the team played crosstown rival LAFC to a 1-1 draw. By doing so, StubHub Center became the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS to serve drinks during games without a plastic straw.

 

El Trafico Corner of the Galaxy

LA Galaxy (white) and LAFC battle in their “El Trafico” rivalry game on August 24. That was the first game at StubHub Center to feature paper straws (Photo credit: Corner of the Galaxy)

 

The policy will also be in effect for all Los Angeles Chargers NFL games at StubHub Center.

“We are proud to continue to increase our sustainability efforts throughout StubHub Center in all of our gameday operations,” said StubHub Center General Manager Katie Pandolfo in a statement. “Protecting our environment is paramount and reducing single-use plastic straws can greatly decrease plastic pollution in our oceans.”

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Clemson Football Ends a Tradition for Green Reasons; Detroit Lions Punter Helps Bring Solar Power to Ford Field; Forest Green Rovers Becomes 1st Carbon Neutral Soccer Club

In the sports world, the dog days of August mean that the kickoffs of both American football and the European club version of futbol (aka soccer) are around the corner. Today’s GSB News and Notes column focuses on both sports: The highly ranked Clemson (South Carolina) University football team ended its 35-year tradition of releasing balloons — for environmental reasons. The NFL’s Detroit Lions add solar to Ford Field, thanks to the initiative of punter Sam Martin. And Forest Green Rovers, the fourth division English soccer club buttressed their standing as the Greenest Team in Sports by becoming the first soccer team anywhere in the world to go carbon neutral. 

 

CLEMSON FOOTBALL SAYS GOODBYE TO BALLOON LAUNCH TRADITION; ENVIRONMENTAL COST CITED

“Nothing says autumn like the color and pageantry of a college football Saturday!”

College football fans over the age of 20 can hear the distinctive tones of Keith Jackson, the late, great voice of college football on ABC and ESPN when they read that line.

And, for the past 35 seasons, college football color and pageantry at Clemson (South Carolina) University has meant the release of hundreds of thousands of mostly orange balloons as the Tigers would enter Memorial Stadium. Fans called this tradition the “Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football.”

When Clemson, projected to be a national championship contender, enters the stadium for their September 1st season opener vs. Furman, the band will play, the cheerleaders will perform and the 81,000+ in attendance will roar.

But there will be no release of balloons.

According to a July 27 story by David Hood, writing in TigerNet.com (the self-proclaimed “source for Clemson Sports Information”), the university came to this decision at least partly in response to pressure from environmental groups. Those organizations pointed out that “the balloon launch is a danger to the environment, including loggerhead turtles on the South Carolina coastline.”

For those readers unfamiliar with college football, know this: Traditions like the balloon launch at Clemson do not die easily.

Especially when, per Hood, citing clemsontigers.com, the practice earned Clemson a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records back in 1983 for, well, balloon launches (who knew?!): “Balloons were filled by 11:30 AM, and at 12:57 PM as the cannon sounded, the Tigers descended the Hill [for the 1:00 PM game vs. Maryland] while 363,729 balloons ascended to the heavens. From the press box, it was almost black, something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.”

 

Clemson balloons.png

The tradition of releasing balloons at Clemson University football games is ending (Photo credit: Tigernet.com)…

 

loggerhead turtle nwf

…thanks to their downstream effects on the loggerhead turtle (Photo credit: NWF)

 

Make no mistake: That the environment is coming out a winner over a beloved Clemson football tradition is a big deal, especially in a state —South Carolina — where acceptance of climate change is below the US average^.

 

DETROIT LIONS PUNTER HELPS BRING ON-SITE SOLAR TO FORD FIELD

Last month, the Detroit Lions became the NFL’s 12th team with on-site solar. The installations at Ford Field and the Lions’ nearby Allen Park training facility came about thanks to an assist from an unlikely source — punter Sam Martin.

Annalise Frank, writing in the July 24th issue of Crain’s Detroit Business, reported that North Carolina-based Power Home Solar “approached the Lions through a preexisting partnership with Martin, a supporter of renewable energy, and his Sam Martin Foundation.” The partnership featured Earth Day educational sessions with Detroit-area students.

 

Sam Martin Zimbio

Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin (Photo credit: Zimbio)

 

The Lions did not punt on this opportunity.

Power Home Solar will invest $1.5 million with the Lions over three years, covering panel costs and a sponsorship deal. The latter, per Frank’s story, includes “a Power Home Solar Lions pregame show, display advertisements in the stadium…[and] an outdoor pregame booth.”

According to team spokesman Ben Manges, the Lions couldn’t install solar panels within Ford Field itself. So they looked to the parking garage and training facility.

“We couldn’t seamlessly integrate them with our power grid,” Manges told Frank. “We had to install them on parts of our footprint [parking garage and training facility] that weren’t necessarily tied from a power standpoint. As the overall technology continues to get more and more sophisticated, you’ll see the potential for additional use.”

Manges added that the highly visible panels will hopefully lead fans to consider a personal move to renewable energy.

 

 

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS BECOMES FIRST SOCCER TEAM TO GO CARBON NEUTRAL

Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer team that is, without question, the Greenest Team In Sports (its all vegan concession stands, solar powered Mo-Bots to cut the lawn, EV charging stations and much more are very familiar to longtime GSB readers) is about ready to launch its 2018-19 season.

When FGR visits Grimsby Town tomorrow, it will look to show significant on-pitch improvement over last season’s 21st place finish, only two places above the dreaded relegation zone. A cache of new player signings, led by Welsh international and former Fulham F.C. attacking midfielder George Williams, has hopes running high at The New Lawn stadium.

 

George Williams Shane Healey

George Williams, formerly of Fulham, is bringing his attacking style to Forest Green Rovers (Photo credit: Shane Healey)

 

Of course every team is optimistic before opening day.

But there is a long, nine-month, 46-match slog ahead. And this is only Forest Green Rovers’ second season in the fourth tier, so they are battling a slew of opponents who are more used to this level of competition. The truth is, many variables, from injuries to luck and more, are out of a team’s control.

What FGR can control is building upon its stellar Green-Sports leadership.

Forest Green Rovers recently became the world’s first UN certified carbon-neutral soccer club by signing up for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative called Climate Neutral Now for the new season. The team committed to:

  • Measure their greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Reduce them as much as possible; and
  • Offset those emissions which cannot be avoided by buying UN certified emission reductions (CERs) units.

CERs are generated by climate-friendly development projects, vetted by the UNFCCC, that help bring sustainable development benefits to communities in developing countries. These include improved air and water quality, improved income, improved health, reduced energy consumption and more.

“It’s a real honor to be the very first sports club in the world to be named carbon neutral by the UN,” Chairman Vince said. “We’re a small club with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic we can work together to champion the sustainability message worldwide. I’m personally looking forward to working more with the UN to help spread the word about the environment through football.”

 

FGR New Lawn

The ticket office at The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers’ stadium in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England (Photo credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

 

“The beauty about Forest Green Rovers is that it’s a small organization, with not a massive budget and still it’s doing so much to address the environmental footprint,” added Miguel Naranjo at UN Climate Change. “So if FGR can do it, anyone can do it as well.”

The question is: When will another team(s) do it, Forest Green Rovers-style? I mean, I love writing about FGR but when will other clubs follow suit so I can write about them?

^ Per a 2016 study by the Yale Program on Climate Communication

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Unifi Sustainability Partnership with Pac-12 Will Get Air Time; Historic Sports Photos Help Document Climate Change; Chicken Pot Pie Rats Fall Short in Solar Car Race Challenge

We have a chock-full GSB News and Notes column to start your week.

  • Unifi, one of the world’s leading innovators in the manufacture of recycled performance fibers, recently became the Founding Sustainability Partner of Pac-12 Team Green. One important feature of the partnership is that sustainability-themed content will appear on the Pac-12 Networks. 

  • Footage of old cycling races and marathons is being used by researches to document climate change. 

  • And, in a follow up to a June GSB story, the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three brilliant eighth graders from a middle school in the San Diego area, were unable to win the school’s second straight Junior Solar Sprint (model car race) National Championship due to a technical issue with the solar panels atop their vehicle. 

 

UNIFI TO HELP PAC-12 NETWORKS #COVERGREENSPORTS 

This seemingly ordinary snippet in the Pac-12 Conference’s recent press release announcing its new sustainability partnership with Unifi caught my eye: “Unifi will…work with the Pac-12* and Pac-12 Networks on creating custom content and media assets to feature sustainability programs.”

A partner helping to improve recycling rates at a stadium or arena? That is ordinary in the Green-Sports world these days.

A partner funding sustainability-themed ads or public service announcements (PSAs) on Pac-12 Networks, with its 19 million subscribers^ — that is EXTRAORDINARY!

The announcement that Unifi∞ will help Pac-12 Networks #CoverGreenSports was light on details. A spokesman for the conference said plans for the sustainability content — subject matter, frequency, etc — will be developed over the next couple of months. The ads/PSAs will likely go live in late-September/early-October, as the Pac-12 football season moves into high gear.

 

Unifi Pac-12

Pac-12 and Unifi executives announce their Team Green partnership (Photo credit: Unifi)

 

Long-time readers know that GreenSportsBlog believes the Green-Sports world is transitioning from its 1.0 version (greening the games at the stadium, arena, road race, etc.) to its 2.0 iteration (reaching the far greater number of people who consume sports via TV, phone, internet with sustainability messaging).

Kudos to Unifi, Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12 for demonstrating much-needed Green-Sports 2.0 leadership. When will more corporations and college and/or pro sports leagues follow Unifi and the Pac-12? Stay tuned.

 

FOOTAGE OF OLD SPORTS EVENTS HELPS SCIENTISTS TRACK CLIMATE CHANGE 

Here’s a new and welcome aspect of the Green-Sports world: Scientists using sports to document climate change.

Marlene Cimons, writing in the July 18th issue of Popular Sciencetells the story of how climate scientist and cycling fan Pieter De Frenne observed changes to the landscape while watching the Tour of Flanders over many years in his native Belgium.

“[De Frenne] noticed startling changes in the trees and shrubs framing many of the cobbled streets that have been part of the course for years,” reported Cimons. “The landscape had morphed from totally bare to lush with greenery.”

Sports events have, of course, been documented in photos, on film and on video for over a century. Cycling and marathons are ideal for documenting climate change: They’re often held at the same time every year, over the same courses.

That is the case with the one-day Tour of Flanders, which was first contested in 1913. The annual cycling road race always takes place on the first Sunday in April. De Frenne — a scientist in the forest and nature lab in Ghent University’s department of the environment — and his colleagues compared images of the same trees and plants on 12 hills along the route between 1980 and 2016.  They discovered that trees surrounding the course are budding earlier.

According to Andy Furniere in the July 23 issue of Flanders Today, “Before 1990, the trees rarely had leaves during the race. But after 1990, the trees – largely magnolia, hawthorn, hornbeam and birch – were full of leaves. The researchers said that the pictorial evidence suggests that the average temperature in these areas has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius since 1980.”

The impacts are significant: Trees getting their leaves earlier in the year lead to shadows being created for a longer period of time. Some flowers thus don’t get enough sun to bloom which negatively effects insects and birds.

 

Tour of Flanders

AFTER: The April 2018 Tour of Flanders in full flower (Photo credit: Tim DeWaale/Visit Flanders)

 

1990 Tour of Flanders

BEFORE: The April, 1990 Tour of Flanders. Trees are much less lush than in the 2018 edition, which reflects the cooler temperatures of that time (Photo credit: Graham Watson)

 

De Frenne told Cimons that the historical visual documentation of sports events like Tour of Flanders, “can be an invaluable, still underexploited resource for climate change research and other types of biological research.”

 

 

CHICKEN POT PIE RATS START STRONG, FALL VICTIM TO SOLAR PANEL FAILURE AT JUNIOR SOLAR SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIPS

Last month, GreenSportsBlog featured the story of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats, a team of three eighth graders from the Joan MacQueen Middle School in Alpine, CA — about 30 miles east of San Diego — who race model cars powered by small solar panels atop the roofs. The team sought to defend the school’s 2017 Junior Solar Sprint National Championship at the 2018 finals in Atlanta against over 100 teams from all over the United States.

Here’s a report on how the Pie Rats made out from team member Ronan Eddie, his dad Patrick and team volunteer Chris Loarie:

“The Pie Rats recorded the fastest time in the preliminary time trials…and were the number one seed going into the 16-team finals. Before the finals started, we put the car out in the sun and tried to run it and it was not functioning like it normally would — definitely not like it was during local trials and the national time trials in Atlanta. We ran a test with a voltmeter to look at the voltage output and it gave its full voltage. The symptoms of the car’s sluggishness pointed to a problem in the solar panel sill or possibly a problem with the motor.”

“When we were walking back to the classroom after field testing, the light hit the panel just right and we noticed a fine scratch on the cover of the panel. Close inspection revealed that the plastic cover was not scratched. Rather, the actual wafer under the plastic protective cover had a crack in it and that caused the circuit to fail.

“It is a bit hard to swallow that the car made it through many local races and track testing, made a cross country trip in a special plastic box that was put into a foam protective carrying case, and made it through the time trials and recorded an unbelievable time.  Then it was turned over to the race officials for overnight storage and when it was returned, it would not function.”

To be clear, Loarie does not want to imply there was malicious intent on the part of the event organizers. He surmises the damage to the panel was the result of an unfortunate accident.

Despite the disappointment, Loarie sees the bright side: “We know we are creating dominant designs and will use this experience to educate future [Joan MacQueen Middle School] teams.”

 

Chicken Pot Pie Rats 1

Members of the Chicken Pot Pie Rats (from left to right) Josh Handley, Chase Kingston, and Ronan Eddie, along with Josh’s and Ronan’s dads at the 2018 Junior National Sprint Championships in Atlanta (Photo credit: Chicken Pot Pie Rats)

 

 

* The Pac-12 is one of the leading collegiate sports conferences (leagues) in the USA. Its member schools are Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Colorado-Boulder, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
^ Pac-12 Networks subscriber data per SNL Kagan, 2018
∞ Unifi, through its REPREVE® brand, has transformed more than 12 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new apparel, footwear, and more

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #5: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has told the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, managers of venues and athletes. But as far as the sports side of the Green-Sports equation was concerned, we really didn’t go there.

Until last September, that is.

It was then that we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what struggle is all about. We can relate.

With that in mind, please enjoy our fifth Eco-Scoreboard. 

 

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, STARTS HIS NFL JOURNEY IN ARIZONA

“Josh Rosen Impresses Cardinals Brass, Teammates at OTAs”

Some version of this headline blared across media reports about the Arizona Cardinals’ rookie quarterback at his first spring practices, or “Organized Team Activities”.

 

Josh Rosen OTAsa

Rookie QB Josh Rosen at Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) for the Arizona Cardinals (Photo credit: Cards Wire/USA Today)

 

Why does GreenSportsBlog care about Rosen, selected out of UCLA with the 10th pick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft?

Because climate change is a big concern of his, that’s why!

From an in-depth, pre-draft interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour, Rosen declared, “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.”

So even though my New York Jets, with the third pick in the draft passed on Rosen to take cross-town rival QB Sam Darnold from USC, you can be sure GSB will be following the Cardinals’ new signal caller.

All of the Rosen reviews I read had the same tone as Sean Wagner-McGough’s, writing for CBSSports.com on May 18:

“The positive reviews came pouring in immediately after [Rosen took the field]. It turns out, Rosen looks very much like a quarterback who never should’ve dropped to No. 10 in last month’s draft.”

“He stepped in the huddle and had a lot of pizzazz,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “He didn’t seem like he was choked up at all. Voice didn’t crack none. He wasn’t talking low. He was excited. He was asserting himself into the huddle, and I was pretty excited to see that.”

“Josh looked great today,” coach Steve Wilks said. “Some of his timing and his throws with the quarterback and tight ends I thought were right on point.”

The conventional wisdom is that, while Rosen is deemed to be the most NFL-ready of the five QBs drafted in the first round*, the Cardinals will start veteran QB Sam Bradford, at least to begin the season.

But that conventional wisdom may not be so wise.

Per Jess Root of the Cards Wire blog, Coach Wilks “is open to the idea of Rosen winning the job.”

My take is that Bradford will likely be the opening day starter vs. Washington. But with a long injury history and a precocious, climate change aware QB chomping at the bit, I think the odds are good that Rosen will take the reins at some point this season — and sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

SUTTON UNITED AND DARTFORD F.C. FALL SHORT OF PROMOTION

GreenSportsBlog has given a lot of oxygen to England’s Forest Green Rovers, the “Greenest Team in Sports.” Promoted from the fifth to the fourth tier (League Two) of English football after last season — their highest level ever — FGR was able (barely) to avoid relegation and will look to make a move upward next season.

Two other mid-tier English clubs with green in their DNA made runs at promotion this season but both fell short (barely).

Sutton United looked to join Forest Green Rovers in League Two via promotion. They hosted a promotion playoff match vs. Boreham Wood on May 6 at Gander Green Lane, the first football stadium to achieve The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification##. Reducing its carbon footprint by 13.6 percent in 2016 and diverting 88 percent of its waste from landfill helped the club earn the designation.

Unfortunately from the Sutton United perspective, their promotion dream died that day as they fell behind 2-0, got a goal back before conceding again in the 88th minute. A stoppage time goal for the home side was not enough as Boreham Wood prevailed 3-2.

On the same afternoon, Dartford F.C. looked to join the league Sutton United hoped to escape by moving up from the sixth to the fifth tier. To do so, they would have to knock off Braintree Town F.C. in a playoff semifinal.

Like Sutton, Dartford hosted the playoff contest. The 4,100-seat Princes Park, which opened in 2006, is top tier, sustainability-wise: It was the UK’s first sustainable, purpose-built, small-sized stadium, featuring on-site solar panels, energy efficient lighting, a state-of-the-art green roof, and an advanced reclaimed rainwater system.

 

 

Princes Park Green Roof

Princes Park, with its distinctive and state of the art green roof, serves as the home of Dartford F.C. in Kent England (Photo credit: Sustainability in Sport)

 

Like Sutton United, Dartford was unable to close the deal, falling to Braintree Town 1-0 as they let in a second half goal.

So the status will remain quo in the 2018-19 season, league-wise, for Sutton United and Dartford F.C. Both teams have made player moves early in the offseason to prep to make promotion runs when the new campaign starts this summer.

 

ECO-OUTFIELDER STEPHEN PISCOTTY MAKES IMMEDIATE IMPACT UPON RETURN TO BASEBALL POST BEREAVEMENT

GreenSportsBlog first wrote about Stephen Piscotty in January 2017 after learning that the then-Cardinals outfielder had majored in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering at Stanford and is an investor in renewable energy.

Piscotty was coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in 2016 but 2017 proved to be challenging on and off the field.

On the field, Piscotty dealt with two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries along with a sophomore slump at the plate. The double whammy led to a brief demotion to the minor leagues.

The off field news was much, much worse as Piscotty’s mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Over the winter, Piscotty was traded by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s, only an hour’s drive from his parents’ home. Both the Cardinals and the A’s acknowledged that Gretchen’s illness was a factor in the trade. Amazing, no?

After winning the A’s starting right fielder job in spring training, the Stanford man got off to a slow start as his mom’s condition worsened. Sadly, Gretchen Piscotty passed away on May 6 at 55, about a year after her diagnosis. Her son took bereavement time before rejoining the A’s as they headed to Boston to play the Red Sox on May 16.

 

Piscotty

Oakland A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty and his mom Gretchen (Photo credit: People)

 

And, in a kind of “Field of Dreams” moment, Piscotty, in his first at-bat in his first game back, the A’s outfielder slugged a home run over Fenway Park’s famed left field wall, the Green Monster.

 

 

 

 

“It was pure joy,” Piscotty said of his blast in the A’s 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, per sfgate.com. “It’s been an emotional week. I’ve been a little cried out, so I didn’t tear up or anything. It felt real good knowing family was watching and my mom was watching.”

 

 

 * Three QBs were picked ahead of Rosen: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the #1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, Darnold to the Jets at 3, and Josh Allen, from Wyoming, went to Buffalo at 7. The Baltimore Ravens, with the 32nd and last pick of the first round, chose Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
^ ALS = Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

 


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GreenSportsBlog’s Five-Year Anniversary…A Reflection

When I started GreenSportsBlog back on May 22, 2013, I had no idea what to expect.

I had never blogged before, wasn’t sure if there would be an audience for content about the intersection of Green & Sports, and didn’t know if the movers and shakers of the Green-Sports world would talk to me.

Five years and 512 posts later, I can say happily say there is consistent and growing interest — our 7,000+ monthly readers attest to that. And I have been blessed to be able to interview Green-Sports activists, corporate leaders, eco-athletes, and more. To all, I say a heartfelt thank you — and keep reading and commenting!

To commemorate GSB’s fifth anniversary, I thought you might find it interesting to read about how I came to write about Green-Sports and to see which posts have been the most well-read.

 

HOW I BECAME A GREEN-SPORTS BLOGGER

A lifelong, passionate New York-area sports fan — for those who haven’t read this blog much, the Jets, Knicks, Rutgers, and Yankees are my local favorites, along with North London’s Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. While at Rutgers, I announced football and basketball while a student at Rutgers on WRSU-FM

 

WRSU Knightline

Yours truly, 2nd from right and mustachioed in an old school Jets jersey, making what must surely have been an astute point on Knightline, the post-game sports talk show on WRSU-FM, the Rutgers student radio station back…a few years (Photo credit: WRSU-FM)

 

I tried to make a go of sportscasting as a professional, but it is a very tough way to make a living. After earning my MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, I pivoted to the sports business, where I was fortunate to spend 15 years, starting in the early 1990s through the mid 2000s, working in advertising sales and marketing. Getting paid to go to the World Series, NBA Finals, World Cup and more? How cool was that?!?!

The environment interested me — it was a factor in my voting decisions; I supported the Sierra Club and like organizations. But did my greenness match my sports fandom? Only when it came to the Jets, who wear green. Otherwise, not even close.

Until 9/11.

Working for Sports Illustrated Kids in midtown Manhattan at the time, I was very fortunate personally to not know anyone in the Twin Towers. Still, I felt like I had to do something. This was the Pearl Harbor of my generation and this was my home city.

But what to do?

It wasn’t until about four months after that horrible day that I found my answer.

In “Green Is the New Red, White & Blue,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman posited that we in the U.S. were fueling the wars on terrorism that we were fighting (we were already in Afghanistan at the time; the invasion of Iraq was a year or so away) by our insanely profligate energy use. His logic went something like this:

  1. The U.S. represented four percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its energy usage.
  2. Since 9/11 happened before the fracking-led domestic oil and gas production boom, we had to source a good chunk of our energy from places like Saudi Arabia.
  3. The Saudi royal family siphoned some of that U.S oil revenue to its Wahhabi extremists to ensure they would remain in power.
  4. And those Wahhabists funded the training of 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers.

It was like the compact fluorescent lightbulb went on above my head! Green was going to play a big part in the solutions to geopolitical problems and I would play a small role. So I “greened up” my personal life, buying a hybrid car (becoming a very early adapter; I knew more about how a hybrid worked than the salesman), changing out all my lightbulbs to compact fluorescents, and becoming an almost-vegetarian.

But that wasn’t enough.

I needed to somehow green my work life. This became even more of an imperative the more I learned about climate change.

But how to get a green job? In 2002-2003, most were technical in nature. And, let’s put it this way: You do NOT want me installing solar panels on your roof.

So I thought, “what am I good at?” Sales, marketing and story telling. The trick was how to translate that from the mature sports industry to the nascent world of green business.

I began to network like crazy, joining a gaggle of sustainable business groups in New York. But when I couldn’t find what I call green “job-jobs” for someone with a sales/marketing/communications background, I decided, in September 2005, to take a risk, leaving SI Kids and recreating myself as a sustainability-focused, business development, marketing and communications consultant.

Since then I have helped a wide array of organizations — from Fortune 500 companies to startups to nonprofits — tell their sustainability stories more powerfully, generate new revenue by selling sponsorships to green events, and garner positive media coverage for their sustainability-related accomplishments. Some of my clients whose names you’d recognize include BT (aka British Telecom), Empire State Building, Whole Foods Market and the Wildlife Conservation Society

Then, about three years into my life as a sustainability consultant, in 2008-2009, I began to wonder if there was an intersection of Green and Sports, with the idea being that I would love to marry my two passions.

So I poked around and found out there was a fellow named Dr. Allen Hershkowitz who, working with NRDC, helped the Philadelphia Eagles and minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie make sure the toilet paper at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t being sourced from eagle habitats. 

What an introduction to Green-Sports!

A year or so I discovered that a small group of pro sports teams from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver had banded together to form the Green Sports Alliance. Their goal was to share better practices on energy efficiency, waste, and more. This sounded like an organization and a movement — Green-Sports — that was poised to grow. 

And I needed to be a part of it! But again, my question was “how?”

In 2011-12, I did more digging — and noticed that the Alliance was growing well beyond its Pacific Northwest roots, and that the organizers of the London 2012 Olympics made sustainability a key strand of their DNA. 

I figured media organization must be covering this burgeoning Green-Sports field. 

No one was.

So I decided would become that media organization.

And that led to GreenSportsBlog’s birth five years ago, almost to the day.

 

Lew GSA 2

Yours truly, making what what must surely have been an astute point at the 2016 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

FIVE KEY LESSONS

I’ve learned a ton these last five years — so much so, I could write an entire post just on that topic. But, for purposes of this story, I’ll boil it down to five key lessons that have been imparted to me by you, the readers, based on your comments and which GSB posts have drawn the most traffic:

  1. Allow the People Building the Green-Sports World to Share Their Stories Directly with Readers: Based on reader comments, The GSB Interview is the most popular segment on the blog. Sharing the unfiltered insights, struggles and successes of a wide array of women and men who are responsible for greening the sports world is an honor and a pleasure.
  2. Go Beyond Major League Sports and Mega-Events: Of course, we cover the greening of major pro sports leagues in North America and Europe, as well as of mega events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. But stories like Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer club that is the Greenest Team in Sports, and the St. Paul Saints, the minor league baseball team in Minnesota which won the Greenest New Stadium of the Year in 2015, have drawn some of the site’s best traffic numbers.
  3. Write with the Voice of the Sports Fan: From reader comments back in GSB’s early days, it seems that most expected the blog to be written by someone with a cleantech, facilities management and/or “green journalism” background. Many sounded pleased that I brought a different point-of-view, that of a passionate sustainability communicator who is also a big sports fan. Understanding and loving sports — and the people who follow it — was and is important. Especially when one considers, as Allen Hershkowitz is wont to say, that 13 percent of Americans follow science, but 65-70 percent follow sports. And as Nelson Mandela offered, “Sports can change the world!”
  4. Bringing a Sense of Humor to the Table is a Good Thing: Our forays into the satirical have been well received by readers and commenters. The July 2014 story in which I imagined that LeBron James decided to leave Miami to return to Cleveland — not because he wanted to go home, but because he was afraid of climate change’s effects in South Florida — remains the blog’s most read post. In fact, every post in which I’ve included the words “LeBron” and “James” has scored well. That bodes well for this one :). Hey, the climate change fight can be a very hard slog at times, so adding a dollop of humor here and there can’t hurt.

The fifth key lesson is that Green-Sports Needs To Play the “Climate Change Fight” Game…and It Needs to Play to WIN!: Herm Edwards, now the head football coach at Arizona State University, was coaching my New York Jets back in 2002, when he famously ranted that “The great thing about sports is, you play to win the game! Hello?! You play to win the game!!!”

 

Herm Edwards’ 2002 “You play to win the game” rant

 

To me, it’s clear that Green-Sports needs to be playing the “climate change fight” game. But are we? And are we playing to win? Despite some moves in the right direction, it’s clear to me that the Green-Sports world is not there yet.

Hey, I get it: Climate change is political and sports is where people often go to get away from politics. But acknowledging those realities shouldn’t mean we abandon the fight. 

And then there are two other important realities at play here:

  1. Climate change is the most existential threat the world faces
  2. It will take consistent and unyielding passion to generate the political will to turn humanity away from the carbon train wreck we’re hurtling towards.

It says here that tapping into the passion of sports fans and the massive size of the fan base is essential to the climate change fight. I have been heartened by the many GreenSportsBlog readers who have encouraged me to continue to push the Green-Sports world and sports media (#CoverGreenSports) to engage more forthrightly on climate change. I certainly will.

 

MOST READ GREENSPORTSBLOG POSTS

Here is a list of our 10 most read posts over our first five years. Enjoy and please keep reading and sharing GreenSportsBlog!

  1. The REAL Reason LeBron Chose to Leave Miami for Cleveland: Climate Change (July 2014)
  2. The GSB Interview: Mark Teixeira of the NY Yankees; Helping to Rebuild and Green NW Atlanta (February 2016)
  3. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Super Cool, Super Green Future Home of the Falcons and Atlanta FC (November 2015)
  4. Birds Flying Into Minneapolis’ Glass-Walled US Bank Stadium Not a Good Look with Super Bowl LII Only Two Months Away (December 2017)
  5. Integral Hockey: Rebuilding Broken Hockey Sticks–and Keeping Them Out of the Landfill (October 2015)
  6. How Green is Augusta National Golf Club, Home of The Masters (April 2016)
  7. The GSB Interview: Leilani Münter, Looking to Turn on the Speed and Turn Auto Racing Fans on to a Vegan Diet at Daytona (January 2018)
  8. Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Earns Promotion Up England’s Football/Soccer Ladder (May 2017)
  9. PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim (August 2017)
  10. Green Sports Alliance Calls on Sports Fans To Take “Live Green or Die™” Challenge in Response to Trump Pulling U.S Out of Paris Climate Agreement (June 2017)

 

 


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