Allen Hershkowitz Urges US Pro Sports Leagues to Measure, Reduce Carbon Footprint

When Dr. Allen Hershkowitz talks, people across the sports world, green and otherwise, listen. Having created the greening programs at MLB, NBA, NHL, the USTA, and co-founded and served as President of the Green Sports Alliance, it is no exaggeration to say that Hershkowitz is the most consequential environmentalist in the history of North American sports. Hershkowitz is now globalizing his scope of influence as he helps develop Sustainability and Sports International (SandSI). So his recent column that ran Monday, March 20th in Sports Business Journal (SBJ), urging stronger sustainability leadership from the North American professional sports world, and urging the leadership of pro-sports leagues to begin accounting for their carbon footprint, well, to quote Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, “attention must be paid.” GreenSportsBlog spoke with Hershkowitz about the story, its timing and where we go from here.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Allen, congratulations on your important column for Sports Business Journal (to read it, click HERE). Since you have helped create the Green-Sports movement from the beginning, both at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and at the Green Sports Alliance, and given your leadership role in helping to create the greening programs at MLB, NHL, NASCAR, NBA and the USTA, going public to urge the major sports leagues in North America to measure their carbon footprints in your SBJ column is big. Of course, the NHL has measured its carbon footprint since 2014, so I take it your statement is meant for everyone else. What made you go public now?

Allen Hershkowitz: Well, Lew, I don’t want to be melodramatic, but as a scientist who has devoted his career to studying resource consumption, pollution and sustainability for more than 35 years, I have no choice but to conclude that our planet is facing greater environmental threats than at any time in modern history…

Allen Hershkowitz J. Henry Fair

Allen Hershkowitz (Photo credit: J. Henry Fair)

 

GSB: …But certainly the climate crisis and other environmental calamities aren’t new. So why now? Is this a reaction to the Trump Administration’s rabidly anti-environment, anti-climate initiatives and proposals?

AH:  No, not really. I would’ve written this now even had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election. The main reason for the timing is that the most recent available information, from global surface temperature—the highest in recorded history—to ocean temperature to ocean acidification to polar ice loss to species loss, clearly shows that the climate crisis and its effects are worsening at an accelerating pace. Projections are such that, if present trends continue, more than one billion people will become climate refugees by 2050…

GSB: …And there are perhaps millions of climate refugees right now. There is peer-reviewed data that ascribes some portion of the severe Syrian drought to climate change. That drought forced many rural Syrians, who could no longer work in agriculture, into the cities, and thus helped ignite the civil war and subsequent refugee tragedy.

AH: Weather extremes are certainly threatening water availability, and food production and that leads to mass dislocations and conflict, as in Syria. And this crisis goes far beyond humans. Species continue to disappear at unprecedented rates, including many that are sports team mascots. Our grandchildren may never get a chance to see tigers or polar bears, except in photographs and documentaries. These problems are happening, and, as I said before, now we know they’re happening at a faster, downright scarier pace than we thought. The climate change-caused death of the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia was expected to happen 30 years from now. It’s happening now. This is what prompted my column now, regardless of who is in the White House.

“Drought, Water, War and Climate Change,” a 5 minute 42 second video from the Yale Climate Connections group, connects the Syrian refugee crisis to climate change.

 

GSB: I get that. But I gotta believe that the utter disregard President Trump, EPA Administrator Pruitt and their team are showing to climate change and the environment more broadly added a bit of urgency. Heck, the second paragraph of your piece goes right after the President’s plans for the EPA:

“If President Trump’s proposed budget is enacted, EPA funding will be reduced by 20% (amended to 31%), to about $6 billion, distinguishing the United States in 2017 as the only industrialized nation on Earth with a national policy committed to reducing the financial and scientific resources needed to address worsening climate change.”

 

AH: Look, I know that what is happening and what is likely to happen in Washington DC in the months to come threatens to undermine so much of the progress we have made collectively on climate and the broader sustainability agenda over the last few decades. It is profoundly disheartening. And I don’t say this as a partisan. I say this as a scientist and as someone who is grounded in reality. And the reality is this: Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the EPA, has publicly rejected the broad scientific consensus on the human causality of climate change. When he was Attorney General in Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the very agency he is now charged with running on more than a dozen occasions.  His appointment could well undermine the agency’s core air and water protection programs‎, which have enjoyed bipartisan support over the years.

GSB: So how have the commissioners and other high level executives at the leagues—folks with whom you’ve worked for years, whose trust you’ve earned, reacted to your article and to your concerns about the direction of the Administration?

AH: I have always spoken respectfully and factually to my good friends at the leagues. As I didn’t want there to be any surprises, I showed my league contacts an early draft of the SBJ piece.

GSB: What did they think?

AH: Overall, they were positive, and although there were some suggestions to “tone it down,” the basic thrust of the final product was the same as the first draft. Let me put it to you this way: None of my friends at the leagues told me not to publish this.

GSB: That’s good to hear. And what about your thoughts on the Administration? I know you’ve strived hard to stay out of partisan politics and I am sure the leagues appreciate that. But how do you stay neutral on the politics with them?

AH: The leaders of these leagues understand there is just no denying that the current White House and EPA statements on climate change and related subjects have ‎caused consternation in many quarters of the nation, in the scientific community and in capitals around the world. They also understand that this President has started the process of rolling back important fuel efficiency standards and repealing or significantly weakening the Endangered Species Act, which has over the years been a force for rescuing dozens of critters from extinction, including many of the animals that serve as sports team mascots. I am certain the sustainability leaders at all the leagues understand he is misleading the American public on this issue, divisibly and dangerously so.

GSB: That’s good to hear. So how are the leagues reacting to your appeal for carbon footprint accounting?

AH: It’s a process. One reason the leagues, aside from the NHL and Gary Bettman, haven’t been as aggressive on carbon accounting as I would’ve hoped is that the environmental priorities in the US, from a governmental perspective, are relatively weak as compared to, say, Europe. And this was the case before Trump, and even despite the positive strides made by his predecessor.

GSB: That’s interesting…I know that there is a much broader acceptance of climate change in Europe than there is here, and that European governments, in most cases, have stronger, clearer rules on environmental issues than does the US. But do those rules affect sports in Europe?

AH: Absolutely. In many European countries, government agencies regulate sports more aggressively than in the US or Canada. Carbon accounting is an accepted practice there. Thus, the European sports world is already working in an environment, pun intended, where the rules, the norms are clearly more eco-friendly than here in the US. The French Ministry of Sport has been very keen on pushing its Federations (i.e. basketball, swimming, tennis, etc.) to measure their carbon footprint. In fact, 22 sports federations France came together to work towards science-based carbon reduction targets. And some of the major French sports events, starting back in 2007 with the Rugby World Cup and, more recently, the French Open at Roland-Garros and the UEFA EURO 2016, measure their carbon footprint and work towards reductions. France has implemented a platform, Auto Diagnostic Environnemental pour les Responsables d’Evénements,” or ADERE, that allows each organizer to measure roughly their environmental impact and self-discipline themselves to improve from year to year.

GSB: We need to be modeling what the French are doing…

AH: Exactly. And that’s what I am telling the leagues. And, as has been the case for the last decade or more, they listen. Step 1 for the leagues was to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The NHL, MLB, the NBA all submitted comments to Congress on this issue a number of years ago.

potus

Gary Bettman (l), commissioner of the NHL, the first league to issue a sustainability report. Commissioner Bettman and other sports commissioners have publicly acknowledged climate change.  (Photo credit: TMZ)

 

GSB: What about Roger Goodell and the NFL? They’ve been very quiet on this issue.

AH: They have, but Goodell did state publicly at a Beyond Sport United conference at Yankee Stadium a couple years ago that climate change is real. And Brian France at NASCAR has also publicly acknowledged the importance of this issue. Step 2 was to get sports to measure its energy use. This happened gradually across most North American sports leagues starting in around 2010, taking about 5-6 years. Now is the time for Step 3: to speak about climate change and to measure carbon…

GSB: Because what gets measured gets managed. And what gets managed matters.

AH: Yes! And the leagues are actually in a strong position to speak up and take action. The Scott Pruitts of the world, the James Inhofes of the world…

GSB: …Inhofe being the climate change denying senator from Oklahoma who famously brought a snowball into the senate chamber to demonstrate that climate change isn’t happening. Nice.

Inhofe

US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) gets ready to throw a snowball fastball in the senate chamber in February, 2015. He brought a snowball into the senate to somehow cast doubt on the reality of climate change. No words. (Photo credit: Huffington Post)

 

AH: Those people can attack science but they can’t attack Major League Baseball, they can’t attack the NHL, they can’t attack NASCAR, whose Chairman of the Board Brian France, has publicly acknowledged the importance of addressing climate change. So now is the time, as I say in the article, for the leagues to calculate carbon emissions, develop a multiyear action plan to reduce carbon emissions, set meaningful, “science-based carbon reduction targets” (at least a 20 percent reduction in the next five to eight years) and aim for net zero carbon emissions from league and team operations, travel, and procurement within the next 20 years, and finally, communicate and inspire fans to do the same.

GSB: Amen! This is exactly what I’ve been urging all along, why I write GreenSportsBlog: To get the powers that be in sports to use their incredible megaphone to drive action on climate among all stakeholders. And that sports, with its ethos of overcoming obstacles, is uniquely well-positioned to do this.

AH: I agree, Lew. And, taking a look back over the last decade or so, the American professional sports world has come a long way. The leagues and many teams have cut energy usage substantially, made their supply chains more sustainable by purchasing recycled products, and they have taken important steps to educate millions of fans. I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we have undertaken together and what the leagues have accomplished in recent years to begin shifting the entire sports culture in a more sustainable, sensible direction. And showing courage by speaking out on what might be a controversial topic today is something sports has done for the last 75+ years. From Jackie Robinson and baseball’s color barrier, to Billie Jean King and equal rights and homophobia, sports has often led culture and politics in the US. It can do so on climate by taking the next step: Measuring carbon and speaking out for positive climate action.


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The GSB Interview: Claire Poole, Climate Action, Reviews Sustainable Innovation In Sport Conference 2017

The second Sustainable Innovation in Sports (SIIS) conference, organized by Climate Action, took place in Munich last month. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Climate Action’s Event Director Claire Poole to get her take. 

 

The second Sustainable Innovation in Sport (SIIS) conference took place in Munich over two days in late February. To find out about the highlights, the key learnings, and to get a sense of next steps, GSB spoke with Claire Poole, SIIS’ Event Director on behalf of Climate Action and the Principal of ClearBright Consulting.

GreenSportsBlog: Claire, following up on the first SIIS in Paris in 2015, what were your two or three biggest takeaways from SIIS 2017?

Claire Poole SIIS

Claire Poole, speaking at last month’s Sustainable Innovation in Sport conference in Munich. (Photo credit: SIIS)

 

Claire Poole: The big thematic takeaways were definitely the need for education, partnerships and technology in the Green-Sports space. There were some amazing insights from speakers that I’d like to highlight as well. Dr. Willem Huisman, President of Dow Germany opened the conference. He made this very powerful point: what binds together sustainability, innovation and sport is PASSION, PERFORMANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS, these themes came up time and time again. Then Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the International Olympic Committee highlighted their sustainability strategy, which is aligned with the UN Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 2030 goals and beyond in mind. But then Neil Beecroft, most recently of UEFA, said that, while we’re making progress, the sport world has to “shake existing models” and “dare for innovation”. Finally Norman Vosschulte, Director of Guest Experience for the Philadelphia Eagles, shared the club’s incredible sustainability story, which started with blue recycling bins under employees’ desks and has now reached the point of running a nearly 100% efficient stadium, with thousands of solar panels, aluminum recycling and much, much more. We were also glad to have speakers from the BBC, World Bank and Land Rover BAR’s (the UK’s entry in the 2017 America’s Cup, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie) sustainability director, Susie Tomson among too many others to mention.

Michelle Lemaitre

Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the IOC at SIIS. (Photo credit: SIIS)

 

GSB: What a speaker roster! How did climate change fit into the mix?

CP: The climate change world was well represented at SIIS. Connect4Climate^ and Ecosphere+# were there. And Niclas SvenningsenManager, Strategy and Relationship Management, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said something that resonated with many attendees, I thought: that Sport needs to let the climate change world know what it is doing.

GSB: I’m glad he said that but it’s also sad that he felt compelled to do so. A big part of GreenSportsBlog’s mission is to get the sports world to push a positive climate change message in the same way it, rightly, pushes against racism, bullying, homophobia, and more. And sports legitimately has great greening stories! It needs to share those greening stories much more loudly or else what’s the point?

CP: For sure. The UNFCCC has a Carbon Neutral Now pledge. Which doesn’t say you have to be carbon neutral now; you just have to make a pledge to get there. FIFA and adidas have already taken the pledge; more sports organizations need to do the same.

GSB: Especially the sports organizations and sponsors that are already on the carbon neutral road! How many people came to SIIS and how many streamed it via Facebook Live?

CP: We had over 150 people in attendance with about 85 percent from Europe and the rest joining us from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. And we were very excited that another 1,500 or so joined us via live stream…

GSB: Including yours truly! The streaming saved on emissions, by the way…What kind of feedback did you get overall?

CP: The two words I heard over and over were “interactive” and “relevant”. People said SIIS was different than most other conferences they’ve attended in that the speakers, who were very knowledgeable and compelling, presented in ways that really encouraged interaction and collegiality. The other thing was that the attendees said they learned important new things that they were taking home to implement. This is exactly what we wanted to happen. We were also heartened to see that the event had a strong gender balance, with nearly 40 percent female representation.

GSB: This sounds like, forgive the American sports reference, a home run! Now, what, in your view, could have gone better?

CP: To my mind, we would have liked to see more corporate partners and corporate attendees there. Sports stadiums, clubs, federations and the like were well represented. But the corporations who support sports and also are greening were in shorter supply, with some notable exceptions like Dow, Schreder, and IWBI.

GSB: Getting in on a movement that will improve their image and lead to more business? Why in the world would they want to do that? Just kidding! Sheesh! So what’s next? The first SIIS was in Paris in 2015, during the COP21 climate conference, if memory serves. So will this be an every-other-year kind of event?

CP: The feedback we got was so positive and those who came along, tuned in online or we are in touch with through other channels, tell us we need to convene annually…

GSB: That’s just about the best endorsement you could get!

CP: Thank you! So we’re just starting to think about what a SIIS 2018 would look like. To those who want to be a part of it, I say – get in touch!

 

Connect4Climate is a global partnership among the World Bank Group, the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, that takes on climate change by promoting solutions and empowering people to act.
# Ecosphere+ was established by the Althelia Climate Fund to develop and scale the market for carbon assets, environmental services and sustainably produced commodities generated through transformational forest conservation and sustainable land use projects,

 


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GSB News and Notes: Arsenal Signs Solar Power Deal; Swiss Ski Industry Imperiled by Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog offers up a European News & Notes: Arsenal, historically, one of England’s winningest soccer clubs, signed a deal to power their London stadium with solar power, and almost immediately began encouraging its fans to sign up for clean energy. Swiss ski resorts could see a 70 percent drop in snow cover as a result of climate change. 

 

ARSENAL PARTNERS WITH OCTOPUS ENERGY TO POWER STADIUM WITH SOLAR; ENCOURAGE FANS TO DO SO AT HOME

Earlier this season, perennial Premier League contender (this season? Not so much) Arsenal announced that Octopus Energy had signed on as their official energy partner. London-based Octopus, with over 220 solar farms, is the UK’s largest investor in solar. In fact, it is responsible for 40 percent of Britain’s large scale solar power. 

The partnership will help the club reach their sustainability targets, including helping to power the Emirates Stadium in North London using its solar resources. This is great, and typical of clean energy sponsorships at stadiums and arenas. 

But the Octopus-Arsenal deal goes beyond the typical to embrace classic (green) sports, loyalty marketing tactics. Arsenal fans who sign up with Octopus have the chance to win cool prizes, including behind the scenes VIP stadium tours, signed Arsenal shirts and autographed Arsenal footballs. And they are being offered the same clean energy rates for their homes as the club pays to power The Emirates. This represents a significant discount vs. the open or standard consumer price.

Given the incredible, hyper-local loyalty Premier League fans have for their clubs (the closest thing to it in US sports is the religious zeal of SEC college football fans), rewarding fans with Arsenal swag for making a choice for clean energy is a powerful (pun intended) way to go.

A great example of this is Kester (last name withheld for privacy reasons), winner of the Month for February of Octopus Energy’s Arsenal fan drawing. Per an interview on the Octopus website, Arsenal is clearly in his blood: “I’ve been supporting Arsenal my whole life. Ever since I was 4 years old, when I went down to Highbury^ for my first game. I’ve been hooked ever since. My family has supported Arsenal for decades”

Arsenal Octopus Feb Winner

Kester switched to Octopus Energy’s clean energy supply and, in the process, won this Arsenal jersey. (Photo credit: Octopus Energy)

 

The connection to his favorite football club made the difference for Kester when he went shopping for an energy provider: “I wanted to move energy providers, and I was on a comparison site looking for a green energy plan when I stumbled upon Octopus Energy. After a bit of research, I noticed on the Arsenal website that you guys had signed a deal to give fans their own energy plan, so I signed up. The Arsenal partnership was great as it meant I could support the club, and also be entered into the monthly prize draws.”

Octopus Energy will also have signage and other branding at all Premier League and FA Cup matches played at The Emirates as well as hospitality on some match days. In addition, they will be able to access Arsenal’s digital channels and run promotions featuring the club’s stars.

Arsenal Players

Arsenal players promote the club’s partnership with Octopus Energy, the UK’s largest investor in solar power. (Photo credit: Arsenal F.C.)

 

As a New York City-based fan of North London rival Tottenham Hotspur, it burns me up that Arsenal have beaten Spurs to the Green-Sports/clean energy punch. But, let’s cut Spurs a little slack here: They’re in their final campaign at the venerable White Hart Lane, will be a tenant next season at Wembley Stadium, the home of the English National Team, before moving into their new home in August 2018. At that time, hopefully Spurs fans will be able to win cool prizes by signing up with a clean energy provider.

In the meantime, let’s hope Spurs can finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1996—as of this writing they’re six points ahead.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPERILS SWISS SKI RESORTS’ BUSINESS

Will humanity be able to keep average global surface temperature rise to at or below 2° C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century? That is, of course, the “will life on earth resemble what we’ve known it to be” question. 

In the grand scheme of things, the survival of the Swiss ski industry is far down the priority list as compared to, say, life itself. That said, the Alps, with Switzerland at its core, is the world’s biggest ski destination, accounting for 44 percent of world ski visitors. So it is significant when Robert McSweeney, writing in the February 16 edition of Carbon Briefreports on a new study that says the Swiss ski season will increasingly be curtailed by a lack of snow.

The research, published in The Cryosphere, suggests that the pristine Swiss slopes could see an average 70 percent reduction in the depth of snow cover by the end of the century if the 2° C threshold is breached. For ski resorts at lower elevations, this might mean no snow at all. On the other hand, declines in snow depth could be limited to 30 percent if global temperature rise does not break the 2° C barrier. Some consolation.

henri-oreiller

Henri Oreiller of France, en route to winning the Gold Medal in the downhill at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Hosting an Olympics in St. Moritz, located in the central portion of the country, towards the end of the 21st century might be impossible, given the effects of climate change, according to new research. (Photo credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

Using data collected from 82 weather stations and considering three different climate change scenarios, the researchers simulated snow cover in Central and Eastern Switzerland ski country through the 21st century.

In the first scenario, worldwide CO2 emissions are halved by the middle of the century and global temperature rise is likely to stay below 2° C. The other two scenarios assume no specific international effort to cut emissions, with global temperatures rising 2.2-4.9C or 2.5-5.9C compared to pre-industrial levels.

In the near-term (between now and 2035), the projected decline in the thickness of snow is similar for all three scenarios – at around 20-30 percent compared to recent years. However, as the projections extend into the middle and end of the century, the differences between the scenarios become stark. By 2070-99, for example, the projected snow changes in the two Swiss ski regions are around 30 percent for the low CO2 scenario, but nearer to 70 percent for the “business as usual” approaches. 

The driving force behind the deterioration of snow cover is increasing temperature, not drought. Even increases in precipitation won’t compensate for the impact of the warming, say the researchers, as that precipitation will increasingly fall as rain rather than snow, especially on the resorts in the lower altitudes. As the study says, “the most affected elevation zone for climate change is located below 1,200m (~4,000 ft), where the simulations show almost no snow towards the end of the century.” Around a quarter of Alpine ski resorts are located entirely below this altitude.

For resorts where there is still enough snow for skiing, the projections suggest the average season will be much shorter, dropping from a current 6.5 months at elevations of 1,500m and up, to just two months (mid-December to mid-February) by 2100.

All of this can be expected to lead to a devastating effect on the Swiss Alps’ economy. For some Alpine villages, as much as 90% of their economy depends on winter tourism.

So the ski industry will increasingly rely on artificial snow. In fact, it is already doing so— 36 percent of slopes in Switzerland and 66 percent in Austria. Problem is, it is a water and energy intensive —and expensive—process. That has to change if the ski industry in the Alps is to have a long term chance. As the report’s lead author Dr Christoph Marty, a research scientist at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland, told McSweeney, “The efficient production of technical snow will get even more important than today.”

davos

Davos, Switzerland ski slopes being pelted with artificial snow in 2014 (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 


^ Highbury was Arsenal’s home stadium from 1913-2006. The club moved into the Emirates Stadium for the 2006-2007 Premier League campaign.
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Talking NHL Green Week II with Omar Mitchell, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility

The NHL’s second annual Green Week runs from March 11-17. To get a sense of what’s new and improved this year as well as what the league is doing sustainability-wise beyond Green Week, GreenSportsBlog talked with Omar Mitchell, the league’s VP of Corporate Social Responsibility.

 

The National Hockey League, the first professional sports league in North America to issue a sustainability report—which documents and discloses its carbon footprint—and the 26th largest user of green power in the US^ is adding to its sustainability legacy through its second annual Green Week. Starting Saturday and running through St. Patrick’s Day—talk about GREEN!—NHL Green Week aims to communicate the league’s consistent and forward-leaning commitment to doing what it can to foster a healthy, pond-hockey-friendly environment.

Pond Hockey

NHL Green Week II, to launch on March 11, will educate fans about what the league is doing to preserve a Pond Hockey-friendly environment and what fans can do to help. (Photo credit: NHL)

 

According to Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, the league will use Green Week to “educate our fans and other stakeholders—including staff, players, sponsors, and more—about the environmental initiatives undertaken by the NHL and its 30 (soon to be 31*) clubs” via a comprehensive multi-media activation that is highlighted by 15 and 30 second Public Service Announcements (PSAs.)

Comprehensive is the watchword here:

  • The PSAs will run across the full panoply of NHL broadcast/cable outlets: NHL Network, NBCSN, as well as Rogers SportsNet in Canada—the NHL’s official Canadian broadcast partner. And all 30 NHL teams have the option to run the PSAs on their regional cable networks.
  • NBCSN, for the second consecutive year, will also interview retired New York Rangers and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Mike Richter about his post-career work in solar power and energy efficiency as well as his take on NHL Green 2017. Other retired and current NHL’ers will share their sustainability-inspired stories via Sirius XM Radio.

Richter eco-preneur

Mike Richter (photo credit: Zimbio.com)

 

  • NHL.com will get into the Green Week act as a new NHL Green site will launch on the 13th; Green Week banners and other online messaging will also help tell the league’s sustainability story. Social media will, not surprisingly, also be in the NHL Green Week storytelling mix.

The NHL Green Week media blitz is a very big deal.

Why? Well, think about it: When have you seen a major sports league devote significant air time to a strategic, concerted, multi-media, sustainability campaign?

Actually, I know the answer.

Never.

Until now, that is, with the NHL Green Week PSA campaign.

As of this writing, I have yet to see the PSAs. But, the NHL’s history of high quality creative gives me confidence that the spots will break through strike a positive chord among the fans. Building (and measuring) fan awareness of the NHL’s commitment to sustainability is a crucial next step for the league and its clubs, as is encouraging positive environmental action.

The NHL clubs have stepped up on this front.

“All 30 of our clubs are participating in Green Week via their own social and digital channels.” said Mitchell, “And teams that are playing at home during the next week can, and many will, highlight the league’s sustainability efforts in-arena.”

One way they will do so—and new for NHL Green Week II—is the Gear and Equipment Donation Net.

All 30 clubs are provided with a hockey-goal-shaped “Donation Net” to be placed in a high visibility, high traffic area in their arena concourse. The teams are asking fans of teams playing home games during Green Week to donate their used hockey equipment by dropping it into the Donation Net. Per Mitchell, this program has two key benefits: “There’s an environmental benefit as the equipment is kept out of the landfill. And, some of the people who will get the repurposed gear will be folks who otherwise would not have had the chance to ever play hockey. So we’re growing participation.”

And, what about teams who are on the road during Green Week? Not to worry, says Mitchell. “In addition to Green Week, we are in the midst of our Centennial season. We’re in the midst of our Centennial Fan Celebration (CFA), a 2017-long traveling celebration of the NHL that will visit all 30 arenas this year. The Donation Net is embedded in the activation.”

Helping maximize the impact and effectiveness of NHL Green Week—as well as many of the league’s other sustainability initiatives—is the Green Sports Alliance. “The GSA has been our main sustainability partner for several years and is integral to the league’s and the clubs’ greening efforts,” offers Mitchell, “They add vital sustainability expertise to our clubs. That is one of several reasons all 30 are members of the GSA for the second year in a row. Another is that they can tap into a broader green-sports knowledge base by meeting with counterparts from other leagues and sports governing bodies.”

Beyond Green Week, the league, is looking to expand its Greener Rinks campaign, the year-old program that provides valuable sustainability information for free to over 4,500 community ice rinks in North America. More Mitchell: “We’re launching the Greener Rinks website on Monday. It’s the next stage in our campaign to be a valuable sustainability resource to community rinks, most of which may not have the access to, or awareness of, this information. We, in partnership with NHL energy partner Constellation, take the better sustainability practices from the NHL arena level and provide them, in one place, for the community rinks, including sustainability technologies along with recommendations on energy saving products and services.”

Finally, Mitchell and his colleagues are hard at work collecting and interpreting data from the league office, all 30 teams and their supply chains for the NHL’s second Sustainability Report. Mitchell declared that the report, a follow up to the breakthrough document published in 2014, will be issued by the end of 2017—an ideal way, it says here, to wrap up to the NHL’s Centennial year from a sustainability point of view.

nhl sust report

 

That said, to me, the document will fall short of its potential impact if it doesn’t measure fan awareness of the league’s sustainability efforts. Mitchell eased my concerns, stating, “we are looking to track fan awareness and attitudes and that will come through in this year’s sustainability report.”

I can’t wait to read it—look, I’m the kind of guy who loves a good sustainability report! But that is down the road. Starting Saturday, I look forward to following NHL Green Week. Hopefully, the powers that be at the NBA, MLB, NFL, MLS and sports leagues around the world will do the same.

 

^ According to EPA’s Green Power Partnership
* The Vegas Golden Knights will begin play in the 2017-2018 season

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The GSB Interview: Damian Foxall, Bringing Canadians Closer to Nature Through Sports

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is Canada’s largest conservation non-profit, with a mandate to get folks from New Foundland to British Columbia, especially kids, to experience nature up close. According to Recreation Education Manager and world class sailor Damian Foxall, outdoor sports, especially sailing and paddle boating, play key roles in the Federation’s efforts. We chatted with Foxall about his life on the water and how it influenced his work linking sports to conservation.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Damian, first of all, how did you get into sailing racing and, in particular, around-the-world races?

Damian Foxall: I’m sure you can tell from my accent that I’m from Ireland. Grew up in County Kerry and have been on the water, primarily sailing since birth. I also developed an appreciation for nature and the outdoors from that time as Kerry is amazingly beautiful and wild.

GSB: I’ve been there; I know!

DF: Yes, I grew up near Ring of Kerry National Park, near Skelligs Rock. Just spectacular. And it’s a great area for sailing, wind surfing, fishing. I did all of those but sailing was my thing. So I left high school when I was 16, 17 years of age to sail.

GSB: Oh, your parents must’ve loved THAT!

DF: They weren’t too impressed, let’s just say. I thought about studying Marine Biology but the adrenaline rush of sailing took over. Delivered a boat to the Caribbean and never looked back. Spent from about 1987-1995 in the Caribbean sailing and becoming a dive master. Then I left the Caribbean to race in the TransAtlantic circuit, became the first non-Frenchman to win the rookie section in the French sailing circuit. And then I started sailing the around-the-world.

GSB: I cannot fathom that…

DF: Most folks can’t but it is an incredible experience. I was fortunate to win the Volvo Ocean Race as part of an American team in 2008. Also that year, took 90 days to win a 2-handed (two person crew) around-the-world race from Barcelona. Also in 2008, with the late, great Steve Fossett

GSB: The fellow who went around the world in a hot air balloon?

DF: Exactly. We set a record that still stands for the fastest non-stop around-the-world trip—54 days. Also I competed in the Quebec to St. Malo race, the only Canadian professional transatlantic race.

damian-foxall-volvo-ocean-race

Damian Foxall (Photo credit: Volvo Ocean Race)

 

GSB: That’s not a bad year, I’d say. So how did you get to Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation?

DF: Well I met my ex-wife in Quebec City so that’s how Canada happened. It turned out that the Canadian Wildlife Federation was involved with the Quebec to St. Malo race and its organizer, Sail Canada, through CWF’s Recreation for Conservation program. Sail Canada’s director at the time, Paddy Boyle, said “You know, you could be a good fit at CWF as they are looking to build up interest in water sports and concern for water stewardship amongst Canadians.” And so not long after that, I was working with CWF.

GSB: How do you bring sports and nature together?

DF: Wild About Sports is our program that links the two. It’s an integral part of our wildlife education efforts. We create workshops that include conservation and nature education as well as what it means to be outdoors and provide them to sailing, paddling and other water sports teachers. Conversely, we bring primary and secondary school kids out into nature and provide core curriculum out there.

wild-about-sports

Wild About Sports connects Canadian kids to water. (Image credit: Canadian Wildlife Foundation)

 

GSB: How does that work?

DF: I like to say “we take math outdoors.” And kids will always learn better when they’re outdoors; the data are staggering. It’s crucial that we get them out there. Inner city, suburban. Also, it’s very important to get kids with ADHD and autism outdoors. But back to the methodology. Let’s take sailing, for example. We use the prism of sailing to teach history, math, geography and more. Wild About Sports is just one of many CWF programs—including Wild Migrations, Leadership and others. In addition to Sail Canada, we’ve partnered with great organizations like Paddle Canada and Sailors for the Sea, which promotes clean regattas.

GSB: Has CWF developed programs for land-based sports?

DF: Yes. CWF created a “nature connections” program that connects cycling and soccer to nature. And we reached out to Cross Country Ski Canada as well and hope to get something going with them soon.

GSB: How about the National Hockey League, given hockey’s status as the #1…and #2…and #3 sports in Canada and the league’s strong commitment to sustainability?

DF: We need to build a partnership with the NHL—it’s very high on our “to do” list. Also high on our list are our efforts to protect marine mammals like the Blue Whale, Baluga Whale and the Humpbacked Whale from accidents during sailing races.

GSB: That sounds brilliant, important and probably not much is known about your programs outside of the sailing world. What does the marine mammal protection program look like?

DF: CWF assists organizers of sailing races to make sure the race course avoids population centers and provide very detailed maps for this purpose. We also instituted a reporting mechanism by which the racers can report collisions with large marine mammals as, despite the very best of plans, these kind of incidents do happen. So a database has been created with the International Whaling Commission. It’s really our, the sailing community’s, duty to accurately report these incidents.

 

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium Goes for LEED Platinum Designation; Watch Video to See How

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the soon-to-open downtown home of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer expansion club Atlanta United FC, is raising the bar for green stadium construction and operations as it expects to attain LEED Platinum certification. That would be a first for both the NFL and MLS buildings. A new video provides an eye-popping look inside the state-of-the-green-art building as it nears completion. 

 

This message is for Atlanta Falcons fans:

You are, I am sure, still gutted three weeks or so after watching your team blow the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. This will sting for a long time; there’s no way around it. Hey, I’m a long suffering Jets fan; I know about pain.

But time—and meditation—will slowly heal the wounds. In fact, as a public service, we are providing Falcons supporters, free of charge, with two (long-ish) mantras that, if repeated twice daily, should help hasten the healing process:

  1. The Falcons are good, young and should contend for the Super Bowl next season and beyond. The team has the reigning NFL MVP, QB Matt Ryan, and, arguably, the best wide receiver in the game, Julio Jones, both still in their primes. A young, powerful, two-headed running game, working behind a solid young offensive line, is in place. A fast and—you guessed it—young defense does need some tweaks. But this is a contending team that bloody well better have a serious chip on its shoulder heading into 2017.
  2. The Falcons, along with Major League Soccer expansion club Atlanta United F.C., are moving into the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on track to become the first LEED Platinum stadium in the NFL and MLS. What an embarrassment of riches—a Super Bowl contender and a brand new soccer team that sold over 27,000 seasons tickets (a record for MLS), all playing in one of the greenest sports venues in the world.

Namaste.

Feel better?

You should.

I’ll leave the on-field Falcons (therapeutic) analysis to the gridiron experts and will instead take a deeper look at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, slated to open July 30, when Atlanta United F.C.^ takes on Orlando City F.C.

m-b-stadium

Artist’s rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Credit: Atlanta United F.C.)

 

When we interviewed Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chairman of the Board Scott Jenkins in November, 2015, the building’s breakthrough greenness was only beginning to come into focus. Now, with only five months till Opening Day, that focus is sharp and the sustainability picture is impressive. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will:

  • Feature water fixtures that use 47 percent less water than baseline standards.
  • Save 29% in energy usage vs. a typical stadium design.
  • Collect rain water in a 1,100,000 gallon storm vault and a 680,000 gallon cistern for cooling tower water and landscape irrigation. This will also keep storm water away from the adjacent residential neighborhoods.
  • Contain 4,000 PV solar panels. The 1.3 megawatts generated by the panels will be enough to power 9 Falcons home games or 13 United home matches.
  • Incorporate edible landscaping (apples and blueberries) into the site.

To get a better sense of what Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank, Jenkins and the rest of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium team will deliver, please watch the short video below.

 

Again, I ask Falcons fans: Feel better? I tell you what: I feel better, and my team’s starting quarterback isn’t even on the roster.

 


Here’s one more thing to feel good about, Falcons fan or not.

The same best-in-green-class ethos that characterizes the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is also being brought to bear on the demolition of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons home the past 25 years*.

georgia-dome

The Georgia Dome (Photo credit: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

 

Beginning towards the end of this year, the project will result in 97 percent—or 176,000+ tons—of Georgia Dome materials (concrete, steel, and non-ferrous materials, including Copper, Brass, Aluminum and more) being recycled, reused and otherwise salvaged.

 

^Atlanta United F.C. will play the early portion of its inaugural campaign at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium
* Here’s a question for a separate story to which I don’t now have an answer: How sustainable is it to tear down a stadium after only 25 years?

 

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The GSB Interview: David Muller, Green-Sports-Corporate Partner Matchmaker

David Muller has successfully shown sports teams, venues, and leagues, as well as corporations large and small, the value of attaching themselves to the Green-Sports Movement. After playing a key role in building the Green Sports Alliance from start up to mature force, Muller went off on his own to increase his impact. We sat down with Muller to get his take on the Movement, where it’s going and what he sees his role as being.

 

GreenSportsBlog: David, how did a kid from Springfield, IL find his way to the epicenter of the Green-Sports Movement?

David Muller: Things certainly didn’t start out that way. Yes, I am from Springfield. Grew up a Bulls fan during the Jordan Years, and of course love the Bears and White Sox too. But I didn’t intend to work in sports at all. I wanted to move west and went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR as a Religious Studies major. Thought I would go the academia route but you know what? Whenever I looked at an academic, they seemed so unhappy—bored, really, and removed from the real world. So I ditched that plan and wandered—worked in education and journalism, taught English in Argentina, then worked in software project management. Over time I came to the conclusion that I needed to work in sustainability in some way, shape or form. Ended up going to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s (BGI) Graduate Business School for Sustainability in Seattle. Now part of Presidio Graduate School, I was attracted to it because it embedded sustainability in every aspect of the curriculum with the goal of making the world a better place through business, or “changing business for good” as the motto goes.

GSB: That’s a lofty goal, indeed…

DM: No doubt about it. They really want to change business from the inside out.

GSB: So how did you go from BGI to the Green Sports Alliance?

DM: During my time at BGI, Jason Twill came to speak. He was working at Vulcan

GSB: …Vulcan is Paul Allen’s company, Allen being one of the co-founders of Microsoft.

DM: Correct. Included among Vulcan’s assets at the time were the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and the Portland Trail Blazers. Twill worked for Allen at Vulcan and was one of the co-founders of the GSA. He made the point that sports can change the world; that it can be a powerful platform for social change. I got it immediately, being an avid sports fan, having experienced in person and up close the power of sports to be a great unifier. Twill also said, “If you hear someone speak that inspires you, reach out to him/her.” So I took him at his word and did just that. The GSA hadn’t even launched yet, but Jason invited me to a board meeting/workshop. Soon enough I was an intern, there for its birth. And 9 months later, I was the second-ever staffer behind the original Executive Director Martin Tull.

GSB: What was your role there?

DM: I started out as a Jack-of-all-Trades, handling communications, writing blogs, and researching the ‘state of the state’ of the fledgling Green Sports Movement. I developed and managed the webinar program from its inception, focusing on the key identified impact areas of waste, energy, water, purchasing, transportation, and fan engagement, and featuring leading practitioners and successful case studies. We secured some terrific speakers early on, including several GMs and Directors of Operations of major professional sports venues, executives from international corporations like Aramark and Waste Management, as well as leading environmental NGOS and the U.S. EPA—and we quickly built a solid audience.

muller-matt-cohen

David Muller (Photo credit: Matt Cohen)

 

GSB: How many people attend those webinars?

DM: We started with an audience of 20-30; as of the spring 2016, we were getting 150-200 people per webinar. And then I took on generating memberships among teams, venues and leagues.

GSB: How did you do there?

DM: Well, from about 20 members when I came on board in 2011 as Membership Director, the GSA grew to nearly 400 members as of 2016.

GSB: That’s really impressive, David. Congratulations! How much did the memberships go for?

DM: There were two levels: Basic was $500/year and Premier went for $2,500. Premier members got a deeper level of direct support on greening initiatives from myself and other staff, as well as more significant promotion through the GSA website, public communications, and events.

GSB: What kind of services did the GSA offer its members?

DM: As far as the team and venue members were concerned, the we helped them reach their sustainability commitments and goals, whether it be recycling, composting, energy efficiency, etc. We really became sustainability consultants for stadium operators who increasingly were getting the direction from team management that they needed to take smart and fiscally responsible actions to reduce environmental impacts.

GSB: And they weren’t equipped to do so…

DM: Well, we provided the sustainability expertise they needed by reviewing their operations, examining their supply chain, researching available grants and incentives, etc.

GSB: At $500-$2,500 per year, that’s a great bargain!

DM: We thought so. And the spirit of collaboration among GSA members and staff was incredible.

GSB: Can you share a specific example of how you and the GSA worked with a team?

DM: Ah, it’s tough to pick out just one…

GSB: That’s why I ask the tough questions!

DM: OK, I really enjoyed working with the Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium and the Maryland Stadium Authority. My key contact was Jeff Provenzano, who at the time was running Stadium Operations at M&T Bank Stadium. When we first met in Baltimore, we spoke for almost three hours about how Jeff and his team, who already helped make the operations more efficient, needed to secure the investments to take their greening program to the next level. It was invigorating, really.

GSB: Did the Ravens buy in?

DM: The Ravens owners challenged the stadium ops team to prove greening measures could save them money. So, Jeff and his team showed them how this could work with a modest investment and a terrific pay off. The entire staff at the stadium was engaged in a massive effort to lower its energy usage. It started off with little things like closing doors when leaving the office, turning lights off, reporting spaces that were being heated/cooled even though no one spent any significant time there (e.g. supply closets). Over several months, they reduced their energy usage by some 40-50%, which translated to an annual savings of ~$500,000—or about the cost of a rookie contract at the time.

GSB: I bet that got their attention.

DM: No doubt about it. Ownership embraced this and agreed to invest some capital in the program. They decided to go for LEED certification for existing buildings, but in order to achieve it, they needed access to a substantial amount of comparison data from other stadiums. In the spirit of collaboration that really defined the GSA at the time, I was able to work with other GSA members and obtain the relevant, sensitive data the crew in Baltimore needed for their LEED application, and they were able to attain Gold status a year or two later.

mt-bank-stadium-balt-sun

M&T Bank Stadium, now the LEED Gold certified home of the Baltimore Ravens, thanks in part to the work of David Muller and the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

 

GSB: That’s a great story; one that the NFL should’ve told. Turning to the annual GSA Summit; that must also have been part of your responsibilities, no?

DM: Absolutely. The GSA was a very a small team the first few years, so everyone had to pitch in. We only had about three or four months of planning time for the first summit in Portland in 2011. Despite the short lead-time it turned out to be a big success—and we surprisingly turned a meaningful profit, mainly through getting the sports supply chain as sponsors/exhibitors–the Aramarks and Waste Managements of the world.

GSB: Did you manage that as well?

DM: No, sponsorships were mainly the responsibility of Martin Tull at the time, while I handled the memberships and communications.

GSB: As the Summit grew over time, with 700-800 attendees, the responsibilities must’ve grown with it.

DM: No doubt about it. I played a central role in designing the program, securing speakers, writing up session descriptions, coordinating volunteers, that sort of thing. And everyone else on the GSA team was multi-tasking as well. It was lots of work but it was also a lot of fun as we were all mission-driven and riding this rapidly-rising wave of engagement and activity.

muller-chicago-gsa

David Muller (l) presenting University of California, Berkeley with the Pac-12 Zero-Waste Award, at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

GSB: I can imagine. Why did you end up leaving GSA?

DM: Well, over time, in large part because of how many members we brought in while still maintaining a very small staff, the GSA became more focused on PR and storytelling—which they’re good at and is important—while moving away from the consulting, advisory, and operations support work. We simply didn’t have the capacity to continue the same level of service to individual members.

GSB: …Like what you did with the Ravens?

DM: Yes. And that’s what I was most interested in doing. Plus, I was also interested in the health and wellness aspects of sustainability and seeing how sports venues, and everyone who spends time in them, could benefit by focusing on people’s health and wellness within their operations, be it that of staff, fans, the active roster, etc. So, I left GSA last summer and became a sustainability-focused consultant. I’ve worked with small-to-medium sized health and wellness organizations including Green Seal, Delos/International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and AtmosAir—to help them with market research and also how to compellingly present what they offer to sports venues.

GSB: I gotta believe sports venues and teams want to keep their athletes healthy—and their fans, for that matter. Good niche. Talk about your involvement in Sport and Sustainability International or SandSI.

DM: SandSI is an outgrowth of work I did in Europe in the spring of 2015 with Allen Hershkowitz…

GSB: Then the President of GSA.

DM: Yes. Allen, as well as Alice Henly, who also worked with Allen at the NRDC before coming to the GSA. I had connected in late 2014 with Neil Beecroft, who was the Sustainability Manager of UEFA at the time.

GSB: And, shameless plug, Neil’s a GreenSportsBlog interviewee.

DM: Yes. So in conversation with Neil, we kind of realized that while Europe is ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental concern and government action, it was behind in Green-Sports. So, we accepted Neil’s invitation to meet with him and other leaders of the European Green-Sports Movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as in Paris and London.

GSB: Lausanne is the capital of European sports, home of the IOC, FIFA and UEFA.

DM: The European sports entities, to a person, said “we need help” with greening. We were excited about sharing the knowledge we had gained over the previous few years, and making the GSA a truly global organization. But the GSA felt, at the time, that there was still a lot more to do in North America, and didn’t see an immediate ROI, so the European work was put on the back burner.

GSB: And, Allen, having left GSA, became one of the prime movers of SandSI.

DM: Yes. It’s still early days but things have really heated up over the past six months or so. I am an Organizing Committee member, and am helping develop the membership program for sports entities as well as corporations and NGOs.

GSB: Aside from the geographic differences, what do you see as the main distinctions between SandSI and GSA?

DM: I’d say the main differentiator is that SandSI takes a broader view of sustainability than the GSA. SandSI takes a “Triple Bottom Line” approach, considering social sustainability and ethics on an equal level with environmental and economic sustainability. The GSA made a strategic decision very early to become experts on the environmental side only, which made good sense at the time as a start-up trying to gain relevance. But I think an environmental-only approach puts a ceiling on what you can accomplish, because legitimate sustainability is comprehensive at its core, and the best environmental policies are always at risk of backsliding or discontinuation if the people responsible for carrying them out aren’t well-taken care of themselves.

GSB: I think that’s smart overall but my fear is that environment, and in particular, climate change, could be de-emphasized—just when the opposite is necessary.

DM: Oh don’t worry, SandSI places great priority on taking on climate change! But I think people often forgot that environmentalism is still ultimately about people, about keeping the environment clean and stable in order for humans to thrive. It’s not about saving the Earth for Earth’s sake (in the geologic timeframe, all of human history is but a blip), it’s about keeping the Earth livable so that our children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s grandchildren have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy, meaningful lives as well. It is for them, as well as those already suffering from its impacts right now, that we confront climate change with all our resolve and ingenuity.

GSB: Amen!

 

 


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