The GSB Interview: Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director, Sports Environment Alliance

The Green-Sports movement is in its early days in Australia and New Zealand. After speaking with Sheila Nguyen, the visionary, “won’t take no for an answer”-type Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA), the organization leading the charge Down Under, I am confident that the Green-Sports movement is in great hands. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Sheila, it’s clear from your American accent that you’re not originally from Australia. How did you get from here to there and how did you come to begin and lead the Green-Sports movement Down Under?

Sheila Nguyen: It’s a long story, Lew…

GSB:…I’m not going anywhere. Go!

SN: OK you asked for it! My parents are refugees from Vietnam, leaving during the war in the late 70s. They landed in Boston before moving to Lowell, where I was born. They wanted to get into the American culture so when my brother was born, they named him Larry after Larry Bird.

GSB: I’m trying to think of the sports figure who’s name is Sheila and I’m drawing a blank.

SN: Well they named me after a French singer named Sheila so not everything was Americanized. Anyway when I was a young girl, my parents, being very traditional, kept me inside all the time. I became obese. I ended up forging my mom’s signature to get the ok to play youth soccer when I was 10. They called me “The Bulldozer”. I was hooked on sports. It was really a life-changing event for me. We moved around a lot but I became incredibly active, swimming, cheerleading, you name it. And sports became embedded in my DNA.

GSB: WOW! Amazing. What did you do with this sports passion?

NGUYEN_headshot

Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director of Sports Environment Alliance (SEA). (Photo credit: Sheila Nguyen)

 

SN: I rowed at the University of Vermont, was a psychology and sports medicine major. And I had a summer internship at the University of Albany when the New York Giants trained there. So I got even more into it. In fact, when it came time to look at grad schools for Sports Psychology, I only considered schools that were in that year’s NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. And whichever school made it the furthest into the tourney, that’s where I was going!

GSB: For real? Basing your graduate school selection on March Madness?

SN: That year, Villanova, Michigan State and Temple all made it into the tournament; Temple got all the way to the Elite Eight. Next thing I knew, I was headed to North Philly. Then I decided to get a PhD. in Sports Business and Corporate Social Responsibility at Florida State

GSB: Did they make a deep NCAA Tournament run that year?

SN: No…I didn’t make my PhD decision based on the NCAA’s- I chose them as they were ranked in the top 5 for doctoral studies in sport business. My dissertation was on How Sports Can Be a Force for Good…And Good Business—I was able to provide evidence that this was the case; that doing good enhanced the business, as a whole, with lots of organizational outcomes like employee loyalty.

GSB: So where did the environmental sustainability piece come in?

SN: Again going back to my parents and their backgrounds as refugees…they were incredible savers; they wanted absolutely no waste. And one of my childhood friends had hippy parents. They composted, for goodness sakes!

GSB: In the 80s? Composting?

SN: Yep! So I was an environmentalist from when I was about eight years old.

GSB: I’m quite sure I had no idea what composting was when I was 28, much less eight. That is great to hear. So I get where your greenness comes from as well as your passion for sports.  How did you come to combine the two?

SN: Great question. It goes back to 2007 when I started my job as Assistant Professor in Sport Management at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia…

GSB: Ahhhhh! So THAT’S where Australia comes in! I was going to ask about that. OK, continue…

SN: And in 2008 I started to do some research on the intersection of environmental sustainability and the sport industry- when I posed it to my class of sport industry professionals, their reaction was evidence that the industry was highly disconnected to their responsibility to their spaces and places of play.

GSB: They didn’t care…Not good.

SN: Fast forward to 2011, when I was a visiting scholar at Notre Dame in Business Ethics.

GSB: So I assume you went to a Notre Dame football game or two?

SN: Absolutely!! What an experience! An even more important one was, while at Notre Dame, I found out about the Green Sports Alliance, went to their first Summit in Portland. That was my “Eureka! Moment” where I said to myself “We have to bring this to Australia!” I talked to the folks at the GSA about doing so but, at the time, they were much more focused on growing their footprint and influence in North America. So that’s when I thought, “I’m going to build something like GSA to represent and attend to the needs of this region.”

GSB: How did you go about it? That seems like a massive undertaking, especially for someone who already had a full time job.

SN: You’re right. But I wasn’t going to wait around. So in 2011, I started talking to organizations like the AFL (Aussie Rules Football), Tennis Australia and other major sports organizations in the country. There was a modicum of interest in doing something around sustainability. Luckily, shortly after starting at Deakin, I met Malcolm Speed, one of the most important figures in Australian sport. Malcolm became my mentor and without him, the Sports Environment Alliance would not exist.

GSB: Who is Malcolm Speed?

SN: I’ll answer that this way: In 2013, David Stern, at that time still commissioner of the NBA, said “35 years ago, a man walked into my office, saying he wanted to start a basketball league in Australia. That man was Malcolm Speed. The lesson? Always keep your office door open!” Malcolm started professional basketball in Australia. He’s a globally reputed and respected sport administrator, and I think he has a crystal ball because he can foresee the industry challenges, like environmental degradation and its impact on our industry.

SEA Malcolm Speed

Malcolm Speed (Photo credit: Sports Environment Alliance)

 

GSB: Man, I want Malcolm to be my mentor!

SN: Well, I’ve got him! Anyway, we knew that the North American sports industry had advanced in terms of considering ways to protect our planet, so in 2013 we decided to host a symposium, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, and we invited North American leaders to share their insights alongside local leaders. We were fortunate to get a number of amazing industry eco-warriors like, Kevin Carr at the NBA, Brian Thurston at Waste-Management, and Brad Mohr, who then worked for the Cleveland Indians in sustainability and now does so for the Browns, to come down and present. We also had leaders from this part of the world doing amazing things, and pretty much all of the major sports associations attending the event—Aussie Rules, Rugby Union, Rugby League, A-League Soccer, Tennis Australia, Cricket Australia, Golf, Basketball, Netball

GSB: That sounds like a phenomenal level of participation…Who funded this? And how many people showed up?

SN: Deakin supported us and I chipped in to fund it…

GSB: You dipped into your own pocket? That is true devotion…

SN: I look at it like an investment, both in my own future in green-sports and for the environment more broadly. We had about 200 attendees, which we were happy about.

GSB: I’ll say! Australia is less than 10 percent of the US population so that would be like drawing 2,000 or more in the States. That’s really impressive, Sheila. So what were the key take-aways?

SN: That the stadium and arena operators needed to be heavily involved up front. One reason is they could convert knowledge on sustainable operations to practical improvements most easily. And number two is that sports are run differently in Australia as compared to North America. Down here, for the most part, teams are tenants of the stadium and arena owners so they haven’t yet leveraged their position to engage fans on sustainability through education through entertainment, aka, “edutainment.”

GSB: But sustainability isn’t really “entertainment”…it’s more of a cause. Don’t teams do cause marketing in Australia?

SN: They do get involved in some causes- in fact, they are highly involved with various causes, such as breast cancer awareness, racial vilification, and so on, but the environment is less ‘humanized’ and thus, the sporting public has had a more challenging time in engaging it and also probably see it as more of a future problem to be dealt with later.

GSB: It seems like the teams are letting themselves off the hook…also the “environmental problems are in the future” attitude is something we fight in North America as well. How do you start the conversation with the industry?

SN: I start off by reminding them about their ‘locality’ and what is important in this part of the world to protect.   I say we need to protect Australiana, the 24,000 unique species of flora and fauna that exist only in Australia. The other message we share is on how environmental changes can impact our communities. In the 2000’s, Australia experienced serious drought. Community sport was affected as the grounds couldn’t be watered. You might think, “oh this is a problem, but, in the scheme of things, not that big of one.” Well, you would be wrong. Participatory and community sports are huge parts of the Australian culture and the drought cut that off in many cases, which impacted the community connectedness. In many parts of remote and rural Australia, sport is a way of life and a means to socialize and feel connected to one’s neighbors, who may live many kilometers away. As a result, the story is, and there are data to support it, that the drought-related cancellation of community sports led to a marked rise in depression, mental illness and even suicide from the increasing feeling of isolation and loss of identity and connection. So, we would like to say, that this movement is about protecting our communities as much as it is about protecting our spaces to play.

GSB: I had no idea. That is a HUGE story that needs to be told more broadly. Now it makes perfect sense to me that the Sports Environment Alliance was created. How did it happen?

SN: Malcolm and I started to put it together in 2014 as we saw interest in the topic at the symposiums held then. We created the Sports Environment Association (SEA) with a simple mission: To get sports to minimize its environmental impact. We saw this goal as attainable because, if done right, it would also lead to cost cutting, which venues and sports federations would appreciate as they are searching for ways to become more financially independent. In my spare time, as I was still working full time, Malcolm and I chipped away at spreading the ‘good word’, and in our first year, 2015, we were able to get 15 foundation members, including Tennis Australia, Cricket Australia, among many other amazing leaders, including, an AFL club, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the City of Melbourne itself.

Melbourne Cricket Ground Mat Tubb – Airship Solutions

Aerial view of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, one of Australia’s most venerable sporting venues and a founding member of Sports Environment Alliance (Photo credit: Matt Tubb, Airship Solutions)

 

GSB: WOW! That’s impressive, Sheila, well done! What are the next steps for SEA?

SN: Now that we’ve got the national sport and other industry leaders on board, we are focused on spreading the good word about the role the industry can play in bettering our environmental health.  This is why our first step in addressing our mission was to build awareness of the movement and of the respective issues. In 2016-17, our main aim is to grow the ‘herd,’ through alliance membership. To that end, we just hired both our first and second employee ever—we’re a true startup, having been all volunteers up to now, Lew! And to be truly regional, we are excited to embrace our Trans-Tasman friends from New Zealand. On the latter, we recently secured Auckland Stadiums as our first Kiwi Foundation member, as they represent an enthusiastic and eco-focused group of nine facilities, which can make a world of difference and motivate the rest of the country’s sports industry to be part of the movement. Eventually, should it make sense, we hope to influence and increase the regional representation to the whole of Asia Pacific, and I think we can. Some other exciting news, we’ve started an athlete ambassador program. In fact, Daria Gavrilova, number 20 globally ranked female tennis player, and Marcus Bontempelli, an AFL player, were just featured in the Melbourne Herald Sun, sharing their support of the environment through the #SEAAmbassadors hashtag.

Daria Gavrilova HD Pix

Daria Gavrilova, Australian tennis star and supporter of Sports Environment Association (Photo credit: HD Photos)

 

GSB: That is so exciting. Good luck on all fronts! One last question…It seems as though SEA is not bringing climate change into the mix. Is that an accident? Or are the politics of climate change in Australia toxic, similar to the situation here in the US?

SN: We haven’t really used the term climate change in our mainstream communication, but as you are aware, it is a highly politicized topic- in fact, I would say, it has been a political football. And, while we love sports, we don’t play games with climate change. For us, it is about impact on the ground, and minimizing our impact on the ground is our priority.

GSB: But isn’t avoiding saying the words “climate change” just acquiescing to the deniers and skeptics?

SN: As the first Green-Sports organization in our part of the world and as a start-up, we are taking first things first with the sports industry. That means getting the industry to recognize its crucial societal role, and two, to encourage sporting organizations, stadiums and other industry friends to be more environmentally friendly. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring climate change; we’re just leading with overall environmental change at present, hence our motto #SEAtheChange . But don’t worry; we’re already partnering with various great groups focused on climate change issues, such as the Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and many others. I say, to use an American football or gridiron analogy, move the football 10 yards at a time- that’s progress, and we’ll eventually get that climate change touchdown.

GSB: I know that dealing with climate change and sports is challenging in Australia as in the US. And, since you’re a startup, I think you’re right to focus on action now and take on climate change directly down the road—just not too far down the road J I look forward to coming down to Australia to check out SEA’s progress for myself.

SN: You got it Lew- any friend of the environment is a friend of ours.

 


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GSB News and Notes: PAC-12 Zero Waste Bowl Winners; Men’s and Women’s Final Fours Played on Sustainably Harvested Hardwood Floors; World Flying Disc Federation Names Its First Sustainability Director

 

The PAC-12 conference, in partnership with the Green Sports Alliance, announces the winners of its fall 2016 Zero-Waste Bowl competitions. The Men’s and Women’s Final Fours were contested on sustainably harvested hardwood courts. And Flying Disc sports (i.e. Ultimate Frisbee) makes its first GSB appearance as the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) hires its first sustainability director.

 

PAC-12 ZERO WASTE BOWL WINNERS

On Wednesday, the Pac-12, in partnership with the Green Sports Alliance, announced the winners of its third annual Zero Waste Bowl. The Pac 12 already has a strong relationship with the GSA: All 12 schools^ participated as members in 2016 and are doing so again this year.

The Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl aimed to determine which school could divert the most waste from the landfill at a selected football (or other men’s or women’s) home game during the Fall 2016 sports season, as well as which one used the most innovative methods to expand the reach and impact of the competition. It provides a friendly and spirited platform for the schools’ athletics departments and other groups to engage on best practices in athletics waste diversion and to learn how each campus strives toward zero waste goals.

In addition to the overall waste diversion rate, the universities were scored on innovation, partnership and participation, as well as fan engagement. A panel of four independent judges determined the results.

Fall 2016 Pac-12 Zero Waste Bowl Challenge Final Results:

la-coliseum-usc-neil-leifer

The Los Angeles Coliseum is now Zero Waste for USC football (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Finally, the judges awarded three Pac-12 universities with special awards for Most Improved (USC), Fan Engagement (Stanford), and Athlete/Player Engagement (Oregon State).

Stanford’s Cardinal Green fan-centric program, part of a nationwide Gameday Challenge to see which participating school could reduce waste the most, won points for its comprehensiveness. It reached out to a multitude of stakeholders to encourage recycling and composting at one football game, one men’s basketball game and one women’s basketball game. Students, season-ticket holders, single-game ticket holders, employees, gameday staff, volunteers and more were engaged. The communications effort was clever and deep, both in the tailgate area and especially in the stadium and arena:

  • The Stanford marching band made sustainability and Zero-Waste a theme of one of their vignettes during halftime of the football game.
  • A Stanford-produced video (“All About No Waste at Stanford”, a musical parody based on Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass”) was played during halftime.

  • The Public Address Announcer discussed Game Day Challenge information twice towards beginning of game, encouraging fans to properly sort their waste.

  • Sustainability facts were displayed on the main scoreboard about once per quarter.

  • Compostable bags and half-page flyers showing what to compost and where compost bins are located were distributed to tailgaters.

 

“All About No Waste” video (3:12) was shown at halftime of the 2016 Gameday Challenge football game at Stanford Stadium.

 

Oregon State won the Athlete/Player Engagement honors thanks to its Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team (BAST), a group led by swimmer Jesikah Cavanaugh and Sam Lewis of women’s cross country. BAST, which also draws its members from football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, women’s rowing and women’s track, came together because they had a passion for sustainability, the climate change fight and saw areas of waste in their community and athletic department. They started with small ideas which evolved into an organized group focused on engagement, education and service to the environment. Three key action areas for the 2016-2017 academic year include:

  • Reduce Food Waste in Valley Performance Center (where the players eat their meals): Introduced composting and increased recycling.

  • Create Awareness Around Sustainability and to Build Bridges Between Campus and the Community Launched the #BeavsRecycle Campaign with Oregon State Campus Recycling to create an awareness of recycling throughout campus as well as the student-athletes’ commitment to the environment

  • Foster a More Sustainable Experience at Sporting Event: Collect unused or disposed of giveaway items at football and basketball games for recycling. Educate fans about recycling at baseball games.

According to Ms. Cavanaugh, the BAST program is a natural outgrowth of the already deeply embedded sustainable/green culture at Oregon State: “Many of my teammates have become passionate about being sure to sort their waste because of the culture here at OSU.”

 

Oregon State University student-athletes share why they’ve joined the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team or BAST in this video (1:43)

 

MEN’S AND WOMEN’S FINAL FOURS PLAYED ON SUSTAINABLY HARVESTED WOOD FLOORS

While South Carolina and North Carolina are deservedly being hailed for winning the  2017 NCAA Women’s and Men’s National Championships, respectively, the courts they won on merit kudos as well.

You see, the hardwood floors at American Airlines Center in Dallas, site of the Women’s Final Four, and University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, host of the Men’s Final Four, were made from wood sustainably harvested from The Nature Conservancy’s Two Hearted River Forest Reserve in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Connor Sports, the Official Court Provider of the NCAA, single-sourced all the timber from Sugar Maple trees in the TNC’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forest in the Upper Peninsula.   

“Our goal at Connor Sports is to provide our NCAA customer with the best possible court products using responsible forestry practices,” said Jason Gasperich, Director of Sustainability for Connor Sports. “This unique method…mark[s] the first-time Connor Sports has single-sourced all the timber for a customer project from one forest, and Sugar Maple trees are the industry’s most prized species known for their durability, strength and light coloring.”

The Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve spans approximately 24,000 acres. Sustainable forestry practices include ecological thinning, selectively cutting trees to improve the health of the forest that are also economically viable. Thirty-five acres of the Reserve were sustainably harvested to create this year’s championship floors.

 

JOHANNA VON TOGGENBURG NAMED SUSTAINABILITY DIRECTOR OF WORLD FLYING DISC FEDERATION (WFDF)

GreenSportsBlog has never reported on the world of Ultimate Frisbee and other flying disk sports. Until today, that is.

That is because Johanna Von Toggenburg, who has played and coached ultimate frisbee, and currently works for the United Nations on the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, has been named the first Sustainability Director of the World Flying Disk Federation (WFDF).

Johanna Von Toggenberg

Johanna Von Toggenburg, new Sustainability Director for the World Flying Disk Federation. (Photo credit: SwitchMed)

She played Ultimate in Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and the United States, competed at the European Ultimate Championships in 2007 in England, and also helped found the Lebanon Flying Disc Association when she moved to that country in 2015.

“My vision for this role is to develop transparent assessment mechanisms with practical recommendations to ensure activities carried out by WFDF and its members are done in a sustainable manner,” said Von Toggenburg, “I am excited about combining my profession and passion in order to mainstream sustainable practices into all aspects of flying disc sports worldwide.”

WFDF President Robert Rauch welcomed Von Toggenburg into the role and says she will hit the ground running to improve the environmental performance andgovernance and of the organization.

“The appointment of Johanna von Toggenburg as our first ever sustainability marks another important step in fulfilling our commitment to the environment and to stage sustainable world events and make sure that WFDF operates under best of class governance procedures,” he said.

“We will now be better equipped to apply our sustainability evaluation tools like the Sustainable Sport Event Toolkit provided by our partner AISTS and ensure that sustainability issues are considered when reviewing applications for our development grant projects.”

^ Pac-12 schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal-Berkeley, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State

 


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LA 2024: Smartest, Greenest Olympics Bid Ever

Paris and Los Angeles are the two cities still in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games—the International Olympic Committee will make that decision on September 13 of this year in Lima, Peru. GreenSportsBlog reported on Paris’ sustainability efforts last month; now it’s LA’s turn to shine in the Green-Sports spotlight. We were pleased to speak with Brence Culp, Sustainability Director of the LA 2024 Bid Committee, about the many substantive sustainability initiatives her team is planning.

 

The greenest sports venue and/or Olympic and Paralympic Village is the one you don’t have to build.

That has been and is the mantra of LA 2024, the committee handling the bid for Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team. The bid process is now in the home stretch—the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes in September in Lima, Peru—and only Paris stands in the way of Los Angeles becoming the host for the third time (1932 and 1984).

GreenSportsBlog documented Paris’ strong and comprehensive sustainability plan in February; now it’s Los Angeles’ turn to have its say.

Wait.

Before we get to LA 2024’s sustainability story, let’s reflect on this: How GREAT is it that the two remaining bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics are in a figurative, innovative battle to see which is the most sustainable? Would this have been the case five years ago? I think not. To channel my inner Joe Biden, this is a “big…deal!”

OK, now back to LA 2024 and its sustainability story.

 

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OLYMPICS VENUES ARE THE ONES YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD

When the LA 2024 bid committee first began planning the Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it, like pretty much every other Olympic bid in recent memory, was looking at massive redevelopment alternatives. Thus, it made sense to recruit Brence Culp as its sustainability director. You see, Ms. Culp had been in charge of many big redevelopment and urban renewal projects as the second in command to the CEO of Los Angeles County (appointed, not a political position) for five years. Prior to that, she worked at a redevelopment agency in LA.

Brence Culp LA 2024

Brence Culp, Sustainability Director, LA 2024. (Photo credit: LA 2024)

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2024. The bid committee team visited the UCLA and USC campuses. “Before we got to the campuses, we thought ‘oh, the dorms and the food will not be up to par,” recalled Ms. Culp. “But, both UCLA and USC were absolutely stunning, from the dorms to the recreation facilities to the landscaping. The food was fantastic. So, it turned out the most sustainable Village and Media Center were the ones we already had!” In the LA 2024 bid plan, UCLA will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village and USC, near the downtown venue cluster, will host the Media Center.

Now don’t get the idea that, because she is not supervising a big urban redevelopment project, Brence Culp is at all disappointed. Far from it.

“Sustainability is core to our bid and our DNA,” declared Ms. Culp, “Gene Sykes, LA 2024’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principals of sustainable environmental and financial stewardship, as well as social inclusion are baked in to everything we do. When we, (LA) Mayor Garcetti and our sustainability consultants, AECOM, looked at, oh, two dozen urban redevelopment sites for the Village, we kept on coming back to UCLA and USC^. Great for the athletes and media. Sustainable from an environmental and financial sense. Innovative in that we don’t have to build something new and shiny.”

And LA 2024 doesn’t have to build new and shiny sports venues. The area boasts a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of stadia and arenas from which to choose, including:

  • Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
  • LA Coliseum (USC football and host of Olympic Track and Field as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 1932 and 1984 as well as Super Bowls I and VII)

Coliseum 2024

Artist’s rendering of the renovated LA Coliseum. (LA 2024)

 

Since the venues are largely in place, the sustainability team’s initiatives focus on making them greener. Exhibit A is the StubHub Center.

Per Ms. Culp, “Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center is going ‘all in’ on sustainability as it will be the location of LA 2024’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation. AEG is implementing robust water efficiency strategies, including use of municipal greywater for irrigation. They also built and manage an onsite garden that includes a large chicken coop and a greenhouse. StubHub Center’s chef uses the garden’s fruits and vegetables in meals prepared for staff, athletes and other guests. AEG also came up with an innovative way to harvest honey from relocated beehives found onsite –located safely away from spectators! Leading up to the Games, we will actively explore ways to enhance AEG’s current practices, including onsite solar.”

 

MASS TRANSIT RAMPING UP IN LA IN TIME FOR 2024

Moving from chickens and bees to pachyderms, the big elephant in the room, sustainability-wise, is transportation. LA is a sprawling area—Paris’ geographic footprint is significantly smaller—and its mass transit offerings have been, relatively speaking, limited. But that is changing fast, to the benefit of the LA 2024 bid.

“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2024 Opening Ceremonies,” offered the LA 2024 sustainability director, “And leading up to the Games LA 2024 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”

 

FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN

An important facet of LA 2024’s sustainability equation is financial. It stands to reason if an Olympic host committee can use existing athletic venues and existing structures for an Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it will save money. But how much? Well, LA 2024’s budget is projected to be $5.3 billion as compared to Paris’ projection of $9.3 billion. Both sound like lots of dough but consider that Rio 2016 spent $12 billion and Tokyo 2020 is looking at $30 billion. Russia spent $50 billion to put on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ($50 billion??? On a Winter Olympics, which is a much smaller enterprise than its summer cousin?? That’s insane.) London 2012, considered the sustainability gold standard among Olympics, spent about $12 billion. So both LA 2024 and Paris 2024 are demonstrating that sustainability is not good Olympics business, it is great Olympics business.

Despite its lean budget and its reliance on existing structures, LA 2024 is not skimping on sustainable innovation. “One of our priorities is bringing together folks who are advancing sustainable practices through sport. Thus, we have allocated $25 million in seed funding for high impact, sustainability-focused projects with our partners,” Ms. Culp said, “The goal is to leave a positive long-term legacy for the community.”

 

WILL FANS KNOW THE LA 2024 SUSTAINABILITY STORY?

This wouldn’t be a GreenSportsBlog column on the sustainability impacts of a mega-sports event if we didn’t delve into how LA 2024 plans to communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans at the Games and to the potentially billions who will be watching on TV, online and who knows how else in seven years time. Rio set the marker, with its Opening Ceremonies vignette on climate change that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

While there are no firm fan-focused sustainability communications plans in place (that would start to take shape if LA wins the bid), Ms. Culp is confident that “the more sustainable we make our Games, the more that broadcasters and other media will pick that up. And we will have plenty of eye-catching, sustainability stories, accented with a distinctly diverse and innovative LA flavor from which the media will be able to choose: From the aforementioned region-changing mass transit expansion to the use of locally sourced food to the use of recycled construction materials, and much more.”

 

LA 2024’S SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY GOES BEYOND VENUES AND MASS TRANSIT

A recurring theme to our conservation was this: Go big on environmental sustainability and innovation, add a diverse and vibrant culture and you have Los Angeles—and LA 2024. “I tell you, wherever I go throughout the area, people across the demographic spectra—gender, age, income, race—are very excited about the bid, with public support running at 88 percent” said Ms. Culp. This is in stark contrast to other cities in this cycle which had to withdraw their bids due to lack of public support; Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome among them.  Sustainability is a foundational building block of that strong level of public support, opines Ms. Culp: “It is almost impossible these days to get people in a mega city to row together in the same direction. We know that our emphasis on sustainability in our bid has helped to make this happen.”

 

This 3 min 24 sec LA 2024 Venue Plan video demonstrates the bid committee’s commitment to use existing facilities.

 

 

^ UC Riverside is another university that is lending its facilities to the LA 2024 cause; it is designated to host the rowing competition.

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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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