The GSB Interview: Chris Mazdzer, US Olympic Medal-winning Luger & Eco-Athlete

Chris Mazdzer is a true pioneer.

He became the first American male to win an Olympic medal in Single’s luge when he took home silver at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. And he is leading a burgeoning movement among world class lugers to engage fans on the climate change fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Mazdzer about his work on the luge track and as an environmental activist.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris, before we get into your very important work with your fellow lugers on the environment and on climate, I’d like to know how you got into the sport in the first place.

Chris Mazdzer: Thanks, Lew. So I grew up in Peru, New York near Lake Placid…

GSB: …Site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” — “Do you believe in miracles?? YES!!!!” — and one of the few places in the U.S. with a bobsled/luge run.

Chris: That would be the place. I was exposed to luge at eight years old and it was natural for me. I loved sledding — would go sledding through apple orchards for hours. Luge was like ultimate sledding for me. Anyway, I showed some talent for it at a young age. I was on a development team when I was 12; at 13, I showed enough promise that I was picked for a junior team that went to Europe for a competition.

GSB: Sliding down a sheet of ice on your back, with no protection. Yikes! I guess when you’re young, you’re more likely to be fearless, right? How come you picked luge over bobsled?

Chris: First of all there were many more kids bobsledding so there was a long line and not as many runs. Plus you’re only driving 50 percent of the time — that’s really where the action is. And luge was just SO MUCH FUN! It’s as simple as this: two runs with bobsled or ten with luge. Anyways, when I was 17, I was having a breakout season and tried out for the Olympic team for the 2006 Torino Games. I missed the last spot by 0.161 seconds total over three runs; lost out to my roommate.

GSB: You must’ve been devastated…

Chris: …Disappointed but not at all devastated. It gave me motivation and the confidence to really believe, “Hey, I can do this!” So I made the team in 2010, finishing 13th in Vancouver. Same thing happened in 2014 in Sochi. Finally, I broke through last year in Pyeongchang, winning silver

GSB …In the process, becoming the first American male luger to win a medal of any kind in singles. Congratulations! Do you compete in doubles?

 

Chris Mazdzer

Chris Mazdzer (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 

Chris: Thank you, Lew. I did doubles in juniors but ended up specializing in singles, until now that is. My goal is to give the Olympics one more shot in Beijing in 2022, both in singles and for the first time in doubles.

GSB: How about medaling in both? Not to put any pressure on you or anything like that! OK, now pivoting to the environment. How did you get involved?

Chris: I’m 30 years-old. Growing up in the Adirondacks and being involved in winter sports, I’ve seen changes to our winters just in the time that I’ve been active. From bigger thaws to more rain during winter when it would normally snow. But it’s not just in winter. I travel a lot — I was in Indonesia and saw massive amounts of plastic on the beaches, in the oceans. I live in Salt Lake City these days, and the air quality is really, really bad. I don’t need the science to tell me — it’s clear, the climate is changing, the environment is worsening and it is humans that are helping to cause these adverse effects. And studying the science only confirms this. Without a doubt.

GSB: So what did you do, what are you doing to have an impact?

Chris: Well, I started out looking to offset the carbon emissions for which I’m responsible from all my flights. But, because I fly over 150,000 miles per year, that becomes quite costly. So I try to offset at least half for now. But then I became an athlete member on the International Luge Federation (FIL), sitting on a lot of committees. And I realized this is where I could have an impact! We’re starting small, working to have reusable cups at major competitions. But then I saw a video featuring several skiers at the World Championships in Finland, talking about why they love winter and why it’s important to take action on climate to protect it. I thought to myself, ‘We could do something similar.’ People don’t believe politicians; they don’t believe scientists. Who do they trust? Their peers and athletes! Scary but true: They trust athletes more than scientists. Thing is, athletes generally don’t engage on climate. And so I aimed to change that, at least with lugers.

GSB: You’ve put yourself on the hot seat, Chris: Qualify for the Olympics and getting athletes — in this case — lugers to care about and talk about climate. How are you doing the latter?

Chris: Well, I started in January by putting together a seminar for lugers competing at the 2019 World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. I was able to secure funding from one of my personal sponsors and brought in an expert and amazing speaker, Michael Pedersen of M Inc., a leader in sport governance. Tragically and unbelievably, Michael passed away suddenly a few weeks after our event due to a heart attack. He was 43.

GSB: I heard about that. What a tragic, unfathomable loss.

Chris: It’s still hard to believe. And his presentation to our group was incredible. He shared that athletes are in a unique position, with a powerful megaphone. He showed videos of people who’ve stood up and spoken up on a variety of issues, including climate, including Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish girl who recently was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for starting what has virally become a global student “climate strike” movement.. He did not focus on the science — the athletes are already on board there — but rather the need to use our platform to talk about the environment, whether it be climate, plastic ocean waste, pollution, etc.

 

Michael Pedersen

The late Michael Pedersen (Photo credit: M Inc.)

 

GSB: How did the lugers react and how many showed up?

Chris: Michael did such a great job — they really bought in. We had 15 lugers there. It was not as many as we would’ve liked but it was World Championship Week, the guys had to train, had media requirements so it was tough to get a bigger group. And it was a first time, so we learned a lot and am confident we’ll do better going forward.

GSB: How did you do on the track in Winterberg?

Chris: I only competed in doubles and doubles sprint this year due to a neck injury I sustained earlier in the week.  My partner Jayson Terdiman and I finished fifth in the Doubles sprint and eleventh in Doubles. Being it was our first year together I felt that we did we really well.

GSB: Good to hear. What else are you working on, sustainability-wise?

Chris: I’m working on the single use plastic issue among athletes and also with the IOC to see how they can help athletes reduce their carbon footprints. It’s a bigger issue than you might think — we get killed by some critics. Because of going from event to event all over the world, my carbon footprint is 10 to 15 times that of the average American. I think that finding creative ways to partner with the IOC, FIL and sponsors to help fund the offsetting of athlete travel-related emissions will allow athletes to stand on firmer ground when discussing this important topic.

 

Luge - Winter Olympics Day 1

Chris Mazdzer navigates Turn 14 at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 


 

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One More Sports-Climate Change Moon Shot Idea: “It’s About NOTHING!”

It’s the finale — Day V of GreenSportsBlog’s #EarthWeek Extravaganza! In case you missed them, here are links to our first four posts of the week.

And now, for post five…

 

In Monday’s GreenSportsBlog, ten Green-Sports All-Stars — plus yours truly — offered up big, audacious Moon Shot-type ideas on how sports can take on climate change. One more idea from a group of three friends came in too late to make the original piece.

I thought the idea had merit and decided to post it here.

 


“Everybody’s giving away something…We’re going to give away NOTHING!”

Jerry Seinfeld Standup Comedian 

George Costanza New York Yankees Assistant to the Traveling Secretary

Kramer ???

 

SCENE 1

LOCATION: The Coffee Shop

Jerry, somewhat downcast, sits at the gang’s regular booth nursing a coffee; George walks in enthusiastically and sits down opposite Jerry

 

JERRY: Hey…

GEORGE: Hey…Got your message! You got a gig in Philadelphia? Philly’s a great town but what’s the deal with the Liberty Bell? I mean can’t they fix the crack? It’s been 240-odd years already! There’s gotta be somethin’ for that. Anyway, tell me, tell me.

JERRY: I don’t know; my crazy agent got me a spot at a convention, a trade show…

GEORGE: Look, I know it’s not “The Tonight Show” but, really, I’m amazed you’ve been able to make it so long talking about [IMITATING JERRY] ‘where do the socks go after you put them in the dryer? What’s the deal with THAT?’ [RETURNS TO BEING GEORGE] You had a good run, my friend. Beggars can’t be choosers! So what convention is it?

JERRY: That’s the thing. It’s something called the Green Sports Alliance Summit. A group concerned with the intersection of sports and the environment? What’s the deal with THAT?!?

GEORGE: [Snaps fingers excitedly] Wait a second, Jerry…I know that outfit! The Yankees are a part of it! It’s a big deal, actually. Sports teams and stadiums are trying have been going green for awhile now! Solar panels, energy efficient lights. We compost and recycle virtually all of our food waste at Yankee Stadium. And get this: There’s this minor league soccer team in England that mows the lawn with a solar powered Mo-Bot. Hey, I could see Kramer getting involved with a solar powered MoBot…[LAUGHS]

JERRY: [WRY EXPRESSION]: If you want that MoBot to run amok, Kramer’s your man. [EXASPERATED]: Anyway I have no idea what to say to these Green Sports Alliance people!! I got nothin’ George, nothin’! You gotta help me!

GEORGE: Don’t worry, Jerry! I’ve got this. We’ve got this. Hey, this is just like the old days…

JERRY: How so?

GEORGE: You know, when we worked together. As a team.

JERRY: When was that?

GEORGE: You know, a looooong time ago, in the early 90s. When we pitched that sitcom idea to NBC.

JERRY: [LAUGHING] Oh yeah…your idea was ‘The Show About Nothing’. We met with  Russell Dalrymple, President of NBC and you said…’every sitcom is about something, we’re going to do NOTHING!’ 

GEORGE: [HARKENING BACK TO THEIR BRAINSTORM 25+ YEARS EARLIER]: I know. I asked Russell, ‘So, what did you do today?’

JERRY: [AS DALRYMPLE]…’Woke up, had breakfast, went to work.’

GEORGE: ‘THAT’S A SHOW!’

JERRY: About nothing! Which is what I’ve got for Philly.

[FADE TO COMMERCIAL]

 

George & Jerry

George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld discuss their idea (Photo credit: NBC)

 

 

George and Jerry pitch “The Show About Nothing” to NBC (2 minutes 34 seconds)

 

SCENE 2

LOCATION: Jerry’s Apartment, Jerry and George sit on the couch, each with a legal pad, both tired. Clearly they’ve been working for a long time.

JERRY: George, I just can’t imagine doing a comedy routine about the environment and especially climate change.

[KRAMER bounds in without knocking, joins the conversation without missing a beat]

KRAMER: Oh, climate change is a biiiiiiig problem! It’s cut the season for the Mackinaw Peaches from two weeks down to two days! Two DAYS Jerry!

 

The Mackinaw Peaches (44 seconds)

 

JERRY: That’s the least of it. If the reports I read are right, the effects of climate change are going to be calamitous on a global scale. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing funny about climate change.

GEORGE: [SNAPS TO ALERTNESS] Jerry, say that again?

JERRY: Say what again? There’s nothing funny about climate change?

GEORGE: [SPRINGS TO HIS FEET!] That’s IT!

JERRY: That’s what?

GEORGE: Nothing comes to the rescue again!!!

JERRY: What are you talking about?

GEORGE: Just this: Remember “everybody’s doing something, we’re gonna do NOTHING!”?

JERRY: Yeah, so??

GEORGE: Well, OK, at all these conferences and trade shows, the vendors and the event producer — in this case, the Green Sports Alliance — gives out lots of swag bags.

KRAMER: A SWAAAAG bag! [DISGUSTED] YEAH!!!

GEORGE: …Filled with something, lots of something. Stuff people never use.

JERRY: Oh I know those swag bags. Pens, note pads. Oh and they always give out lots of coasters. What’s the deal with all those coasters?

KRAMER: All that stuff just ends up in the trash, Jerry! Goes to the landfill, takes thousands of years to degrade! Jerry, the Green Sports Alliance needs to go swag-less in Philly! It’s time to BAG THE SWAG…BAG!

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 7.48.30 PM

George shows his disdain for swag bags as Kramer and Jerry look on (Photo credit: NBC)

 

JERRY: I get it! Instead of a swag bag worth of something…

GEORGE: …The GSA will give out NOTHING!!!

JERRY: George, I think you’ve got something there…

KRAMER: [IN ANNOUNCER VOICE] You can save 15 percent or more on carbon emissions when you BAG THE SWAG BAG!

[FADE TO BLACK]

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Plogging (Trash Pick Up while Jogging) Takes Off in NYC; LEED Silver for Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum; SI Covers Climate Change

It’s Day IV of GreenSportsBlog’s #EarthWeek Extravaganza! In case you missed it, here are links to our first three posts of the week. 

In today’s GSB News & Notes, we bring you, courtesy of the New York Roadrunners, our first story on plogging, a new mashup of trash pick up and jogging. Then we head west to Milwaukee where Fiserv Forum, the new home of the NBA’s Bucks, recently earned LEED Silver status. Finally, Sports Illustrated takes on climate change, with Winter Is Going: How Climate Change Is Imperiling Outdoor Sporting Heritage”

 

PLOGGING COMES TO NEW YORK ON EARTH DAY

Runners love to combine almost anything with their sport, from doing errands to taking photographs. So that’s why it’s no surprise to me that picking up trash while running is starting to catch on.

So said Michael Capiraso, president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, about plogging, a new, environmentally-friendly biathlon of sorts that first bubbled up in Sweden in 2016.

 

Michael Capiraso

Michael Capiraso (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

Fast forward to late 2018; the Road Runners’ braintrust was looking to do something fun and cool for Earth Day and plogging came to mind. The organization’s first plog came together quickly.

“We’ve been planning our plog for the last two to three months and announced it to our members only three weeks ago,” Capiraso reported. “Twenty ploggers got together Earth Day morning at our West 57th Street RUNCenter, headed west and then north into Riverside Park. Then our staff did their own plog in the afternoon rain.”

 

IMG_0613 (1)

Runners gather at the NYRR RUNCenter before heading out on the first-ever NYRR plogging event in celebration of Earth Day (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

The ploggers, who wore gloves during the plog, got some odd looks from passersby as they ran and then stopped — or should I say stooped — to pick up all manner of trash large and small. They deposited the plastics, coffee cups, snack bags, cigarette butts, and more into bags that they carried with them along the route.

The Road Runners feel the plog was a success on a number of levels.

“Honestly, it was a lot of fun; our ploggers were so enthusiastic,” gushed Capiraso. “Runners are always aware of their surroundings so plogging is a natural fit. And it’s a great cross-training exercise. Some did squats and lunges as they plogged. Others did push ups. One of our ploggers told me she does it on her own anyway.”

 

IMG_0005

Plogging, a combination of running and picking up litter, is a great way to stay fit and do good for your community (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

The Earth Day plog, which was not a competitive race, was likely just the beginning for the Road Runners.

“We see plogging as something that will grow organically,” offered Capiraso. “It will appeal to our runners, staff and the community alike.”

Who knows? Someday, in the not too distant future, maybe we will see a New York City Plogathon.

 

MILWAUKEE BUCKS’ FISERV FORUM EARNS LEED SILVER STATUS

The magical Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, and the rest of the young Milwaukee Bucks, surprised most NBA fans by earning the league’s best record this season. If you want to have a fun three minutes before getting into the heart of this , story out The Greek Freak’s highlight reel.

 

 

You’re back? Good!

When the Bucks host the opening game of their second round series against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon, they will be playing their first home game since Fiserv (FĪ-serv) Forum earned LEED Silver certification.

 

fiserv Ty Helbach

Fiserv Forum, newly-minted LEED Silver certified home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Ty Helbach)

 

Specific initiatives that contributed towards the new arena’s certification include:

  • Plants native to southeastern Wisconsin were selected to reduce outdoor water consumption as they require less water to stay healthy
  • Heat recovery technology and other efficient design practices reduce energy use by 12 percent
  • All food and drink containers are compostable, and Fiserv Forum is plastic straw-free
  • The 5th Street Parking Structure boasts EV charging stations and carpool spaces

 

“Fiserv Forum is a world-class arena in all aspects, including sustainability, and we are proud to announce our LEED Silver Certification on Earth Day,” said Fiserv Forum and Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We take to heart our role as caretakers of the community, and initiatives like bird-friendly windows, the elimination of plastic straws, and low-flow toilets demonstrate our commitment to the environment and the future of Milwaukee.”

 

Peter Feigin

Peter Feigin (Photo credit; Milwaukee Bucks)

 

The arena’s LEED Silver Certification extends a strong Green-Sports run for Milwaukee. Earlier this season, Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon launched Hoops₂O to help fund the digging of wells to bring much needed freshwater to East Africa. And Brewers pitcher Brent Suter started Strike Out Waste, an initiative designed to dramatically reduce the use of plastic water bottles by major league ballplayers.

 

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVERS CLIMATE CHANGE DURING EARTH WEEK

The negative impacts of climate change — and its shorter, warmer winters on the “sporting way of life” in Canada and the northern U.S. — was the subject of an in-depth, long-form story in Sports Illustrated’s April 22nd issue.

Stanley Kay’s “Winter Is Going: How Climate Change Is Imperiling Outdoor Sporting Heritage” is well-worth the read. He:

  • Takes us on a quick trip through the history and cultural import of outdoor and pond hockey: “Bobby Orr once called backyard rinks ‘the heart and soul of hockey.'”

 

SI Hockey Rink 2

An outdoor hockey rink lacking ice, outside of Calgary, Alberta (Photo credit: Todd Korol)

 

  • Details some of the concerning climate change statistics to outdoor hockey enthusiasts: “In the United States, average winter temperatures in every state have warmed at least 1° Fahrenheit since 1970, and in four hockey-mad states—Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin—winters have warmed by more than 5°.”
  • Notes the significant climate change-related economic fallout for the snow sports industry: “Between 2001 and ’16 the U.S. ski industry lost $1 billion and 17,400 jobs during low-snow seasons compared with an average year…As bad as the problem is in North America, it’s even worse in Europe, where half of the Alps’ glacial ice has already disappeared. The Swiss Alps’ snow season is 37 days shorter than it was in 1970.”

Thing is, the content of Kay’s story, while certainly interesting and important, is not the reason I’m writing about it.

It was the mere fact that the editors of SI — a major sports media property despite declines in circulation and some relevance over the past decade — decided to run a climate change-themed story that prompted this note.

By my reckoning, this is the first green-tinted article in the magazine since the March, 2007 issue. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis, then with the sea-level-rise-challenged Miami Marlins, graced the cover. The iconic photo shows the lefty engulfed by water up to his knees, silhouetted by the headline, “Global Warming: “As the Planet Changes, So Do the Games We Play. Time to Pay Attention.”

 

SI Cover

 

Here’s hoping the Kay’s story gets strong readership numbers so SI’s editors feel emboldened to green light other Green-Sports pieces — and that it only takes 12 weeks for the next one, not 12 years. Because, per the 2018 IPCC report, that’s how much time humanity has to cut global carbon emissions in half to avoid climate change’s most catastrophic effects.

Hey, SI, if you need some Green-Sports story ideas, let’s talk!

 

 


 

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The GSB Interview: JoAnn Neale, Helping Major League Soccer Reach its Greener Goals

Welcome to Day III of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Week extravaganza!

Click here for Monday’s brainstorm among Green-Sports luminaries to find big, “Moon Shot” ways for sports to impact the climate change fight. And click here for Tuesday’s story about the New York Yankees’ strong climate change statement.

Today we turn to Major League Soccer, which just completed its “Greener Goals Week of Service.” 

MLS’ efforts surrounding sustainability earned it the title of No. 1 most responsible football league in the world according to ResponsiBALL, an annual report ranking the most prominent soccer leagues based on actions related to community and environment.

GSB believes MLS is perfectly positioned to lead on Green-Sports. Its fan base is the youngest of the five North American major professional men’s sports leagues. Young people “get green” at far higher percentages than their older counterparts.

We spoke with JoAnn Neale, MLS President and Chief Administrative Officer, about the league’s sustainability efforts, including what’s new this season. Before that, we delved into how Neale came to her unique role as one of the most senior female executives across all major professional sports leagues.

 

GreenSportsBlog: JoAnn, I have so many things to get to — the history of Major League Soccer and its Greener Goals program, how the league can leverage green more powerfully than it has to this point, where climate change fits into the league’s green messaging. But first, how did you come to run MLS’ greening initiatives?

JoAnn Neale: I grew up on Long Island and started playing soccer when I was five years old. Playing soccer and being an athlete was a big part of my identity. I also always had a dream of being a lawyer and an intention of going into litigation.

GSB: …Saying “I object!” and “May I approach the bench?” always sounded exciting to me! Was it?

JoAnn: While at NYU Law School, I had an internship in a firm’s litigation division and realized it wasn’t for me. The idea of going to court was exciting, but the reality was most cases take years before they get to court and a heavy focus is on research.

 

JoAnn Neale1 - Primary

JoAnn Neale (Photo credit: Major League Soccer)

 

GSB: So what did you do?

JoAnn: After law school, I was fortunate to land a job at Latham & Watkins. I did transactional work and realized my love for negotiating and working with clients in a collaborative way. The concept of getting alignment from both parties and overcoming obstacles to have the same end goal was always intriguing. It was really fulfilling work.

GSB: How and when did soccer come into the picture?

JoAnn: While studying for the bar exam in law school during the summer of 1994, my friends and I would take breaks and watch the World Cup games that took place in the USA that year. It was then that the formation of Major League Soccer was announced. I recall thinking it would be interesting to be part of the creation of the league. Ultimately, two lawyers at Latham & Watkins were involved with the founding of MLS. Fast forward a couple years and a friend of mine had gone to work at the league. Two months later, she said there was an opening in the law department and I joined in 1998.

GSB: What did your friends and family say? Going from a big firm to a new soccer league?

JoAnn: People said, “You’re crazy!” and ‘Why would you want to do THAT?!’ But it felt right and it was.

GSB: It must’ve been very exciting being at what was essentially a startup. What was your role in those early days?

JoAnn: The first four-to-six years I primarily did legal work. After that, I expanded into other areas like Human Resources and projects like spearheading a team responsible for all the logistics of moving MLS to our current headquarters in Manhattan.

In 2006, the executive team discussed the need for creating a social responsibility platform. We believed it was important to give back to the communities in which we live and play our games, as well as to our fans. I raised my hand and said I would like to lead the charge in developing the platform. MLS WORKS launched in 2007.

GSB: Congratulations! What is MLS WORKS’ mission?

JoAnn: MLS is dedicated to using soccer as a vehicle for positive social change. Through MLS WORKS, MLS and its clubs seek to enrich the lives of those in need across the United States and Canada.

From executing national programs and legacy projects, to charitable giving campaigns, MLS creates sustainable communities and promotes inclusion at all levels of the game. MLS WORKS has a strategic four-pillar approach to corporate social responsibility.

  • Soccer For All – This signifies that everyone is welcome to MLS, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
  • Youth Enrichment – This includes our work with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build soccer pitches in inner cities.
  • Kick Childhood Cancer – The league “goes gold” throughout the month as part of the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign to raise awareness and funds for Children’s Oncology Group.
  • Greener Goals – The initiative kicks off this week with the Fourth Annual Greener Goals Week of Service leading into Earth Day weekend.

 

GSB: Not surprisingly, I’d like to hear more about Greener Goals. What kinds of programs are under that heading?

JoAnn: MLS has committed to measure, reduce and offset the league’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote healthy, sustainable communities throughout the United States and Canada, and areas in need throughout the rest of the world. Our clubs activate in different ways. Some have been heavily focusing on reducing food waste, others on raising awareness around plastic pollution, others on recycling, etc.

GSB: Can you share some examples?

JoAnn: Of course! On food waste, Sporting Kansas City provides fans with easy-to-implement tips on reducing food waste. Orlando City SC is partnering with the city of Orlando to deliver food waste to an energy/fertilizer plant at Walt Disney World. Seattle Sounders FC use compost from CenturyLink Field to grow vegetables at a nearby farm. On plastic waste, FC Cincinnati

GSB: …The league’s newest expansion team…

JoAnn: That’s right. The club worked with Newport Aquarium to drive awareness, attention and action around Earth Day. Fans bring single-use plastic bags to the team’s matches and the Newport Aquarium where collections will be taken on-site. On Earth Day, a special event was hosted to demonstrate the impact the bag collection will have on local Cincinnati-area waterways and its wildlife, and at a larger scale in oceans. Students at local schools and after-school programs will help repurpose the bags into useful items, including sleeping mats for the area’s homeless community.

 

IMG_1887a

FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma (l) and Greg Garza show off their new reusable bags created using recycled plastic bags at the Newport Aquarium (Photo credit: FC Cincinnati)

 

On energy, Real Salt Lake has a 2020-kilowatt (kWh) solar panel system at Rio Tinto Stadium which offsets approximately 73 percent of the organization’s total annual stadium power needs.

GSB: I knew about their solar installation but I didn’t know it offset such a high percentage. That’s great news. The Seattle Sounders recently committed to go carbon neutral. What does that mean exactly?

JoAnn: You’re right. The Sounders are the first professional soccer team in North America to go carbon neutral. The club worked with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For sources unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – Sounders FC is offsetting the club’s emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a nonprofit that works for regional sustainability. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and its fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover.

GSB: That’s impressive, JoAnn. I know the league is also involved in carbon offsetting as part of Greener Goals. What emissions is MLS offsetting and what kind of offsets did the league purchase?

JoAnn: Well, first I want to thank Allen Hershkowitz

GSB: …Environmental Science Advisor for the New York Yankees…

JoAnn: …and also Doug Behar, VP of Operations with the Yankees. They shared the offset program the Yanks embarked upon and we said, “MLS has to be involved!” So we started by offsetting emissions, including executive travel, surrounding the MLS All-Star Game. It was fitting that the 2018 All-Star Game was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a venue that is LEED Platinum. In 2018 MLS compensated 5,400 tons of CO2 equivalent associated with hotel accommodations, ground transportation, staff, player, executive and MLS guest travel, and stadium operations as part of MLS All-Star Week and MLS Cup in Atlanta, in addition to player travel during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs

To date, MLS’ investment has created tangible, constructive impacts for local communities that were generated by the distribution of 4,407 improved cook stoves in rural communities in Kenya. As of October 2018, the use of these cook stoves are estimated to have positively impacted the lives and wellbeing of 15,000 women and children.

 

GreenDayMariettaSixthGradeAcademy_0031a

Mercedes Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum football stadium in the USA, hosted 60 Marietta Middle School students for the stadium’s first sustainability tour in which the students learned about the venue’s greenness. In conjunction with the tour, Atlanta United’s players helped educate students about sustainable food choices, healthy eating and the environmental impact of locally sourced foods, followed by a taste test competition. Here Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann serves up some of the tasty dish he cooked up (Photo credit: Atlanta United)

 

GSB: That’s important work. How did you communicate the Greener Goals expansion to MLS fans? Did you air PSAs in stadium and/or on TV broadcasts?

JoAnn: Social media was big for us — Facebook and Twitter in particular. Our Greener Goals messaging focuses on what MLS and our clubs are doing in or near the stadiums and in the communities that our teams play. Our Greener Goals PSAs focus on what we’re doing in or near the stadiums from an environmental perspective.

GSB: Really? I think the carbon-offsets-cookstoves project would make for a great PSA. Beyond the offsets, how else has MLS expanded Greener Goals?

JoAnn: All 24 MLS clubs wore special adidas-Parley eco-friendly kits over Earth Day weekend. These innovative uniforms are made with Climalite technology and built of technical yarns created with Parley Ocean Plastic™, made from up-cycled marine plastic waste, as a part of the global adidas x Parley initiative. The collaboration with adidas to support Parley for the Oceans also serves to encourage fans to decrease their use of single-use plastics and reinforcing the importance of changing human attitude and behavior towards plastic pollution.

 

Parley Timbers

The Portland Timbers version of the adidas Parley for the Oceans eco-friendly jerseys worn by all MLS players over Earth Day weekend (Photo credit: MLS)

 

GSB: Love that program — but why only use the Parley uniforms during Earth Week? Couldn’t all teams use Parley unis all the time?

JoAnn: Great question, Lew. We’re exploring that option.

GSB: Good to hear. I have one last question: Does MLS include climate change in its Greener Goals messaging?

JoAnn: Not yet. MLS does not want to get into a political debate on climate change. Rather, we want to focus our efforts on improving lives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing recycling, and more.

GSB: I think MLS is missing an opportunity by not directly talking about climate change with its fans. As discussed earlier, the demographic groups that make up the MLS fan base — Millennials, Gen-Zers, Hispanics — are also demanding real action on climate. My bet is that MLS fans would reward the league for linking its Greener Goals program to the climate change fight.

 


 

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Yankees Make Strong Statement on Climate Change on Earth Day

Earth Week 2019 continues on GreenSportsBlog!

The New York Yankees, one of the most iconic sports franchises in the world, are on a roll in 2019 from a climate action perspective.

A Green-Sports leader for more than a decade, the club took its climate change fight to a higher gear in January when they hired Dr. Allen Hershkowitz as the first Environmental Science Advisor in team sports history. And earlier this month, they became the first major North American pro sports team to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. 

Sunday’s Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony at home plate — which highlighted the Yankees’ climate change work directly to fans — was their biggest Green-Sports step to date. 

 

Surreal

That is the only word to describe the experience.

It was a few minutes before the 1:09 PM first pitch of the Yankees’ Easter Sunday matchup against the Kansas City Royals.

Standing a few paces behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, watching a ceremony I could not have imagined when I started GreenSportsBlog almost six years ago.

 

YANKEES TELL FANS THEY’RE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE

At home plate, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had sauntered over from the dugout to join Doug Behar, the Yankees’ Senior Vice President and Director of Ballpark Operations, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the club’s Environmental Science Advisor; and Satya Tripathi, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.

The dulcet tones of public address announcer Paul Olden voice wafted through Yankee Stadium, telling the crowd that would grow to more than 40,000 that the Yankees had “become the first professional sports team in North America to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.” And that “the framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.” The giant scoreboards beyond the bleachers augmented Olden’s story; fans clapped in a respectful tone.

 

Yankees Earth Day

Sunday’s Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony commemorated the Yankees commitment to operate by the tenets of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform. From left to right, it’s Doug Behar, Yankees Director of Operations; Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary General; Yankees manager Aaron Boone, and Allen Hershkowitz, Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

 

But don’t let the fans’ measured reaction fool you. This was a watershed moment for the Green-Sports movement.

According to Hershkowitz, “The Yankees on-field climate event with the UN, announcing the team’s support for the UNFCCC’s Climate Action Principles was one of the most influential and important moments not only in the history of the sports greening movement, but in the history of climate action communication.”

And that is why the ceremony seemed so surreal to me.

After all the New York Yankees spoke to their fans — clearly and without any dodgy language — about climate change!

Are you kidding me?

We’re not talking the Seattle Crunchy Granolas! These are the establishment, conservative New York Yankees! 

 

YANKEES SHOW WILLINGNESS TO HELP LEAD A CULTURAL SHIFT ON CLIMATE

At a Yankee Stadium press conference that preceded the ceremony, UN Assistant Secretary General Tripathi clearly laid out the scope of our climate problems: “The planet is unwell, and humanity has 10 to 12 years to make big changes towards decarbonization so we can turn the corner.”

After concurring with Tripathi, Hershkowitz pivoted, making the point that moving the Yankees’ towards zero carbon emissions over the next few years will not be the club’s biggest contribution to the climate change fight: “The emissions from the Yankees’ operations, which total about 14,000 tonnes of CO₂, equivalent per year, are minuscule compared to the world’s annual total of 37 billion tonnes.”

Rather, it will be the power of the Yankees’ brand to influence the culture of sports and business about the need for urgent action on climate change that moves the needle.

“The biggest thing humans must do if we’re going to take on climate change at the needed scale and speed is to change cultural assumptions how we relate to the planet, to the eco-systems that give us air to breathe and water to drink,” Hershkowitz asserted. “That requires a massive cultural shift. The Yankees brand represents an uncompromising commitment to excellence and performance — the team is universally admired for its determination to succeed. It provides a unique platform to make that cultural shift happen. The potential cultural and market impact of an organization with the stature and brand image of the Yankees leading on climate and carbon emissions is incredible.”

The Yankees hope that, once other teams in baseball and across the sports world see them leading on climate, more of them will step up to the plate on climate action.

The organization has been building its climate change-fighting platform for 20 years, largely under the radar of the general public. That pace has accelerated since the move into the current Yankee Stadium in 2009, as the organization:

  • Installed energy efficient lights that were state-of-the-art in 2009, saving 35 percent on energy usage vs. their predecessors. And then, when the technology had improved again a few years later, ownership approved another switch, this time to LEDs. The result? An additional 70 percent energy usage reduction.

 

Yankee Stadium Lights

The two square light fixtures on the far left are examples of the energy efficient LEDs installed by the Yankees (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

  • Now diverts 85 percent of total waste from landfill via recycling and composting. Management is working diligently towards getting to 90 percent diversion and Zero-Waste status
  • Measures and reduces its carbon emissions while offsetting the unavoidable environmental impacts they can’t eliminate through the innovative distribution of efficient cookstoves in some of the world’s poorest regions, saving lives in the process.

The offset program warranted an explanation.

“The number one cause of death in the world is air pollution,” said Hershkowitz. “Consider that three billion people cook over open flames or with simple stoves powered by unhealthy coal, wood or other forms of biomass. According to the World Health Organization, four million people, mostly women and girls die prematurely every year because of inefficient, dirty stoves. The cookstoves the Yankees purchased and had distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa reduce air pollution from cooking by 35 to 50 percent. As a result of their investment in cookstoves, it is estimated the Yankees organization saved more than 7,000 lives in just the last year, primarily women and children.”

 

Cookstoves

Clean burning cookstoves (Photo credit: South Pole Group)

 

That is one “save statistic” that the great Mariano Rivera would be proud to own.

 

JUST THE BEGINNING

Sunday’s press conference was covered by local mainstream media, including WCBS Newsradio 880 and News 12 — the cable news channel for the Bronx. The Yankees’ own media outlet, the YES Network, sent a reporter. Getting the climate change fighting story out to a mass audience via media — and to the fans through the ceremony — is a crucial start to building the climate change “cultural shift platform” that Hershkowitz described above.

Where will the Yankees go from here?

Will Hershkowitz be talking climate change with John Sterling and/or Suzyn Waldman on the Yankees radio network anytime soon?

That conversation — one I’d pay to hear — is not going to happen in the near future, but Michael Margolis, the Yankees’ Director, Baseball Information and Public Communications, did say, “Sustainability has been and will continue to be a point of emphasis for the Yankees. We plan to increase climate messaging to our fans in the future.”

 

GSB’s Take 

Allen Hershkowitz is spot on: Sunday’s home plate ceremony at Yankee Stadium really was “one of the most … important moments not only in the history of the sports greening movement, but in the history of climate action communication.” It also provided a bit of much needed climate hope for those in the Green-Sports world and beyond.

That hope was tempered somewhat by a brief conversation I had with UN Assistant Secretary General Tripathi at the press conference.

I mentioned that humanity has 12 to 15 years to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half. Tripathi quickly corrected me: “Twelve years is the maximum.” 

That’s the same time span as the new mega-contract Mike Trout signed with the Anaheim Angels.

Think about that for a second.

We have the length of one baseball player’s contract to make the sizable and necessary cultural shifts and behavioral changes on climate to which Hershkowitz referred.

The Yankees know this and that’s why Sunday can only be the beginning of their public facing climate efforts. I look forward to see how the next innings of this most important game play out.

 


 

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Leading Lights Offer Sports-Climate Change Moonshot Ideas for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day…Happy Earth Week!

The Green-Sports field is so rich and deep that we are offer a full Earth Week’s worth of columns, starting today.

Of course, the field’s richness and depth is directly related to the existential and immediate nature of our climate change problems. 

Per the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report — as well as other studies — humanity has a dozen years, max, to cut carbon emissions in half in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. 

And yet to date, sports has largely taken a hands off approach when it comes to climate change, with a handful of exceptions.

People come to games to be entertained and climate change is not an entertaining topic. Teams, leagues and college athletics departments have taken a wide range of substantive green actions but most have been kept in the shadows. Why rock the boat, annoy sponsors and some fans?

It says here, with only a dozen years to dramatically decarbonize, rocking the boat should be the least of sports’ — or any other industry’s — worries.

In fact, many say the world needs to engage in a mobilization on par with World War II or the Apollo “Moon Shots” to attack the climate problems at the required scale and pace.

So now is the time for industry, government, individuals and, yes, sports, to go BIG on climate.

What would going big look like?

In honor of Earth Day, GreenSportsBlog asked luminaries from the Green-Sports world and beyond to offer up their ideas — brainstorm-style — for Sports-Climate Change MOON SHOTS.

The rules were simple: 1) Be brief, 2) There are no bad ideas, 3) Impossible is good, and 4) Go…

BIG!!!

So enjoy, and feel free to share your own MOON SHOT ideas in the comments section below.

 


 

Creating the world’s largest carbon offset project

Neill Duffy Purpose + Sport CEO

Fan travel is the greatest source of emissions in sport.

Imagine if sports fans everywhere could be part of the biggest team in the world fighting climate change, with a mission to create the world’s largest carbon offset project.

 

Neill-Duffy-Chief-Executive-150x150

Neill Duffy (Photo credit: Neill Duffy)

 

We would achieve this by inspiring sports fans to make a commitment to never travel to a game with less than at least three other fans — in whatever form of transportation — and measure the shared miles traveled. The resulting emissions reductions would be monetized by a corporate sponsor(s). The funds generated would be allocated to climate change-related projects, from renewable energy generation to climate change education to climate refugee resettlement and more.

And the best part, is that the technology exists this now.

 


 

NFL Meatless Monday Night Football

Summer Minchew EcoImpact Consulting Managing Partner

I would love to see an NFL “Meatless Monday Night Football” campaign!

Host teams for all Monday night football games would serve only vegetarian or vegan foods at their concessions and encourage fans watching at home to go veggie during the game as well. ESPN, which broadcasts the games on cable, would only serve vegetarian/vegan food to their cast and crew as well as at their Bristol, Connecticut studios. On-air talent would promote the veggie/vegan options heavily, with a contest among the host cities for the best Monday Night Vegetarian/Vegan Fare.

 

summer minchew melissa key

Summer Minchew (Photo credit: Melissa Key)

 

I’ll probably get booed out of the stadium for this idea¹ but the environmental impacts of meat consumption are a real issue. Meat production generates 18 percent of the world’s man-made greenhouse gases, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. And Americans are consuming way too much meat. To be precise, the average consumer ate 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018, surpassing a record set in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I think we could all stand more Meatless Mondays for our health and for the earth’s.

 


 

Requiring Venues To Reach Minimum Levels of Green Performance

Dale Vince Forest Green Rovers, English League Two²the Greenest Team in Sports Chairman; Ecotricity Founder 

We’ve suggested to the UN and to the English Football League³ (EFL) that ground grading regulations — enough food and restroom facilities, disabled access, etc. — should include environmental measures. Simple things like recycling facilities, no single use plastics, charging facilities for EVs, bicycle parking and meat and dairy free food options. Even use of green energy is simple enough.

Clubs should be required to put these greening initiatives into match day programs and on stadium advertising.

 

Dale Vince

Dale Vince (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Governing bodies could insist on minimum standards like these, and perhaps run league tables/standings that would end up highlighting clubs that go over and above the minimum on the environment— giving a different measure of club performance.

 


 

Build venues that feature “Circular Operations”

Aileen McManamon 5T Sports Group Founder and Managing Partner

The next stadiums or arenas to be built will feature Circular Operations. This means that these buildings will be self-sustaining across four key metrics: zero-waste, carbon-neutral, water-neutral and energy positive.

 

McManamon Headshot Tonino Guzzo

Aileen McManamon (Photo credit: Tonino Guzzo)

 

They will be entirely self-contained, with circular usage systems and net-positive designs (for example, stored energy put back into the grid at downtimes and use as an emergency shelter). Venues that operate circularly will shoulder their responsibility by becoming a ‘Beacon-on-the-Hill’ community asset.

 


 

All sports leagues become One Planet Leagues 

Jason Twill Green Sports Alliance Co-founder; Urban Apostles Director

The Idea: All major pro and college sports leagues adopt ecological foot printing as a measurement tool support their efforts to become One Planet Leagues.

The Background:  Ecological foot printing is considered the ’true north’ of environmental performance and is the only metric that measures how much nature we have and how much nature we use annually. An ecological foot print calculator will determine how many acres of biologically productive land are required to support an organization’s — including players, staff, fans — impact measured against the biological capacity of land available within a given country, region, or city.

 

Jason Twill

Jason Twill (Photo credit: Jennifer Twill)

 

Humans are consuming natural resources each year faster than the planet can replenish those same resources. This is called ecological overshoot. 

In 2018, humanity reached Ecological Overshoot Day on August 1, so every day after this date we were consuming another planets worth of resources.  The U.S. reached ecological overshoot day on March 15. In fact, if everyone in the world lived the lifestyle of an average American, we would need over five planets worth of resources. 

In pro football terms, we are way over the salary cap before training camp begins.  

By adopting strategies and tactics to deploy ecological foot printing, sports organizations would become One Planet Leagues and Teams, proving they are playing and operating within the resources of One Planet. The beauty of this tool is its scalability. Imagine if sports took this on and inspired millions of fans across North America to live One Planet lifestyles! 

 


 

Bring sports attendees’ footprints more in line with non-attendees

Claire Poole Clear Bright Consulting Founder

We know the average attendee of a sports event generates a carbon footprint about seven times greater than somebody going about their every day life; with transport being the largest contributing factor, followed by food and then energy. This doesn’t even consider the infrastructure of stadiums and venues, team travel and so many other factors. We never want to get to a stage where going to see our favorite team becomes untenable because of climate change.

 

Claire Poole II

Claire Poole (Photo credit: Claire Poole)

 

Thus my moon shot idea is for all sports organizations around the world to measure, publicly report and significantly reduce carbon emissions through all aspects of their operations, and reward fans for doing the same.

The platform to do this already exists, with the recently launched UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework. The likes of the World Surf League, FIFA, UEFA, the IOC, the New York Yankees and Formula E have already signed up, clearly moving this moon shot idea into the realm of possibility.

 


 

Appeal to younger fans by making mass transit fun 

Monica Rowand University of Louisiana (Lafayette) Sustainability Coordinator

Imagine a campaign in which fans are encouraged and rewarded for using alternative transit methods to get to the stadium or arena. I’d love to see a team-sponsored game-day transportation system imbued with the vibe of a party bus. This will incentivize the use of public transit, especially among the younger fans teams are concerned about reaching.

And no one will argue with the results: Reductions in 1) the negative environmental impacts that go with travel in single-occupancy-vehicles, 2) traffic and the stress that goes with it.

 

RowandM2

Monica Rowand (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 


 

Making Auburn Athletics Carbon Negative

Mike Kensler Auburn University Office of Sustainability Director

The most important sports-climate change moon shot idea I can think of is for Auburn Athletics — and all other athletics departments — to achieve carbon negativity. They would do this by eliminating or sequestering more carbon than they produce, creating a net overall carbon reduction.

 

Mike Kensler in canoe on 5milecreek

Mike Kensler  (Photo credit: Beth Maynor Young)

 

That means using 100 percent renewable energy to power all of Auburn Athletics operations including sports events and venues. Athletics would also offset or onset — making investments in local, campus-focused clean energy, energy efficiency, and carbon sequestration projects — the carbon footprint of departmental travel to help achieve carbon negativity.  A carbon-negative Athletics Department would be a powerful force indeed.

 


 

Create awards for eco-athletes

Randy Salim Citizens’ Climate LobbyBusiness Climate Leaders Steering Committee 

Let’s use the NFL as an example. Have each of the 32 teams nominate an Eco-Athlete of the Year and then pick one to be the league’s winner, a green NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Bring as many of them as possible to Washington, D.C. to lobby for climate legislation.

 

Randy Salim photo1

Randy Salim (Photo credit: Randy Salim)

 


 

Greenest NFL fan base earns winning team an additional draft pick

Lew Blaustein GreenSportsBlog

The NFL is America’s most popular sport by far. And its brand image is corporate, conservative and establishment. If the NFL goes big on climate, that will have incredible ripple effects to all sports and beyond. So that’s why my first call with a MOON SHOT idea is to commissioner Roger Goodell.

I tell the commish to “imagine that the league administers a contest among its 32 teams that asks attendees to take positive green actions — recycling, composting, using mass transit to games, and purchasing plant-based food at concession stands to name a few.”

 

LewBiz27

Yours truly (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Taking into account stadium capacity and other issues to make sure there’s a level playing field, the league will award the team with the greenest fan base an additional pick in the third round of the next NFL Draft.

The idea is that positive environmental behavior by fans can help their favorite team. I gotta believe that fans — even those who don’t think climate change is real or don’t think about it at all — will “take one for the team” by engaging in positive environmental behaviors!

 


 

And finally, given sports organizations’ maniacal pursuit of Millennial and Gen-Z fans, it’s fitting that we close with not one but EIGHT MOON SHOT IDEAS from a young, future Green-Sports practitioner who will be living with the effects of climate change…

 

What If?

Ivonne Zuniga Jiminez Savannah College of Art and Design Candidate for Masters Degree in Design for Sustainability; Architect Costa Rica

What if a fan could get season tickets after recycling a certain amount of plastic?

What if instead of buying a new jersey, your favorite team would repair your old one?

What if teams allocate space in tailgate areas for local, organic and plant-based food vendors?

 

Ivonne Zuniga Jimenez

Ivonne Zuniga Jimenez (Photo credit: Purvisha Peshwe)

 

What if, by reducing the waste in the stadium, the home team lets fans know they are saving the team money in hauling and landfill costs and that saved money will be invested in (hopefully) better players?

What if being sustainable becomes part of the score of the game? As in when announcing the final score, a broadcaster also mentions how much carbon was saved by the home team’s green actions.

What if, to be drafted or signed by a team, players have to commit to engaging with a climate change-fighting nonprofit?

What if big leagues such as NFL, NBA, UEFA required sustainable certifications (i.e. LEED, BREEAM) for every venue?

What if recruiting fans to embrace sustainable behavior becomes as important as recruiting players?

Or…

What if we keep doing things in the same way?

We sports fans have the power to make a big difference in the climate change fight but we have to act now!

Sports, a powerful universal language which connects billions of people around the world, has been a powerful channel over many decades for the fights against racism, war, terrorism, gender inequality and more. What is stopping us right now from using it to make a positive impact on climate change, at scale?

Either we take action now or we continue to ignore the climate problem until some “then” in the future, but…

What if then is too late?

The world, including the sports world, can’t let that happen!

 

¹ No you won’t!
² League Two = The fourth tier of English football/soccer
³ English Football League is the governing body for the top four tiers of professional soccer/football: 1. Premier League, 2. Championship, 3. League One, 4. League Two
* Citizens’ Climate Lobby works to build the political will necessary for passage of federal revenue neutral carbon pricing legislation that returns the revenue generated to all US households in the form of a monthly dividend.

 


 

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The GSB (Mock) Interview: Tiger Woods, on His Comeback, Kids and Climate Change

Google “Tiger Woods” and “2019 Masters” and you will get millions of links to stories about his jaw dropping, dramatic, instant classic win at Augusta National on Sunday.

Google “Tiger Woods” and “climate change” and you get…nothing meaningful.

So even more remarkable than Woods’ winning his first major championship in 11 years and first Green Jacket since 2005 — at age 43, with a back repaired surgically four times no less — is that he agreed to talk with GreenSportsBlog!

Who knew he cared about the environment and climate change? The fact he’s a golfing buddy of President Trump makes that even harder to fathom. 

OK, OK…

We didn’t really talk to Tiger — his people said he was busy at the driving range getting ready for the next major, the PGA Championship at Long Island’s Bethpage Black next month.

So we’re doing the next best thing: Imagining a conversation with Woods in which he expresses concern about climate change, bubbling up from his kids Sam(antha) and Charlie.

Here then is our GSB (Mock) Interview with Tiger Woods, 2019 Masters Champion.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Tiger Woods, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to GreenSportsBlog. And let me be the 27,340,945th person to congratulate you on your win at Augusta on Sunday. To borrow from the great CBS Sports announcer Verne Lundquist, never in my LIFE did I think I’d see you wearing a fifth Green Jacket.

Tiger Woods: Thank you, Lew. For much of the last few years, I never thought I’d be wearing a new Green Jacket. I was just concerned about being able to put my old Green Jackets, or any jacket for that matter, on by myself, without pain. I wanted to be able to walk pain free. I knew that if I could get healthy, if I could feel comfortable out on the golf course, well let’s just say I did not doubt I could win a major championship in that case. So I’m blessed that my doctors, surgeons and physios all did their jobs so well so I could do my thing. It is amazing.

 

Tiger Woods Patrick Reed

Tiger Woods dons the Green Jacket for winning his fifth Masters on Sunday. Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, placed it on his back (Photo credit: Mike Slocum/Associated Press)

 

GSB: Amazing is right. Also amazing is that you’re talking to us — I’ve never heard you speak about the environment or climate change. So where is this coming from?

Tiger: You’re right. I’ve not been interested in or paid much attention to climate change at all. I’m not a politics guy nor am I a scientist…

GSB: Most people engaged on climate are neither, just for the record. It’s not a prerequisite.

Tiger: It just wasn’t my thing. I know it’s real…

GSB: …Unlike your golfing pal who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Tiger: …I’m not going there. I know it’s real and serious but the honest truth is, I just don’t think much about it. Or, I should say, I didn’t think much about it.

GSB: What changed?

Tiger: Two words: Sam and Charlie.

GSB: Your kids…

Tiger: Sam is 11. About two, three years ago, she started asking me things like “Why do you drive such a big gas guzzler?” and “Why don’t you get a Tesla?” My first thought? “Buick Enclave sponsors me, that’s why!” It’s a great car. I also drive a Porsche Carrera GT for fun.

But Sam got me thinking about it, and it just became obvious that burning less fossil fuels is a good thing. So I started to ask my Buick guys questions; they tell me the next generation Enclave, which should be coming to market in the next four-to-five years, will have a plug-in hybrid or even be 100 percent electric.

 

Tiger Woods family

An ecstatic Tiger Woods immediately after winning the 2019 Masters on Sunday. Son Charlie (left) and daughter Sam (2nd from right), who have been instrumental in their dad’s newfound interest in climate change, flanked Tiger, along with his mom Kultida (r) and girlfriend Erica Herman (Photo credit: CBS Sports)

 

GSB: I don’t know if Sam told you this — but according the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, basically the best climate scientists in the world, humanity has 12-15 years to significantly decarbonize if we are to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. So isn’t continuing to drive a fossil fuel Enclave that gets 18 miles per gallon in the city, 26 on the highway, reckless?

Tiger: Oh I get it. Sam lets me know every time we get in the car to go to her soccer games. So we made a deal — I’m going to trade in the Porsche Carrera next year for a Porsche Taycan EV. That will be the car we drive most of the time. And, when I go to tournaments, I’m going to make sure that my team and I get driven in EVs or hybrids when EVs are not available.

 

Porsche Taycan

The 2020 Porsche Taycan EV (Photo credit: Porsche)

 

GSB: That’s a great start! Does Charlie get on you too?

Tiger: No doubt about it. Sometimes they double team me, especially after Sam and Charlie, who’s 10, saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Sequel,” in school last year.

GSB: Did it scare them?

Tiger: Yeah, but it also made them angry. They bugged me to see the original, “An Inconvenient Truth.”. I was like, “don’t you want to see the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie, or the highlights of my 1997 Masters win?” You may find it hard to believe from the cute Charlie you saw Sunday on TV but he is one stubborn kid. So it was “An Inconvenient Truth” or bust. So we saw it. I was blown away. Then I saw the sequel. Then I saw “Chasing Ice” and that was more than enough.

GSB: Good going, Charlie! Then what happened?

Tiger: To be honest, not much. I mean our green movie triple feature was last spring and since then, I’ve been working 24-7 getting my back right, getting my game right. Contended at the Open Championship, gave it a good run at the PGA, finally won the Tour Championship. We’ll forget the Ryder Cup disaster, thank you very much. And then it was getting ready for 2019. But there has been some time here and there for them to sell me and they did. Charlie suggested we get solar panels on our house.

GSB: At 9,700 square feet, that’s a lot of house!

Tiger: We use a lot of energy, they let me know about it all the time. We’re looking at the solar options.

GSB: That would be great. Even if you go solar, you’ll still be using a ton of energy generated from fossil fuels to power that house. Would you consider offsetting your energy use — from your home, cars, boats, air travel — by investing in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency and more? It’s easy to find reputable outfits to help you do this.

 

Tiger Woods House

Tiger Woods’ home and golf course backyard in Jupiter Island, Florida (Photo credit: ThoughtCo)

 

Tiger: I never thought about it but I’ll have my people look into it.

GSB: It’s fairly simple. Are there any other guys on the tour who talk climate change and the environment?

Tiger: Michael Campbell from New Zealand, the 2005 US Open winner, comes to mind. He’s been injured a lot lately too, missed the last couple of years. Trying to come back on tour this year. He started an environmental charity back in New Zealand if memory serves.

GSB: Yes! His organization is called Project Litefoot — it helps local sports clubs save money by reducing their carbon footprint. You could do something like that with the Tiger Woods Foundation! Think of the impact!

 

Campbell Project Litefoot

Michael Campbell, 2005 US Open champion, leads Project Litefoot in New Zealand (Photo credit: Project Litefoot)

 

Tiger: We’re already doing it. Two of our current Earl Woods Scholars — named after my dad — and a number of our graduates dating back 2011 are or were environmental science majors.

GSB: I’d say that’s a start but think of the impact if you’d create a Tiger Woods-branded climate change platform for students through the foundation. That would be breakthrough. I know, I know you have to talk to your people. Let us talk to them.

Tiger: You’re just like Sam and Charlie!

GSB: Thanks for the compliment, Tiger. Seriously, we need to think of climate change in terms of a World War II-level crisis. It’ll take a Herculean public mobilization to get us off of our carbon addiction and you could be one of that effort’s biggest, most important voices. Iconic, really. Doing something bigger than yourself. For your kids.

Tiger: I get it but I still have my back to manage, major championships to try to win.

GSB: I get that, Tiger. I am just going to ask you two things: Number one, when you get solar on your roof, tell that story to the press.

Tiger: I could do that — if we get solar.

GSB: When

Tiger: OK, when. Here’s what I will do: Next time an interview gets to the subject of Sam and Charlie, I’ll talk about how climate change is important to them and that it’s rubbing off on their old man.

GSB: That would be FANTASTIC! Now, here’s #2: Become an advocate for carbon pricing, specifically a carbon fee and dividend approach.

Tiger: What is that?

GSB: The gist: We need a price on carbon to accelerate the deployment of renewables, scalable energy efficiency technologies, energy storage and the like — to make all these technologies more competitive vs. fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based products.

The idea of the dividend is crucial. Instead of the revenue raised from the carbon fee going to the federal treasury, it would be distributed to all American households in the form of a monthly dividend. The same amount to every household. So low carbon users — about the lowest two thirds of all American households on the income scale — would make more in dividends than what they would pay in the form of higher prices due to the fee.

Tiger: OK, OK. This is interesting, could make a difference on emissions. But it sounds like I’m going to pay a lot more.

GSB: You will pay more but the more you decarbonize, the less you’ll pay.

Tiger: It also sounds political. I need to talk to my people on this.

GSB: Remember, in this case, your people are Sam and Charlie.

Tiger: Touché, Lew, touché.

 

 


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