Vestas 11th Hour Racing Sailing Team In Accidental Collision Near Hong Kong; One Dead from Fishing Boat Crew; Team to Rejoin Volvo Ocean Race

Readers of GreenSportsBlog are likely familiar with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the sailing team trying to win the ’round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race while being the most sustainable squad in the race — and, for that matter, one of the greenest teams in any sport, anywhere on the planet. The team was tied for second place as Leg 4 of the race, from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong, began. And they were in a strong position heading into Hong Kong when an awful accident took place.

 

When last we caught up with Vestas 11th Hour Racing in early January, the elite sailing team with a world class sustainability ethos, it was in a tie for second place in the seven boat Volvo Ocean Race field after the first three of 12 legs (Alicante, Spain to Lisbon; Lisbon to Cape Town; Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia).

And the team was near the lead towards the end of Leg 4, when tragedy struck about 30 miles out from the Hong Kong Harbor finish.

In the wee hours of the morning on January 20, Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with an unlit fishing vessel. Despite a badly damaged bow, team co-founder Mark Towill and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew carried out a search and rescue effort. Nine Chinese fishermen were rescued. One member of the fishing boat crew was retrieved and transferred to a helicopter, with the assistance of Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre. He very sadly passed away. Two other race boats offered assistance but were not needed. The Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew were not injured.

 

 

Mark Towill Atila Madrona

Mark Towill, co-founder and team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

Towill stood in for Enright as skipper for Leg 4 because the latter had to sit out due to a family crisis. During Leg 3, from Cape Town to Melbourne, Enright had to leave the team because his two-year-old son had been admitted to the hospital with a case of bacterial pneumonia. As Leg 4 neared its conclusion, Enright traveled to Hong Kong to greet the crew at the finish line, but instead pivoted to play an active role in the crisis management process from shore.

“I have been asked if it would have been different if I was onboard. Definitely not,” said Enright. “The crew has been well trained in crisis situations and performed as they should. They knew what to do and I think they did a phenomenal job given the circumstances. There comes a point when family is more important than the job you’ve been hired to do and I was at that point. I did what was best for my family.”

“I’m very proud of our crew,” added Towill. “We were in a very difficult situation with the damage to the bow, but everyone acted professionally and without hesitation. On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased’s family.”

The team released a statement on March 2 saying they were informed that investigations by the Hong Kong and mainland China authorities were nearing their conclusion with no further actions expected to be taken and that Vestas 11th Hour Racing has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

On the same day, the Volvo Ocean Race announced the opening of its own independent investigation into ocean racing at night in areas of high vessel traffic density. The goal is to establish what steps race organizers may take to mitigate risk going forward. Any findings from the report that could benefit the wider sailing community will be released; it is expected to be submitted to the race’s board this June.

Understandably, the loss of a life weighs very heavily on the minds of Towill, Enright, and every other member of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing squad. “On behalf of the team, our thoughts and prayers go out to the deceased’s family,” said Towill.

Despite their heavy hearts, the severe damage suffered by its racing boat, and missing Legs 5 (Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China and back to Hong Kong) and 6 (Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand), Vestas 11th Hour Racing is rejoining the field. To do so, a new port bow section was sent to New Zealand, where it was spliced to the hull of the boat.

 

Enright

Repairs being made to Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s boat as team co-founder and skipper Charlie Enright looks on (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

When Vestas 11th Hour Racing gets back on the open ocean, they will most likely find themselves in fifth place overall and out of contention for top honors. And they will face a grueling Leg 7; the 6,700 nautical mile journey from Auckland, New Zealand, around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, and up the Southern Atlantic to Itajaí, Brazil.

While the nautical and competitive obstacles facing the team will be significant, I imagine that the psychological and spiritual hurdles will be even more challenging. Putting my armchair psychologist’s hat on, I think the best thing for Towill, Enright and crew is getting back into the race, bringing the same commitment to the task at hand as they did to the rescue mission.

 


 

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Super Bowl LII Champion Eagles Have Been Green-Sports Leaders for More than a Decade

The first-time Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have long been Green-Sports trail blazers. As the City of Brotherly Love gets ready for Thursday’s parade (please stay off the hotel awnings and street light poles, Iggles fans!), GreenSportsBlog is happy to play some of the Eagles’ Greatest Green-Sports Hits.

 

IT ALL STARTED WITH…TOILET PAPER?

As Green Sports Alliance co-founder Dr. Allen Hershkowitz likes to tell it, the impetus for the Eagles’ commitment to sustainability  — and, for that matter, the beginning of the broader sports-greening movement — can be traced back to 2004 and…

…toilet paper?

The second paragraph of “This May Be the Most Radical Idea in All of Professional Sports,” Ian Gordon’s spot-on profile of Hershkowitz in the July/August 2015 issue of Mother Jonescaptures the essence of the story:

“Back in 2004, the Philadelphia Eagles had recently moved into a brand new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, and wanted to become more environmentally responsible. The team reached out to [Hershkowitz] to talk about paper, one of his areas of expertise. It wasn’t exactly exciting stuff, but Hershkowitz, then a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with a track record of taking on ambitious projects, had done his homework: The Eagles’ TP supplier was Kimberly-Clark, which was getting wood pulp from forests in the southern Appalachians that were home to, you guessed it, real-life eagles. ‘The people at the Eagles’ stadium were wiping their butts with eagle habitat,’ he recalls. ‘That’s what we call a branding liability.'”

Indeed.

 

CHRISTINA WEISS LURIE LEADS THE EAGLES GREENING EFFORTS

Why did the Eagles want to become more environmentally responsible?

Christina Weiss Lurie, a minority owner of the club since 1994, deserves much of the credit. She spearheaded the Eagles Go Green campaign, coinciding with the opening of “The Linc” in 2003. That groundbreaking initiative has seen the Eagles divert 99 percent of their waste from the landfill and generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy.

 

(player/coach/executive name)

Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo credit: Christina Weiss Lurie)

 

In a wide-ranging September 2013 GreenSportsBlog interview, Weiss Lurie shared…

…her inspirations for Go Green:

“In the late 90’s, as we planned what became Lincoln Financial Field, we looked for ways to make a positive statement to the community with the stadium.  And, while it was not designed with sustainability at the forefront, as time went on I started thinking about how we could operate more efficiently and with a smaller carbon footprint.  9/11 inspired us as well — with the idea that we had to do more to wean ourselves off of foreign sources of energy.  We asked the simple question: What can we do? And so, when the stadium opened in 2003 we started the Go Green campaign with something relatively simple–recycling–and things took off from there.”

…how her colleagues in Eagles management didn’t exactly embrace Go Green from the start:

“It was an uphill battle at the beginning, no doubt about it.  We are a business after all and so the costs of greening had to be taken into account at every step of the way. ‘[But] we just persevered!  And, at the same time, we empowered the team employees from top to bottom to take ownership of Go Green.  From the bottom up, we provided incentives for all employees to choose electricity supply from renewable sources for their homes by paying any premiums for green vs. “brown” power.  From the top down, I’ve been fortunate, over the years, to get buy in from our C-level on Go Green, especially our CFO at the time.  The net result of the bottom-up/top-down strategy has been astounding:  Our recycling rates have gone up from 8 percent in 2005 to 99 percent in 2012!”

…how a variety of forward-thinking companies partnered with the club to make Go Green a success:

“We’ve been very lucky with our vendors.  For example, SCA, a Swedish company that has its US headquarters in Philadelphia, is our paper vendor.  They provide us with 100% post consumer recycled paper. Aramark, our food concessionaire, initially was resistant to “greening” our food services operations (composting, organics, etc.) due to cost.  But ultimately they wanted to find solutions and now are bringing their green operations to other facilities!  Going the eco friendly route is a journey and can take time. NRG, our energy provider, built and financed our 11,000 panel solar array at Lincoln Financial Field.  Now we generate 30 percent of our electricity from the panels and also mini wind turbines.”

 

IMG_1937

Solar array, topped by Eagle talon-shaped wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

GO GREEN DOES NOT REST ON ITS LAURELS 

While repeating as Super Bowl champs is super difficult — the 2004-2005 New England Patriots were the last team to turn that trick — the Eagles, through Go Green, have been consistent Green-Sports winners over the past a decade and a half. Last summer, GreenSportsBlog shared how the Eagles continued that trend through the installation of  Eco-Safe Digesters® at The Linc and their practice facility:

“The Philadelphia Eagles team[ed] up with environmental partner, Delaware-based Waste Masters Solutions (WMS), on the installation of a BioHiTech Global Eco-Safe Digester®, a food waste digester and data analytics platform at Lincoln Financial Field. The unit uses a proprietary bacteria formula to break down pre- and post-consumer food scraps via aerobic digestion and send them through sewer systems with no residual solids…This move builds upon the September 2016 installation of a waste digester at the team’s NovaCare Complex practice facility to help decompose pre-consumer food waste. Since then, more than nine tons of food waste has been decomposed and, thus, diverted from landfills.”

 

BioHiTech Eco-Safe

BioHiTech Global’s Eco-Safe Digesters will be installed Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and will be managed and maintained by Waste Master Solutions. (Photo credit: BioHiTech Global)

 

EAGLE ECO-ATHLETES; CHRIS LONG AND CONNOR BARWIN

The Eagles’ Go Green ethos has made its way to the locker room.

Defensive end Chris Long, who donated his entire 2017 salary of $1 million to educational charities, is also the co-founder of the nonprofit Waterboys. A January 2017 GreenSportsBlog story provides some of the inspiring particulars:

“[After Long’s season ends,] the former first round draft pick from the University of Virginia will turn a good chunk of his offseason attention to Waterboys, the nonprofit he founded to use his platform as a pro football player to affect change by bringing water to drought-ravaged Tanzania and other countries in East Africa…

…Long first visited Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Seeing the poverty and the challenging quality of life—due, in large part, to the water scarcity in the area—were his catalysts for action. That water deficit has reached crisis levels due to a massive prolonged drought that, according to climate scientists, is being exacerbated by climate change.

…Through Waterboys, Long, philanthropist Doug Pitt and a network of 23 current and former NFLers, including ex-Eagle (currently with the Los Angeles Rams) Connor Barwin, donate their own funds and, through social media, raise money from their fans to support the digging of wells by local workers in East Africa.”

 

Chris Long

Eagles defensive end Chris Long, co-founder of Waterboys (Photo credit: WPVI-TV Philadelphia)

 

To date, 31 wells have been funded, with each serving 7,500 people at a cost of $45,000.

Speaking of Connor Barwin, while he was with Philadelphia, the popular linebacker became one of pro sports’ leading eco-athletes. He drove a Tesla, rode his bike to work and, as a volunteer, installed solar panels on the roofs of local homes.

 

GREEN X 2 IN SUPER BOWL LIII?

Given the Eagles Green-Sports leadership, rooting for them to get back to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta next February is not a heavy lift for this GreenSportsBlogger. And how fitting would it be if, across the sideline, stood the New York Jets, aka Gang Green.

OK, to be completely transparent, the Gang Green moniker has nothing to do with sustainability — rather, it refers to the color of the Jets’ uniforms. But the club does play at MetLife Stadium, a green leader in its own right. And they are, for better and mostly worse, my favorite team. Of course they don’t really have a quarterback, but that’s a story for another day.

Still, I choose to dream big and green. And nothing would be bigger — or greener — than an Eagles-Jets Super Bowl.

But, for now, it’s the Eagles day. So Fly Eagles FLY!

 

 

 


 

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Golden State Warriors React to Winning GSB’s “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” Award for 2017

The reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors otherworldly performances on the court are well known around the world. While the Bay Area club’s sustainability record — along with that of its LEED certified home, Oracle Arena — is much less well-known, it is also top shelf. That combination earned the Warriors its first “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” designation from GreenSportsBlog. The club commented on winning the award.

 

The Warriors’ sustainability record is a reflection of the Bay Area’s strong environmental ethos. The club, working with Oracle Arena management and concessionaire Levy Restaurants:

  • Powers its practice facility with solar panels
  • Reduces energy usage at Oracle Arena through a smart energy management system
  • Introduced a rainwater recapture system that uses the harvested H₂O to feed the plants and vegetation surrounding the arena.
  • Partners with a local vendor who turns oils from concessions into bio-diesel,
  • Implemented a system which utilizes water, salt and electricity to create an eco-friendly cleaning solution
  • Reduced the carbon footprint of, and the waste produced by the food service. In partnership with Levy Restaurants, the club uses compostable cutlery and flatware and composts food waste.

For the above and more, Oracle Arena earned LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in September.

And, because the team won its second NBA title in the last three years and is a favorite to do so again next spring, Golden State earned its first “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” award from GreenSportsBlog.

“We share this award with our Oracle Arena partners Levy [Restaurants] and AEG, who are also committed to making the Bay Area a more sustainable community,” said Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts. “It is important to the entire Warriors organization to continue to do our part in making the Bay Area one of the most eco-friendly places to live.”

 

 

Rick Welts Warriors

Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts (Photo credit: Golden State Warriors)

 

The Dubs will up their sustainability game when the club moves to the new Chase Center — expected to seek LEED Gold certification — in San Francisco in 2019. So,  it will be on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry & Co. to keep up their end of the bargain if Golden State is to dominate the “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Court” award going forward.

 


 

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Sutton United F.C. Continues Trend of Greening UK Sports from Ground Up

The minor leagues of English soccer/football have become a petri dish of Green-Sports innovation. GreenSportsBlog has featured Forest Green Rovers, the “Greenest Team in Sports” and Dartford F.C. Today, our focus turns to Sutton United F.C., the South London club in the fifth tier of English soccer whose home stadium, Gander Green Lane, became the first to receive The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification.

 

Some of the greatest innovations in Green-Sports are happening in the soccer equivalent of baseball’s low minor leagues. While several Premier League giants, including Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle, have taken strong green-sports actions, it is the mid-to-lower levels of the English soccer/football pyramid where bold sustainable sports innovation is happening. 

Forest Green Rovers of the fourth tier of English Football has become the undisputed Greenest Team on the Planet and a GreenSportsBlog staple through its all-vegan menus, solar powered lawn mowing “mow-bots”, rooftop solar, and more. Last month, GSB featured Princes Park, home of sixth tier Dartford F.C., and, arguably, the greenest of all stadium green roofs in the world.

After hitting “send” on the Dartford F.C. piece, I thought “there can’t be any other small, quaint English soccer/football clubs doing state-of-the-art green-sports things, can there?”

Yes There Can.

Today, we bring you fifth tier Sutton United F.C.. Located just south of Wimbledon, the Amber and Chocolates (how about that for a nickname?) are in the midst of a noteworthy 2017. On the pitch, the club made an improbable run to the fifth round of the FA Cup, the 10 month tournament that involves the entirety of the professional/semi-professional English soccer pyramid, from the Premier League to pub leagues. When Arsenal, the Premier League Goliath, came to the 5,000 seat Gander Green Lane in February, it was the biggest game in Sutton United history. And it was played at the first football stadium to achieve The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification.

 

 

Sutton United

Gander Green Lane, home of Sutton United F.C. (Photo credit: AFTN)

 

The Planet Mark is a three year-old British certification system that recognizes businesses for their sustainability better practices, including waste reductions, detailed carbon footprint measurements and targets, as well as stakeholder engagement. Over 100 organizations have been certified, each committing to reduce their carbon emissions by at least 2.5 percent per year.

Sutton United, which began its sustainability journey in 2011, has certainly earned its Planet Mark designation. They have:

  • Reduced their carbon footprint by 13.6 percent in 2016, led by savings came from gas consumption (down 39 percent). Those reductions were mostly attributed to installing double glazed windows and by decommissioning a leaking boiler in Gander Green Lane’s club buildings
  • Recycled 88 percent of their waste
  • Invested in the Eden Project, a climate change education nonprofit and visitor destination that has officially been added to my bucket list. Nestled in a huge crater in Cornwall, UK, it features massive Biomes housing the largest rainforest in captivity
  • Stored 260 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂E) by protecting endangered rainforest through the nonprofit Cool Earth
  • Committed to engage their employees and suppliers to drive improvements.

Dave Farebrother, chairman of the board of directors at Sutton United and an environmentalist, has been the driver of the club’s sustainability initiatives. “We like to say that our club is much more than just the ‘first team’,” enthused Farebrother. “Our community program is very active in the local area. I’ve…been into local schools to talk about sustainability.”

“I think climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face but, as [Sutton United] showed in its magnificent FA Cup run, challenges are there to be overcome,” said Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark. “We are delighted to support Sutton United and, in our small way, contribute to the club’s success.”

Although the clock struck midnight on the Amber and Chocolate’s Cinderella story when Arsenal earned a hard fought 2-0 victory back in February on the way to winning the 2017 FA Cup, Sutton United did earn an estimated quarter of a million pounds from TV broadcasting rights, a significant sum for a club of that smallish size. According to The Planet Mark, “If some of that money is ploughed back into low carbon measures, the club’s position as a sustainability leader will be secured for years to come.”

 

 

Sutton Arsenal

Sutton United (yellow) and Arsenal battle in their February 2017 fifth round FA Cup match at The Planet Mark-certified Gander Green Lane (Photo credit: Caughtoffside.com)

 


 
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GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

For the past four years, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams, athletes and events that are taking the Green-Sports lead. What we haven’t focused on much is how said teams and players have done on the court or field. Well, that changes today as we unveil a new occasional feature, the GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, in which we highlight the recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience. Also, it’s fun. And if there’s one thing the climate change/environmental world can use more of — including the Green-Sports niche — is fun.

 

Dartford F.C.

Dartford Football Club in Kent, located 18 miles southeast of London has always resided in the lower rungs of the English football (soccer) pyramid and is currently in the sixth tier.

Yet this classic “small club” has gone big when it comes to sustainability. Its 11 year-old Princes Park was built with sustainable construction materials, boasts on-site solar panels, an advanced rainwater reclamation system and a green roof.

 

Princes Park Green Roof

Princes Park, home of Dartford F.C., and its green roof (Photo credit: Dartford F.C.)

 

On the pitch, Dartford F.C. has one major goal this season: Earn promotion to the fifth tier National League by finishing first in the National League South. After its high octane 4-2 home win on Tuesday over Eastbourne Borough, Dartford moved into a 4-way tie for first place. There’s a long way to go — Dartford just played the 11th game of its 42-game season — but the early signs are strong.

Next up for “The Darts” is a Saturday visit to 17th place Weston-super-Mare A.F.C. (I love these British team names).

 

Forest Green Rovers

Sticking with the minor leagues of English football, we turn to Forest Green Rovers.

Its owner, Dale Vince, OBE, who also owns solar and wind company Ecotricity, has set out to turn the West Midlands club into the Greenest Team in Sports. From solar panels on the roof to an organic pitch that is mowed by a solar powered mow-bot to exclusively-vegan concession stands, Vince and FGR has succeeded in setting the Green-Sports pace.

Vince realizes that the FGR Green Story will get more attention and followers the better the team does on the pitch.

On that score, the team made a significant leap when it earned promotion in May from the fifth tier National League to fourth tier League Two for the first time in its 125 year history.

Now the trick is to stay in League Two this season — to do so, FGR cannot finish in the bottom two places or it will be relegated back down from whence they came. And it won’t be easy as stepping up a league means a significant step up in competition.

FGR has had a scratchy start to the 2017-2018 season, earning but one win and one tie from their first seven contests. Thus Saturday’s match at Port Vale was key as a loss would mean FGR would be in the dreaded “relegation zone,” a place you don’t want to be, even this early in the season (eight matches have been played in the 46-game schedule).

And things looked dicey when Port Vale took the lead in the 20th minute. But, in the 66th minute, Omar Bugiel entered the game for FGR as a substitute and two minutes later, the the Lebanese National Team member leveled things with a glancing header. From then on, FGR applied constant pressure but could not net the game winner. Still, a tie on the road was a solid result and keeps FGR out of the relegation zone for now.

 

Omar Bugiel FGR

Lebanese international Omar Bugiel scored the equalizer for Forest Green Rovers in their 1-1 draw at Port Vale on Saturday (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Friday night, Forest Green Rovers’ fight to stay above danger continues when 10th place Swindon Town F.C. comes to The New Lawn.

 

Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals

GreenSportsBlog has closely followed the 25 year old Redbirds outfielder after interviewing him in January. Why did we talk to Piscotty? Two reasons:

  1. Coming off of a stellar first full season in the big leagues, with 25 homers and 85 RBIs, Piscotty was primed for a breakout 2017 campaign.
  2. A 2015 Stanford graduate, with a degree in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering, Piscotty is the rare athlete to express serious knowledge of and interest in clean tech—specifically solar and smart grid.

 

Manager of Photography

Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder (Photo credit: Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals)

 

Unfortunately, Piscotty has had a very rough second season:  Two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries combined with a sophomore slump at the plate led to a demotion to Triple-A Memphis in early August.

But these struggles pale in comparison to the news Piscotty received over Memorial Day that his mother, Gretchen, had been diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

As the July 31st trade deadline approached, rumors surfaced that the Cardinals were trying to deal Piscotty to the Oakland A’s to allow him to be nearer to his mom and family in the Bay Area. That trade did not come to pass.

In fact, Piscotty was sent back up to St. Louis from Memphis after only a couple weeks. Shortly thereafter, he launched a game-winning homer against the Padres on September 6 in San Diego, with his mom in the stands. This gave a much-needed boost to the Cardinals in their long shot bid to make the playoffs — as of this writing, the Redbirds are 4.5 games out of a wild card berth with 13 games to go.

 

^ If you are interested in donating to support ALS research, please click here for a link to the ALS Association

 


 

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Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Earns Promotion Up England’s Football (Soccer) Ladder

In the almost four year existence of GreenSportsBlog, we have written more stories about fifth tier English soccer/football club Forest Green Rovers than any other team or topic—12 times to be exact. Why? FGR is, clearly to GSB, the Greenest Team in Sports. From rooftop solar to mowing the lawn with a solar powered “mow-bot” (I kid you not!) to the now famous vegan-only food concessions, FGR is at the cutting edge of Green-Sports. And, as of Sunday they are no longer in the fifth tier of English soccer. After beating Tranmere, 3-1, in a playoff match at London’s fabled Wembley Stadium, FGR earned promotion to the fourth tier (aka League Two), for the first time ever. This is huge, from both football and greening perspectives.

 

I am quite sure you’ve never heard of Kaiyne Woolery. But he may well be one of the most important people in Green-Sports today—and he likely has no idea about that fact.

Woolery scored two goals to lead Forest Green Rovers (FGR), aka the Greenest Team in Sports, to a 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. The playoff victory earned FGR promotion from the National League (the fifth tier of English football) to League Two (fourth tier).

Kaiyne Woolery

Kaiyne Woolery celebrates one of his two goals for Forest Green Rovers in Sunday’s promotion 3-1 playoff win at London’s Wembley Stadium over Tranmere. FGR moves up to League Two, the 4th tier of English football, next season (Photo credit: Sky Sports)

 

You simply cannot overstate the impact of this win, abetted by Woolery’s two goals, both in terms of football and FGR’s sustainability/climate change fighting mission.

 

MOVING ON UP

From a football perspective, consider that Forest Green Rovers has been in existence since 1889 and has never made it up to the fourth tier (FYI, there are 24 tiers in English football, with over 7,000 clubs).

In most countries—but not the US and Canada—professional soccer operates a system of promotion and relegation. Clubs that finish at or near the top of a league are promoted to the league above for the following season. Teams that end up at or near the bottom get relegated to the league below. If you want more information on promotion and relegation, check out this schematic, which maps out the top nine tiers of English football, and/or click here.

 

English Football Pyramid

The English Football Pyramid. Forest Green Rovers won promotion from the 5th Level (Conference National) to the 4th Level (League Two), the highest tier it has ever achieved. (Credit: An American’s Guide to English Soccer)

 

For most of its 128 year existence, FGR rattled around a maze of English local, county and regional leagues, moving up and down over the decades, never getting above the sixth tier. In 1997-98, they made it up to the National League, the fifth tier of English soccer. While that was an accomplishment, let’s put it in its proper perspective: In baseball terms, the fifth tier is the equivalent of the low minor leagues. FGR’s quaint and sustainable home ground, The New Lawn, has a capacity of about 5,100, similar to most of its (now former) National League compatriots.

The club largely teetered between relegation and mediocrity until Dale Vince, OBE^, owner of Ecotricity, a solar and wind provider, bought the club in 2010. They started slowly but hit on an upward trajectory that led to FGR making the promotion playoffs in 2015 and 2016. They fell short both years but the third time proved to be a charm on Sunday. Before a crowd of almost 19,000 at Wembley Stadium in London, the club earned promotion to League Two with Woolery’s 11th and 44th minute goals sandwiching one from Christian Doidge in the 41st.

The honeymoon will be brief for the coaches, players and supporters, many of whom flooded The New Lawn for a celebration Monday night. FGR’s first League Two season starts in just three months (it’s a loooooong season!). Some higher caliber talent will need to be added to the core of this season’s group to make sure Forest Green Rovers stays in the fourth tier and doesn’t face relegation.

 

LEAGUE TWO: BIGGER MEGAPHONE FOR FGR’S GREENNESS

From a sustainability perspective, the implications of Woolery’s two goals and of the resulting move up the ladder are also massive.

One might not think going from the fifth to fourth tier is that big a deal. Trust me; it is.

  • Sky Sports, a British version of ESPN, broadcasts League Two matches, providing those clubs with greater media exposure, and thus a bigger audience, than their National League counterparts (without a national broadcast deal) can hope for. And that means a bigger audience for stories about FGR’s greenness, the vegan only food, the mow-bot, etc.
  • With its ascension to League Two, FGR is now, per the schematic above, part of The Football League, the organization that oversees the second, third and fourth tiers. This is important because FGR can take part in two domestic, knock-out Cup competitions, the League Cup (includes the Premier League teams) and the League Trophy (open to League One and Two clubs only) that are not open to National League clubs or below. And that means they will share in yet more additional revenue. The more famous and prestigious FA Cup is open to all levels.

 

FGR Tweet

 

  • The TV deal and the additional Cup exposure will result in a financial windfall for the club, estimated by one source to be between $1-$2 million. That is rounding error compared to the estimated $220 million influx for each of the three teams that get promoted from the second tier Championship to the Premier League. But $1-$2 million can be a big deal in the Forest Green Rovers world. It will allow Mr. Vince to attract a higher level of talent. And perhaps he will be able to move forward on some new sustainability initiatives.

 

The highest profile sustainability-focused project on Mr. Vince’s docket is FGR’s new stadium. To be clear, the world’s first all-wood stadium was in the planning phase before this season started.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Did you say all-wood stadium?”

Yes. Mr. Vince and company is planning an all (fire-retardant treated) wood stadium. In a meadow.

 

FGR Exterior

Computer-aided design of the exterior of the planned all-wood Forest Green Rovers stadium. (Courtesy Forest Green Rovers and Zaha Hadid Architects)

 

Mr. Vince, in a story by George Ramsey that ran Tuesday on CNN.com, said, “The importance of wood is not only that it’s naturally occurring, [but that] it has very low embodied carbon — about as low as it gets for a building material. And when you bear in mind that around three-quarters of the lifetime carbon impact of any stadium comes from its building materials, you can see why that’s so important — and it’s why our new stadium will have the lowest embodiment of carbon of any stadium.”

 

FGR Interior

Computer-aided design of the interior of the planned Forest Green Rovers stadium. (Courtesy Forest Green Rovers and Zaha Hadid Architects)

 

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the stadium will be topped by a translucent, sloping roof to reduce shadows on the pitch (field) and aid in grass growth. Venue walkways have been fashioned to allow better ventilation and maintenance of the field.

 

The first 53 seconds of this 6:44 video from TomoNews provides details about Forest Green Rovers’ proposed all-wood stadium.

 

If all goes to plan, the stadium will be the hub of a 100-acre Eco Park. At an estimated cost of $123 million, the park will include facilities for both the community and the club: gyms, all-weather soccer pitches/fields, sports science clinics, as well as a conference center.

The project still needs approval from local authorities, so Mr. Vince asked the fans present at Monday’s promotion celebration to write to the Stroud District Council in support of the stadium—another benefit of promotion to League Two.

But don’t think that Mr. Vince is content to stop at League Two. He was quoted at the celebration by Aled Thomas in Gloucestershire Live as saying, “I think we’ll have a good first season in League Two and will be there or thereabouts for promotion – I’m aiming for League One and then the Championship.”

And the FGR owner is also aiming, with his club’s higher profile, to show his fellow owners that green is good for business and good for football.

^ OBE = Order of the British Empire, a level of chivalry in the United Kingdom.

 


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Four Teams Getting Green-Sports Right

A powerhouse of American collegiate (aka university) sports from the country’s heartland. The team trying to bring the America’s Cup home to Britain for the first time. One of the most anonymous teams in the NBA. And a fifth division English football team. What could these four seemingly unrelated sports organizations have in common? THE Ohio State University Buckeyes, Land Rover BAR, the Sacramento Kings and Forest Green Rovers are four of the greenest teams on the planet. This story was originally posted on 100% Sport’s website.

 

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY BUCKEYES

Ohio State is one of the gold standard programs in college football, winning its eighth national championship in 2015. The 65,000+ student, Columbus-based school also owns 29 other National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) championships, including a title in men’s basketball, and multiple banners in swimming (11) as well as women’s rowing (3). There’s no other way to say it: Ohio State is a college sports powerhouse.

And, while Ohio’s pro loyalties are largely split between Cleveland in the north and Cincinnati in the south, it is Ohio State, in the centrally located capital city of Columbus, that is the closest thing to a unifying force in sports in the state. With more than 106,000 fans filling Ohio Stadium (aka The Horseshoe) at every home football game and with millions following the Buckeyes on TV, radio and online, the impact of Ohio State football is massive.

Panorama at Ohio Stadium

The Horseshoe, home of Ohio State football and, since 2013, its Zero Waste home games. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Given the huge fan base and audience, the potential impacts of Ohio State’s Zero Waste home football games–the school just completed its 4th straight Zero Waste football season–are also staggering. Zero Waste events are defined as diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill via recycling, composting, or repurposing. The Buckeyes diverted an insanely great 96.35 percent of in-stadium waste in 2015, winning the Big Ten Conference diversion rate championship for the fourth consecutive year. Results for 2016 are not complete but it looks as though OSU football’s diversion rates will be similar to the prior year’s.

Ohio Stadium is thought to be the biggest Zero-Waste stadium in the world. And the Schottenstein Center, aka Value City Arena, the 18,000+ seat home of Buckeyes basketball and hockey, which opened in 2000, is getting into the Zero-Waste action, expecting to get there sometime in 2017.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.35.23 AM

Schottenstein Center, home of Ohio State University Basketball (Columbus, OH), will become a Zero Waste facility (diverting at least 90% of waste from landfill) by 2017. (Photo Credit: The Lantern)

 

Indications are Ohio State’s greening efforts are breaking through with fans:

  • Out of 175 people surveyed in 2014, all but 3 thought that Ohio State Athletics has some level of responsibility (slight, some, and strong) to add environmental efforts into their athletics operations. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but directionally it’s telling.
  • The rest of the campus is taking the green lead from Ohio State football: Diversion rates across the entire university have almost doubled since the pre-Zero Waste football days, rising from 16.1% in FY 2004 t0 30.4% in FY 2015.
  • Food waste, with the help of OSU Zero Waste volunteers, is transported to Price Farms Organic, a composting facility in Delaware, Ohio. The waste is eventually turned into a mulch called Stadium Scarlet (the school’s colors are scarlet and gray), which Buckeyes fans, most of whom are landscapers and/or homeowners, purchase for $40 per cubic yard.
  • A 101 kW, 237 panel solar array was installed in 2014 on the Recreational and Physical Activities Center roof, adjacent to The Horseshoe in the Buckeyes’ iconic Block O configuration. It makes for a great aerial scene-setter shot–and a terrific talking point.

O Roof

Solar panel array, in the shape of Ohio State’s “Block O”, atop the roof of the Recreational and Physical Activities Center, in the shadow of The Horseshoe. (Photo credit: Office of Energy and Environment, The Ohio State University)

 

Fans of the University of Colorado-Boulder, with its absolutely sterling record of sports-sustainability leadership (Zero-Waste, on site solar, state-of-the-art water conservation and restoration programs), might say “Ohio State is great, but what about us?” And they have a point.

Highlighting OSU is not a knock on Colorado—far from it. Our feeling was that Ohio State deserves particular kudos because it is in the green conversation with a school like Colorado (in eco-haven Boulder) despite being in the center of a state that voted for Donald J. Trump. That is a BIG DEAL!

 

LAND ROVER BAR

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history, winning medals at five consecutive Olympics (1996 to 2012), including gold at the last four; he also played a key part in Oracle Team USA’s stirring comeback to capture the 2013 America’s Cup.

While his past is certainly legendary, it is two aspects of the future that animate Ainslie’s life these days. Number one is his role as skipper of Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), Britain’s entry in the 35th America’s Cup, to be contested in Bermuda starting in May. The challenge isn’t that big—no, it’s only about bringing the Cup to the UK for the first time ever. And Britain has been trying to win the darn thing since 1851!

That there’s room for anything else on Ainslie’s plate these days is astounding, but his will to win is matched with the need to do so with purpose —and his purpose is to use his platform at the top of the sailing world to advocate for clean oceans, the climate change fight and to bring sustainability to the rest of the sailing world.

Ainslie’s path to Green-Sports leader was kickstarted after the 2013 America’s Cup when he met Wendy Schmidt of the 11th Hour Project, parent of 11th Hour Racing, a non-profit dedicated to promoting healthy oceans through world class sailing teams. According to Ainslie, “Wendy instilled in me the responsibility someone like myself in sport has to [build a team] with sustainability as a core principle, a core belief.”

 

Ben Wendy Harry Kenney-Herbert-Land Rover BAR

Sir Ben Ainslie with Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of 11th Hour Racing, Land Rover BAR’s Exclusive Sustainability Partner. (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)

 

11th Hour Racing soon became Land Rover BAR’s exclusive sustainability partner and, from that point on, the team’s environmental efforts have been full speed ahead. A partial list of Land Rover BAR’s sustainability initiatives includes:

  • Building its home base in Portsmouth to BREEAM Excellent (the British equivalent of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED) standards. Per Ainslie, “Probably the neatest thing about the base is the wrap — it makes it look pretty cool and it also helps the building retain heat in the winter and keep cooler in summer. And the sustainability of the base helps show our supporters, our partners, our competitors and also the media — who’ve been quite impressed — that we’re in this for the long haul.”

LR BAR Wrap

An aerial view of Land Rover BAR’s home base in Portsmouth, England, with the outer wrap covering the lower left portion of the building. (Photo credit: Shaun Roster)

 

  • Using 100% renewable electricity at the base

 

Solar Panels HKH01380

Solar panels atop the roof at Land Rover BAR’s Portsmouth headquarters, help the building achieve BREEAM Excellent status. (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)

 

  • Employing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to make its operations as environmentally friendly and smart as possible. It does so by determining how best to use, reuse and dispose of materials from design to end-of-life.
  • Meatless Mondays for the team and staff
  • Drafted a sustainability charter for the other America’s Cup contestants to adopt

Moving half the team to Bermuda means Land Rover BAR has brought its sustainability commitment to the island in the Atlantic:

  • The team built its base in Bermuda employing sustainable construction features.  
  • 11th Hour Racing is funding an educational center open to the public, in close proximity to the America’s Cup Race Village where event organizers expect an average of 10,000 visitors/day during the competition. The 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone features interactive exhibits on topics such as innovation and technology, ocean health, invasive species, the New Plastics Economy and renewable energy, as well as a STEM classroom. 
  • Along with Bermuda’s leading environmental organizations, the team and 11th Hour Racing are developing a legacy project around the lionfish, an invasive species creating havoc in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. The goal is to raise awareness, promote lionfish as a sustainable and delectable choice of seafood and support an innovative solution to mitigate the invasion. 

 

SACRAMENTO KINGS

It’s been a long decade+ for Sacramento Kings fans. On the court, the club hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. And the team was under constant threat of relocation from 2006-2013.

That threat ended with the 2013 sale of the Kings to local businessman Vivek Ranadivé. And, despite another poor start this season, Sacramento fans and the community at large can be proud of the leadership the team is displaying in the NBA in the climate change fight through the construction and October 2016 opening of Golden 1 Credit Union Center, the first LEED Platinum arena in the world. Platinum is the highest level of certification awarded by the US Green Building Council, representing the top three percent of buildings certified.

At the top of the Kings’ green list is the club’s commitment to generate 100% of the building’s electricity from solar power.

And get this–going 100% solar was in response to the fans! In a powerful March, 2016 Huffington Post Op-Ed, Randivé recalled that, “survey[s] of over 20,000 Sacramentans and countless focus groups, one of the top answers to the question of ‘What do you want Golden 1 Center to be?’ was always the same: To become a model of sustainability. Our fans wanted a state-of-the-art arena that would deliver an unparalleled experience for both fans and the environment.” 

Randive & Company are giving the fans what they asked for. Golden 1 Center will be the first indoor arena in the world to derive 100% of its electricity from solar energy sourced within 50 miles of the arena–the Kings will buy 85% of its electric load from Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) new 10.9-megawatt solar farm; the other 15% will come from solar panels atop the building’s rooftop.

Want more green firsts? Golden 1 Center is the first arena in the world to be both indoor and outdoor. How can that be possible? By featuring five massive hangar doors above the grand entrance that open and allow the arena to use a natural cooling phenomenon in Sacramento – The Delta Breeze – to control the building’s climate efficiently, that’s how! 

golden-1-amplify

The hangar doors to Golden 1 Center open, letting fans—and the cooling Delta Breeze—into the arena (Photo credit: Amplify)

 

But, wait…there’s more: The Kings’ architectural choices are estimated to keep nearly 2,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually out of the atmosphere – equivalent to emissions from approximately 4 million vehicle miles.

Perhaps even more extraordinary than Golden 1 Center’s green features is Ranadivé’s exemplary forward-looking vision: “Our hope in creating Golden 1 Center was to help drive meaningful change in our community – which includes working to curb climate change and promote renewable energy. Businesses, including large sports franchises, have a core responsibility to help facilitate the world’s clean energy transition so that we can better protect the health and environment of future generations. The 1.2 million people who will pass through our doors each year will see first hand how adopting the best sustainability practices can improve the fan experience.”

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS

From a distance Forest Green Rovers F.C. (FGR), with roots dating back to 1889, is like most every other club at the Conference/5th tier level. They play in a quaint, 5,000-ish seat stadium (The New Lawn). They have a small group of hyper-local followers. And they’re pushing for promotion to the league above them (as of this writing, a little more than halfway through the season, FGR stands in 2nd place, good for a spot in the promotion playoffs if the season ended today, and four points back of Lincoln City for first and guaranteed promotion.)

But, when you look closer, you’ll see a club that, on the pitch and especially off, should be a model for all professional sports teams on either side of the pond.

It starts with ownership. Dale Vince, OBE, became the club’s major shareholder and Chairman in 2010. He also is the Founder/Owner of Ecotricity, based in nearby Stroud, which is taking on the challenge of reducing up to 80 percent of Great Britain’s carbon footprint. Since 1995, Ecotricity has become a green “triple threat”, dealing with electricity (through wind and solar project development), AND transportation (EV battery chargers at highway rest stops) AND food (in the concept stage on wind powered tractors and other clean farm energy projects). The company is privately held, pays no dividends and so profits are plowed back into the building of more clean energy. Thus, Ecotricity’s motto: Turn (electric) Bills Into (wind) Mills. Al Gore is a fan. It is the largest private sector employer in the area. Ecotrcitiy has serious green cred.

That green cred extends to FGR, which is pioneering the Greening of Football. Along with putting a quality squad on the pitch, the essence of FGR is green…DEEP green:

  • The most revolutionary move was to go Meat Free at the club training table and then at the concessions stands at The New Lawn. You read that right: No meat at the stadium. Veggie burgers only. That must’ve been a DISASTER. Well, in an interview with The Independent in 2014, Vince conceded that, at first, there was “a fan revolt.” But then things turned. Now Vince says “I didn’t give in. [And] now no fan says the veggie burger is worse than a meat burger. They even come up to me and thank me, and say I’ve changed their lives.”
  • While energy efficient LEDs are increasingly the rage at sporting venues vs. the traditional, energy-sucking Metal Halide lights, Vince says LEDs are not energy efficient enough. So they’re looking into lower energy lighting. Does anyone doubt they’ll figure this one out?
  • There are solar panels on the roof and also ground-mounted solar powered car ports at The New Lawn. The latter are visible to all fans entering and leaving the stadium, further cementing the greenness of the club among the fan base.

New Lawn

The New Lawn, home of Forest Green Rovers F.C., in Nailsworth, England. Concession stands are meatless, solar panels line the roof and the parking lot. (Photo Credit: openbuildings.com)

And the organic pitch is mowed by a solar-powered “Mow-Bot.” I kid you not.

 

To Vince, sustainability is integral to the club’s DNA and its long term viability: “We’re building a football club that’s both environmentally and financially sustainable. We got involved for two reasons – social and environmental. The club is a big part of the local community, with a rich tradition, and it needed rescuing. For us, it was an investment in the local community. Secondly, the club offered an opportunity to take our sustainable message to a new audience – a large and passionate new audience largely unaccustomed to dealing with sustainability issues.”

Finally, click here to see a terrific 8-minute video from Collectively, a non-profit that uncovers, shares and scales up “exciting ideas for a future we want to live.” You get an unvarnished, up close view of what fans–both FGR and away supporters–think and feel about this fascinating experiment at the intersection of Green + Sports. Let us know what you think. Meanwhile, I’m ready for a veggie burger!

 

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