Guest Blog: Allen Hershkowitz on Ten Years of Sustainability at the US Open

Today marks the start of the US Open, the annual tennis bacchanal that draws 700,000+ fans to the National Tennis Center in New York over its two week run. Seeing compost and recycling bins throughout the 46.5 acre campus is now second nature for those fans as the US Tennis Association’s (USTA’s) greening efforts, among the most comprehensive in the sports world, are now ten years old. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point and there’s no one better to tell the fascinating history of the US Open’s sustainability program than today’s guest GreenSportsBlogger, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance and a founding director of Sports and Sustainability International (SandSI). 

 

By Dr. Allen Hershkowitz

Ten years ago, in the Fall of 2007, I walked into my office at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and found a note from NRDC’s President: “Allen,” it read, “I met Billie Jean King at a dinner last night. She would like to speak with you. To reach her, please call Pam at …”

 

Billie Jean King wants to speak with me? Seriously? A few calls followed and the request to speak was clarified: The year previous, on August 28, 2006, the US Tennis Association (USTA) National Tennis Center was rededicated as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (BJK NTC). Now that the venue bore her name, Billie wanted to assure it was a model for environmental stewardship. She wanted to make the US Open the most environmentally responsible tennis event in the world.

 

We arranged to meet at the BJK NTC shortly after the 2007 US Open. I was ushered into a conference room to await Billie’s arrival, along with Joe Crowley, the USTA’s Director for Operations, and other USTA officials.

 

Billie arrived with her partner Ilana Kloss, Commissioner of World TeamTennis and a world class tennis star in her own right. With the introductions behind us, a partnership was formed between the USTA and NRDC. As Billie requested, our goal was to create the most environmentally intelligent tennis event in the world. I told Billie that doing so would take years. “Great,” she said. “I’m in. Let’s do it.”

 

In 2007, not one recycling bin existed at the NTC. Today, recycling and composting bins abound and ninety percent of all waste is thus diverted from the landfill. More than twenty thousand pounds of uneaten meals are donated to charities, reducing hunger and greenhouse gas emissions. We pioneered recycling the 17,000 tennis ball cans used at the Open. Tennis ball cans are complex products, comprised of four different materials, (three types of plastic and an aluminum lid), making them impossible to recycle, until we figured out how to do so in 2008, while donating the 45,000 used tennis balls to community organizations.

 

Compost bins

Compost bin (foreground) and recycling bin (blue band in the rear) along the plaza at the National Tennis Center. These are two of many such bins dotting the NTC complex that demonstrate the USTA’s commitment to sustainability to the 700,000 fans projected to attend the 2017 US Open. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

In 2007 all of the 2.4 million napkins used at the US Open were made from trees. By 2008, all napkins had at least 90 percent post consumer recycled content, an environmental achievement that protects forest habitat and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the Open’s daily Draw Sheet, tickets, media guides, bathroom tissue and paper towels have at least 30 percent recycled content, while paper use in general has been reduced through electronic options.

 

In the spring of 2008, after agreeing on a logo and a tag line for the US Open’s new environmental program (“Our courts may be blue, but we’re thinking green”), we decided to produce public service announcements (PSAs) to educate fans about environmental stewardship. Billie introduced me to tennis legends Venus Williams and Bob and Mike Bryan, arguably the greatest men’s doubles team of the modern era. Together we produced the first environmental public service announcements ever broadcast at a major sporting event, and it was the first time pro-athletes were engaged for this purpose. Billie, Venus, Bob and Mike all appeared in videos encouraging fans to recycle and buy recycled paper products, use mass transit, and buy organic food. The PSAs are broadcast on the jumbotron at Ashe Stadium to this day. Discussing global warming with Venus Williams is one of the highlights of my career and I like to think that I encouraged her to become the environmentalist that she is today. We also pioneered using the Open’s daily Draw Sheet to share money saving “Eco Tips” each day, and that too is still in use at the Open. And we engaged fans directly: During the 2008 Open sixty volunteers from NRDC spanned the grounds distributing free New York City mass transit MetroCards to fans who answered an impromptu environmental question (“Name one thing you can do to help protect the environment…”).

 

Billie Jean and Allen

Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)

 

This week, the US Open Tennis Championships begin anew and the USTA’s greening program has lived up to Billie Jean King’s original vision: The entire event is powered by renewable energy. All energy use is measured, as is waste generation and recycling, paper use, and employee and player travel, and these impacts are converted into measurements of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past decade the Open has avoided tens of thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Unavoidable greenhouse gas impacts are offset for the approximately 9,000 people who travel to work at the event, including the 850 players.  Mass transit is promoted and last year more than 55 percent of fans arrived by public transit, making it the most transit friendly professional sporting event in the nation. Cleaning products are Green Seal Certified, paints are zero-VOC, water is conserved, and two LEED Certified structures have been built — the newly constructed Grandstand Stadium and the transportation building — and the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, slated to open at next year’s tournament, is expected to attain LEED designation as well.

 

Grandstand

The 8,000 seat Grandstand stadium at the National Tennis Center (NTC). It opened for play in 2016 as the first LEED Certified stadium at the US Open. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Since 2009 the US Open’s greening program has been expanded and led at the USTA by Lauren Kittlestad-Tracy, now recognized as one of the most influential environmental leaders in tennis, with support from MIT-trained PE Bina Indelicato, co-founder of eco evolutions and one of the top sustainability experts working in the field.

 

At the time we started the USTA’s greening program, 90 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution was being pumped into the atmosphere each day. Today, that has grown to 110 million tons daily. This past July was the hottest month on record. Given those grim metrics, the USTA’s work — building on Billie Jean King’s noble vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage others to do the same — is even more important. All businesses should follow its lead.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Vijay Sudan on 21st Century Fox, Fox Sports and Sustainability

Sports stadiums and arenas were the first to join the sports-greening movement. After all, that’s where the games are played and where tremendous amounts of energy is expended, including getting to-and-from the venue. Media companies, while a “second order” greenhouse gas emissions driver at sports events, still are part of the energy mix. Plus they of course communicate what is happening on the court, field or course to billions of people worldwide. How do they look at their own sustainability issues around sports? And how do they communicate sustainability-related issues to their viewers and listeners? To get into this question, GSB spoke with Vijay Sudan, VP of Social Impact at 21st Century Fox, the corporate umbrella under which Fox Sports resides.

 

GreenSportsBlog: How did you find yourself at 21st Century Fox (“21CF”), social responsibility and green-sports?

Vijay Sudan: It happened quite by accident. I’m not a huge sports fan, tell you the truth. At Johns Hopkins, I of course followed our top ranked lacrosse team but sports does not drive me as it does some of my colleagues. But, I had been working in management consulting at Bain & Company when I was given the opportunity to take a five month leave and start off in the Social Impact department at 21CF. It was meant to be temporary, but five months has turned into eight years and counting.

GSB: What was Social Impact like at 21st Century Fox when you joined?

VS: The CSR or Social Impact program is about a decade old. It has always existed as a corporate level initiative with business unit-level implementation. For the first seven and a half years of its existence—including when I arrived—CSR only involved environmental sustainability, what we called our “Global Energy Initiative.” Then, in 2013, News Corporation, the parent company, split into two, with the broadcast and cable outlets as well as film becoming 21st Century Fox, and the print entities—Wall Street Journal, Times of London, New York Post and Harper Collins, among others—remained under the News Corp name. Many of our initial sustainability investments—before the split—took place in our factories and print plants, which were on the publishing side.

 

vijay15998RETfinalScrop

Vijay Sudan, VP of Social Impact at 21st Century Fox. (Photo credit: 21st Century Fox)

 

GSB: That makes sense. You can save much more energy, water, ink, etc., in a factory than in an office environment or studio.

VS: Exactly. Once the split took place, our CSR strategy broadened to more of a “Social Impact” approach…

GSB: …Hence your job title, VP of Social Impact…

VS: That’s right. That broadening meant we now support initiatives in Creativity & the Arts, Sports & Well Being, as well as Knowledge & Exploration. These areas are all organic and closely tied to who we are as a business. Our operating units include the 20th Century Fox film studio, and the Fox broadcast and cable properties: the FOX network, FX, Fox Sports, Fox News, and National Geographic, as well as STAR, a large TV business in India. We’re a very decentralized corporation so we work with points of contact at each of our businesses who are our partners in delivering on our initiatives. My three colleagues and I manage CSR corporately and an important part of our jobs is to bring the various business units’ CSR efforts together where possible.

GSB: I am glad there are so many people on the CSR/sustainability case over there. What is the emissions profile of 21st Century Fox?

VS: Good question. Like I said earlier, since we spun off our publishing assets under News Corp, we really don’t have factories, which is where many of our prior environmental impacts were. So what are our environmental impacts now? Really, they’re relatively small. From our office buildings and other facilities, they’re less than 200,000 metric tonnes of CO2 annual Scope 1 and 2 emissions combined. That said, we are studying and working hard to improve upon our environmental performance in our film and TV production unit as well as in sports. For example, in terms of materials, we’ve looked at the temporary studio and other infrastructure that goes into large events like Super Bowl LI and the US Open golf, both in terms of sourcing the materials sustainably to disposal of the materials after the event. As for energy usage, we are looking at opportunities to increase the use of biodiesel, to move from generators to grid power where possible, and to trial other technologies like UPS systems to replace generators, or solar powered light towers.

GSB: It seems to me that it would be difficult to continually improve on energy usage on sets. How do you go about doing that?

VS: It is challenging. In a print factory, improvements made on energy are realized every day. With sets, our teams are constantly building new ones or are filming in new locations. We often have to use mostly new materials and get them to remote parts of the world. We shot The Revenant in Northern Canada, for example. And in some of these places your only option for power is usually diesel generators, unfortunately. Also, because every production is unique in size, location, and crew, solutions aren’t necessarily scalable. But we are making lots of improvements and trying out new technologies everywhere we can. And we’ve been a leader in the entertainment industry in that regard for many years. We had the first carbon neutral TV show with 24, also the first to use 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber. More recently we experimented with battery powered “generators” while filming Legion for FX in Vancouver and have trialed solar powered trailers for our talent on set.

GSB: What about the sports side of the business…Have you been able to make energy and materials usage improvements?

VS: Sports got ignored early on a bit. Compared to movie shoots, they’re relatively small-scale productions. And we’re really temporary guests at a stadium or arena. We bring two trucks to an event, plug into the stadium’s or arena’s power source and then head out when it’s over. The employees are, aside from the on-air talent, mostly freelancers. So the carbon footprint, like I said earlier, is relatively low. But, we looked deeper and realized Fox Sports, including our regional sports networks broadcast something like 10,000 events annually in the US, and even more when you consider our international businesses. Each event may have a small footprint but when you multiply that by 10,000 it becomes something meaningful and significant.

GSB: What kind of savings could you find that would, multiplied by 10,000, turn out to be significant?

VS: We asked ourselves this question: What kind of energy usage goes into a typical Fox Sports production? To answer it, we went to Miami to observe how we covered a Miami Marlins baseball game at Marlins Park, and a Miami Heat NBA game at American Airlines Arena. We sat in the back of the production trucks, surveyed the scene, and talked to a bunch of people on site, from replay editors to electricians to directors and more. Doing so confirmed that our energy usage is indeed low, especially compared to operating a stadium or arena and to fan travel. But as a result of gaining a better understanding of those operations, we’ve zeroed in on our supplier relationships, kicking off conversations about sustainability with our vendors, from the firms that own the production trucks to the catering companies that provide food. For both film & TV production and sports broadcast we’ve found that physical material and waste are where there are big opportunities for improvement. At this year’s Super Bowl we were able to divert more than 2,800 pounds of waste from the landfill including things like flooring signage from our temporary studio and fan areas, and almost 10 miles of Ethernet cable.

 

Heat production truck

Inside the production truck for a Fox Sports cable cast of a Miami Heat game. (Photo credit: Vijay Sudan)

 

GSB: That’s impressive. But, especially given the smallish carbon footprints, relatively speaking, of 21st Century Fox’s sports productions, the bigger impact would be from promoting your environmental and climate change bona fides on air, especially on your marquee events like the Super Bowl (when you have it every third year), World Series, FIFA World Cup, and US golf Open (men’s and women’s). Is Fox Sports doing that kind of thing?

VS: I agree, and we are telling some sustainability stories. For example we broadcast the championships of the US Golf Association (USGA), including the US Men’s and Women’s Opens. We’re working with them to reduce energy usage and food waste on site. The USGA asked us if we could tell those stories in an on air Public Service Announcement (PSA). Shortly thereafter we cut video spots with Greg Norman, our chief color commentator at the time, about our environmental efforts. Fox Sports is the conduit to the fans at home and we’ve been talking to many of our partners at the leagues and organizing bodies about how can work collaboratively to find ways to share their and our sustainability messages on air or online. Just this spring we teamed up with MLB, DePaul University and our colleagues who run Fox Sports University, which engages PR and marketing students at colleges across the US, to work on a project creating a campaign that engages fans and promotes Fox Sports’ and MLB’s sustainability efforts. I was blown away by the creative ideas the DePaul students came up with. Everything from seed packets designed like baseball cards for community gardens, to the “Strike Out Your Footprint” campaign that empowered fans to take action in reducing their own impacts. The “Strike Out Your Footprint” team won a “pitch-off” and was rewarded with a trip to Miami last week to see the 2017 Home Run Derby and MLB All Star Game.

 

DePaul Culpwrit

Members of the “Strike Out Your Footprint” team from DePaul University at the 2017 Major League Baseball All Star Game at Marlins Stadium in Miami. (Photo credit: Culpwrit)

 

GSB: Kudos to the winners, and what a great prize! Do organizing bodies of major sporting events tell you what you can and cannot say on-air? Because, for example, with the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, I think environmental stories may well be big news, especially with the greenwashing that went on surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

VS: We always want to work collaboratively with our partners and find common ground. We haven’t had any conversations yet about the upcoming World Cup, but when we broadcast the Women’s World Cup in 2015 in Canada, I had a great series of conversations with FIFA, particularly around helping get more girls into sports and into soccer, which is an area we have invested in as well.

GSB: Finally, as a viewer, if I see a video about the good environmental work Fox Sports is doing, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “wait a minute, this is the same company as Fox News and Fox News’ opinion shows are perhaps the most influential purveyors of virulent climate change denialism. I’m not buying this greening of Fox Sports.” I’m guessing I’m far the from the only person who has this thought. How do you and your team combat this?

VS: It’s not the first time I’ve heard something like that. To give a bit of context, each of our business units runs very independently from the others, and there’s also a firewall between our corporate entity and our creative and editorial outlets. Corporate will never dictate what stories to tell or how to tell them, whether for our creatives or our news teams. Beyond that, our various outlets often don’t agree with another on a variety of topics – and not only do we encourage and value a wide diversity of opinions, we think that’s part of what makes us unique. And so while some commentators may have skeptical attitudes on climate change, you’ll find many others both on the news side, and all across the company, that have strongly countering opinions.

GSB: The problem, the way I look at it, is that the commentators, like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and others, are mainly on in prime time, have higher ratings, greater social media traction and thus a more significant impact on the body politic than respected journalists on the news side like Shep Smith and Chris Wallace do, who are generally on during lower viewership periods. And the effect has been significant: A 2011 study from American, George Mason, and Yale Universities found that Fox News programs overwhelmingly rejected or ignored the scientific evidence on climate change, and promoted a false sense of balance by favoring guests who denied the planet was heating up.

VS: A Yale University study also found that one of the most effective communications to raise awareness and concern for climate change among the general public was our film, The Day After Tomorrow. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of people that saw Fox’s Avatar, a movie with strong environmental themes, making it the highest grossing film in history. So yes, we have a wide variety of programming and opinions expressed on screen across our businesses, and we also generate a lot of content that is crystal clear in its affirmation of the scientific consensus. The Simpsons, for instance, is regularly lauded for addressing environmental issues in an entertaining, lighthearted, but engaging way. I’m sure there are folks out there who have learned everything they know about climate from Lisa Simpson! And, of course, we also own National Geographic. Nat Geo has been very strong on climate change. As one example, they recently put out Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate change documentary. We premiered it at the United Nations with then Secretary of State John Kerry. Nat Geo also aired the film globally in 171 countries and made it freely available for streaming online. The movie was watched by more than 70 million people worldwide.

 

The Simpsons tackle global warming with “None Like it Hot” (1:43)

 

GSB: Well, I certainly wish that the Fox News commentariat would move closer to their 21st Century Fox cousins on climate. While I am not holding my breath; what a huge benefit that would be to the climate fight. Back to Nat Geo, it also aired the second season of the amazing documentary series Years of Living Dangerously in 2016. Years examines the effects of climate change happening now, in real time. The first season aired on Showtime. Will there be a third?

VS: I hope so! I’m glad you like Years…

GSB: It’s more than like…it’s LOVE!

VS: Even better. The overall thing I’d like to leave you with is this: for the past decade 21st Century Fox has been committed to addressing its climate impacts, growing sustainably and inspiring others to take action. We’ve been vocal about the need for businesses to be transparent on their carbon footprint, we have advocated for climate legislation in the US, and we publicly supported the international climate agreement in Paris. We are serious about it operationally and in terms of letting our audiences know what we’re doing to help in the fight. Sports is a key venue for telling those stories.

GSB: I am glad to hear that. I’ll be even happier if I hear Years of Living Dangerously gets renewed for another season and if I see coverage of environmental issues on Fox’ air during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I know that’s not your call but it can’t hurt to lobby a little bit.

VS: Noted!

 


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PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim

PyeongChang, South Korea will be the center of the sporting world starting February 9 when the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics take place in the city that lies about 77 miles to the east of Seoul. Environmental sustainability has been a key factor in Olympic bids going back to the Vancouver in 2010 (winter) and London 2012 (winter) Games. How will PyeongChang fare, sustainability-wise? GreenSportsBlog talked with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) to find out.

 

 

Sustainability is now a core facet of the Olympics host city bidding process. In fact, any bid submitted since the 2014 adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020 must have a robust environmental component. Since a host city has seven years between being awarded the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the opening ceremonies, the 2022 Winter Games, awarded to Beijing in 2015, will be the first to have fully adhered to the Agenda’s guidelines.

How does the sustainability scorecard look for the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, given that the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, or POCOG, won its bid in 2011, three years before the Agenda took effect? GSB spoke with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for POCOG to answer that question.

 


 

GreenSportsBlog: Hyeona, how did you get involved in the POCOG sustainability effort?

Hyeona Kim: Ever since I joined POCOG 5 years ago, I have been interested in what real impact PyeongChang 2018 can bring to local communities and our country. Helping with the initial venue development phase, I learned of the sustainability area, and thought ‘this is why I came to PyeongChang in the first place’ and I needed to commit my work to it. I was fortunate to be involved with the sustainability team, from the development of overall sustainability strategy to its implementation today. I really value the opportunity to experience the whole process.

 

Hyeona Kim

Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager, POCOG. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: So you are definitely the person to talk to! Given that Olympic Agenda 2020 was not in force in 2011 when PyeongChang bid for the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and thus sustainability was not a “must have” in Olympic Bids, how did it fit in your bid?

HK: Though it was not “must have” for Olympic Games bidding, sustainability was a strong global trend already back then, and was part of the ultimate goal to bring the event to South Korea. Naturally, sustainability and the environment were integral to our bid from the very beginning. Our focus started from the environmental sphere of sustainability. POCOG set out the environmental vision of “O2 Plus”, an ambition to go beyond the Games carbon emissions in our carbon reduction and offset efforts.

GSB: Impressive that POCOG planned to be “Net Positive”—to be responsible for the reduction of more carbon emissions than the Games would create. Were such efforts tried before?

HK: Vancouver 2010 raised the bar by achieving “Net-zero carbon Games”. PyeongChang felt responsible for sustainable Games and we thought of going one step further.

GSB: How does POCOG go about doing that?

HK: First of all, PyeongChang 2018, together with Gangwon, the host provincial government, has funded and is funding wind farms that will produce more than the minimum amount of electricity need to power the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some of the wind farms were built during the bidding phase and then, after we won the bid in 2011, POCOG ramped up its funding for the remaining wind developments.

GSB: So how much wind power are we talking about?

HK: We expect to have 190 megawatts (mW) of electricity demand during the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. As of now, 145 mW is of wind electricity is already operational, another 32 mW is secured and another 100 mW is still under construction.

GSB: That’s a lot of wind, more than enough to power the Games. Where are these wind farms located? Close to PyeongChang?

 

POCOG Wind farm 1

Wind turbines in Gangwon Province, part of the wind farm developments funded by POCOG that will, in total, generate more energy than the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will use. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

HK: Yes, all of the wind farms are in Gangwon Province. And our use of renewables goes beyond wind. Six of the newly constructed competition venues will feature either solar power or geothermal. Several of our venues are certified for G-SEED, the Korean green building protocol, similar to LEED. Gangneung Olympic Park, the site of four venues—figure skating/short track, speed skating ice hockey, and curling…

GSB: …I LOVE curling. And, yes, I have curled before. Have you tried it? If not, you have to give it a go!

HK: Yes, actually I tried it once, and it was more active than it looked. It was fun. Anyway, part of Gangneung Olympic Park was transformed from a landfill site to a cultural and sports park, protecting the local ecology and nature in the process.

 

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0054.JPG

Aerial view of Gangneung Olympic Park. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: Very impressive on both the electricity generation and facilities sides of the ledger. What about mass transit and low emissions vehicles?

HK: POCOG made an aggressive move into EVs—our fleet has 300 of them—and the charging infrastructure is being built in and around PyeongChang as we speak. Our goal is to do what we can to make EVs a mainstream choice for as many Koreans as possible as quickly as possible. On the mass transit side, POCOG and the Korean government has invested heavily in high-speed rail (HSR) as that is a great carbon emissions reducer. High-speed rail from the Seoul area will transport a significant percentage of total fans to PyeongChang and we expect such mass transit will help us reduce 6,654 tonnes of C02 equivalent^ from our carbon inventory. All of the efforts described here helped us become the first Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be ISO 2012-1 certified…

GSB: …For those unfamiliar, ISO 2012-1 is a global standard for sustainable events. Congratulations. Now, on the flip side of POCOG’s sustainability successes, what have been its greatest challenges?

HK: Ahhh, this is a good question. When we were on our learning curve, the IOC and past Organizing Committees always screamed one common message at us “Start EARLY with sustainability planning.” And, six years after winning the bid I can see that, even though we did start early on the environmental front in 2012, it would’ve been more successful if the bigger comprehensive plan came along at the same time.

GSB: How so?

HK: Well, the comprehensive strategy would’ve balanced initiatives amongst our three sub-categories of sustainability—environmental, social and economic—and solidified specific actions and messages. Olympic Organizing Committees are always on the steep growing curve, and once it hits the operational phase, it is not easy keep the sustainability ethos alive in daily minds in office. It takes extra efforts from sustainability unit to remind and ensure delivery of sustainability initiatives.

GSB: I echo that sentiment wholeheartedly. Ensuring that sustainability, no matter what aspect, is truly part of an organization’s DNA takes constant care. But I have to say, despite the challenges; it looks like POCOG is moving the sustainable Olympics ball forward, especially in terms of Winter Games and especially when compared to an environmentally challenged Sochi 2014. Now let’s pivot to a comparison vs. the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. They had their own environmental sustainability challenges, to be sure, but one thing they got right was communicating the seriousness climate change poses to humanity to a global TV and digital audience, estimated to be up to 1 billion people. They did so with a climate change themed vignette during the opening ceremonies. Will POCOG have anything similar in store? Also will POCOG be conducting any research on attendees and/or Korean TV viewers about awareness of its environmental efforts?

HK: We were also envious of the climate change vignette from Rio 2016’s opening ceremony. No other method I think can be paralleled in terms of scale and impact of the message. It is a shame that I cannot openly discuss POCOG’s public campaign for environmental awareness at this point of time, but I can reassure you POCOG has already unfolded different programs – carbon inventory establishment and management, International Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Olympic Winter Games – and also is keen to do more for public awareness on environment and climate change.

GSB: Those are great things, to be sure. And, congratulations to you and all of POCOG for the innovative sustainability strategies and initiatives you are championing, especially O2 Plus. But, with all of the great, net positive greening initiatives POCOG is undertaking, it’s a shame that it chose not to close the sustainability loop by communicating its greenness, its climate change fighting chops, to fans at the venues and watching on TV and elsewhere. It’s like a golfer who hits a phenomenal tee shot and a great approach shot to within a foot of the hole. All she has to do is tap in and she wins the tournament. But she chooses not to putt and walks off. Let’s hope the folks in charge of Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games decide to take that putt, close the loop and communicate their greenness to a global audience.

 

^ PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Sustainability Interim Report, February 2017, pgs. 26-27.

 


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The GSB Interview: Jamie Simon, Greening the LA Marathon

The Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon is one of the biggest in the United States, drawing 25,000+ runners from all over the world each year. The race passes through four cities, each with their own sustainability (recycling, composting, etc.) protocols and vendor contracts. Getting all four cities to pull together to deliver as sustainable an event as possible is a logistical challenge of epic proportions. To find out how they’re going about it, GSB talked with Jamie Simon, the Sustainability Consultant for Conqur Endurance Group, the event organizer.

GreenSportsBlog: Jamie, thanks for joining us. How did you get involved with Conqur Endurance Group?

Jamie Simon: I joined Conqur Endurance Group as a sustainability consultant. Before that I had been sustainability director of Red Bull USA

GSB: That must’ve been fascinating. When were you there?

JS: From 1999-2009, with the last two years in the sustainability role. The biggest challenge there was that outward-looking, consumer-facing sustainability programs were not in line with the brand at that time.

Jamie Simon

Jamie Simon, sustainability consultant for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. (Photo credit: Jamie Simon)

 

GSB: What does that mean?

JS: It means that the brand’s image with consumers was about extreme sports and culture, etc. And not about sustainability. Their sustainability efforts—and the things that I focused on—were largely on how to streamline operations, to make them more efficient, use less water, etc.

GSB: Red Bull really should communicate their sustainability stories to their consumers. They’re starting to a bit, with their support of the documentary film about clean water, Waves for WaterBut that’s for a different interview. Back to the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon: How did you find things, sustainability-wise, when you joined the effort there?

JS: Well, I have to say we were fortunate when we arrived back in 2014. My first assignment was to set sustainability benchmarks—basically, let the key stakeholders know where the marathon was in terms of a variety of sustainability metrics—mostly environmental but also social and governance. The marathon and its leadership had already taken a number of sustainability steps before that time and so, when we did the baseline analysis of their efforts, the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon was able to qualify for the silver certification level by the Council for Responsible Sport.

GSB: You mean by doing the benchmarking—and making no improvements—the Los Angeles Marathon was able to make silver level certification?

JS: That’s exactly right. The organizers were already giving funds to over 200 area nonprofits, which allows them to check the community development box of their Council certification form. They also had established a strong relationship with the LA Tourism Board, which allowed them to measure the economic impact of the marathon. Another box checked. And there were some waste management-recycling protocols in place.

GSB: So what were you brought in to do?

JS: Conqur Endurance Group made a three-year commitment to get to the Gold, or hopefully, Evergreen level of Council certification for the marathon. I was brought in to get us there. We set sustainability benchmarks with the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, did more benchmarking with the 2016 race, and determined what kind of steps we would need to take if we were to qualify for Gold certification by the Council in 2017.

LAMarathonByCruse00259

The Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon is seeking Gold certification from the Council for Responsible Sport for 2017. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Marathon)

 

GSB: What did you learn?

JS: Well here’s one example: We learned that heat sheets are recyclable…

GSB: What are heat sheets?

JS: Those are the sheets of foil that are given to runners after they finish the marathon to keep their body temperatures regulated. At the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, we separated out the heat sheets and educated recyclers on the importance of actually recycling the material.

GSB: I never would have even thought about heat sheets. You guys really get down into the weeds with this…

JS: Here’s another one from the weeds. You know what you have tremendous quantities of at marathons? Banana peels.

GSB: Makes sense.

JS: And Santa Monica, one of the four cities that is part of the marathon every year, has a composting program for residents but not for events. Well, we got them to compost banana for the 2017 Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

GSB: You said Santa Monica is one of four cities? That’s got to be a logistical nightmare in terms of sustainability regulations and protocols.

JS: Oh yeah! The marathon starts at Dodger Stadium in LA, goes through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before ending in Santa Monica near the Santa Monica Pier. This means we have four waste protocols to deal with, four sets of waste haulers, etc.

LA Marathon Start

Start of the Skechers Performance LA Marathon outside Dodger Stadium (Photo credit: Connect Run Club)

 

GSB: That sounds like a big logistical challenge. How does working with so many municipalities affect your metrics and measurements?

JS: We’ve got a pretty good handle on that aspect. We take carbon footprint, waste diversion and economic impact measurements. Right now, we’re working our way through the measurements of the 2017 race. Waste diversion for 2015 was at 84% so we’ve got a strong baseline there.

GSB: The waste collection must take a massive effort.

JS: You’d be surprised. We don’t supply food and beverage for the spectators. We’re all about the runners; 26,407 to be exact this year. There are about 6,000 volunteers, picking up waste along the way. Runners get bagels and bananas at the beginning. All unused food goes to the homeless through our partner Move For Hunger. We also work with Students Run LA—I love this group!—it teaches low income kids to run and to love running, which enhances self-esteem. And you know what? The most sustainable resource on earth is self-esteem. People who take care of themselves, take care of the planet.

GSB: I would love to see data that supports this notion but intuitively, it makes a ton of sense. What are your biggest goals for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2018 and beyond?

JS: Definitely the elimination of bottled water. We’re working with the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to access city water for our drinking water. WeTap, a nonprofit that promotes increased access to water from drinking fountains, is supporting our efforts.

GSB: Oh, WeTap is a terrific group and a great partner for the marathon. We interviewed them back a couple of months ago.

JS: Yes, I remember that. Now there are some logistical challenges—the fountains are currently on the wrong side of the course, for example—that need to be worked out. We also will revamp the water management bins at the finish of the course. Finally, we are looking to greatly reduce waste at the race expo, a two-day event at the LA Convention Center with over 100 exhibitors. It’s challenging but we will get it done, no doubt about it.

GSB: I have no doubt about that!

 


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Houston Marathon Goes for the Green Gold—And Gold Level Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport

Houston, the oil capital of the US, is not, like Portland, or San Francisco, a Green-Sports hub. But there are “Green-Sports shoots” sprouting up in Texas’ largest city. The Chevron Houston Marathon is one of the success stories there, earning sustainable event certification from the Council for Responsible Sport since 2012. With the 2017 version of the race having taken place in January, we gave a call to Shelley Villalobos, Managing Director of the Council, to get a sense of how the Houston Marathon made out, sustainability-wise, and what the future holds.

 

Let’s dispense with the finery: The Houston Super Bowl Host Committee dropped the green ball.

As documented in a January GSB post, the Host Committee did not appear to offer up even a tepid effort to take the Green-Sports baton from the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.

Of course, Houston is not San Francisco, green-wise. Heck, it’s not even in the same sustainability league as Austin, 165 miles to its west. But Houston has some important green things going for it, including its longstanding, comprehensive greening initiative, Green Houstonand its status, per EPA, as the #1 user of Green Power in the country in 2015.

Despite the big missed opportunity at Super Bowl LI, Houston does have a solid, if not well-publicized Green-Sports heritage. The 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four, held at NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl LI, was the first Final Four ever to be certified as a sustainable event by the Council for Responsible Sport.

And the Chevron Houston Marathon has been certified by the Council since 2012 by the Council for Responsible Sport and is in the process of attaining its 2017 certification. Brant Kotch, Race Director and President of the Board of the Houston Marathon Committee sounded downright Portlandian when we said that the main reason his team undertook Council certification is “it’s our responsibility to take care of our planet for the present as well as for future generations. We thank the Council for helping to show us the way.”

CHM Start 2017

Runners await the start of the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon on January 15. (Photo credit: @PhotoRun)

 

With that in mind, we talked with Council Managing Director Shelley Villalobos to get her take on the Chevron Houston Marathon’s sustainability story.


 

GreenSportsBlog: Shelley, first of all, congratulations on the important sustainability certification work of the Council for Responsible Sport. It sounds like the Chevron Houston Marathon (CHM) has really made sustainability a key facet of its DNA. Take us through how that happened.

Shelley Villalobos: Well, they’ve been on board for six years now, getting their initial certification back in 2012 at the Silver level. That certification was focused on putting protocols and systems in place to track performance and things like energy use, waste generation and diversion and sustainability engagement with their youth program offerings. In 2013 they said, “we want to go for Gold!” And they did it that year and again in 2015. The recertification is still in process for this year’s event as they pull together documentation and report on how they did.

GSB: Could you tell us the difference between Silver and Gold? And is Gold the highest level certification possible at the Council?

SV:  The Council’s 4.2 Responsible Sport Standards are like a menu. There are 61 opportunities across five categories (Planning & Communications, Procurement, Resource Management, Access & Equity, Community Legacy) to earn individual credits towards certification. Silver level is earned when 60% (36 credits) of the standards are met. Gold is earned with 75% of the standards implemented, and our highest level of certification possible, Evergreen, comes when an event meets 90% of the standards.

So to get from Silver to Gold, CHM had to expand their effort beyond what they’d done in the past. Some things they have been working on include tracking their printing more closely, reusing more signage from year to year (they ordered 380 signs less this year than last), eliminating unnecessary waste and expanding their direct outreach to underrepresented groups in the community.

One of my favorite things they did recently was work with their suppliers to eliminate the individual plastic bags around every finisher’s t-shirt and medal. It adds up when we’re talking about an event that 17,000 people participate in!

 

The Council for Responsible Sport works with its primary evaluation partner, Waste Management, to asses an event’s performance across the five categories of responsible sport according to the v4.2 Responsible Sport Standards for Certification.

 

GSB: What will it take for them to get to the next level?

SV: For an event like the CHM, once the basic policies and programs are in place it really becomes about engagement and education with event vendors, sponsors and other partners—looking for ways to engage in genuine partnership with people doing good work locally, like Green Houston that you mentioned, to get people in-the-know and involved with pertinent local sustainability issues. That looks different in every place. In some cities it means air quality and transit, for others it’s water conservation and river ecosystems restoration, but generally it comes down to organizers thinking creatively and looking to use an event platform to serve as a connection point for shared community values.

Then from the Council’s perspective, for events that have a legacy of certified responsible performance, we have an invitation-based program called Inspire. It recognizes the challenges long-standing certified events to share what they’ve learned with other organizers in a formal mentorship as well as tell their story publicly. CHM will likely be invited to that club when the current certification is up for renewal in 2019 (certification is good for two years). At that point, we’ll work with them to identify and connect them with another race or organization looking to create or expand their efforts and see what we can come up with!

SVillalobos_headshot

Shelley Villalobos, Managing Director of The Council for Responsible Sport (Photo credit: The Council for Responsible Sport)

 

GSB: Well it seems to me that the Houston Marathon is tailor made for the Inspire level. Where does the Houston Marathon team’s sustainability drive come from?

SV: Brant Kotch really has been a driving force behind the event’s sustainability efforts (though he may humbly deny it!) as well as a few key staff. When the leadership is there, and there is a willingness to put some resource behind stated values, people tend to do great work. Brant even spoke last month at the Run Mexico conference in Mexico City to share the evolution of his event, including growing with an awareness of environmental and social impacts. We’ve heard from several organizers of races in Mexico since then who are interested in getting started and doing better. In the interest of full disclosure, Brant Kotch also sits on the Council for Responsible Sport’s Board.

GSB: Talking to Brant for two minutes let me know that he is a great ambassador for sustainable events and for the Council. There’s one question I have to ask…How does the Houston Marathon sustainability team deal with having an oil company like Chevron as the title sponsor?

SV: I can’t answer that for them, but I can say that to the best of my knowledge, the leadership to do better has come from within the marathon committee, not from the title or other sponsors. Realistically, there are probably very few events anywhere that would turn down title sponsorship dollars, period.

GSB: And, in Houston, the economy is largely driven by Big Oil…and Big Oil thus represents the lion’s share of potential title sponsors there.

SV: Agree. Texas more broadly has, of course, been the nation’s oil and gas hub. Tenneco (formerly Tennessee Gas), was the marathon’s title sponsor before Chevron all the way back to ’79. From an energy perspective, things are changing now. Texas is actually the #1 state for installed wind capacity (20, 321 MW as of 2017 according to the American Wind Energy Association).

Chevron acknowledges climate change on its website and has created a division—I don’t know how big or small—dedicated to evaluating emerging technologies in wind, solar and biofuels. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a company that profits from the trade of fuels that are cooking the planet, but it does signal an effort to be at least somewhat adaptive to the current reality.

GSB: …Sadly, the current reality is that the Houston Marathon has to take Chevron’s money. I think we will know we are on the road to winning the Climate Change fight when we’re talking about the “Fill in the Blank Wind Energy” Houston Marathon. Back to the current reality and to get us to friendlier turf, I understand that Houston was involved in a sustainable sports event symposium of sorts, co-hosted by the Council. Tell us what that was about…

SV: Yeah! We collaborated with the City of Eugene to convene sustainability directors from several cities during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track & Field trials hosted by TrackTown USA at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. We talked in depth about what responsible sport means to their locales using the Council’s certification framework to jumpstart the conversation.

As a follow up, the participating cities jointly applied for (and were approved!) an Innovation Fund Grant around responsible sport resources development, funded by the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network (USDN), a consortium of city sustainability directors in the US and Canada. We’ll be working on that project a lot this year.

GSB: Which cities were involved?

SV: In addition to Eugene; Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Portland, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. participated in the July event, as well as sustainability representatives of the LA 2024 Olympic bid team. Minneapolis and Boulder joined on after that, and several cities are set up to be secondary ‘observers’ on the project moving forward, offering feedback and such, including Austin, Calgary, and Sacramento.

USDN group_OregonO_2016July

Representatives from the city governments of Eugene, Chicago, Houston, Portland (OR), and Washington D.C. alongside members of the Council for Responsible Sport board and staff. The group “Throws the O” (for University of Oregon) as they culminate a two-day summit exploring responsible sports events alongside the Evergreen Certified 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track & Field in Eugene, OR in 2016. (Photo credit: City of Eugene, OR)

 

GSB: And what is this collaboration of cities proposing to do?

SV: The project is really about creating comprehensive responsible event programs consisting of guidelines, standards, recommendations and asset maps so that each partner city will be equipped to realize their own sustainable event strategies. So we’ll be working with them to create tools to help with reporting, involving sponsors and vendors, and working with local infrastructures (e.g are there facilities that can accept large amounts of compostable waste from events?) to understand what’s possible, then share results and compare and contrast stories.

GSB: That is an Olympian list of deliverables! We look forward to seeing the results.

 

 

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The GSB Interview: Neil Beecroft, Reporting on UEFA’s Euro 2016’s Sustainability Scorecard

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, set high sustainability targets for the EURO 2016 (the biggest event in soccer aside from the FIFA World Cup) championships in France. How did they make out? Neil Beecroft, UEFA EURO 2016’s Sustainability Project Leader, was so keen to tell the event’s story that he took a break from a hiking trip through Colombia to talk with GreenSportsBlog.

 

GreenSportsBlog: First of all, Neil, thank you for taking time away from your vacation to talk with us.

Neil Beecroft: Greetings from Cartagena, Colombia! It is my pleasure!

GSB: Since you’re on holiday, let’s cut to the chase: If I recall correctly, you divided the environmental sustainability elements into four priorities: 1. Public Transport/Mobility, 2. Waste Management, 3. Energy and Water Optimization, and 4. Responsible sourcing. How did EURO 2016 make out vs. its sustainability targets?

NB: Well, that’s a big question. For those with the time and interest, you can read our sustainability report (click HERE for link). For those who don’t, the short answer is we did well for the most part in meeting our stiff targets, with some lessons learned mixed in. Despite the tournament growing from 31 matches for EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine to 51 matches in France this year as the number of teams increased from 16 to 24, in many cases, we actually reduced our overall environmental impact vs. 2012. I’m confident in saying we set an ambitious sustainability standard for mega-sports events. Hopefully future Olympics, World Cups, Euros and more, will replicate some of our initiatives—I expect that most will, by the way. Now, let’s look specifically at each environmental sustainability priority for EURO 2016. On Public Transport/Mobility, one area in which we were not successful was on “Combi Tickets”…

euro2016-sust-report

The EURO 2016 post-event Sustainability Report can be read here.

 

GSB: By Combi Tickets, you mean that a fan could use his or her EURO 2016 match ticket as a train or bus ticket, right? How come you weren’t able to make that happen?

NB: France was different than Austria and Switzerland, which co-hosted EURO 2008, and Poland and Ukraine, which jointly hosted the event in 2012. Combi Tickets were made available on an international basis in 2008 then in 2012 on city-by-city basis. In France for 2016, negotiations with state, host cities and public transport providers didn’t succeed in the end. On the other hand, we had in and towards France 300,000 additional available public transport seats (international and local, combined), which meant fans benefited from an increased and extensive mass transport capacity.

GSB: EURO 2020 is going to break the mold by being hosted in mega cities across Europe rather than in one or two countries, as has always been the case. Will Combi Tickets be a part of that much more spread out tournament?

NB: It’s still too early to know for sure but I do believe that there will be negotiations between the host cities and UEFA. We could study the InterRail system for instance for discounted train tickets. Beyond trains, we also tried to develop a carpooling and ride sharing infrastructure, as well as “Hop On, Hop Off” buses for the future. We could’ve done better, gotten more traction, but it was a good start.

neil-beecroft

Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Project Leader for UEFA’s EURO 2016 (Photo credit: COP21 Paris)

 

GSB: How did EURO 2016 fare in terms of offsetting carbon emissions from flights?

NB: Here we did well. All 24 teams decided, on a voluntary basis, to offset their flight-based emissions. UEFA offset all of its flight-related emissions as well…

GSB: What kind of offsets did UEFA use?

NB: We developed renewable energy projects in New Caledonia. Additionally, all UEFA official travel within 4.5 hours of the tournament had to be done by train. As for fans, there was an eco-calculator, which allowed them to determine their emissions and offset them if they so chose.

GSB: Do you have data on how many fans chose to offset their travel to-from France?

NB: Even though fans could win 10 tickets to the EURO 2016 Final, participation to the offsetting was lower than expected, in part because offsetting is new to many people and can be a bit complex. This is something to improve upon in 2020 for sure by integrating opt-in solutions directly within the ticketing purchasing system.

GSB: I would think improving on transportation related emissions in 2020, when the tournament will be continent-wide, vs. 2016 in which the tournament was played in one country, will be a challenge. But technology and willpower will no doubt improve over the next four years so challenges like this can be surmounted. Let’s turn to Waste Management. How did EURO 2016 make out?

NB: Overall, we reduced the volume of waste at the games vs. 2012, again despite playing 20 more games. We saved significantly on packaging, paper use and signage.

GSB: What about recycling?

NB: For recycling, our target was a 50 percent rate. And, while we did more than double the 18 percent recycling rate achieved in Poland and Ukraine, our 38 percent just didn’t quite make it.

GSB: What caused the shortfall?

NB: A combination of lack of local recycling infrastructure and expertise in some of the 10 French cities in which the tournament was played and expense.

GSB: Was composting in the mix?

NB: Yes. Within stadium kitchens, 12 tonnes (T) of organic waste and cooking oil were segregated for composting. Stadiums did not offer fans a compost bin as they went with a dual bin system; recycling and trash. Fan-generated organic waste was sorted out by stadium staff after the event.

GSB: Adding a composting bin for fans to dispose of organic waste—something for EURO 2020 to strongly consider…

NB: For sure. Back to 2016, our caterer followed a strict sustainability policy within its central kitchen and reached a 66 percent recycling rate which included segregation such as organic (47T), oil (2T), glass (4,5T), etc. In addition, we focused a lot of attention on redistributing unused food and were able to divert over 10 tonnes, including 50,000 sandwiches. For instance in Marseille, food donations went directly to refugees, which was a big deal.

GSB: That’s more than a big deal. Now let’s look at Priority #3, Energy and Water Use Optimization…

NB: A big factor in energy usage at a mega event like EURO 2016 was backup generation capability. Mega sports events often experience energy usage spikes and thus use backup generators to ensure the lights do not cut out in case of unexpected events such as storms…

GSB And these generators are often very energy intense, very dirty, right?

NB: Exactly. At EURO 2016, we used state-of-the-art generators that saved 30,000 liters of fuel vs. 2012, again despite many more games being played. On non-match days, we shut down unnecessary Media Centres since the evolution of technology now enables media to work remotely.

GSB: I imagine that the stadiums in France are more technologically advanced than those of Poland and Ukraine such that energy usage would be significantly less than in 2012…

NB: Actually Poland’s and Ukraine’s stadium infrastructure was more advanced than expected so there was no big advantage for France in 2016. The weather, on the other hand, did favor France, as it was cooler than projected, which resulted in lower energy consumption.

GSB: I remember it being cool during the tournament. What was the on-site solar situation like?

NB: Seven of the ten stadiums had some sort of on-site renewable presence such as micro-wind, or geothermal. In the South of France—for example, in Nice and Bordeaux—solar predominated, in the parking lots and on roofs. In the north, the emphasis was on water harvesting. Three of the ten stadiums also purchased Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and/or carbon offsets. The target for 2020 is 50 percent of the stadiums.

nouveau-stade-de-bordeaux

Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, with solar panels on the roof and in the parking areas, hosted several EURO 2016 matches. (Photo credit: Iwan Baan/Architect Magazine)

 

GSB: You mentioned water briefly. Talk more about how EURO 2016 managed water consumption.

NB: Thanks to MTD Pure Water, a water management company expert at working with mega events, our water usage was optimized. The company proposed solutions aimed at monitoring and minimizing water use, such as timed OW valves for drinking water taps. There were some initiatives that we didn’t undertake. We looked at pumping water from the canal next to the Stade de France, site of the final, for the stadium’s water supply as well as using rain-harvesting systems on the hospitality tents. But both used more energy: the first to pump the water, and the second to install the harvesting systems, so we declined.

GSB: Some of the best actions are the ones you don’t take. Let’s look at the last of the four priorities; Responsible Sourcing.

NB: We did well in many aspects. 2.5 million tickets were printed on FSC paper, as were the 100,000 media and other accreditations. Even more important, an addendum was put into all supplier contracts that they and their supply chain should adhere to UN Global Compact Principles. Our catering company had a sustainability policy so they adhered to sustainability standards. And Kuoni, our accommodations management company, challenged hotels that housed the teams and sponsors for instance on sustainability measures, both environmental and social, including strong child labor protections.

GSB: Did all of the suppliers sign the addendum?

NB: Yes, but it was a challenge to monitor all of them. For 2020 we need to up our game in terms of supplier and supply chain compliance on environmental, labor, corruption and human rights standards.

GSB: So it sounds like, overall, UEFA and EURO 2016 made good sustainability progress vs. 2012. How do you see the big picture?

NB: In terms of overall carbon assessment, the biggest source of emissions for EURO 2016 was new stadium construction…

GSB:…Really? I would’ve thought that fan transportation would be the #1 emissions source. That is certainly the case in the US.

NB: Not in Europe. Mass transit plays a bigger role and the public transport system is efficient, travel distances are shorter, vehicles are more efficient and UEFA shuts down public parking at the stadiums.

GSB: WHOA!!! There was no public parking in stadium parking lots? How did the fans react to that?

NB: Positively, which is probably a surprise to an American reader. But in Europe, we have more comprehensive mass transit systems that are used by a bigger percentage of the people. Since EURO 2016 drew a good percentage of fans from other EU countries, most were happy to use mass transit to get to one of the ten city centers. Local municipalities then developed local mass transit to get fans from the train stations, airports and city centers to the stadiums and back.

GSB: We need to import that system, that pro-mass transit attitude to the states!

NB: Well, I’ll leave that to you, Lew. Back to our biggest source of emissions, stadium construction: The good news is that EURO 2020 is being contested in major cities across the continent in stadiums that, for the most part, already exist.

GSB: Finally, how did UEFA and EURO 2016 communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans?

NB: Fans were encouraged when purchasing their tickets online to offset their carbon emissions via our eco-calculator. Only a small number did so; this has to improve for 2020.

GSB: That would be great for attendees but I’m more interested in how you’re communicating sustainability to the biggest cohort of fans—the millions watching in Europe and around the world. I mean, the 2016 Super Bowl (Super Bowl 50) was the greenest ever by far. Yet, aside from some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area where the game was held, virtually no one knew about the sustainability aspects of the event. A huge opportunity missed

NB: Yes, this is something we must do better at going forward. As said, we did air videos—”Celebrate Football” and “Respect“—promoting notably diversity, but in terms of environmental sustainability, we can do more at EURO 2020.

 

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