Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 3: Gretchen Bleiler, Olympic Snowboarder and Climate Change-Fighting Advocate

The Winter Sports world plays an outsized role in the Green-Sports movement. This makes sense, when one considers climate change is at least partly responsible for shortened outdoor pond hockey seasons, canceled ski races, and more. GreenSportsBlog is taking an in-depth look at the intersection of Green & Winter Sports with an occasional series, “Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports.”

In Parts 1 and 2, we interviewed the First Couple of Green-Sports, cross-country skiers and climate change fighters, Erika Flowers-Newell and Andy Newell.

Today, in Part 3, we talk with Green-Sports ROCK STAR, Gretchen Bleiler. She won a silver medal as a snowboarder for the USA at the Torino Olympics in 2006. Her climate change-fighting chops are also Olympian: Gretchen lobbies members of Congress, many of them Republicans, for action on climate and the environment as a member of Protect Our Winters (POW), an incredible group of outdoor sports professional athletes and climate change fighters. And if that’s not enough, she and her husband are Green-Sports entrepreneurs, with their reusable water bottle company, ALEX. I hope you enjoy reading our wide-ranging interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Gretchen, there are so many things to talk about, so let’s begin at the beginning. I’m guessing you grew up in the mountains somewhere…

Gretchen Bleiler: I actually grew up in a town called Oakwood, just outside of Dayton, OH. A year after my mom and dad got divorced, my mom decided to move us out to Aspen, CO when I was 10. My grandparents had owned a place there since the 60s. And it was there that my awareness and respect for our environment really took root. During the first week of 6th grade, I knew my life was forever changed when I was catapulted into an Outdoor Education trip, part of our school curriculum, where we climbed a 14,000 foot mountain. And I had never been camping or hiking before!

GSB: …14,000 feet? No sweat! I grew up in Fairfield, CT and our field trips were to places like the United Nations and the Mark Twain Museum in Hartford. Cool in their own right but I wish we had outdoor education trips…

Gretchen: They were great. We hung out in nature for a week, far away from civilization, and learned how to survive on our own during 24-hour solos. During the winter, we learned how to build igloos in order to survive and stay warm in case we ever got lost in the mountains.

GSB: I’ve been to the area and it is spectacular. Is that where your interest in sports took off?

Gretchen: Oh that happened while I was in Ohio. I know it sounds crazy but, when I was seven years old I said to myself “I’m going to grow up to be an Olympian!” Actually what’s even crazier is that the sport I ended up competing in, snowboarding, wasn’t even close to being an Olympic sport at that time.

GSB: I knew when I was seven that I would never make the New York Yankees and I was right, too! Dang, we were two very self-aware kids! So what sports did you play in Ohio?

Gretchen: I did everything…swimming, diving, rode horses. I played soccer, tennis, and golf…You name it.

GSB: And when you got to Aspen you started with snow sports?

Gretchen: Yes! I had skied a bit before we moved to Colorado. But when we moved to Aspen, another incredible part of my education was that during the winters, we would have a half-day off one day per week to go skiing on the mountain.

GSB: OK, I’m officially jealous now…

Gretchen: One of those Wednesdays, I took a snowboard lesson with a bunch of friends and I was hooked. That was 1992.

GSB: …Even though it wasn’t an Olympic sport?

Gretchen: Even though it wasn’t an Olympic sport. Not only that, but it wasn’t even allowed on most mountain resorts. But that was actually what I loved about it. It was an anti-establishment movement meant to mix things up and bring fresh blood into the ski industry. It was about breaking the rules. It was free and creative and outside of the box. It wasn’t just about how fast could you get down the mountain, but equally important was your style; how creatively you could approach terrain, and the tricks you were doing. Snowboarding didn’t start as a competitive sport, but rather a new lifestyle.

 

Gretchen Bleiler headshot Monte Isom

Gretchen Bleiler (Photo credit: Monte Isom)

 

GSB: Sounds like a new culture, which must’ve been amazing to be part of at the start. Now, you told me off line you have three brothers…

Gretchen: …Also a half-sister…

GSB: …And a half-sister. Did you snowboard against your brothers and half-sister and could you beat them?

Gretchen: I always looked up to my brothers. They were always in on the cool new stuff. So I just watched what they were doing and would follow along. I would learn about the tricks they were doing and then go out and try to do them myself.

GSB: I imagine you pushed each other. When did you get into competitive snowboarding?

Gretchen: When I was 15, a kid from the Aspen Valley Snowboard team suggested I join them. That winter, I joined the team and found myself doing well in competitions. Snowboarding was controversially inducted into the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. While a lot of core snowboarders boycotted the Olympics, this was my dream come true. Now my goal was clear: Become an Olympic snowboarder.

GSB: Did you make the team?

Gretchen: I had only been snowboarding for 6 years in 1998. But I really went for it for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. I ended up tying with my best friend, Tricia Byrnes, for the last spot. By the way, she’s a real environmentalist — she’s never owned a car. Anyway, it came down to a triple tiebreaker and Tricia got the spot. I was happy for her, but I was devastated. After that experience, I vowed to myself that enjoying the ride had to be non-negotiable while I worked everyday towards my goal of becoming an Olympian. I realized I wanted to make the Olympic team so badly that I had lost the fun in my snowboarding, and vowed never to lose sight of that again.

GSB: Say more…

Gretchen: In order to achieve something, you have to become it. I became very aware of my choke points — self-doubt under pressure, worrying about results. “Lighten up,” I told myself. In January of 2003, I threw down a gold medal winning run at the X Games while having fun. I enjoyed the day with my friends and family. And I banked that feeling. I went on to win every contest I entered that year, and ultimately that feeling is what helped me make it to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy and win a silver medal in the half-pipe.

 

Highlights of the women’s half-pipe competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, IT. Gretchen Bleiler’s silver medal-winning run starts at 1:24 of this 3:12 clip.

 

 

Gretchen Bleiler Danny Kass Bob Martin

Danny Kass joins Gretchen Bleiler in celebrating their silver medals in men’s and women’s half-pipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, IT (Photo credit: Bob Martin)

 

GSB: You became it, you achieved it…

Gretchen: …Thanks. It was a dream come true, and a fairy tale all in one. Yet, one of the greatest things I took away from those Olympics is actually something most wouldn’t expect. There was a US speed skater named Joey Cheek

GSB: Oh, sure, I remember him! Talented, charismatic…

Gretchen: …Not only did he win a bunch of medals, but he turned around and donated all of his prize money to an organization he worked with called Right To Play. Their mission is to use sport to educate and empower young people to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities.

GSB: Incredible, really…

Gretchen: I know! He used his Olympic experience to stand on the podium, promote his mission, and then light up Right To Play by raising a lot of media attention and therefore a lot of funds towards the organization. It made a huge impression on me. Also, after the Olympics were over, the U.S. Team was invited to the White House to meet President Bush (43). We also had a luncheon with a House member and I’ll never forget what he told us: “Congratulations! You are Olympians. You will always be Olympians. But this is not an end, it’s just the beginning. The question is: What are you going to do with it?” Cheek and the White House meeting opened up my field of vision and I decided to use my platform to talk about climate change.

GSB: How did you go about doing that?

Gretchen: Well, it wasn’t from the scientific point of view; I let the scientists take care of that aspect of it. Rather, I share my own experiences as a professional snowboarder who’s traveled around the world chasing snow! Reduced snow pack, warmer temperatures and shorter winters all mean a hit to the sports we love, but these changes also impact the economies of all the mountain town communities where I compete and train. This has all been happening in my lifetime….

GSB: Which isn’t all that long…

Gretchen: …Hearing from locals in Switzerland about their receding glaciers, rain in January in the Alps and more. The reactions were and have been unanimous: Climate change is real, we are the cause, we have to do something — and we can. So I began to work with different climate change and environmental groups. Then, in 2009, I joined Protect Our Winters (POW) and that helped focus my efforts and hone in on my platform and find my voice.

GSB: What about POW allowed you to do that?

Gretchen: POW is terrific: We’re mobilizing the outdoor sports community against climate change. As individuals we all have unique stories, but, together, we are winter’s voice and are the voice for all the other industries that are affected when winters are impacted by climate change. I’ve found my niche in POW — it has given me opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone and stand up for something that, in my opinion, is the biggest issue facing humanity.

GSB: Tell us about some of those opportunities…

Gretchen: Throughout the years I’ve been a part of POW’s “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes” school assembly programs. It makes the topic of climate change engaging, more relatable, and more personal for students. And it also makes the solutions more real, more achievable. Then, I got into lobbying on Capitol Hill and speaking at big international events like COP21, the global climate conference in Paris in 2015 that led to the Paris Climate Agreement

 

Gretchen Bleiler Forest Woodward

“Ms. Bleiler Goes to Washington”: Gretchen Bleiler on her 2017 lobbying trip to Capitol Hill with Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

GSB: Which President Trump plans to pull the US out of. UGH! How did you feel when you were making these presentations?

Gretchen: I was sooooo insecure when I first started — didn’t go to college as I went into professional snowboarding straight from high school. Like I said, I had to battle and push myself out of my comfort zone. Even when my mind told me “I don’t want to do this!” I pushed myself to do it anyway. When we first started going to meet members of Congress in 2010, the reaction was “who are these winter sports athletes?” Now, everyone knows us and they know we come back every year and are holding them accountable for their words. They know that collectively we have a huge social media presence so our audience will find out what their representatives are doing to help on climate — or not. On our last trip to the Capitol a few months ago, after Hurricane Irma, I spoke in front of the House of Representatives’ new, bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC). This is a group that more people need to know about: For a Democrat to join, he or she has to bring in a Republican…

GSB: YES! I know about the CSC! I volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a national group of citizen lobbyists advocating for a revenue neutral price on carbon through a “carbon fee and dividend” legislative proposal. An amazingly persistent CCL-er from Philadelphia, Jay Butera, would go down to Washington weekly, on his own dime, with an endless supply of positivity, to push the Climate Solutions Caucus. Started by Florida representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL22) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL26), the group has grown from a handful of members to about 60 in about two years. Republicans are continuing to join, even in the wake of the Trump election and the hijacking of the EPA by his administration and the fossil fuel industry.

 

Gretchen Bleiler Capitol Hill Forrest Woodward

Gretchen Bleiler, flanked by professional fly fisherman Hilary Hutcheson (l) and Auden Schendler, Chairman of the Board of POW, testifying in front of the House of Representatives’ bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC) in 2017. At the head of the table sit CSC members Ryan Costello (R-PA, in purple tie) and Ted Deutch (D-FL, glasses). (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

Gretchen: I love Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the CSC! To testify about the impacts of climate change on the outdoor sports and recreational industry, directly after Irma, was ironic in its timing. On one hand, Reps. Deutch and Curbelo from Florida, who started the caucus, were obviously dealing with matters of life and death after the destruction of the hurricane. On the other, what better time to talk about climate change because it was directly in our faces, with flooding in the south as well as wildfires in the west? We were able to inspire the committee with our stories and show them how important it was to us to see Democrats and Republicans working together around climate change. Beyond the caucus, we had a lot of meetings, mostly with Republicans who are on the fence about voting pro environment. These conversations are sometimes difficult because we don’t often share the same point of view, but that’s the point — we don’t have to agree to have a conversation. Actually, in order to solve this problem, we need to listen to people with different opinions, but we have to somehow agree on the facts of the reality of climate change. There is just no time for denial at this point; we need solutions. But what’s great about our group is that most everyone has a story about why they love the great outdoors, so we’re able to bring it back to that common ground, plus back it up with economic facts, like the snow sports industry is a $72 billion dollar industry.

GSB: That is significant…

Gretchen: …And it supports 695,000 jobs, which is more than all of the extractive industries — oil, gas and coal — combined.

GSB: Even more significant…Do you do anything else for POW?

Gretchen: Beyond our Capitol Hill trips, and the Hot Planet, Cool Athletes presentations, I write op-eds and make calls to Colorado electeds.

GSB: What is that like for you?

Gretchen: I’m getting more and more comfortable. POW is currently running a campaign to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from a senate proposal to allow drilling on pristine lands that might net some limited short-term economic gains, but at a severe environmental cost. Drilling our public lands for fossil fuels that will only emit more greenhouse gases is no way to balance a budget. I called Colorado’s Republican US Senator, Cory Gardner on this issue…

GSB: Did you talk to the Senator or his staff?

Gretchen: I talked to a staff member, they listened and we’ll just keep on calling. Also, while we were on the Hill, a POW group met with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who is leading the effort to open up ANWR. Many members of POW’s Riders Alliance spend a lot of time skiing and snowboarding in Alaska, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, for now at least, she continues to make choices that show she’s not looking at the big picture of protecting our public lands and climate.

GSB: Well, she’s facing significant resistance in Alaska and elsewhere. This just means POW’s calls and meetings with Members of Congress are more important than ever. So what can we look for from you and POW in 2018?

Gretchen: For 2018, we are laser-focused on electing a climate-friendly Congress in 2018, House and Senate. And we’re also working on the state level, from Governors races to state legislatures.

GSB: You know what, Gretchen? YOU should run!

Gretchen: Oh, I don’t think that’s for me. But activism and pushing our electeds on climate? Count me IN!

GSB: Well, I think you’d be great. But, what you’re doing with POW is so important. In fact, dear readers, I can’t stress how important and extraordinary Gretchen’s and the rest of POW’s efforts are. These athletes, Olympians and World Champions, are finding the time to lobby members of Congress, and campaign for climate-friendly candidates in the 2018 election. Now, before I let you go, tell us about your green business, Alex Bottle.

Gretchen: We started ALEX to be a sustainable lifestyle company. ALEX stands for Always Live EXtraordinarily; all of our products are a constant reminder for us to strive for that. “Extraordinary is such a big word and we want to make it approachable by reminding people that it’s our small everyday choices and actions that add up to an extraordinary life. By focusing on the steps in the journey and not the just the end result, we can achieve our own extraordinary, AND love the process.

As for products, our first focus was in the reusable bottle space because we were sick of seeing people around us use disposable plastic bottles. We realized that to get people to make the shift from disposable to reusable, we needed to make it simple. Since the reusable bottle offerings at the time lacked any style, and they were impossible to clean, they turned people off. That’s when my husband, Chris, had the idea to make a reusable bottle that opened in the middle for cleaning. What’s interesting is when we opened the bottle in the middle, it allowed for a bunch of other cool features we didn’t expect, like being able to compact it to half its size, use it as two cups, or completely customize the color combinations. It became so much more then just a bottle. We’ve since released two new products: An insulated commuter cup and a pint cup, both with sneaky bottle openers on the bottom.

We wanted to have a small and thoughtful line up that covers every drink situation. Our bottle is great for smoothies, cocktails, and fruit infused water, while our commuter cup is great for keeping coffee and tea hot, and then you have the stackable pint cup for festivals and parties. We designed it so that you could have three reusable products and be set for any situation.

 

ALEX FAMILY -01-01

The ALEX Bottle product line (Photo credit: ALEX Bottle)

 

 

Gretchen ALEX Kate Holstein

Gretchen Bleiler, in her natural habitat, with snowboard and ALEX Bottle in hand (Photo credit: Kate Holstein)

 

GSB: Congratulations to you and Chris. What’s it like to be manufacturing a consumer product?

Gretchen: In some respects, it’s been like climbing Everest. Thankfully, Chris runs the business and manufacturing end, and I’m an ambassador for the mission of the brand, which is encouraging people to live their extraordinary. We wanted to manufacture Alex in the US but the costs are just prohibitive. So we started in Indonesia but had problems there. In fact, we’re on our fourth manufacturer since 2009. Now Alex is produced in China. But, despite the fits and starts, we’ve found our niche and we’re proud to be able to manufacture and sell a product that lives up to our high standards.

GSB: Where can one buy an Alex Bottle?

Gretchen: The best place to get one is on our website, www.alexbottle.com. That’s where you’ll find all of the color options. Since a lot of people love Amazon, we offer our insulated commuter cup and our Stainless Steel pint cup through Amazon Prime.

GSB: How are you planning to scale the business and perhaps add the brick and mortar channel? Are you looking for venture and/or angel funding?

Gretchen: We’re not looking at venture funding, at least as of now. Our plan is to grow the business organically, via the winter, adventure and outdoor sports communities. We really focus on customer service and celebrating the people who support and buy from us. We’ve definitely found that our ALEX family of customers are the best spokespeople for what we’re doing, so focusing on making sure their experience is extraordinary is our biggest opportunity for growing the business.

GSB: All the best to you and Chris…and I still think you should rethink the “run for office” thing.

 

Gretchen and Chris

Gretchen Bleiler, husband Chris Hotell and Kota in their ALEX Bottle studio (Photo credit: Gretchen Bleiler)

 


 

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Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 2: Andy Newell, U.S. Olympic Cross Country Skier, Climate Change Advocate for Protect Our Winters (POW)

GreenSportsBlog does not often get to write about eco-athletes. And we’ve never been able to write about a married couple who are both involved in environmental activism.

Until now, that is.

Last week, in the first edition of GSB’s new occasional series, Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, we featured the story of Erika Flowers Newell, an American cross country skier who is pushing to make her first US Olympic team in 2018. She also works for Carol Cone On Purpose, an agency that helps companies do well by doing good. And, for Erika, doing good means taking positive action on the environment.

Today, in Part 2, we talk with her husband, Andy Newell, a three-time Olympian in cross country skiing about to start his campaign to qualify for the fourth time. He’s also a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Your wife’s story starts out in Big Sky country, Montana. Are you from that part of the world, too?

Andy Newell: Nope. I grew up in Shastbury, VT, near Bennington and started skiing as early as I could walk.

 

Andy Newell Young Red Cap

Young Andy Newell (middle, red cap), skiing with his family in Vermont (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: When I think of Vermont as far as skiing is concerned, I think of downhill and the other alpine events. Was it unusual for you to gravitate towards cross country?

AN: Not at all. Our area in particular is great for cross country. It’s a blue collar region and, as compared to alpine, cross country is more of a blue collar sport — alpine is much more expensive. I’ve been into it forever; I started racing when I was 5 years old.

GSB: Holy COW! So were you on an “elite” track from those early years?

AN: It turned out that way. I competed all the way through my teen years and attended Stratton Mountain High School, about 40 minutes from home. It’s a specialty school designed for skiers and snowboarders with an academy and a private ski school for kids in grades 8-12. It is tiny —there were 25 kids in my graduating class.

GSB: It sounds like the way many European countries handle top young athletes — by putting them in special sports academies — for top soccer and tennis players. Similar also to IMG Academy down in Florida. I didn’t know there was such a thing for winter sports here.

AN: I got a lot out of it. It was great preparation for my career as a pro skier, especially where time management was concerned. And the education was top quality. It was like I got a college education in a high school setting because I had to juggle academics and a full time training and racing schedule.

GSB: So I imagine you competed at a high level while at Stratton Mountain School…

AN: It was great. I got to travel in high school as part of the US Ski Team as I was named to the developmental squad when I was a senior.

GSB: Where did you ski in college?

AN: I never went to college, deciding to pursue professional skiing as a career. This is not unheard of. I jumped to the A-team in 2003 when I was 19.

GSB: Congratulations! That’s young for a cross country skier, I believe. The US was never a cross country power — I remember that Bill Koch of Vermont was the only Olympic medal winner and that was back in 1976…How did you deal with that?

AN: Well, things were starting to look up for the USA when I came of age. It’s a long process as cross country takes training, hard work, top coaching, along with strong athletes, patience and funding. In the mid 2000s, we started to have success as a team and I did as an individual, in the sprints. I was the first American male to make the medal platform at a World Cup race in 2006, taking third place in Changchun, China. I followed that up with a 5th place at the 2007 World Championships. And then, on the women’s side, Kikkan Randall made the podium in 2008, on her way to even greater success down the road at the Olympics. It was a fun, exciting time.

GSB: It sounds like you were on track to be on Olympian yourself…

AN: I went to my first Olympics in 2006 in Torino Italy. 4 years later at the Vancouver Games I was in the best shape of my life! I was a medal hopeful for sure but I crashed out of my sprint…

GSB: YIKES!

AN: Well, they say those kind of things are “character builders”…So I trained and worked…

GSB: …And built some character…

AN: Hopefully… It taught me a lot about the process of being an athlete. That there is a whole lot more to success than just winning medals, it’s about enjoying the process and also giving back. That perspective has a lot to do with why I got involved in environmentalism and later made the Olympic team in 2014 in Sochi.

 

Andy Newell Sochi

Andy Newell at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: You mean the Olympics that were held in a tropical zone?

AN: The very same. But this time, I wasn’t in my best form, I didn’t stand out. So now we’re in 2017. I’ve done well in World Cup seasons, have made it to several podiums but I haven’t put it together in Olympic years. So I’m giving it another go for Pyeongchang 2018 — just like Erika is — to see if I can do my best at the highest profile event in my sport.

GSB: And, as a member of Protect Our Winters or POW, doing well at the Olympics will raise the profile of your environmental advocacy. When did that begin?

AN: Early on — during my high school days and into my early 20s, the environment was not something I focused on. At all. Now, when I speak to school audiences for POW, I show a picture of me in my 1990 Chevy Blazer which got 10 miles per gallon. As I say, I didn’t care about the environment, so it’s important to communicate to school kids that you can learn, you can change — at any age. I wish politicians could admit to, in fact, honor the idea that they can change. It’s very important.

GSB: So when did your change to environmentalism take place?

AN: Bill McKibben, the founder and driving force of the climate change fighting nonprofit, 350.org, is a big cross country skier who lives near Middlebury, VT. My older brother was also a Middlebury skier so I heard of Bill through him as well.. I had met Bill at some of the local ski races and really admired his work and writing, and his excitement for activisim. So around 2010 was when I got started volunteering for a few 350.org projects. Between 2010 and 2014 I got more and more involved and started working with Protect Our Winters. In advance of the Sochi Olympics I communicated with Bill and he voiced his concerns over the negative environmental impacts of the Olympics and the importance of the upcoming Paris Climate talks and how we could rally support internationally.

GSB: Oh it was bad alright — we’ve written about the environmental disaster that was Sochi 2014.

AN: You got that right. It was an awful decision by the IOC to give Sochi the Winter Olympics. The development there devastated the wetlands…they clear cut national forests. So, I spoke up about this in the run up to the 2014 Olympics. And, Bill and I drafted a letter for a group of snow sports athletes called Athletes for Action and that letter was addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.

GSB: …Which was signed in December 2015, about a year and a half after Sochi. Congratulations! Of course, the current U.S. President is planning to pull us out of the agreement. Regardless, it seems to me that you’re a natural advocate.

AN: For me, becoming an activist was a smooth transition. I like to say what I think, to take a stand. I’m definitely not afraid. In fact I tried to recruit other athletes to join Athletes for Action, to get athletes from other countries who might be able to impact political decisions in their countries.

GSB: How did that go?

AN: It went OK, not great. We got some Canadian, Finnish and Swiss athletes to join. Russians? Not so much. Since then, I’ve become much more involved with POW, which really fits my lifestyle…

GSB: That’s FANTASTIC! What has that activism looked like?

AN: Well, I helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April; one of many marches I’ve done. I’ve written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014. I’m also one of the more active members of POW’s Ski and Riders Alliance.

GSB: What will POW’s presence be in Pyeongchang in February?

AN: Good question. They’ll have some presence, I’m just not sure what it will look like. The way I can be most effective will be to make the Olympic team, so that’s my focus heading into the qualifying season which starts in December.

GSB: All the best, of course. What do you plan on doing after your pro skiing career is over? And will environmental activism be a part of it?

AN: Well, I’m going to continue with pro skiing for as long as I can. And, for sure, my activism with POW will continue, especially on the grassroots level…making presentations, recruiting more athletes, lobbying members of Congress and other politicians on climate. On the recruiting, I figure if I, as a non-college graduate, can do this work, can lobby on Capitol Hill, so can many other winter sports athletes.

GSB: Have you lobbied Vermont’s two US senators?

AN: Absolutely…I’ve lobbied and talked with both Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who are great. I also had a one-on-one meeting with Todd Stern, President Obama’s lead negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks. My position was that we as the winter sports community need you negotiate an agreement with real teeth. He heard me for sure.

 

Andy Newell with Bernie Sanders

Andy Newell (l), with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Also pictured, Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent, both of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

Andy Newell w: Todd Stern

Andy Newell (l), with Todd Stern, the U.S. chief negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks in 2015, and Alex Deibold, also of POW (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: Unfortunately, as mentioned above, our current President plans to pull the U.S. out of Paris.

AN: Well, it’s not a done deal yet. One of my favorite quotes from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie about climate change, Before the Flood, is “we can create elected followers, not elected leaders.” Meaning if we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community as to why staying in Paris is the only sane way to go.

GSB: I feel a bit better about it all now, I have to say.

 

Andy Newell & Erika

Andy and Erika (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 


 

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The GSB Book Review: “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment”

You know the green-sports movement is gaining traction when anthology textbooks/handbooks about the subject, made up of more than 30 scholarly articles, are published. Enter Brian P. McCullough, Assistant Professor in the Sport Administration and Leadership program at Seattle University. He, along with Timothy B. Kellison, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University, are the principal editors of “The Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment.” Here then is GreenSportsBlog’s first ever book review.

 

I thought the new “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment” (click here for the link to the book) was the first Green-Sports textbook ever published. Brian P. McCullough, one of its two principal editors, set me straight.

 

Routledge

 

He let me know it is a graduate-level follow up to “Sport Management and the Natural Environment” (Routledge), a 2015 text for undergraduate students by Dr. Michael Pfahl of Ohio University and Dr. John Casper of North Carolina State University (NC State).  “Timothy Kellison from Georgia State University and I co-wrote a chapter in that book,” McCullough related. “Later that year, Routledge Publishing reached out to me to see if I would be interested in writing and editing a textbook for graduate students, doctoral candidates and green-sports practitioners. I enthusiastically said ‘yes’ and immediately brought Tim in.”

 

11052014- Faculty/Staff portrait sessions Day 2

Brian P. McCullough, principal editor of the “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment” (Photo credit: Seattle University)

 

kellison-profile

Timothy B. Kellison, principal editor of the “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment” (Photo credit: Georgia State University)

 

The duo’s overarching goal was to build upon what Pfahl and Casper had done and firmly establish green-sports as a legitimate sub-genre of academic research and scholarship within sport or environmental management. What resulted is a 34 chapter anthology, with 46 contributors — some who have written on green-sports before, as well as others who have written on sport or environmental management.

My main takeaways after reading a smorgasbord of six of the 34 chapters, are that “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment”:

  • Demonstrates that green-sports as a “thing” has moved beyond its “start up,” 1.0 phase to its “early growth,” 2.0 phase. Green-sports is clearly still in its early days, certainly in terms of broad fan awareness and also as far as environmental actions on the ground are concerned — the percentages of LEED certified stadia/arenas and Zero-Waste games are still relatively low at this point. That said, sustainability has taken root within the sports industry — the NHL’s carbon neutral seasons, more LEED certified stadia/arenas being built every year, and LED lighting becoming commonplace, are but three of many examples. This handbook’s mere existence and, even more so, its 34 chapters of meticulously researched green-sports scholarship demonstrates the topic’s depth, its diverse avenues for study and also its interest for academics. It is an important marker of green-sports’ increasing maturity.
  • Will serve as an important text for sport and/or environmental management graduate students. In particular for those pursuing sport management, the text can provide a solid grounding in sustainability that they then can bring to jobs with teams, leagues and venues, thus deepening sustainability’s roots within those organizations.
  • Can be a valuable reference for sustainability practitioners, operations professionals, and communications executives at sports leagues, teams and venues. It provides rigorously researched examples of a wide variety of environmentally-focused initiatives that can be built upon by teams and venues currently sitting on the green-sports sidelines.
  • Will lay the groundwork for future, more refined and meaningful green-sports scholarship and textbooks. McCullough’s and Kellison’s work shows that the state of academic research at the intersection of Green & Sports is in its early days, reflecting the newness of the field overall.

 


 

Here is a quick synopsis of the six chapters mentioned above:

Chapter 3: “Economics, sports and environment: incentives and intersections”

Allen R. Sanderson, an authority on sports economics issues and the author of the “On Economics” column for Chicago Life magazine, and Dr. Sabina L. Shaikh, a behavioral economist and director of the Environmental Studies program at the University of Chicago, examine the three-way intersection as it applies (or doesn’t) to the Olympics, NFL, auto racing, tennis, golf, and college athletics.

 

Sabina Shaikh

Sabina L. Shaikh, PhD (Photo credit: University of Chicago)

 

According to McCullough, “[Allen and Dr. Shaikh] use this chapter set the stage for how and why different sets of fans engage or don’t engage in sustainable behaviors and what can be done to ‘move the needle’.”

 

Chapter 5: “Climate change and the future of international events: A case of the Olympic and Paralympic Games”

Will past Olympic and Paralympic Games host cities be suitable venues in a climate changed world in 2100? Dr. Lisa M DeChano-Cook, Associate Professor of Geography at Western Michigan University and Dr. Fred M. Shelley, Professor of Geography at the University of Oklahoma take that on in Chapter 5.

The authors calculated estimated February and August 2100 temperatures by assuming average temperature increases of 1°C and 4°C. They also took into account potential sea level rise by 2100 of 0.3 meters at the low end and 1.2 meters at the high end.

With those parameters, prior Winter Olympic and Paralympic venues Sochi, Squaw Valley, and Torino are likely to be unsuitable hosts in 2100 in both the low and high scenarios. Calgary, Lake Placid, Lillehammer, Sapporo and St. Moritz are likely to be suitable in both scenarios. Every other Winter Olympic site is predicted to be either be unsuitable and/or “at risk” in at least the high temperature rise case if not both.

Athens, Rio and Tokyo (the site of the 2020 Games) are seen by the authors as likely being unsuitable Summer Games hosts in 2100 in both the low and high temperature rise cases. Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Los Angeles, the host in 2028, are all unlikely to make the grade in 2100 due to sea level rise. Best bets among prior host cities to be able to host in 2100 include Berlin, London, Melbourne, Mexico City (a surprise to yours truly), Munich, Paris (the 2024 host), Stockholm and Sydney.

 

Tokyo Olympics

The Japanese team enters the Tokyo Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Summer Olympics. Drs. DeChano-Cook and Fred M. Shelley project that Tokyo will be an unsuitable site, due to climate change, by 2100. (Photo credit: IOC).

 

Chapter 10: “Marketing sustainability through sport: The importance of target market insights”

McCullough didn’t have to go far to find one contributor — Dr. Galen T. Trail, a colleague at Seattle University. They cowrote “Marketing sustainability through sport: The importance of target market insights.” In it, Trail and McCullough use data collected from a 10-mile running event to determine that different market segments respond differently to sustainability-focused engagement initiatives (i.e. recycling, offsetting travel related emissions). The researchers went beyond basic demographics (i.e. income, age) to delve into psychographics: values and attitudes; activities, interests and opinions; lifestyle, and more to determine how committed people who participated in or attended the race would be to taking different environmental actions.

 

Chapter 22: “Tailgating and air quality”

A possible linkage between “Tailgating and air quality” is examined by the aforementioned Dr. Jonathan M. Casper of NC State and his colleague, Dr. Kyle S. Bunds. The chapter represents the first attempt to understand the impacts of air pollution, if any, on tailgaters.

Thanks to a grant from the EPA, the authors were able to design an innovative study that would be conducted in and around Carter Finley Stadium, home of NC State football during the 2015 season. They used five stationery monitors to capture ambient air every 10 seconds at the perimeter of the tailgating parking lots. Another mobile device measured exposure to pollutants inside the lots and also in the stadium itself.

The stationery monitors showed that air pollution levels were in the healthy range during pre-game tailgating — this was somewhat surprising to me — and while the game was going on. But they spiked to unhealthy levels after the game when fans exiting the parking lots at roughly the same time lead to significant traffic congestion. The mobile devices showed similar results — “fair” air quality in the tailgating areas with spikes in CO₂ and carbon monoxide (CO) due to “flowing traffic, idling vehicles, generators (particularly older generators), and charcoal grills.”

 

Carter Finley Sensors

Researchers strategically placed stationary air quality monitors in each of the major tailgating lots at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. (Photo credit: NC State University Sustainability Office)

 

The authors offer some ideas on how venue operators can encourage fans to reduce emissions. This study seems like the tip of the iceberg for what could promise to be a rich area of inquiry.

 

Chapter 25: “Sport participation to create a deeper environmental identity with pro-environmental behaviors”

Drs. Vinathe Sharma-Brymer, an inter-disciplinary educator working in Australia, England and India; Tonia Gray, a senior researcher at the Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney; and Eric Brymer, a Reader at the Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University, teamed up to show how, if managed effectively, participation in some outdoor and adventure sports (OAS) can cultivate a deeper environmental identity and pro-environmental behaviors. In fact, some political conservatives who become OAS enthusiasts may less likely to become climate change deniers.

 

Chapter 34: “A pragmatic perspective on the future of sustainability in sport

Messrs. McCullough and Kellison close the handbook with their assessment of the current state of play of green-sports and where the field is likely to go. Their main conclusion is that, for green-sports to become more than a small, niche movement will require “those interested in mainstreaming environmental sustainability…to press the many organizations that have committed either halfheartedly or not at all…through economic incentives, social pressures, or legal mandates. Until then, the promise of sport as a powerful vehicle for environmental change will remain unfulfilled.”

Couldn’t have set it better myself.

Click here for a link to chapter 34.

 


 

The “Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment”, edited by Brian P. McCullough and Timothy B. Kellison, published by Routledge, can be purchased on Amazon and Google Books.

 


 

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IOC Goes “Greenest” By Awarding Olympics to Paris 2024 and LA 2028

As cosmopolitan metropolises go, Paris and Los Angeles are as different from each other as two cities can be. But from an Olympics point of view, they have much in common. Each city has hosted two Summer Olympic Games (Paris, 1900 and 1924; Los Angeles, 1932 and 1984). Each will officially be awarded the right to host a third Olympics on Monday — Paris in 2024, L.A. in 2028. The latter was the last finalist in the contest for ’24 and, given the strength of its pitch, was awarded the ’28 Games before bidding even began. And each city put forth sustainability plans that will clearly become the gold standard for mega sports events.

Earlier this year, GreenSportsBlog profiled both bids from a variety of sustainability perspectives. Here are some excerpts, with the LA story changed to reflect the switch from 2024 to 2028.

 

PARIS 2024

Paris bid co-president and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said in a January interview that, for his committee, sustainability is at the top of its priority list. “For us it is quite simple. Our vision is the most sustainable Games ever,” Estanguet told the South China Daily, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee looks to make good on that vision by slashing carbon emissions by more than half compared to London 2012 and Rio 2016.

 

estanguet

Tony Estanguet, head of Paris 2024 Bid Committee (Photo credit: Paris 2024)

 

The bid committee says it will produce an estimated 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, down 55 per cent from the roughly 3.4 million tonnes created by the Rio and the London Games. Here are some of the key ways Paris plans to meet those aggressive targets:

  • Rely on existing venues and temporary structures. The only major new venue scheduled to be constructed is an aquatics center. 

 

stade-de-france

Stade de France, site of the Opening Ceremonies of Paris 2024 should that city win the right to host the Olympics. It is one of many already-existing structures, the use of which will keep carbon emissions low. (Photo credit: Stade de France)

 

  • Build the aquatics center as well as the temporary facilities with low carbon materials.
  • Following in the footsteps of EURO 2016 (hosted by France), greatly restrict private car parking at the Olympic venues. This will lead 100 percent of fans to use public or shared transit. You read that right: 100 percent of spectators will take public or shared transit. Metro, commuter rail, bus transit, bicycles and car sharing will predominate.
  • House 85 per cent of athletes  within 30 minutes of their competition venues, limiting their travel-related footprint.
  • Use existing infrastructure. According to Estanguet, “We have all the infrastructure – roads, hotels, airports – already in place. That allows us to claim we will be the most sustainable Games ever.”

To the Paris 2024 committee, embedding the notion of a sustainable Olympics in the minds of Parisians and people across France will be critical. And we’re talking financial as well as environmental sustainability —a smaller environmental footprint will lead to reduced costs. Thus, the greenness and efficiency of the bid will be promoted widely, and in a variety of ways. “During the seven years [between bid selection and the Opening Ceremonies], we want to educate people on sustainability,” said Estanguet.

Environmental and financial sustainability are two keystones of Agenda 2020, a process instituted by the IOC three years ago for bids starting with the 2024 cycle. The IOC is convinced, and I concur, that the Olympics simply have to get simpler, greener, and leaner so they remain an attractive proposition for future hosts. This is especially the case after a slew of candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games (Krakow, Oslo and Stockholm) and 2024 Summer Games (Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome) withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing and putting on such an ambitious, sprawling event. 

 

LOS ANGELES, FORMERLY 2024, NOW 2028

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

That has been and is the mantra of LA 2028, the newly renamed committee (formerly LA 2024, of course) managing the recently announced Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team.

 

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

When the LA 2028 bid committee first began planning the Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it, like pretty much every other Olympic bid in recent memory, was looking at massive redevelopment alternatives. Thus, it made sense to recruit Brence Culp as its sustainability director. You see, Ms. Culp had been in charge of many big redevelopment and urban renewal projects as the second in command to the CEO of Los Angeles County (appointed, not a political position) for five years. Prior to that, she worked at a redevelopment agency in LA.

 

Brence Culp LA 2024

Brence Culp, Sustainability Director, LA 2028. (Photo credit: LA 2028)

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2028. The bid committee team visited the UCLA and USC campuses. “Before we got to the campuses, we thought ‘oh, the dorms and the food will not be up to par’,” recalled Ms. Culp. “But, both UCLA and USC were absolutely stunning, from the dorms to the recreation facilities to the landscaping. The food was fantastic. So, it turned out the most sustainable Village and Media Center were the ones we already had!” In the LA 2028 bid plan, UCLA will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village and USC, near the downtown venue cluster, will host the Media Center.

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

“Sustainability is core to our bid and our DNA,” declared Ms. Culp, “Gene Sykes, LA 2028’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principles of sustainable environmental and financial stewardship, as well as social inclusion are baked in to everything we do. When we, (LA) Mayor Garcetti and our sustainability consultants, AECOM, looked at, oh, two dozen urban redevelopment sites for the Village, we kept on coming back to UCLA and USC^. Great for the athletes and media. Sustainable from an environmental and financial sense. Innovative in that we don’t have to build something new and shiny.”

And LA 2028 doesn’t have to build new and shiny sports venues. The area boasts a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of stadia and arenas from which to choose, including:

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

 

Coliseum 2024

Artist’s rendering of the renovated LA Coliseum. (Credit: LA 2028)

 

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

Per Ms. Culp, “Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center is going ‘all in’ on sustainability as it will be the location of LA 2028’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation. AEG is implementing robust water efficiency strategies, including use of municipal greywater for irrigation. They also built and manage an on site garden that includes a large chicken coop and a greenhouse. StubHub Center’s chef uses the garden’s fruits and vegetables in meals prepared for staff, athletes and other guests. AEG also came up with an innovative way to harvest honey from relocated beehives found on site –located safely away from spectators! Leading up to the Games, we will actively explore ways to enhance AEG’s current practices, including onsite solar.”

 

MASS TRANSIT RAMPING UP IN LA IN TIME FOR 2028

Moving from chickens and bees to pachyderms, the big elephant in the room, sustainability-wise, is transportation. LA is a sprawling area—Paris’ geographic footprint is significantly smaller—and its mass transit offerings have been, relatively speaking, limited. But that is changing fast, to the benefit of LA 2028 attendees and the environment.

“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2028 Opening Ceremonies,” offered Ms. Culp, “And leading up to the Games, LA 2028 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”

 

FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN

As with Paris 2024, an important facet of LA 2028’s sustainability equation is financial. It stands to reason if an Olympic host committee can use existing athletic venues and existing structures for an Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it will save money. But how much? Well, LA 2028’s budget is projected to be $5.3 billion as compared to Paris’ projection of $9.3 billion. Both sound like lots of dough but consider that Rio 2016 spent $12 billion and Tokyo 2020 is looking at $30 billion. Russia spent $50 billion to put on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ($50 billion??? On a Winter Olympics, which is a much smaller enterprise than its summer cousin?? That’s insane.) London 2012, considered the sustainability gold standard among Olympics, spent about $12 billion. So both LA 2028 and Paris 2024 are demonstrating that sustainability is not good Olympics business, it is great Olympics business.

Despite its lean budget and its reliance on existing structures, LA 2028 is not skimping on sustainable innovation. “One of our priorities is bringing together folks who are advancing sustainable practices through sport. Thus, we have allocated $25 million in seed funding for high impact, sustainability-focused projects with our partners,” Ms. Culp said, “The goal is to leave a positive long-term legacy for the community.”

 

WILL FANS KNOW THE LA 2028 SUSTAINABILITY STORY?

This wouldn’t be a GreenSportsBlog column on the sustainability impacts of a mega-sports event if we didn’t delve into how LA 2028 plans to communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans at the Games and to the potentially billions who will be watching on TV, online and who knows how else in seven years time. Rio set the marker, with its Opening Ceremonies vignette on climate change that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

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

 

LA 2028’S SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY GOES BEYOND VENUES AND MASS TRANSIT

A recurring theme to our conservation was this: Go big on environmental sustainability and innovation, add a diverse and vibrant culture and you have Los Angeles—and LA 2028. “I tell you, wherever I go throughout the area, people across the demographic spectra—gender, age, income, race—are very excited about the bid, with public support running at 88 percent,” said Ms. Culp. “It is almost impossible these days to get people in a mega city to row together in the same direction. We know that our emphasis on sustainability in our bid has helped to make this happen.”

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Sustainability Effort for Tokyo 2020 Builds on Past Games; Aardvark Paper Straws at Stadiums and Arenas; Philadelphia Eagles Amp Up Green Efforts

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are still more than three years away but sustainability planning is in high gear. GSB spoke with Takeo Tanaka, the man leading Tokyo 2020’s greening efforts. Aardvark brings its straws made from paper to sports stadiums and arenas, lessening the amount of plastic ocean waste in the process. And the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the early Green-Sports adapters, take their waste management to the next level with the installation of an Eco-Safe food digester.

 

TOKYO 2020 LOOKS TO TAKE OLYMPIC SUSTAINABILITY TO NEXT LEVEL

Takeo Tanaka, the Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has some audacious greening goals for the Games that begin on July 24, 2020.

“We are building a substantive, five-pillar approach to sustainability,” said Mr. Tanaka. “The five pillars—Climate change, resource management, natural environment and biodiversity, human rights, labor and fair business practices, and involvement, cooperation and communications—are the framework that will earn us ISO 20121 certification* and allow us to take the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 sustainability to its highest level.”

 

Tokyo 2020 SUS team

Takeo Tanaka (center, front), Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the sustainability team. (Photo credit: Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)

 

Three years out, the pillars are taking shape:

  • Tokyo 2020’s Olympic Stadium, as well as all new permanent indoor venues, a big indoor temporary venue — the Olympic Gymnastic Centre — along with the Olympic and Paralympic Village, were all designed and are being built with the expectation of achieving CASBEE^ certification,
  • Energy efficient, low emission vehicles (hybrids and EVs) will be used throughout the Games.
  • The Organising Committee is pursuing CO2 emission reductions in the distribution process by procuring seasonal foods and other goods that are produced close to Tokyo.
  • The sustainability team is working closely with the communications group on an innovative program that encourages Japanese citizens in all 47 prefectures (states) to donate old mobile phones and small electric devices in collection boxes. 100 percent of the two tons of gold, silver and bronze for the more than 5,000 medals that will be awarded at the 2020 Games will be made from the transformed e-waste. “Unfortunately, not many people in Japan know about the richness and the potential of ‘urban mines,’ said Mr. Tanaka. “I believe that this project will raise awareness of the existence and the value of useful metals buried in the urban environment. People will hopefully become aware of the usefulness of recycling and this will leave a positive legacy for society.”
    • The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project Towards an Innovative Future for All is being promoted to the public via a popular TV program and a public service announcement campaign from the governors of Tokyo.

 

Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Artist’s rendering of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, expected to receive CASBEE green building certification. (Credit: Dezeen.com)

 

The Tokyo 2020 Sustainability Communications plan — to the media and the public — is still taking shape. Suffice to say, Mr. Tanaka and his team took notes on what their Rio 2016 counterparts did, from the “sustainability booth” at the Media Press Center, to sustainability-themed venue tours for the media, to the climate change vignette that was featured during the Opening Ceremonies.

According to Mr. Tanaka, the five pillars approach ensures that sustainability will always be a core component of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games DNA: “Not only is every division of the Organising Committee being trained on the sustainability initiatives, top management is involved as well. Sustainability is an agenda item at every Senior Directors meeting and sustainability-themed blogs have been posted to build awareness and interest among Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games employees and ultimately, volunteers.”

What about corporate sponsors, you ask? The Organising Committee created a Corporate Sustainability Network for Tokyo 2020 corporate sponsors, both local and worldwide. So far 37 of the 55 local sponsors have joined the network, which aims to engage corporate stakeholders, from employees to customers to management in sustainable initiatives surrounding the Games.

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know about Mr. Tanaka. Before leading the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games sustainability charge, he had a 30-year career at Tokyo’s electric company, where he worked on environmental issues and the preservation of Japan’s national parks. He’s also worked with the Nature Conservancy and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on climate change and biodiversity issues.

Suffice to say, sustainability is in good hands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

AARDVARK PAPER STRAWS HELP GREEN STADIUMS AND ARENAS

This Green-Sports story goes back aways, to 1888.

It was then a man named Marvin Stone invented the original paper straw and patented his idea. That patent became the foundation for Precision Products Group, Inc.  — the same company that manufactures Aardvark®, The Original Paper Straw, today.

Over time, as cheaper plastic straws came to dominate the category, the paper straw fell by the wayside. And, while straws are low interest items for consumers, the environmental costs add up. Consider that there are 1 billion plastic straws used each day, 500 million alone in North America. After their brief, one-time-use lives are over, where do they end up?  Either in landfills or oceans.

In 2007, in response to a growing anti-plastic movement, the main buyers of plastic straws in the U.S. — restaurants, hospitals, and other industries, including sports — began to look for more sustainable, eco-friendly options.

As a leading U.S. manufacturer of small-size cylindrical tubing solutions, Precision Products Group looked to create a straw that was less environmentally toxic. The answer was in their archives: Marvin Stone’s original 1888 patent for the first paper straw. Putting a modern spin on Stone’s original concept, Aardvark created a straw using 100 percent sustainable and renewable papers that was more sustainable and durable than any other paper straw ever made.  According to David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager, initially, “Aardvark was the only paper straw being made, but cheap and inferior China straws that get soggy and fall apart quickly entered into the market. Today, Aardvark remains the only quality and safe paper straw and the only [one that’s] Made in the USA.”

 

David Rhodes

David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager (Photo credit: David Rhodes)

 

The sports industry is of great interest to Aardvark, with its high profile, passionate, and thirsty fan bases. The company has made some impressive inroads over the past two years. “We work with ‘Party Goods’ retailers like Amscan and Creative Converting to offer paper straws with team logos emblazoned on them,” related Mr. Rhodes. “Right now, they have licenses with all 32 NFL teams and most of the schools in the Power 5 conferences. This is an ideal product for tailgaters. Fans can buy packages of, say, Green Bay Packers Aardvark straws at Packer retail stores and via Amazon. And, because fan loyalty is so strong, the margins also can be strong for the retailer.”

Jets straws

New York Jets paper straws from Aardvark (Photo credit: Aardvark)

 

But sports retail is a much smaller potential market for Aardvark than the concessions stands and restaurants at a ballpark or arena — as the latter represents 99 percent of straw usage. Cost has been a drag on Aardvark’s ability to crack that market. “Plastic straws cost about 0.5¢ each, whereas Aardvark paper straws cost 1.5¢ without printing on them and 2.0¢ with printing,” said Mr. Rhodes. “Looking at sports stadiums and arenas, since concessionaires give straws away, going to our product simply adds cost.”

Mr. Rhodes sees a potentially elegant solution to the thorny cost problem: Selling a combined, retail-concession paper straw combination to teams: “We can show teams that the profit they will realize from selling Aardvark straws at retail will offset the increased costs from giving our straws away at concession stands. And with retail-concession being a wash, we make the case that reductions in trash transportation costs and enhanced branding from going green make Aardvark a clear winner.”

According to Mr. Rhodes, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the about-to-open home of the Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C, and CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and MLS’ Seattle Sounders, are dueling to be the first facility to offer Aardvark straws at the concession stand.

Finally, GreenSportsBlog readers may recall our March 2017 interview with Olivia and Carter Ries, the teenage founders of nonprofit One More Generation (OMG!) and its One Less Straw campaign, designed to dramatically reduce the number of straws used and thus lessen plastic ocean waste. I asked Mr. Rhodes if he saw OMG as a competitor or potential partner.

Not surprisingly, he chose the latter: “We partner with and support OMG and other [plastic ocean waste] advocate groups, including Lonely Whale Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, The Last Plastic Straw, 5 Gyres, Hannah 4 Change, Surfrider Foundation, Sailors for the Sea, etc. Our long term goal is to assist in reducing the overall amount of straw usage by 50 percent and then converting at least 10 percent of the remaining straws to paper. [Thus,] we suggest restaurant owners and employees only offer a straw [and a paper one at that] if a customer specifically requests one.”

Aardvark found that restaurants that offer straws only on demand see reductions in straw consumption of up to 50 percent, diminishing the increased cost of switching to paper straws and allowing restaurants to save money while saving the planet.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES EXPAND GO GREEN EFFORTS WITH INSTALLATION OF ECO-SAFE DIGESTER®

The Philadelphia Eagles, a green-sports early adapter, recently announced they will team 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.

 

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)

 

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 (18,100 pounds) of food waste has been decomposed and, thus, diverted from landfills.

Cleantech leader BioHiTech Global – which develops and deploys innovative and disruptive waste management technologies like the Eco-Safe Digester – will handle, in collaboration with WMS, the design, construction and operation of the analytics platform.

Eagles minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie helped spearhead the team’s Go Green program in 2003 with the opening of an environmentally forward (especially for that time) Lincoln Financial Field. The club’s partnership with WMS is just the latest element of its comprehensive environmental program that also features on-site solar and small scale wind (eagle talon-shaped turbines spin atop the stadium), recycling and composting, energy and water conservation, reforestation and sustainability partnerships, as well as fan education programs.

 

Christina Weiss Lurie

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

 

* ISO 2012-1 is the global standard for sustainable events.
^ CASBEE is the Japanese green building certification that is somewhat akin to LEED.

 

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GSB News and Notes: Formula-E Is a Hit In Brooklyn; D.C.’s New Audi Field Goes Green via Green Bonds; Study Shows Winter Sports Fans Support Athlete Engagement on Climate Change

Here is a GSB News & Notes column for your mid-summer reading pleasure: Formula-E, the all-electric vehicle racing circuit, came to New York City (Red Hook, Brooklyn, to be exact) for the first time ever with two races over the weekend. Audi Field, the future home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, will open with both a solar array and stormwater storage that was funded in part by an innovative, DC-based green bond program. And a small research study conducted at the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland this February demonstrated that fans are very receptive to climate change statements from professional skiers.

 

FORMULA-E A HIT IN BROOKLYN

The Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn is not normally associated with great New York City sporting events. There are no stadiums nor arenas nearby. Subways are nowhere to be found.

But this weekend, the quiet if increasingly hip waterfront section of town was quiet no more as its streets played host to the first-ever automobile road race in New York City history—and it happened to be one that featured only electric vehicles (EVs).

England’s Sam Bird won both rounds of the Qualcomm New York City ePrix, the ninth and 10th rounds of Formula-E’s 2016-17 season on Saturday and Sunday. Bird drives for DS Virgin Racing, owned by sustainable business innovator Sir Richard Branson. Formula-E, now nearing the end of its third campaign, is the world’s first and only all-EV racing series.

 

Formula E Bird 2nd Steven Tee:LAT Images:FIA Formula E via Getty Images

Sam Bird, driving in the red car on the left, starts off in second place in the Qualcomm New York City ePrix on Saturday in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

Formula-E Branson Bird Stephane Sarrazin

But while Bird (c) started in second, he finished in first in both the Saturday and Sunday legs, earning a Champagne Shower from Sir Richard Branson (l) and DS Virgin Racing teammate Stéphane Sarrazin. (Photo credit: Kevin Hagen, Getty Images)

 

While exact attendance figures have not been released, the Associated Press reported that “thousands attended thraces, packing two metal grandstands overlooking the track…Organizers ran shuttle buses from Barclays Center to the race site about three miles away. There were also ride-share stations, a bicycle valet and water taxis and ferries from Manhattan.”

And, according to a CNN.com story by Matthew Knight, Brooklyn and Formula-E share an understandable affinity for renewable energy: “Formula-E [didn’t provide] too much of a drain on local electrical supplies during its visit — all the race cars [were] charged using carbon-neutral glycerine generators provided by British firm Aquafuel.”

New York City’s entrance into EV road racing adds another top tier metropolis to Formula-E’s already impressive roster, which includes Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Paris and Montreal, host of the season finale at the end of this month.

 

AUDI FIELD TO SPORT SOLAR, STORMWATER STORAGE, FINANCED BY GREEN BOND

Audi Field, the new home of Major League Soccer’s (MLS’) D.C. United that’s set to open next year, will be on the forefront of green stadium design and performance:

  • An 884 kW solar array, installed by local vendor New Columbia Solar, will be situated on the stadium’s canopy and in other areas of the site.
  • There will storage for more than 55,000 cubic feet of stormwater on site through green roofs, bio-retention areas, and infiltration basins.
  • Energy and water efficient technologies will be employed throughout the stadium.

 

Audi Field

Artist’s rendering of Audi Field, the new home of D.C. United (Credit: D.C United)

 

According to a story by Jennifer Hermes in the July 10 issue of Environmental Leaderthe measures described above “are being funded through the [capital district’s Department of Energy and Environment’s] D.C. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program’s green financing solution, which operates through a public-private partnership, allowing local lenders to fund environmentally beneficial projects at no cost to taxpayers.” The $25 million deal, done through a relationship with locally-based EagleBank, is the nation’s largest single PACE note issued to date, according to D.C. United.

Per Hermes, PACE’s funding will also include resources for “high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, LED field lighting, additional building insulation, and low-flow water fixtures.” D.C. PACE asserts these measures will result in a 25% reduction in energy use and will reduce emissions by 820 metric tons of CO2 annually, saving the club an estimated $125,000 annually on utility bills.

Writing in the July 6 issue of CurbedPatrick Sisson noted that, in addition to PACE’s clean energy deal, the project also includes a $95 million loan from Goldman Sachs.

While public financing of stadiums and arenas has, in the main, not proven to be a good deal for taxpayers, perhaps Audi Field’s green bonds approach will provide an innovative exception—as well as become a model for other stadiums and cities. Writes Sisson: “Funding these types of designs or retrofits saves owners money, may prolong the useful life of an existing stadium, helps cities cut emissions, and sets an example for other projects in the community (In less than two years, the D.C. PACE program has provided $30 million in private capital for projects including small businesses, affordable multifamily housing, and a charter school).”

While D.C. United’s colors are red and black, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has bought in to the club’s greenness, saying in a statement that the stadium will boost local economic development and create good green jobs for District workers, “all without costing DC government a cent.”

 

RESEARCH SHOWS SKI FANS REACT POSITIVELY TO CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENTS FROM ATHLETES

The sample size was very small, so the conclusions drawn can only be directional rather than definitive.

But.

Research conducted in February by M Inc., in collaboration with Protect Our Winters Finland, at the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland demonstrated that sports fans—at least a small sample of Nordic skiing fans in Europe— welcome climate change messaging from athletes.

A group of athletes who took part in the Championships gave video statements to their fans as to 1) why it is important to care about climate change and, 2) how we all can help in the climate change fight by changing a few specific behaviors. 44 spectators, chosen at random, were asked to view this 45-second edited video athlete statement and fill in a short questionnaire to measure what they thought of it.

 

 

The study’s conclusion?

Fans at the Championships were very receptive to climate change statements from pro skiers – across age, gender, nationality and whether they ski themselves or not. Fans also said that they felt much more motivated to change some of their behavior in support of the climate change fight (8.12 average on a scale of 1-10).

When asked, in an open-ended question, what they liked the most about the video statement, 51 per cent of the fans mentioned that professional athletes were giving the statement. Some of these fans also emphasized that professional athletes were showing their passion about the issue, that they formed an international mix and that it was a positive message.

GreenSportsBlog’s conclusion?

The Green-Sports world needs to fund and conduct more research, among a wide cross section of sports fans, on fan attitudes, in North America, Europe and beyond, towards environmental issues, including climate change. The studies must consist of fans who go to sports events and, this is important, the much larger group of fans who consume sports on TV, online, radio and newspapers. In fact, these studies need to be conducted every 1-2 years to see how fans’ awareness of, and attitudes towards green-sports are changing over time.

The only major, quantifiable study that I know of was conducted on North American sports fans (defined as people who attend at least two sports events per year) by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in 2014 and funded by the Green Sports Alliance. In research terms, that’s ancient history. And, while the M Inc. study is helpful, the small sample size means that the takeaways have to taken with a grain of salt.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Move For Hunger Saves Unused Food from Road Races; Installing Solar Helps Keep Scottish Rugby Club Alive; Some Greenwashing Concerns about Tokyo 2020

Before the long Memorial Day weekend, GSB News & Notes hopscotches the globe, from New Jersey to Scotland to Japan: A family-owned, 100-year old moving company in New Jersey has found a novel way to join the Green-Sports movement: It started Move for Hunger, a non-profit that rescues unused food from road races. Gala Rugby Club in Scotland is using on-site solar to green its 105-year old stadium. And concerns are being raised about the use of timber from depleted tropical rainforests in construction of venues for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 

 

MOVE FOR HUNGER: USING MOVING VANS TO SAVE UNUSED FOOD FROM ROAD RACES

Growing up in the Jersey Shore town of Neptune, Adam Lowy had to have thought his career would somehow involve working with moving vans. After all, he and his brother Max represent the fourth generation of family-run Lowy’s Moving Service.

And moving vans have, indeed, become central to Lowy’s professional life; just not in the way he likely would have imagined.

While Max is now the Vice President of Office & Industrial Sales at Lowy’s Moving Service, Adam is the Executive Director and Founder of Move For Hunger (MFH), a nonprofit that works with all manner of moving companies to collect non-perishable food items, and deliver it to food banks all across North America.

 

Lowy Adam Headshot

Adam Lowy, Executive Director/Founder, Move For Hunger (Photo credit: Move For Hunger)

 

The germ of the idea that became MFH came from Adam’s experience in the moving business.

“People throw out lots of unused food, especially when they move.” said Lowy, “And they are happy to give away unused food—if it’s hassle-free. On the flip side, lots of people are hungry—far too many, in fact. This was crazy to me: In Monmouth County, our home area in New Jersey, 56,000 in fact. So Move For Hunger was created to bridge this gap.”

Since MFH’s launch in 2009, the growing nonprofit has, through its partnerships with 750 movers in the US and Canada, delivered 8 million pounds of unused food to food banks. The unused food is picked up from homes, businesses, apartment communities and at colleges and universities. And now, from road races.

Initially, Lowy’s rationale for using marathons and half marathons was not for unused food pickup. Rather, road races started out as a creative fundraising vehicle for MFH.

“Playing on the word ‘move‘ in Move for Hunger, we started to get people to run for us—getting their friends and family to pledge $X per mile—in the New Jersey Marathon,” recalled Lowy. “We raised a couple of thousand dollars when we started with five runners in 2013. By 2016 ‘Team Move’ runners numbered 200, ran 2,500 combined miles and raised $75,000. As we were doing this, we noticed that so much food was wasted at all types of road races, from 5Ks up to marathons to cycling events.”

MFH started working with races across the country in 2014 to collect their unused food and redirect it to food banks. Since then, they’ve rescued over 460,000 lbs. of food from high profile events, including the LA MarathonSeattle Half Marathon, Miami Marathon, and the New York Triathlon.

 

LAMarathon2017_FoodPickUp NorthStar Moving

NorthStar Moving helps pickup unused food from the LA Marathon as part of its pro bono work for Move For Hunger (Photo credit: NorthStar Moving)

 

Sports will continue to play an important role at Move For Hunger, says Lowy. “Sports fills a lot of boxes for us: It’s an efficient way for us to rescue food, and it’s a cool way to build awareness around our ‘NO FOOD TO WASTE’ branding.”

 

GALA RUGBY CLUB IN SCOTLAND INSTALLS SOLAR, SAVES MONEY

Gala Rugby Club (GRC), in Galashiels, is one of ten amateur# clubs in the BT Premiership, the top tier of rugby union in Scotland. As rugby union’s popularity in Scotland is relatively small compared to that of soccer, the club’s owners are especially keen to cut operational costs. With that in mind, GRC hired Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) to find ways to reduce water and energy bills at quaint, 105-year old Netherdale Stadium.

 

Gala Rugby Ground

Netherdale Stadium, the 5,000 seat home of Gala Rugby Club in Galashiels, Scotland. (Photo credit: Resource Efficient Scotland)

 

RES’ initial on-site assessment revealed energy reduction and water consumption measures that could lead to about $27,000 in savings, a significant sum for a club of Gala’s size.

That same analysis looked at outfitting Netherdale Stadium with solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, but the site was not in use significantly over the summer period (the BT Premiership season runs from late August through April), so the idea was shelved. But, in 2015, the Scottish Rugby Union asked to use Netherdale and other facilities at GRC for a variety of activities during the summer. This turned the financial case for solar from negative to positive. GRC subsequently applied for and received a RES small and medium size establishment (SME) loan to help it purchase and install the solar panels.

According to RES, it is projected that the solar installation will provide Gala Rugby Club with around 70% of its electricity needs, reducing its annual energy costs by nearly $8,000 and CO2 emissions by around 11 tonnes.

The financial relief may sound small, but the truth is the reductions in operating costs from the efficiency measures and the introduction of on-site solar mean GRC will remain a viable part of the Scottish Rugby Union and the region for the foreseeable future.

Graham Low, President of GRC, drove that point home when he extolled, “The loan we received [from RES] for the [solar] panels has not only enabled us to save a lot of money, but is also a very visible sign of our commitment to reducing the Club’s environmental impact.”

 

GREENWASHING BY TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC ORGANIZING COMMITTEE?

Writing in the May 11 edition of Vocativ^, Ray Lemire reported The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) claimed there is “evidence that the Japanese government is using tropical wood sourced from Shin Yang, a [large conglomerate with a logging operation] in the State of Sarawak, Malaysia, with a record of human rights abuses, illegal logging, and rainforest destruction.” To bring attention to this issue, RAN has submitted petitions with 140,000 signatures to Japanese embassies and staged protests both in Malaysia and at the Olympic Stadium site.

Since wood figures prominently in traditional Japanese architecture, from pagodas to shrines, it is fitting that the Tokyo Olympic Stadium is being constructed with a wooden lattice. And Tokyo 2020 organizers have a detailed code for sustainably sourcing timber, available for public view. Activists say the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee are not living up to the code and are thus greenwashing.

They first voiced their concerns in April about the use of Shin Yang wood from Sarawak, where illegal logging is widespread and the destruction of forests is one of the most severe cases in the world. Photos, which appeared on on the RAN website documented that the wood was indeed from Shin Yang.

 

Tokyo Olympic Stadium Construct

Construction of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. The Shin Yang marker is inside the red oval. (Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network)

 

Tokyo Close Up Shin Yang

Close-up of the Shin Yang mark. (Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network)

 

The Japan Sport Council (JSC) confirmed the wood’s Shin Yang/Sarawak provenance but, in a statement to The Huffington Post, also said, “The plywood in question has been certified by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. They further confirmed it is in compliance with the legal and sustainability aspects of the sourcing standards set by the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.”

How is that possible?

RAN claims that the sourcing standards used by organizers have a significant loophole that allows “formwork plywood” to be used in molding concrete, thus giving Shin Yang a pass and Tokyo 2020, it says here, a greenwashing problem. Especially when one considers the stadium design was chosen, per Lemire in Vocativ, “in part because of its lesser environmental footprint that will serve as the crown jewel of an Olympic Games touting sustainability.”

 

# Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, the two biggest rugby union clubs in Scotland, play in (professional) Guinness Pro 12 Rugby against teams from Ireland, Italy, Northern Ireland and Wales.
^ Vocativ is a website site claiming to use “deep web (GSB’s itals) technology as a force for good and go where others can’t to reveal hidden voices, emerging trends and surprising data”

 


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