The GSB Interview: Monica Rowand, Bringing Green-Sports to University of Louisiana. Part I: Honing Her Craft at UCLA and CU-Boulder

Monica Rowand is one of the brightest, young stars in the Green-Sports world as she helps to lead the University of Louisiana’s (Lafayette) athletic department’s burgeoning sustainability efforts. 

Despite Monica’s youth, her story is rich and deep, so much so that we’re dividing the interview into two parts. Today’s Part I delves into her lifelong love affair with sports, her discovery of Green-Sports at UCLA and her work with Dave Newport and University of Colorado-Boulder’s powerhouse Green-Sports program.

In tomorrow’s Part II, we move with Monica to 1,200 miles to the southeast to Lafayette, LA to find out what she and the University of Louisiana’s sustainability department are doing to green the Ragin’ Cajuns athletics department. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Monica, you’ve done so much important Green-Sports work and you’re not yet 30. When did you start, when you were in middle school?

Monica Rowand: Well Lew, I wanted to work in sports for as long as I can remember, baseball specifically. In fact, when I was a little girl I knew the exact job I wanted…

GSB: …Which was?

Monica: To manage the Los Angeles Angels, or Anaheim Angels as I grew up calling them!

GSB: I’m dating myself by saying I grew up calling them the California Angels! Why not aim high?

Monica: Exactly! And that Angels job is still in my plans. But Green-Sports really started for me while I was an undergrad at UCLA

GSB:…Recently named the number one public university in the country!

Monica: I know! Anyway I started out as a business economics major but then switched to geography and environmental studies.

GSB: Why did you switch?

 

RowandM2

Monica Rowand (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

Monica: Good question. I had first gotten interested in the environment in high school when I saw “An Inconvenient Truth.” Then at UCLA I signed up for a Global Environment class to, if I’m being honest about it, take care of a science requirement.

GSB: Many of us can relate to that kind of college class scheduling…

Monica: The thing was, I really loved it! Then, in my senior year, I took this amazing class — Remote Sensing…

GSB: What is that?

Monica: It’s about using satellites, radar and other tools to scan the earth and obtain information that include temperature and other weather and climate metrics. We were told to pick semester project topics based on our passions so, given my love of baseball, mine was about the size of parking lots at Major League Baseball stadiums and the resulting heat island effect. I also looked at tree coverage in those lots. All of this was done using remote sensing. I studied the LA Dodgers…

GSB: …Dodger Stadium has massive circular parking lots surrounding it…

 

Dodger Stadium

Aerial view of the massive parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (Photo credit: change.org)

 

Monica: Yeah! Awful for heat island effect. We also looked at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants and Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. I really enjoyed the project; this was the first time I realized I could combine sustainability and sports.

GSB: Did you work on any other Green-Sports projects while at UCLA?

Monica: Yeah. The second one looked at the waste generated at large sports events by league — Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL. I figured out the average amount of waste per league and then compared that to total waste in the U.S.

GSB: It must’ve been tiny…

Monica: Oh it was. But that didn’t deter me. In fact, it made me realize that the real promise of Green-Sports was in engaging fans to care about the environment, climate change, and more…more so than focusing on greening the games themselves, because, like I said, total waste and carbon emissions from sports events are quite small relative to everywhere else.

GSB: So you knew you were Green-Sports 2.0 rather than Green-Sports 1.0…

Monica: That’s right. Sports is perhaps the most powerful platform in the world and it is past time that it was used in service of the environment!

GSB: Indeed! So what did you do when you graduated?

Monica: I moved to Denver — needed to get out of LA then. I got a job at a gym because, well, I needed a job. We did waste reduction and recycling, had an Earth Week program but that wasn’t a green job. But I networked like crazy with something called the Rocky Mountain Green Venue Partnership. All the major Denver area sports venues were in the group…Coors Field, home of the Rockies, Pepsi Center, home of the NBA’s Nuggets and NHL’s Avalanche. CU Boulder was there too. It was at these events that I became convinced that I wanted to work in Green-Sports and that I could get a job in it. It just didn’t happen then…

GSB: And next you…

Monica: …Moved to New Orleans in 2012 as I decided to join the Americorps VISTA program and work with Global Green doing community outreach.

GSB: Global Green is a great group!

Monica: I loved that job. I worked on so many things — education, energy efficiency, and community organizing. During this time I also networked in Green-Sports: I went to the 2013 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn. I connected with Jarian Kerekes…

GSB: …Then the NBA’s Corporate Social Responsibility head.

Monica: Yes. We collaborated on ideas to help green the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. I spoke to leading Green-Sports practitioners like Omar Mitchell of the NHL and Paul Hanlon of MLB. Both told me I should get an MBA, with the idea being that I already had a strong environmental background but I needed to learn about business. So I looked for business programs with a strong sustainability bent. At that time, Dave Muller at the Green Sports Alliance said, “You should talk to Dave Newport at CU-Boulder. He runs the Environmental Center there and is doing amazing Green-Sports things.”

GSB: What did Dave Newport tell you?

Monica: He said, “Come to CU and I’ll hire you to help grow ‘Ralphie’s Green Stampede!'” So I went off to Boulder. I mean, sports and B-school? INCREDIBLE!!

GSB: Sounds like the perfect spot as Ralphie’s Green Stampede is arguably the best Green-Sports initiative in college athletics.

Monica: Oh yeah! For several reasons. Number one: Dave has the same mentality I do: Sports has the power to change behavior. Two: The Green-Sports infrastructure was already in place when I arrived there in 2015. Ralphie’s Green Stampede, which launched in 2008, had already helped CU Athletics become Zero-Waste, reduce its carbon emissions, get involved in water balancing and…

GSB: What is water balancing?

Monica: Athletics reduced their water usage. Whatever we did use, BEF worked with us on river restoration projects, thus adding the same amount of water back that CU Athletics had used.

GSB: Who funded this?

Monica: We were able to get corporate sponsors to pay for it.

GSB: Brilliant! What was your role with Ralphie’s Green Stampede?

Monica: I was the program manager for fan engagement…

GSB: AGAIN, perfect for you!

Monica: YES!!! I got to work with Dave, Athletics, and Learfield, the company that sold CU Athletics sponsorships. Working with Learfield’s Brandon Leimbach, a true rock star, we were able solidify a unique category of sponsorship that created value for our sports property, the corporate partner, and our community.

 

Ralphie Team

From left, Monica Rowand and Ralphie’s Green Stampede teammates Dave Newport, Brandon Leimbach and Angie Gilbert (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: What kind of sponsorship programs did you guys develop and sell?

Monica: On water restoration, working with the aforementioned BEF, we created Water For The West for men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16 and then football in 2016. Wells Fargo and Kohler sponsored it. CU’s venues have high efficiency water fixtures like faucets and then CU Athletics purchased 10 million gallons of water restoration credits.

GSB: Where did the fan engagement piece come in?

Monica: The idea with fans was to get them to follow the Buffs’ lead and save water at home, work, and play. So we set up a text platform, text “CU Water” to 27126 — I believe it’s still live — and promoted it at games and on social media. By texting, you were committing to saving water on your own— we showed them how by texting them water saving tips. For every text pledge we got Wells Fargo would restore an additional 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River through the BEF water restoration certificate program.

 

Water For The West promotional video (1 min 4 secs) featuring CU Women’s Soccer player Taylor Kornieck

 

GSB: What a neat program! How many people participated and how much water was restored?

Monica: In addition to the 10 million gallons that balanced the Buffs’ annual water footprint, 956 students and fans made text pledges during the 15-16 basketball seasons. So in the program’s first season an extra 956,000 gallons worth of water restoration projects could be done!

 

TOMORROW’S PART II: Monica Rowand moves from CU-Boulder to the sustainability department of the University of Louisiana in Lafayette to help launch their Green-Sports initiative.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: U of Miami Football to Debut Eco-Conscious Uniforms; University of Louisiana-Lafayette Football Goes Zero-Waste; LA Galaxy and StubHub Center Go Strawless;

As our US-based GreenSportsBlog readers head out for the Labor Day weekend, we’re offering up a GSB News & Notes for your end-of-summer reading pleasure. The University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes will open their 2018 football season against LSU in Arlington, TX wearing eco-conscious uniforms from Adidas and Parley for the Oceans. But should the Hurricanes also be taking on climate change, given Miami’s vulnerability to it? About 60 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, the UL-Lafayette is embarking on a journey to host Louisiana’s first Zero-Waste football games. And, MLS’ LA Galaxy and the Stub Hub Center add to the growing number of teams and venues eliminating plastic straws.

 

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI HURRICANES DON ECO-FRIENDLY UNIFORMS; WHEN WILL THEY TAKE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

When the University of Miami Hurricanes take the field Sunday night in their nationally televised season opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, they will do so wearing new, alternate uniforms made from repurposed and upcycled materials, including plastic ocean waste. The uniforms are the result of a partnership between Miami, Adidas and Parley For The Oceans.

 

Miami Parley E-L

The University of Miami Hurricanes will take the field Sunday at LSU in eco-friendly alternate uniforms, thanks to a partnership with Adidas and Parley for the Oceans (Photo credit: Environmental Leader)

 

While the Hurricanes are the first American football team to partner with Parley for the Oceans and Adidas, they are following in the footsteps of European club soccer giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in wearing the eco-friendly alternate uniforms.

 

Real Madrid Parley

The Real Madrid, Parley for the Oceans-Adidas jersey (Photo credit: Adidas)

 

More than 70 percent of the special-edition uniform is fashioned from regenerated Econyl yarn (made by Aquafil of Trento, Italy), a raw material transformed from fishing nets and other nylon waste intercepted in marine environments, and from Parley Ocean Plastic, which also comes from waste that was intercepted from beaches and coastal communities. The result is a “durable, yet breathable fabric that is optimal for Adidas performance apparel,” according to a statement from the Hurricanes. Players will also wear cleats and gloves featuring recycled materials. The statement claims the cleats are the first-ever styles of eco-conscious footwear to be debuted on-field for NCAA football competition.

“Our players and staff are excited to wear the new adidas Parley jerseys and gear for our season opener,” Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We’re also excited that Adidas and Parley are teaming up with UM to help promote sustainability around the world.”

 

 

I am happy to see the University of Miami take the Adidas-Parley plunge and to engage on the plastic ocean waste issue. Sports teams engaging on the environment is still too rare so this is a positive.

But (you knew there was going to be a but, right?), from where I sit, climate change is by far the biggest environmental challenge humanity faces — in fact, I’d argue it is the biggest challenge humanity faces, period. Bigger even than the plastic ocean waste issue.

And the Hurricanes are arguably the most logical big time college football program to take on climate change. After all, Miami is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise. So I think UM missed the boat by not tying the Adidas-Parley uniforms to climate change as well as plastic ocean waste.

Maybe next year? What do you think?

 

 

UL-LAFAYETTE’S CAJUN FIELD LOOKS TO BECOME FIRST ZERO-WASTE STADIUM IN LOUISIANA

Take I-10 west 56 miles from the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and you arrive at the , University of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cajuns of the mid-level Sun Belt Conference play in the sizable shadow of perennial national power LSU of the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC).

But UL-Lafayette is second to none in the Bayou State when it comes to Green-Sports. They are making a concerted effort to host Zero-Waste football games at 36,900 seat Cajun Field, starting with Saturday night’s opening game vs. Grambling.

 

Cajun Field

Cajun Field, home of the greening UL-Lafayette Cajuns (Photo credit: UL-Lafayette)

 

“This year we’re making the really big leap forward in removing all trash cans from inside Cajun Field and we’re only going to have recycling and compost cans,” Gretchen Vanicor, the director of UL-Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability, told Lafayette’s News15.

The university introduced recycling cans in and around the stadium in 2014. And replacing trash cans with compost cans is part of the school’s plan to get towards Zero-Waste (which means diverting at least 90 percent of waste from landfill), while also saving money.

“The great parts about doing sustainable operations is usually it’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for our economics too,” shared Vanicor, “Diverting food waste from landfill by composting means we pay far less in tipping fees. When we can find those projects that are sustainable economically but also environmentally, then we always go after them.”

The Cajuns are quite serious when it comes to going after Zero-Waste:

  • Food will be served on biodegradable plates or in reusable containers.
  • Wooden spoons, forks and knives will replace plastic utensils.
  • Drinks will be served from either aluminum cans or recyclable plastic cups, and fans will be able to request compostable straws.
  • Styrofoam cups will be nowhere in sight
  • And, as UL-Lafayette sustainability coordinator Monica Rowand told Josh Meny of KATC-TV3, “we’re switching this year to eco-craft, compostable paper [to line pizza boxes]”

 

 

According to Vanicor, Zero-Waste at football games is only a first step at UL-Lafayette: “We really want to be leaders both in our region and in our state for sustainability and our goal eventually is to get to the point where we’re a zero waste university.”

It seems to me as though LSU can learn from UL-Lafayette, at least in terms of Zero-Waste if not on the football field. Hey, they should play each other but that’s a story for a different column.

 

STUBHUB CENTER AND LA GALAXY ELIMINATE PLASTIC STRAWS

StubHub Center, the Carson, California home of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and, until 2020, the LA Chargers of the NFL, is now offering paper straws upon request to minimize pollution from plastic straws.

Fans will be provided paper straws upon request, with a limited number of plastic straws still available to serve those with special needs. An estimated 250,000 plastic straws will be kept out of landfills annually due to this new approach at StubHub Center

The initiative, in conjunction with food and beverage provider Levy, as part of the Galaxy’s Protect the Pitch sustainability program, launched last Friday when the team played crosstown rival LAFC to a 1-1 draw. By doing so, StubHub Center became the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS to serve drinks during games without a plastic straw.

 

El Trafico Corner of the Galaxy

LA Galaxy (white) and LAFC battle in their “El Trafico” rivalry game on August 24. That was the first game at StubHub Center to feature paper straws (Photo credit: Corner of the Galaxy)

 

The policy will also be in effect for all Los Angeles Chargers NFL games at StubHub Center.

“We are proud to continue to increase our sustainability efforts throughout StubHub Center in all of our gameday operations,” said StubHub Center General Manager Katie Pandolfo in a statement. “Protecting our environment is paramount and reducing single-use plastic straws can greatly decrease plastic pollution in our oceans.”

 


 

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If the Most Important Green Aspects of Super Bowl LII are Two Beer TV Ads, Is That a Good Thing?

Super Bowl LII will be played in Minnesota, one of the most environmentally-conscious states in the country. Host city Minneapolis is mass-transit friendly and filled with LEED certified stadia and arenas. The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots will do battle in LEED Gold US Bank Stadium. The game will be zero-waste and 100 percent of the energy used to power the contest will be offset. Yet, it says here that the most important green aspect of the 2018 Super Bowl may well be two beer ads — unless the NFL steps up to tell the Big Game’s green story to the audience 100+ million people.

 

Question: What does this triumvirate — Clydesdale horses, the Bud Bowl, and recent catastrophic extreme weather events — have in common?

Answer: They are each themes of Budweiser Super Bowl ads, past and immediate future. If there was a Super Bowl Advertising Hall of Fame, the brand’s ads featuring the iconic, white maned horses and the fun, computer-generated football games played by teams of beer bottles (Bud vs. Bud Light!) would both certainly be first ballot inductees.

But corporate parent AB InBev’s stablemates Budweiser and Stella Artois are going in a different direction for Sunday’s broadcast on NBC.

In “Budweiser’s Super Bowl Beer Ad Isn’t about Beer,” which ran in the January 26 issue of Environmental Leader, Jennifer Hermes reported that the brand’s 60 second Super Bowl spot is actually about…water: “[US corporate parent] Anheuser-Busch currently produces canned drinking water at its Cartersville, GA, brewery, and ships them to communities in need. This year, the company shipped nearly three million cans of emergency drinking water to areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and by the California wildfires. In total, the company says it has provided over 79 million cans of drinking water to communities in need. The Super Bowl ad tells the story of its employees in the Cartersville plant who produce the emergency drinking water. [It] features the general manager of the brewery, along with more than 20 of his local colleagues.”

 

Budweiser’s “Stand By You” water-themed Super Bowl ad (60 seconds)

 

Stella Artois’ 30 second ad, produced in partnership with water.org, features actor Patriots fan Matt Damon, who calls on beer lovers to step up to help solve the water crisis by buying a Stella beer chalice. Damon asserts that if just one percent of Super Bowl viewers purchase the glass, Stella will provide “clean water to one million people. For five years.”

 

Matt Damon stars in Stella Artois’ 30 second, water conservation-themed, Super Bowl ad

 

Why did Budweiser and Stella take this turn?

 

IT COMES DOWN TO WATER — AND EYEBALLS

Quality water is, of course, crucial to the beer brewing process. AB InBev and its U.S. subsidiary Anheuser-Busch has implemented a robust water stewardship and environmental protection program across its sprawling brewery roster.

The initiative has engaged employees, farmers, suppliers and strategic partners to devise and implement a wide range of water conservation and management measures. Anheuser-Busch says this approach helped it reduce water use across all of its U.S. breweries by nearly 50 percent over the last 10 years.

That is a BIG achievement which warrants the BIG ad spend — NBC Sports is charging $5 million dollars for a 30 second spot — on the BIG game to reach the BIGGEST television audience of the year — 111 million people watched the 2017 Super Bowl.

Reaching such a vast audience with environmentally-themed messaging is why I believe Bud and Stella Artois have co-authored the most important green story surrounding Super Bowl LII.

Oh, you might say, “I think the fact that the the NFL, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, and US Bank Stadium are teaming up to offset 100 percent of the game’s carbon footprint via the purchase of renewable energy credits is more consequential than a couple of ads.” Or, you might opine that “Rush2Recycle, the program sponsored by PepsiCo, and promoted by ex-NFL great Hines Ward, that will help Sunday’s game be the first zero-waste^ Super Bowl, has to be considered the most important green story.”

 

us bank stadium

Exterior of US Bank Stadium, site of Super Bowl LII (Photo credit: SI.com)

 

While those efforts are, of course, laudable, I still go with Bud and Stella.

Because the  audience of 100 million+ people who might see the Bud and/or Stella Artois water-themed ads on NBC will likely be between 50 to 100 times greater than the number of people who learn about the zero-waste and/or the offset aspects of Super Bowl LII. That audience includes the 66,000+ fans inside US Bank Stadium, along with readers of national media outlets like Fast Company magazine, which are giving the zero-waste Super Bowl story welcome coverage.

Now, the NFL can easily wrest the “most important green story of Super Bowl LII” title away from Bud and Stella. All it needs to do is to create a public service announcement touting the green aspects of Super Bowl LII — hey, as of this writing, there are three days left; plenty of time for great content to be produced — and air it on NBC during the game.

What a BIG deal that would be! But will the NFL step up?

The stakes, said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance and a founding director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), are much higher than even the Super Bowl itself.

“As one of the most visible sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl has a unique opportunity to promote environmental literacy and reduce cultural polarization related to climate change,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. “US Bank Stadium’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy credits, ambitious zero-waste goals, and the [Minneapolis] region’s intelligent mass transit infrastructure, positions this event to be among the most carbon intelligent Super Bowls ever. The question before us is this: Will the NFL meaningfully promote this aspect of the Super Bowl story? Given the bewildering retreat from essential, science-based climate policy being enacted by the worst environmental administration in our nation’s history, a counter message by the NFL promoting progress on climate could not be more important. It has a responsibility to the world to do so.”

 

ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGING: A WINNER FOR THE NFL

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, talks a good environmental game: “The NFL is a responsible steward of the environment in all areas of our business. Through [these zero-waste and offset projects], the League and its partners hope to set a new standard of environmental sustainability at the Super Bowl.”

But Goodell’s green talk mainly takes place in dry, easily ignorable press releases, not on Super Bowl broadcasts.

The Commish and league should go beyond press releases and talk the green talk to the widest possible audience — i.e. during the Super Bowl. Because doing so would likely be good for business.

Say what?

Hasn’t has been a tough season for the NFL: from anthem protests to “Fire the Sons of B**ches!;” from CTE to declining TV ratings#? Won’t many older fans get ticked off? Isn’t it better for a league whose ownership and fan base is seen as right-of-center to keep quiet about the environment and climate?

No, it is not.

And, again, I say this from a business building, not from the “it’s the right thing to do” point-of-view.

It is a 2016 conversation with an NFL marketing executive who preferred to remain anonymous that sticks with me. He said the one thing that kept him and his colleagues up at night the most was how to attract Millennial and Generation Z fans and keep them.

One thing that resonates with younger cohorts is the environment and climate: across the political spectrum, the 35-and-under set accepts the reality and seriousness of climate change at rates far greater than their older counterparts.

Will embracing climate and the environment be the main catalyst to turning the tide the NFL’s young fan problems? Of course not. This is a complex, multi-factorial problem and going BIG on the environment is, admittedly, not close to the most important potential solution.

But, it says here that an intelligent, clever environmentally-themed PSA will be well-received among Millennials and Gen Zers. Which would help.

Budweiser and Stella Artois, hardly fringe, left wing brands, believe leading with the environment is the right way to go. Will the NFL join them by airing a green PSA on Sunday? I wouldn’t bet* on it.

In the meantime, buy a Stella chalice and (responsibly) enjoy a Stella or a Bud in it on Super Sunday.

 

 

^ A sports event can claim “Zero-Waste” status by diverting 90 percent or more of its game day waste from landfill, most often by a combination of recycling and composting.
* I also am not betting on the game itself. My prediction? Patriots 24, Eagles 17. I hope I am wrong.
# NFL TV ratings have declined over the past three years but it still generates, by far, the biggest television audience — and not only in terms of sports programming.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Liverpool F.C. Under Fire for New Anti-Environmental Sponsorship Deal ; U of Michigan Football Approaches Zero-Waste; Formula E Revs Up its Promotion of Electric Vehicles

The watchword of today’s News & Notes column is BIG.

Liverpool F.C. has made a BIG mistake by partnering with Tibet Water Resources, a company that is allegedly exploiting the water supply in that region. Michigan Stadium, aka “The BIG House,” holds over 111,000 fans, making it the BIGGEST football stadium in the U.S. It recently diverted 87 percent of waste from landfill, close to the 90 percent level that will allow it to become the BIGGEST Zero-Waste stadium. Formula E, the global, electric vehicle racing circuit, partners with nonprofit The Climate Group to make EVs a much BIGGER percentage of the overall vehicle fleet. 

 

 

LIVERPOOL F.C. BUCKS GREENING-OF-ENGLISH-FOOTBALL TREND BY TAKING SPONSORSHIP CASH FROM TIBET WATER RESOURCES, ENVIRONMENTAL BAD ACTOR

Sustainable Brands, in its October 20 edition, is out with an important piece from Nithin Coca about English Premier League power Liverpool F.C.’s new sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources Limited, a company Coca asserts is committing “ongoing human rights and environmental atrocities in the region.”

 

Liverpool FC

Photo credit: Liverpool Echo

 

This is disappointing because English football/soccer has been a beacon of sports greening lately.

Premier League stalwarts Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City have put in place some strong sustainability initiatives, from partnerships with solar companies to installing LED lighting to advanced battery storage capacity. And GreenSportsBlog has written extensively about the great, green strides being made in the lower levels (aka minor leagues) of English soccer/football. Clubs like Forest Green Rovers (aka The Greenest Sports Team in the World), Dartford F.C., and Sutton United are innovating at a rapid pace. But the reach of those smaller clubs and their green good works is, of course, limited.

Liverpool is the opposite of a small club — it is a globally recognized sports brand. Per Forbes, the team is worth $1.49 billion, making it the eighth most valuable soccer club in the world^. According to the club, as of 2014, it had an estimated 580 million fans worldwide, or roughly 8 percent of the world’s population. That’s not the world’s population of soccer fans, but total human beings. How is that possible if England’s population is but 65 million?

Look to soccer-crazed Asia, where Liverpool F.C. enjoys significant support and with that, several lucrative marketing deals with companies like Konami (video games and Malaysia Airlines. And now, Tibet Water Resources, Ltd. has been added to the list.

But, to organizations concerned with the human rights violations and environmental degradations visited upon Tibet by China (note: the Chinese government would differ with this characterization but GreenSportsBlog feels it is largely an accurate one), there is a big problem with this new sponsor.

According to Mr. Coca, “Tibet Water is a Chinese-run company that is, according to [several NGO] groups, exploiting water for financial gain and giving little benefit to local Tibetans, who, instead, are seeing their environment destroyed. Though Tibet Water is just one of dozens [of water companies] operating in the region, it is, so far, the only one to make a deal with a foreign soccer club.”

While the Liverpool deal is a first, what is not unique, according to organizations like the Tibet Society, along with FreeTibet, SumOfUs (a nonprofit that tries to “stop big corporations from behaving badly”), and others, is the exploitation of Tibetan natural resources by Chinese companies. This has been happening since Tibet — more than twice the size of Texas — was invaded by China in 1950 and annexed shortly thereafter.

Tibet’s vast glaciers hold one of the largest reserves of freshwater in the world, the source for many of Asia’s great rivers including the Ganges and Indus, which flow into South Asia; and the Mekong, the lifeblood of Cambodia, Laos and Southern Vietnam. Water development, including bottling, could reduce flows in Tibet and downstream, impacting millions.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy at the Tibet Society, told Mr. Coca that, “This deal represents the issue at the very core of the Tibetan struggle: the detrimental effect of the Chinese occupation on Tibetans and the lack of consultation about their land and resources. For 70 years, Tibetans have endured injustice, indignity and discrimination at the hands of the Chinese authorities, as the occupation has resulted in systematic human rights violations against them.”

The Tibet Society, and the aforementioned like-minded organizations have joined in a campaign to get Liverpool F.C. to terminate the Tibet Water deal and thus stand up for environmental and human rights. Sondhya Gupta, a spokesperson for SumOfUs, told Mr. Coca that, “Liverpool really is giving its seal of approval to Tibet Water and saying its business model is normal and legitimate.”

Unfortunately, Liverpool F.C., whose principal owner John Henry also owns the Boston Red Sox (with a much-publicized garden atop the right field roof at Fenway Park), has shown no inclination to scuttle the deal. This despite having issued a strong statement in November 2016 on human rights. In fact, Mr. Coca reports that “the club has resisted opening up a dialogue with both fans and the organizations concerned about this partnership, and did not respond to Sustainable Brands’ requests for comment.” Over 40,000 people have signed a petition asking Liverpool to reconsider this deal (click here to sign), and take human rights and the environment into consideration when deciding partnerships.

Tibet Resources Petition

A portion of the petition asking Liverpool F.C. to drop its sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources

 

So far, there has been only silence from the management of the storied club that has captured 18 English top-flight league championships and 7 FA Cups. Somehow, methinks this story will get much bigger before it fades away.

Watch this space.

 

“THE BIG HOUSE” GETS CLOSE TO BIG ZERO-WASTE DESIGNATION

Rutgers — my alma mater! — is a big 23.5 point underdog against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House.” To have a chance at pulling a humongous upset, the Scarlet Knights will have to be supremely focused. Which means they are unlikely to notice the efforts their hosts are expending to attain Zero-Waste status by diverting at least 90 percent of the waste generated from the game from landfill.

According to a story last month by Kaela Theut writing in The Michigan Daily — the student paper at the University of Michigan — the school’s zero-waste gameday initiative got very close to the zero-waste threshold at their September 9 home opener vs. the University of Cincinnati.

 

Michigan Stadium Evan Aaron Daily

Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House (Photo credit: Evan Aaron, The Michigan Daily)

 

Benjamin Blevins, Director of Communications for Michigan Athletics, told Ms. Theut that, “We were very happy with our efforts [at the Cincinnati game] as we hit 87 percent diversion from landfill. Zero waste is 90 percent, so for our first week attempting this, we were happy to be so close.” Blevins credited the Big House’s operational staff as well as concessions partner Sodexo USA for changing most of their products to compostable options.

Athletics started working on waste diversion in 2015 as part of a university-wide initiative to reduce overall waste going to landfill on campus by 40 percent by 2025.

2016 saw Michigan Athletics begin research into going zero-waste at The Big House in partnership with the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability and Sodexo, testing various compostable products, as well as how to best streamline gameday cleanup and waste-separation operations. With crowds exceeding 111,000, this would a heavy lift.

Heavy lift or not, the initiative is in full swing this season.

New recycling bins, adorned with signs depicting examples of compostable and recyclable products, have been placed around the stadium. Stadium-goers have been heavily encouraged to place their waste into the right area to avoid contaminating the properly sorted recyclables and compost.

At the Air Force and Michigan State home games, diversion rates again came close to the 90 percent level — so far, they’ve averaged 87.6 percent for the season. Why hasn’t the Big House been able to crack the zero-waste threshold? More Blevins: “There are still a few things that would need to change to hit 90 percent. Some of [the] products we offer don’t have compostable or recyclable options so our concessions partner Sodexo is looking into finding those solutions.”

Blevins told Ms. Theut that educating the team’s fan base on how to separate waste properly can also help Michigan get to zero-waste: “There was contamination in our [waste] streams and that comes from people putting items in the wrong bins.” he said.

Fan education efforts include a public service announcement (PSA) that runs during games in-stadium, emails to season ticket holders, social media posts, and the new signage. Event team members are also knowledgeable and help answer fan questions on game days.

It says here that the compostable product solutions will be put into place, and fan education will have taken root in time for Michigan to achieve zero-waste status during the 2018 season. In the meantime, here’s hoping Michigan again matches their impressive 87 percent diversion rate at the Rutgers game on Saturday — and that the Scarlet Knights pull off the Upset of the Year!

 

FORMULA E PARTNERS WITH THE CLIMATE GROUP TO PUSH MAINSTREAMING OF EV’S

FIA Formula E, the electric vehicle racing circuit, recently signed on to become a Global Ambassador of The Climate Group’sEV100 initiative, which helps promote and accelerate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The Climate Group is an international nonprofit specializing in bold and high-impact climate and energy initiatives that bring together the world’s leading businesses, states and regional governments.

 

 

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

The 2017 Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

EV100 is the only initiative of its kind to actively encourage world-leading companies to commit to the quicker and smoother transition to EVs, helping to deliver on corporate and global sustainability goals, improving air quality and future-proofing operations.

Brands such as HP, Unilever, IKEA Group and Formula E sponsor DHL are already members of EV100, pledging to implement charging schemes in the workplace and swapping current diesel and petrol fleets to fully-electric by 2030.

The Climate Group has also joined the FIA Formula-E Championship as an Official and International Foundation Partner.

“I’m delighted Formula E has joined forces with The Climate Group and the EV100 initiative, as a partner to promote electric and sustainable mobility,” Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of FIA Formula E, said in a statement. “Our partnership with The Climate Group is proof that change is already happening and causing a positive shift in attitude towards cleaner transportation. Formula E shows that electric isn’t just the technology of the future – it’s the technology of today. I’m glad to see other leading companies follow suit as part of this new agreement.”

 

^ Ahead of Liverpool, #8 on the “Most Valuable Soccer Clubs of 2017” list, are: 1. Manchester United, 2. Barcelona, 3. Real Madrid, 4. Bayern Munich, 5. Manchester City, 6. Arsenal, and 7. Chelsea. Rounding out the Top 10 after Liverpool are 9. Juventus, and 10. Tottenham Hotspur.

 

 


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The GSB Interview: Antonio Saillant, Film Producer/Director, On “Knights 58,” A Sports Movie That Will Be Shot Sustainably

There are sports movies. And there are (very few) movie productions with sustainability embedded in their DNA. “Knights 58,” now in its pre-production phase, may well be the first sports movie to use state-of-the-art green production techniques. GreenSportsBlog spoke to Antonio Saillant, the movie’s prime mover, executive producer, and director, about the story behind the movie and why he’s going the sustainable production route.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Antonio, that you will produce and direct perhaps the first-ever sports-themed movie to use state-of-the-art green production practices shows the ever broadening scale of the Green-Sports world. Thank you for doing this work and for talking with us.

Antonio Saillant: My pleasure, Lew.

 

ANTONIO HEADSHOT RAUL BRUNET JR

Antonio Saillant (Photo credit: Raul Brunet, Jr.)

 

GSB: Also, from our pre-interview conversation, I knew that “Knights 58”  — which largely is your story and that of your brother, Angel — would grip our readers from the get-go. So talk about the back story of “Knights 58.”

AS: Glad to. On its face, “Knights 58” is the story of how the 1979 Northern Valley Regional High School Golden Knights football team in Old Tappan in Northern New Jersey dealt with an almost three year, 25 game losing streak, and the pressure from the townspeople and the school administration that went with it. My brother Angel Meneses, who wore number 58 for the Knights…

GSB: …Hence the “Knights 58” title…

 

Knights 58

 

AS: Exactly. Angel was a senior linebacker in 1979 and was the captain and emotional leader of the team. He also could play — and not only football. Wrestling, basketball, track — Angel could do it all.

 

Angel on Golden Knights

Angel Meneses, #58 in white, playing for the Northern Valley (NJ) Regional H.S. Golden Knights (Photo credit: Antonio Saillant)

 

GSB: What about you?

AS: I was a sophomore at the time; played wide receiver. I was so-so but Angel? He was incredible, both on the field and as a leader in the locker room. This was especially important for the ’79 Knights because we had a 23 year-old rookie head coach who was just feeling his way with a downtrodden team, a coaching staff that didn’t trust him, and an administration and townspeople that were tired of the constant losing. He was also my idol. The movie will go into the story of Angel Meneses, the young, new head coach Bill Medea, and how the team tried to keep all the noise from the outside…outside. And do so as 16-17 year old kids.

GSB: What were some of the “noise” issues surrounding the Knights?

AS: Have we got all day? There was no gathering at the end of the field after our games. There was no cheering, no celebrating. The people who remained were cynics, backslapping each other with cruel remarks that hurt the team’s morale and drained us of our ability to win. One player described it recently as “Heartbreak, mixed with a trail of tears, followed the team.” Yet with Coach Medea, the boys never gave up. And with Angel, they were guided to the light of victory.

GSB: It sounds like “Knights 58” has the makings of a classic sports film. How and when did you decide to “green-ify” the production?

AS: Well, to get to that story, we have to go back and tell a few other stories first. It’ll take awhile but will make sense in the end.

GSB: I’m not going anywhere…

AS: OK, first of all, we are of Greek extraction but our dad was born in Cuba. Like I said, I was a so-so football player but my sport was baseball — I played third base and centerfield and, with my dad’s direction, became a switch hitter…

GSB: Like Mickey Mantle who learned to switch hit at the behest of his dad Mutt!

AS: I could play but, let’s be crystal clear, I was not near the same level as The Mick. Anyway, my father sent me to live with an uncle in the Dominican Republic for my junior year. He thought I’d be coached better, get to play year round and there were a ton of scouts there from many of the big league ball clubs.

GSB: How did you like it?

AS: Hated it. The poverty at the time was beyond extreme. And, truthfully, I wanted to be home with my friends and my brother. So I came back to the US, we moved to Washington Heights and I finished up at JFK high school in the Bronx. I wanted to go to college but my dad wanted me to pursue baseball. One day, I’m on the subway, and I see this guy wearing an Aviation high school jacket. I was interested in aerospace engineering so I went up and talked to him. He was studying that subject at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Farmingdale, Long Island, and by 1983, I was, too. In the summers, I would go down to the Dominican to play baseball. I hated it but my dad said he knew a scout down there for the Mets who would, when the time was right, take a look.

GSB: What happened with Angel?

AS: He was doing great; went to Long Island University in Brooklyn to get a Masters degree in physical therapy. Then, in the summer of 1987, I got a call from him. He said “come on up to New York. I’ve got great news to tell you.” I came up with some great news for him — dad had told me that some scouts from the Mets in the D.R. were interested in me.

GSB: What was Angel’s news?

AS: He was getting engaged to his girlfriend Miriam! So the three of us went to the beach at Robert Moses State Park to celebrate in his ’86 Camaro. We were on the Grand Central Parkway and, for a reason that remains a mystery to this day, despite there being little to no traffic and nothing out of the ordinary on the road, Angel slammed on the brakes while we were going 60 miles per hour! We did a 360 and then flipped upside down several times. The fire department had to come and get us out. I broke my arm and shattered my hand. Miriam made it. But Angel wasn’t so lucky — he died then and there.

GSB: Oh wow! I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. What did you do?

AS: I was a mess. Quit baseball — I just didn’t want to play anymore — I had lost my hero! My dad was pissed — he didn’t understand. Couldn’t focus on my studies, ended up transferring to New York Institute of Technology. Thought for a time of becoming a navy pilot but I didn’t want to leave my parents and sister so I failed the officer exams on purpose. Finally graduated NYIT in 1990 and landed a job with Con Edison (the main New York City utility), first as a project engineer and then as an energy consultant…

GSB: Is Con Ed where your interest in sustainability and energy efficiency took root?

AS: That was it…I ended up staying at ConEd for 7-8 years, then moved to a lighting and energy efficiency company in New Jersey where I moved up to Director of Energy Services. Had gotten married in 1993, had a son — Michael, now 23, a corrections officer in New York — got divorced in 1996.

GSB: OK, that’s a whirlwind. But the arc of this story is becoming a bit clearer…I get the sports story with Angel and the ’79 Knights…I get the green angle. But how do you become a movie producer/director? That’s the part that doesn’t fit.

AS: I got the acting bug in about 2001, 2002.

GSB: Had you ever acted before?

AS: Nope. Here’s what happened. I was sitting at an Italian bar in New York City…

GSB: …This sounds like a movie right here…

AS: I start talking to the guy sitting next to me. Turns out he was a big musical director on Broadway, Michael Rafter. He’s done “The Sound of Music,” “Gypsy,” “King & I” and more. We became good friends. He invited me to dress rehearsals of a musical he was working on at the time, “Caroline Or Change.” I was hooked. Told Michael I’d like to get into acting. He had me fax a letter to Bob Lambert, the casting director of “All My Children.” Three days later I was reading for him. Was I green! So Lambert sent me to an acting coach, I was back reading for him three months later and soon I was working on “All My Children” doing “Under 5s” and “Backgrounds”…

GSB: What are they?

AS: “Under 5s” are parts where you have five lines or less and in “Backgrounds,” you have no lines. As I was doing these jobs, I’d always talk to the director, the sound technician, the union guys, to learn how things work on the production side. A couple years later, I became friendly with a stunt coordinator…

GSB: Don’t tell me…

AS: …and I started doing stunt work. This was in about 2005. And I was acting. And, I was still working at the lighting and energy efficiency company in New Jersey, Mira Lighting. We did Hoffman LaRoche’s headquarters, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s, Yankee Stadium. Then I moved to another company, Energy Technology, owned by Ron Kamen at the time in New York, where I became VP. Then, also in about 2005, I met Sydney Pollack at a restaurant.

GSB: DANG, hanging out at restaurants is profitable for you! Sydney Pollack? You mean the director of “Tootsie”?

AS: Among his many great films. He was intrigued by my story and invited me on the set of “The Interpreter,” which was being shot at the United Nations. It was then that I started to shift my interest from acting to producing and directing. Sydney introduced me to a ton of people in those arenas. Also, at around that time, I became friendly with Dr. Dan Schaefer, a business consultant and life coach through his company, Peak Performance Strategies. He gave me the idea of merging film production and energy efficiency. And I also met Ted Kotcheff, who directed the great football movie, “North Dallas Forty” with Nick Nolte. Also “Weekend at Bernie’s,” a number of “Law & Orders.” The list goes on. Ted invited me onto the set of “Law & Order SVU” and it changed my life yet again.

 

Antonio Ted Kotcheff

Ted Kotcheff (l) and Antonio Saillant (Photo credit: Antonio Saillant)

 

GSB: How so?

AS: Well, one day, I noticed that they recycled on set. I suggested some other green initiatives Ted could take — and he listened and turned many of those suggestions into reality. Ted really became my film mentor — I worked with him on TV shows and films as a producer. Meanwhile, I hooked up with my ex-boss, Ron Kamen, now owner of Earth Kind Energy — he became my mentor on energy matters.

GSB: Now it all fits — the inspirational high school football story, the energy efficiency story and now the film production story. Amazing, truly amazing. So where, when and how did the idea for “Knights 58” come about?

AS: Ted Kotcheff’s “North Dallas Forty” really inspired “Knights 58.” I had started thinking back to the ’79 Knights, about Angel, about our 23 year-old coach and about why we couldn’t win a game, even though we had talent. About how the assistant coaches and the town were against us — “let’s go to the games to watch the band, not football,” was a popular saying at the time. And then I remembered how Angel, the coach and the other captains were able to block out the outside noise, create a family, us-against-the-world atmosphere, and get us to finally beat our rival, Westwood High, 33-8 in the last game of the season. It turned the school and the attitude of the town around. By 1985, the Knights would win the state title with Cory Booker, now the US Senator from New Jersey, as the star. Really, the story is about how we learned more about life from one high school football game than anything that happened before or since.

GSB: Sounds like a powerful sports movie…

AS: I pitched it to Ted. He thought it was a winner and is convinced A-list actors will want in. So my team is raising money now from private investors. We expect to be shooting next year with hoped for release sometime in 2019.

GSB: I’m glad it’s coming together for you. Talk about the green aspects of the production…

AS: We’re committed to shooting “Knights 58” as a 100 percent green production. What does that mean?

  • All of the support vehicles involved with the shoot will either be hybrids or EVs. Trucks will greatly reduce their idling times
  • We will use biodiesel-fueled generators
  • The short will be Zero-Waste, diverting at least 90 percent of all waste from landfill
  • Construction chiefs and art directors will favor low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints
  • Set materials will be donated to organizations that will make future use of them
  • Aluminum water bottles will be given out to members of the cast and crew, and there will be refilling stations on all locations

Our goal is to show the film industry that this is doable and not a budget breaker. Right now, the big studios aren’t doing it. They say things like “we can’t do special effects in a sustainable fashion.” That’s not true in many cases, especially with computer generation imaging (CGI.) They choose to be wasteful. But the thing is, big time actors want to go this route and so do some directors. I speak about green film production on college campuses and the students are now expecting that movies be produced in this fashion.

GSB: What a story, Antonio! And, once you complete Knights 58, maybe your next film can be a documentary on the Greening of the Film Industry.

 


 

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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: John Atcheson, Co-Founder and CEO, Stuffstr; On Sports Equipment Sharing and After-Market

Stuffstr, a Seattle-based startup, is looking to become the Uber or Airbnb of, well, stuff. With “No Unused Stuff” as its motto, the Public Benefit Corporation is committed to helping consumers join the global movement toward a circular economy by reselling stuff, offering it to friends, or having it delivered to Goodwill for free—all at the tap of a button. The ultimate goal is to keep stuff out of landfill. Since sports equipment will certainly be a significant category for Stuffstr, we wanted to learn more. So we connected with the startup’s Co-Founder and CEO, John Atcheson, for this installment of the GSB Interview.

 

GreenSportsBlog: OK, John, we have a lot to cover so let’s get right to it. How did you come up with the idea of a company that makes it simple for people to share, sell and recycle their stuff?

John Atcheson: Great question. Let’s go back a ways, a long ways. I went to Brown University as an undergrad back in the late 70s-early 80s, and since this is the GreenSportsBlog, I should mention I played football there…

GSB: I actually remember Brown in those days as one of your teammates, John Woodring, ended up playing linebacker for my New York Jets for several years. Did you think about playing professionally?

JA: The Seahawks and Cowboys took a look at me as an offensive tackle. But a broken leg suffered during my sophomore year and, ultimately, a desire to do other things dampened my interest in the NFL and that, as they say, was that. So then I became a singer-songwriter for a time before going to Stanford for my MBA. And it was while there that I also did Masters work at the school of Material Sciences in photovoltaics…

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, co-Founder and CEO of Stuffstr (Photo credit: John Atcheson)

 

GSB: Photovoltaics being the term for solar cells or solar panels. Those were the relatively early days of solar power.

JA: Exactly. I thought at the time that renewables would be the “Next Big Thing” but, if you remember, that was the era in which President Reagan was removing solar panels from the roof of the White House. There really wasn’t much going on in that world, so I pivoted to the world of tech startups and became employee #8 for Digidesign…

GSB: That sounds like a smart pivot, at least at that time. What was/is Digidesign?

JA: It still exists as a division of Avid Audio under the Avid name. Digidesign was a pioneer in giving PCs the ability to create sounds and music…

GSB: You mean it was a precursor to iTunes and other such applications?

JA: Not iTunes so much. Digidesign is a tool for professional music producers. In fact, today it is still the standard for professional music production off of a computer.

GSB: What was your role with Digidesign?

JA: I helped write the first business plan, helped secure venture funding. It was so exciting; I got hooked into the venture capital scene. So from there I went to Macromind, a technology that synched up sound, animation and video for the Mac 2. And then I founded MusicNet, a truly leading edge platform that allowed users to discover interesting new music. We would provide folks with CD ROM’s—this was just before the wide adoption of the Internet. We also partnered with Rolling StoneReaders would get a code, dial in and listen to new releases.

GSB: That is—for the pre-internet days—incredibly cool.

JA: …and novel. Then, once the Internet became the INTERNET, we sold the core parts to Real Networks in Seattle, which at that time handled 95 percent of all streaming online.

GSB: When was this?

JA: This was 1997-1998. I ran the media portion of the business, meaning I did all of the deals with the record labels and studios.

GSB: That must’ve been a blast…

JA: Oh, it was but it was also an intense amount of work. When the company went public, I realized I was burnt out. So I took some time off and decided to reacquaint myself with sustainability. Got involved with the Sightline Institute in Seattle…

GSB: I’ve never heard of it…What’s it about?

JA: It is a sustainability communications and research nonprofit with a focus on the Pacific Northwest. They have an influential history…coined the term “green jobs,” pioneered British Columbia’s carbon tax, among other things. I became Chairman of the Board there, but became restless for more sustainability challenges. Turns out a friend introduced me to a company called Getaround, kind of an Airbnb for the car industry…

GSB: Is that like Zipcar?

JA: Kind of. Zipcar owns its cars and members use them when they need them. With Getaround, individuals own the cars and let others rent them when they’re idle.

GSB: That’s very cool. Does it exist in New York City yet?

JA: Not yet, but it’s on the way. Anyway, I worked with the CEO and the executive team to help launch Getaround; I got really enamored with it. The founder and CEO wanted me to join the team full time in the San Francisco Bay area. So I moved down there with the mission of finding ways to use the idle time of cars, which is about 92 percent on average. But then I started to look beyond cars and was appalled with what I found when I looked at what Americans do with household stuff. 80 percent of household items are used less than once a month.

GSB: Really?

JA: Yes. And then, when it’s gotten rid of, 70 percent of it goes straight to the landfill.

GSB: What kind of stuff are you talking about?

JA: Clothing, furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and, of most interest to your readers, sporting goods. The average home in the US has over $7,000 worth of unused stuff just sitting around. So we launched Stuffstr with the motto, “No Unused Stuff.”

GSB: When did you go live? And how does it work?

JA: My partner Steve Gutmann and I founded the company in 2014 and launched the Stuffstr app in the second half of last year so we’re definitely still in startup mode. Once you sign up as a member, everything you buy is auto-loaded into the Stuffstr system. We monitor the value of your stuff for you and let you post it for resale, donate or recycle it at the tap of a button. So you can sell, say, a tennis racquet or share it.

 

Stuffstr - Home Screen1

StuffStr’s home screen (Photo credit: Stuffstr)

 

Stuffstr - My Stuff Screen1

Stuffstr’s “My Stuff” screen (Photo credit: Stuffstr)

 

GSB: Sounds like you have both an exciting innovation in the sharing economy and also something that will need to change consumer behavior quite radically for it to scale.

JA: That is just what we are aiming to do. We’re still tweaking the model as we speak, adding things like a Craigslist integration as well as the ability to pick up items for donation for free. We’ll take them to Goodwill Industries for you.

GSB: For real? What is Stuffstr’s revenue model?

JA: There are several revenue streams but mainly we’re going to be able to provide retailers and manufacturers with valuable data that’s not available anywhere else. We can show them what happens to products once they go out the door, providing the first-ever product lifecycle database. We’re betting on the circular economy and the value to consumers of understanding the value of their stuff. Think about it: Other than cars, we really don’t know what stuff is worth. If you know that, you can realize residual value.

GSB: Where do you guys see sports fitting in?

JA: We see sporting goods as a key target category for Stuffstr. Think about the youth category. Everything from bicycles to lacrosse gear to hockey sticks are used for a relatively short while and then stored in the basement or garage as the kids outgrow them. How cool would it be to, with one or two clicks, value that sports stuff and see if you can sell or share it. But this is not only a youth market thing. The model extends into adulthood, as there is tremendous potential value in golf clubs, bicycles, skis, skates, extreme sports equipment, tennis racquets and more. We are confident that people will want to extract value from their largely unused sporting goods equipment and, once they start doing so through Stuffstr at scale, we will see a significant drop in equipment entering the landfill.

GSB: I guess this is what a “disruptive business model” means.

JA: We hope so as our aim is to change consumer behavior on the macro level. With that in mind, as we grow, we will look to use athletes as spokespeople as they would build awareness and add authenticity.

GSB: Whenever you’re ready, we should talk, as we know some great eco-athletes here at GreenSportsBlog.

 

 

 


 

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