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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GSB News and Notes: Protect Our Winters Founder Testifies Before Congress on Climate Change; San Francisco Giants Divert 95% of Waste; U of Tennessee Football Commits to Zero-Waste by 2020

Protect Our Winters (POW), the Boulder, CO-based environmental advocacy group made up of elite winter sports athletes, again stepped up to the climate change fighting plate when its founder, Jeremy Jones, testified in front of the US Congress, about climate change and its effects on the outdoor recreation economy. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, reached a 95 percent waste diversion rate last season. Given the greenness of the Bay Area, this may not be surprising. Perhaps surprising to some, University of Tennessee football has committed to going Zero-Waste by the 2020 season. Welcome to a chock-full GSB News & Notes.

 

POW PACKS A GREEN-SPORTS WALLOP AT HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

That Protect Our Winters (POW) is a mega GreenSportsBlog fave should not be a mystery to any reader. After all, it is the only group or association of North American athletes I know of that advocates and lobbies for climate change solutions. Think about what it would mean if, say, the Major League Baseball Players Association had, a la POW, slammed President Trump’s anti-climate change executive actions. That would be bigly from big leaguers, right? Hopefully, POW’s stellar and consistent example will inspire its players’ association cousins in the major team sports to follow suit. A pipe dream? Maybe, at least for now.

In the meantime, GreenSportsBlog will continue to highlight POW’s #ClimateAction leadership. It was on full display April 27 when founder Jeremy Jones testified in front of the US House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the impacts climate change is having on the outdoor recreation economy. Why should Congress be interested? One good reason is that the snow sports industry generates $72 billion annually and supports 695,000 jobs, 70,000 more American jobs than our country’s extractive industries—coal, oil and natural gas—combined^.

Mr. Jones’ drove that point home, along with several others, with his testimony:

  • In the United States, average winter temperatures have warmed almost two degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and that rate of warming has more than tripled since 1970. The strongest winter warming trends have occurred in the northern half of the United States, where snow is an integral part of the economy.
  • US ski resorts have lost over one billion dollars in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years in the last decade. The corresponding impact on employment has been a loss of up to 27,000 jobs. These values directly reflect the fact that in low snowfall years, states see up to 36 percent fewer skier visits. In recent seasons, 50 percent of resorts have been opening late and closing early#.
  • Beyond the economic impacts, Mr. Jones noted that the “diminishing snowpack will not be sufficient to keep stream temperatures low, and warmer rivers will diminish fish habitat, making fishing difficult. Our rivers will have less water, reducing stream flow and making waters harder to navigate for kayaks and canoes.”

 

Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the vast impact of the Great Outdoors. Included in this 1 hour 44 minute session are the remarks of Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (POW).

 

Two days after Mr. Jones’ turn on the panel, he and other POWers took part in the People’s Climate March. To get POW’s perspective on the march, click here. And to get POW’s almost daily take on the environmental issues of the day, follow them on twitter at @ProtectWinters.

 

AT&T PARK ACHIEVES ZERO-WASTE

San Francisco’s AT&T Park is not only one of the most spectacular places to watch a game in all of Major League Baseball (McCovey Cove, aka San Francisco Bay, just beyond the right field wall, makes for a great vista and a phenomenal landing spot for home runs)—and, especially during some night games, one of the coldest—it is also one of the greenest. In fact, according to a story by Carolina Arauz in the May 8 issue The Skyline View, the student news site of Skyline College in nearby San Bruno, AT&T Park is the only MLB stadium to have won the Green Glove Award, given to recognize a ballpark’s recycling efforts, every single year since it was created in 2008.

Aside: I’d never heard of the Green Glove Award before this story. If GreenSportsBlog is unaware that Major League Baseball offers a Green-Sports award, it’s not a stretch to say that MLB needs to publicize the Green Glove Award more. OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post.

Last season, the LEED Gold ballpark’s landfill diversion rate was 95 percent, allowing the Giants to claim Zero-Waste status. Ten years ago, through a partnership with PG&E, the club installed Sharp solar panels on a canopy by McCovey Cove, over the Willie Mays Ramp, and on the roof of the Giants offices. Per Ms. Arauz, over the last decade, the solar system has provided enough energy to power over 5,200 homes, avoiding the emission of over 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels from PG&E outside AT&T Park, overlooking McCovey Cove (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s one thing to help power the AT&T Park with solar power, but what about their legendary Gilroy Garlic Fries??? Are they made sustainably?

You bet they are, thanks to the Giants and the good folks working the garlic fries stand by Section 119.

The stand’s LED lights and ballast lamp starters use 36.5 percent less electricity than than standard incandescents. Signage is made of 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable materials. Carry trays are compostable and the cups are recyclable. And the green paint used is environmentally-friendly.

Gilroy Garlic Fries

AT&T Park’s famous Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

So, if you’re in San Francisco when the Giants are home, enjoy beautiful, sustainable AT&T Park—especially the garlic fries. Just go to a day game if possible—or bring your parka!

 

ON WAY TO ZERO-WASTE STATUS BY 2020, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE FOOTBALL SAVES MONEY

Neyland Stadium, the iconic home of University of Tennessee football since 1921, holds 102,451 fans, making it the fifth biggest college football palace in the US*. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a game there—if you find yourself in the Knoxville, TN area when the Volunteers are in town, do yourself a favor, buy a ticket and head down to the stadium on the Tennessee River.

Neyland Stadium

A packed and jammed Neyland Stadium, 102,000+ strong, will be Zero-Waste by 2020. (Photo credit: The Tennessean)

 

If you do go, you will be inside the latest big time college football stadium to be on the road to Zero-Waste status, with that goal expected to be reached during the 2020 season, according to a May 2 story in the Knoxville News Sentinel by Cortney Roark.

That Zero-Waste football is coming to Al Gore’s home state is a great thing on two important levels:

  • Aggressive environmental action, as exemplified by UT’s Zero-Waste football games, stands in sharp contrast to the climate change denialism espoused by John Duncan, Knoxville’s Republican representative in the US House (TN-02).
  • Significantly reducing waste at Tennessee football games is saving the university real money and is part of a campus-wide effort to recycle more.

Roark’s piece details this point: 18 tons of garbage was hauled out of Neyland Stadium and recycled during the 2007 football season. The same amount of waste was recycled during a single game in the 2016 season, with some games reaching as much as 25 tons of waste diverted from landfills through a mix of recycling, composting, as well as donating unused food. Waste reduction on this scale has saved the university approximately $500,000 annually.

UT Recycling Manager Jay Price told Roark that Neyland’s race to Zero-Waste begins outside the stadium. Staff members and volunteers set up recycling bins in the heavily trafficked tailgating areas and hand out recycling bag in other areas. Price said the staff strategically plans where material is most likely to be tossed in a recycling bin.

“We go in front of the gates, because everyone has to drop what they’re carrying (when they enter the stadium),” Price remarked to Roark. “We’ve discovered that basically everything they’re carrying is recyclable, because it’s almost always beverage containers.” Inside the stadium, trash cans have, in some cases, been replaced by recycling and compost bins.

The skyboxes at Neyland are getting into the sustainability act this year, as the food service will use 100 percent compostable materials. That means compostable food, napkins, utensils, cups and, most interestingly, the plates. Made from the lignin (an organic substance binding the cells, fibers and vessels which constitute wood and the lignified elements of plants, as in straw. After cellulose, it is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth) of East Tennessee switchgrass means that plates will remain in the region throughout the entirety of their life cycle.

 

 

^ According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
# Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report
* The four college football stadiums with capacities bigger than Neyland are 1. Michigan Stadium (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor): 107,601; 2. Beaver Stadium (Penn State University, State College), 106,572; 3. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State University, Columbus), and 4. Kyle Field (Texas A&M University, College Station, TX).

 


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GSB News and Notes: LA Coliseum Goes Zero Waste; The Green(er) Aussie Open; Last Day in Office for First POTUS to Talk Green-Sports

A busy GSB News & Notes kicks off with the newly minted Zero-Waste Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Zero-Waste part is new; the Coliseum opened during the Harding Administration). Also greening is tennis’ first major championship, the Australian Open, now underway in Melbourne. And, finally, a brief send off from GreenSportsBlog to President Obama, the first POTUS to publicly talk about the importance of the intersection of Green + Sports, on his last full day in office.

 

LA COLISEUM GOES ZERO-WASTE

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is huge, both literally—it holds 93,607 for football— and in terms of its place in American and global sports history.

la-coliseum-usc-neil-leifer

The Los Angeles Coliseum, packed and jammed for USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry game in 2005 (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Just consider that the Coliseum:

  • Hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. If Los Angeles is chosen to host in 2024, the Coliseum will play a key role.
  • Was the landing place for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958 (until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962)
  • Hosted Super Bowl I in 1967
  • Is the home of USC Trojans football. UCLA shared the Coliseum with its crosstown rival from 1928-1981*.
  • Starting last season, is the temporary home for the NFL Rams after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. The club will move to the gaudily-named City Of Champions Stadium—for the 2019 campaign#.

And, as of 2016, this west coast sports mecca became a Zero-Waste facility—the second-largest such stadium in college football and the largest in the NFL. 

“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum. This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. “Our university, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”

“A large part of making our communities a better place includes making as little an impact on the environment as possible,” said Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement.

The Zero Waste program diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste over the season. It took a 3-step effort between fans (who first sorted waste into bins), a crew of 80-100 custodial and sustainability staff (who further sorted the waste), and Athens Services, the Coliseum’s recycling partner, to make the grade. 

usc-recycle

Recycling bin outside of the LA Coliseum on USC game day (Photo credit: USCTrojans.com)

 

 

Corporate green-sports stalwarts BASF and EcoSafe added their waste management expertise as partners of the Coliseum’s Zero-Waste efforts. They were joined by Legends Hospitality (sustainable catering), ABM Janitorial Services (green cleaning), and Waxie (sustainable sanitary supply). 

THE GREEN(ER) AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The team responsible for sustainability at the Australian Open—Tennis Australia (governing body of tennis in Australia), Melbourne & Olympic Parks (host facility of the Australian Open), and the State of Victoria—is in the midst of a 15 year, $AUD700 million redevelopment project with the goal to establish Melbourne & Olympic Park as “one of the most sustainable sports and entertainment venues in the world.”

About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog gave the Australian Open “Green Team” high marks for their on-site sustainability efforts but saw room for improvement in 2016 in terms of fan engagement and awareness of their sustainability good works.

How did they make out?

Thanks to a fine case study from the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA, Australia’s version of the Green Sports Alliance), it looks like the Tennis Australia and the Australian Open continued its strong greening performance on site but the fan engagement portion still rates an “Incomplete” grade. The Tennis Australia Green Team:

  • Continued its decrease in water usage. The effort, which started in 2008, has now reached 25 percent, in part by:
    • Irrigating Melbourne Park with recycled water thanks to large underground water tanks installed onsite.
    • Switching irrigation systems from overhead spray to drip and sub surface.
    • Installing above ground water tanks at Hisense Arena with 550,000-liter capacity to use rainwater for washing courts, stadiums and irrigation.
  • Invested in smart solar powered lighting 

  • Converted 100% of takeaway food packaging to recyclable materials
  • Ensured all seafood is served according to Australia’s Marine Conservation Society’s Seafood Watch “avoid list”

  • Added state-of-the-art roof coatings that reflect 70 percent of the sun’s heat, keeping buildings cooler on the many very hot days that often plague the tournament.

 

aus-open-infographic

Infographic detailing Australian Open/Tennis Australia’s greening efforts from Sports Environment Alliance

 

Tennis Australia still needs to better communicate the existence and benefits of the green initiatives to fans. This last point is echoed in the SEA case study: “Australian Open organizers know all about these greening efforts, however there remains a need to engage” the 700,000+ fans expected to attend the tournament about the greening efforts. I would add that fans watching on TV and online also need to be made aware that the Australian Open is a leader of the Green-Sports movement.

 

LAST DAY IN OFFICE FOR FIRST POTUS TO TALK GREEN-SPORTS

Today is the last full day in office for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It is not at all a stretch to say he was the first Climate Change President:  Obama, mainly through executive actions, authored more stringent fuel economy standards for automobiles; enacted the Clean Power Plan, which is leading to a reduction in carbon emissions; signed a meaningful carbon emissions deal with China, and led the effort that resulted in the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 195 countries. He also is the first POTUS ever to publish a peer reviewed journal article,“The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” appearing in Science.

Obama, a serious sports fan and, at 55, still a competitive basketball player, was also the first POTUS to publicly discuss the power of the intersection of Green + Sports. GreenSportsBlog chronicled Obama’s and his administration’s dives into Green-Sports, from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz speaking to the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit to the White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtables to POTUS’ mention of the NHL’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ commitment to sustainability (“we wanna continue to have ice so that we can play hockey”) at the latter’s White House ceremony celebrating its 2016 Stanley Cup win.

President Obama talks Green-Sports at the October 2016 ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).

As Vice President Joe Biden so eloquently put it after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in 2010, Obama’s Green-Sports forays were “big BLEEPING deals” for the movement. Because, while the sports world has done incredible work greening the games themselves over a very short time span (the Obama presidency began before the Green Sports Alliance was launched), it has a long way to go as far as generating fan awareness of, and interest in said greening is concerned. A President talking about Green-Sports automatically generates both.

Obama used sports to promote social causes beyond Green-Sports. Has there ever been a POTUS who embodied Nelson Mandela’s “Sport can change the world!” ethos more than the 44th President? I think not. Among other things, Obama:

And, it seems likely that the first black President was a key catalyst for the recent expressions of social conscience by African American athletes. That’s one of the points made in “Obama’s Basketball Jones Connected Him to Hoopheads Everywhere” by Mike Wise^. His STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS column appears in the January 17 issue of ESPN’s The Undefeateda website that explores “the intersections of race, sports and culture.”

obama-souza

President Obama, driving to the basket during a pickup game with White House staffers at Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2009. (Photo credit: The White House/Pete Souza, official photographer)

 

Will President Trump link sports and social causes? If so, which causes will he pursue? It is safe to assume that Green-Sports will not be a high priority for the 45th President. But that’s a discussion for another day.

For now, I say a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for his service, leadership (especially on climate change), integrity and dignity.

* UCLA has called the Rose Bowl home since 1982.
# The Rams will be joined by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.
^ Wise cited a June 6 piece in The Undefeated by colleague L.Z. Granderson, “Will Current NBA Stars #staywoke After Obama Leaves Office?”, as the source for his linkage of the activism of African American athletes and President Obama.

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