Green Sports Alliance Summit

Environmental/Climate Justice, Diversity and Inclusion Lead Way at Virtual Event


Environmental and climate justice along with Diversity and Inclusion headlined the discussion at the virtual 2021 Green Sports Alliance Summit which concluded on Wednesday. 

To give those of you who weren’t able to attend a sense of the Summit’s focus and tenor, today’s post features a sampling of quotes from a variety of speakers.

While the 2020 Summit had one EJ/CJ-themed panel, the 2021 program featured five sessions that either led with or at least touched on the subject, starting with Tuesday’s keynote address by Kimberly Lewis of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI). An ordained minister, Lewis brought a preacher’s cadence and passion to her talk.

Right now, your zip code impacts your health more than your genetic code! That needs to stop!…COVID-19 gives society a chance to reach for climate and healthcare reconciliation.


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Kimberly Lewis (Photo credit: IWBI)



From “How Sports Play a Role in Building More Sustainable, Just and Resilient Communities” panel discussion.

What a difference a decade makes: Ten years ago, we were talking about what energy-efficient lighting we should install; this year, we’re talking about the intersection of social and environmental justice.

— Jeff Scott, VP Community Development and Growth, National Hockey League


We can’t win on climate unless we win on environmental justice. Think about this: 150,000 to 200,000 people die prematurely from air pollution-related diseases in this country. Many athletes come from the communities where these conditions exist. We need them to speak up and be catalysts for real change! They are blessed with incredible talent and massive platforms. What will they do with them? 

— Mustafa Santiago Ali, VP of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation


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Mustafa Santiago Ali (Photo credit: NWF)


The Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena take equity, environment and inclusion very seriously; we do so through the lens of “access to hockey”. We meet quarterly on issues like access to the ballot box, play equity, pride, climate and more with a variety of community groups. 

Mari Horita, VP, Community Engagement & Social Impact at the Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s newest and 32nd franchise. The team begins play this fall at the newly named Climate Pledge Arena


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Mari Horita (Photo credit: Seattle Kraken)


Last summer, many of our players spoke out in solidarity with what was going on in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders by police. It was enlightening for us. The League used to have just one diversity and inclusion group; now we have four. One is led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, another is run by players, both current and retired. The third one is for fans and fourth is youth hockey focused. We also have Future Goals, a STEM education program through the prism of hockey.

Jeff Scott



From “Integrating Environmental Justice Into The Green Sports Movement”


Environmental justice is as integral to the Green-Sports movement as solar panels are.

— Kunal Merchant, Green Sports Alliance board member and Lotus Advisory managing director


I noticed environmental injustice — and checked my own privilege at the door —  when I noticed that I didn’t see people who looked like me when I was in nature, on the hiking trails, at the ocean.

— Jess Murfree, Visiting Assistant Professor and ACES Fellow at Texas A&M University


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Jess Murfree (Photo credit: University of Louisville)


EJ and CJ cannot be separate from social, healthcare and economic justice. I’ve lived it — I grew up next a fertilizer plant and there was a landfill behind the house. I got sick from it; my sister and dad died from it. Virtually no one from our neighborhood died from natural causes…I’m not anti-business; I just don’t want a guy in a Haz-Mat suit working outside my backyard…We’ll know we’re on the way to real environmental justice when people from our communities are running solar companies, EV charging companies. Why not?

— Harold Mitchell, executive director of ReGenesis Community Development in his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. He founded ReGenesis in response to a spate of respiratory illnesses in neighborhoods near waste and toxic chemical facilities in his community.


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Harold Mitchell (Photo credit: Evergreen Project)


I had a low food IQ before my wife, a vegan chef, educated me. That opened my eyes to the fact that we lived nearby a food desert. We had healthy options because I was an NFL football player but a lot of kids didn’t. Our thing is that, when we go into the community, we need to have concrete. Teach people how to eat healthy and then follow up.

— Derrick Morgan, former NFL Linebacker (Tennessee Titans); CEO, KNGDM Group; plant-based food advocate


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Derrick Morgan (Photo credit: Instagram)



From “Prioritizing Environmental and Social Sustainability Post-COVID”


It took COVID to show that people can work together for planetary, environmental and economic health. This is the first time since I’ve been a sustainability practitioner at the NHL that I’ve seen EJ take such a lead role. Now we need to build on that for front line communities.

Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s VP, Sustainable Infrastructure and Growth Initiatives During a Fireside Chat on “Prioritizing Environmental and Social Sustainability Post-COVID”



From “Engaging Fans Both In The Stands And In The Community”


The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee asked itself ‘what would a more sustainable world look like?’ That led to the ‘Olympic Medal Project’, in which 100 percent of the metal for the medals that will be awarded at the Games came from donated e-waste…Similarly, the ‘Victory Podium Project’ resulted in all 98 podiums for Olympic and Paralympic Games being made from donated plastic waste from Japanese homes and gardens.

Michelle Lemaitre, the International Olympic Committee’s head of sustainability


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Michelle Lemaitre (Photo credit: IOC)



From “Investing In, Communicating With, and Playing For The Next Generation”


I am part of a student-athlete outreach group at Stanford. There were no courses on sports and sustainability so we created a lecture series on the topic and got it approved for one credit! We had lecturers who discussed sustainable events and gear as well as from Pac-12 Green. It was all very well received…One student-athlete told me, ‘You know, I thought climate change was boring. These classes made it real.

Sarah Klass, water polo player at Stanford University


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Sarah Klass (Photo credit: Stanford Athletics)


Almost 40 percent of Americans are of one minority group or another. Only five percent of climbers are…social media, used strategically, has been a great way for us to get coverage [of our movement to make climbing accessible to everyone] from news outlets.

Kai Lightner, professional rock climber and founder, Climbing For Change


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Kai Lightner (Photo credit: Outside Magazine)


We’ve been getting a lot more interest in our work, both locally and nationally. The coral planting project — the NFL planted football-field sized coral fields off the coast of Miami before Super Bowl LIV — was covered by the Weather Channel.

Susan Groh, associate director, NFL Green, in response to a question about media coverage (or lack thereof) of the NFL’s environmental efforts



From “Striving Towards Zero: Industry-Leading Climate Action”


All of our vehicles are EVs. All of our Zambonis will be electric! All of the food and beverages served at Climate Pledge Arena will be from within 300 miles from the building.

Tom Conroy, senior VP of operations and assistant GM, Climate Pledge Arena


We will be a low carbon Olympic Games. Our goal is to have less than 1/2 the emissions of any prior Olympics. We estimate that one third of emissions will come from fan travel so we will offset what we cannot avoid or reduce.

Georgina Grenon, director of environmental excellence, Paris 2024


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Georgina Grenon (Photo credit: Paris 2024)



From the Executive Director’s closing remarks


Next June, we will be convening for the 12th Green Sports Alliance Summit in person in Minneapolis!

Roger McLendon, Green Sports Alliance executive director



GSB’s Take: Going beyond talking points and platitudes at conferences and summits is never easy. These challenges are magnified when the events are hosted virtually. 

That being said, I give the GSA a B+ for this virtual summit.

They get high marks for the consistent, substantive focus on EJ/CJ as well as on diversity and inclusion. There also was a welcome emphasis on measurement and metrics around emissions, especially at mega-events.

What would have earned the GSA an A? Moving measurement beyond what happens at the stadium, at the arena. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that 99 percent of NBA fans don’t go to games. So, why does the Green-Sports movement focus most of its energies on what happens at the venues?

To fully take advantage of the power of sports, the Green-Sports movement, including the GSA, needs to understand the attitudes of the vast majority of fans who do not go to games, who consume sports on TV, on phones and on other media. To do so, the GSA and other organizations need to conduct quantitative and qualitative research on fans and their attitudes on the environment, including on climate change.

I hope that research takes place in the next year and look forward to discussing what we learn in person in the Twin Cities next June!



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