Green Sports Alliance Summit, Day 2: TAKE A STAND!


Day 2 (Tuesday) of the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago was exciting, long (in a good way), informative, and thought provoking. But above all else, the day was about a call to action, made by the rapper/spoken word artist Prince EA at the evening reception at Soldier Field, to TAKE A STAND–as in what are you (the attendees) going to do to make the planet more livable for this and future generations. That theme resonated throughout Day 2, snippets of which follow for your reading pleasure

The Walt Disney Company has a huge cultural footprint (movies, theme parks, ESPN, etc.) and a like-sized carbon footprint to go with it. Dr. Beth Stevens, Disney’s SVP Corporate Citizenship, Environment and Conservation, in the summit’s morning keynote address, shared how the company’s TAKES A STAND through its Environmentality program.
Launched in 1994, Environmentality’s 3 prongs help Disney “live up to the (many animal- and nature-focused) stories we tell,” said Dr. Stevens:

  1. Keeping the environment in mind with everything we do.
  2. A strong focus on our own carbon footprint
  3. Inspire others to be environmentally-conscious

Back in 2009, Dr. Stevens and her team went to Disney CEO Bob Iger with a Zero Net emissions goal. Iger had two questions: Can we get there? Stevens: YES! Iger: How? Stevens: A resounding “Not sure!” According to Dr. Stevens, they got off to a good start: Their first set of 2009 targets were exceeded by 2014. The company reduced net emissions by 50% and lowered net electricity usage by 10%.
Beth Stevens

Dr. Beth Stevens, Disney’s SVP Corporate Citizenship, Environment and Conservation, gave the keynote address at Tuesday’s Green Sports Alliance Summit session. (Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter)

And they did what the US Government has been unable to do thus far (although that will hopefully change if GSB Climate Change Superstar Athlete, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, has her way): Set an internal price on carbon. Disney charges business units for their CO2 usage. Emit less, lower your charge. Innovation ensued: At the Magic Kingdom, they outfit the castle with LED lights. Lower carbon propane and compressed natural gas (CNG) operate many rides. And, since this is GreenSportsBlog, ESPN also is on board with sustainability, from its broadcast studios in Bristol, CT and Los Angeles, to its controlled events like the ESPY awards and X-Games, which are dotting almost every green “i” and crossing almost every green “t”:

  • The ESPN data center has saved tens of thousands of gallons water by instituting a ground water retention system.
  • The Worldwide Leader has set a 60% waste diversion goal by 2020; ESPY’s waste diversion is already at 85%.

I didn’t get a chance to ask Dr. Stevens a question after her talk; if I had been able to do so, I would have asked what Disney trying to do to reduce the carbon footprint of its guests as the biggest contributor Disney’s emissions is, I am quite certain, from guest transportation. In the meanwhile, Dr. Stevens and Disney should be commended for TAKING A STAND to reduce their own carbon emissions.
Climate change took center stage for the 2nd day in a row (click here to see how climate change was the star of Day 1) at a lively Tuesday afternoon breakout session about the efforts of major sports events (Olympics, FIFA World Cups) to rein in their carbon emissions and reduce, if possible, their climate change impact.
David Stubbs, former Head of Sustainability, London 2012, provided valuable insights into the sustainability portion of the bid (process began in 2002; bid awarded in 2005). Sustainability was a core facet of that effort–at the time, not all bids were so sustainability minded:

  • The biggest chunk of an Olympics’ carbon footprint is not from transportation; rather its from carbon embedded in the contraction process. That knowledge led Stubbs and his sustainability team to have a laser focus on how to design better and to re-use more building materials than ever before. Rio 2016 and the 2016 UEFA European Soccer Championships in France are following the same playbook.
  • Communications of a big event’s sustainability efforts need to thread a needle. “People come to the Games to watch sport, not hear about carbon,” said Stubbs, “therefore, we needed to make our sustainability efforts noticeable but not in-your-face.
  • Carbon foot printing makes sense for major events in the US as in Europe and elsewhere because it makes financial sense. London 2012’s greening program led to cost savings and incremental revenue through the sale of “green themed” sponsorships of $150 million on a spend of $15 million. You read that right: $135 million net ROI from the greening of London 2012.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs, Head of Sustainability for London 2012. (Photo credit: Linkedin UK)

During Q&A, Stubbs shared that the IOC’ has made sustainability a must via Agenda 2020 such that any city looking to bid “will have to address sustainability upfront if it wants to win.” Agenda 2020 will be in effect in full force for the bidding for the 2024 Summer Games, which takes place in 2017. Unfortunately, the new process was not up and running in time for the bidding process for the 2022 Winter Games, which will be awarded to either Beijing (which will have to import or make all of its snow!) or Almaty, Kazakhstan (politically unstable) next month.
Summit attendees were treated to a terrific evening reception Tuesday at legendary Soldier Field. Drinks in the luxury suite with the US Women’s Soccer Team’s semifinal match vs. Germany on. Dinner outside in the iconic and beautiful Colonnade.
But rapper, spoken word artist, anthropologist and entertainer Prince EA took things to another level.
After his landmark, powerful video “Dear Future Generations: Sorry”, viewed multi millions of times, drew a standing ovation from sumitt-eers, Prince EA implored us to TAKE A STAND on climate. He specifically asked us to take a stand for trees. There are 7.2 billion other possible stands, methinks.
Prince EA

Yours truly and Prince EA at Tuesday’s Soldier Field Green Sports Alliance Summit reception. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

As I panned around the crowd, I sensed folks were taking their own personal inventory on how they could do more on climate. And this vibe from a group that already is doing many great things on climate through the prism of sports. My stand is this: I will give 10 Climate Reality presentations (the updated slide show Al Gore gave in “An Inconvenient Truth”) to schools over the next 12 months. What stand will you take? Please share it and then let us know how you’re doing in making good on it. TAKE A STAND!
Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Tweet us: @greensportsblog

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