Green Sports Alliance Summit

Green Sports Alliance Summit IV: A Look Back


The fourth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit drew over 700 people last week from all over the country (and beyond) to the Santa Clara Convention Center (a stone’s throw away from Levi’s Stadium, the brand new, LEED Gold-certified home of the San Francisco 49ers). Here are some of the highlights.


  • Sports fans disproportionately care about the environment. That was the main takeaway from research conducted by Turnkey Intelligence and presented by its SVP, Steve Seiferheld. 1,000 self-identified sports fans (casual or avid, who attend at least 2 events/year) were surveyed. 81 percent of sports fans care about the environment vs. 63 percent for the general population (Harris, 2013), hence the term disproportionality. Other key learnings from the study:
    • Environmental activities give sports an avenue with which to engage female fans. This is powerful!:
      • While 82 percent of male sports fans are avid, only 75 percent of male sports fans care about the environment. On the flip side, 67 percent of female sports fans are avid but 87 percent of female sports fans care about the environment.
      • 51 percent of women fans would participate in a league or team-run event that benefits the environment as compared to 39 percent of their male counterparts.
    • More environmentally conscious fans spend more on tickets: Greener fans spend, on average, $403/year on tickets; less green fans spend $340/year.


women sports fans beekeeper
Women sports fans are much more likely than their male counterparts to participate in a league or team-run, environmentally-themed event, per a study presented by Turnkey Intelligence at the recent Green Sports Alliance Summit. (Photo Credit: Beekeeper Group)
  • National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Green Team won the Green Sports Alliance’s annual Environmental Leadership AwardThey received the honor on the day that the NHL released its Sustainability Report, the first ever to be published by any North American sports league. Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a consultant to NHL Green and a Co-Founder of the Green Sports Alliance, hailed the report as the “single most important statement on sustainability ever written by a sports entity. It is very frank and transparent about what the league does and doesn’t do regarding the environment.” Per Green Sports Alliance, the report highlights the “programs, benchmarks, and successes that have increased the overall sustainability of the League, Member Clubs, and their arenas” while also drawing attention to the areas it can improve upon. While taking a high profile on climate change makes a lot of sense for a league with roots on frozen ponds, now under threat from warmer temperatures, taking a leadership role on sustainability also has to make business sense, said Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s Director of Sustainability. Mitchell and the NHL Green Team was constantly challenged by the league’s CFO to show a positive ROI on sustainability. That they were able to do so shows that sustainability means good business for the NHL.


nhl sust report
Cover of the 2014 NHL Sustainability Report, the first such document issued by a North American professional sports league. (Photo Credit: National Hockey League)
  • As reported here GreenSportsBlog was toured Levi’s Stadium. It is State-Of-The-Green-Art to be sure and the Niners are smart about how they are letting the world know about it: They’ve built a Learning Center, targeted to kids, at the Niners Museum inside the stadium. Visitors will learn how an energy-neutral stadium like Levi’s is built and operated.
  • The Niners set the bar for green stadium innovation in the NFL. Let’s see if the Minnesota Vikings, whose new stadium opens in 2016, and/or the Atlanta Falcons, which opens its new stadium in 2017, can surpass them. You can bet sustainability will be an integral part of the DNA of the Falcons stadium as its development is being overseen by Stadium General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chairman Scott Jenkins.
  • Water, or lack of it, took center stage throughout the summit, given the 3 years-and-counting drought in California. David Kaval, President of Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, speaking at a panel of C-Level sports team executives, said “water is a huge problem for us.”  His club is about to open a new stadium at which water use efficiency is being maximized. According to Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger, fans from very green Northern California to very green Vancouver “expect sustainability from their sports teams” and so their new building will also be super water efficient.
  • James Curleigh, President of Levi’s Brand and deliverer of the Opening Keynote Address, certainly got the Summiteers’ attention by belting out the beginning to The Beatles’ “Revolution”, a capella style, as he bounded on to the stage. Curleigh’s main point was that “sports is the most powerful platform on earth to influence our common future.” Sports is a key pillar in the company’s efforts to achieve  Sustainergy (sustainability + synergy). One example is Levi’s new clothing lines for bicycle commuters which encourages exercise while offering style and comfort.
  • Super Bowl 50, to be played at Levi’s Stadium in February 2016, will be a phenomenal showcase for the NFL’s and the 49ers’ sustainability efforts. Jack Groh, the Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program shared that the league has come a long away from its first attempt at greening the Super Bowl back in 1994 in Atlanta (Groh, who was there: “It was a disaster”). Now the “Big Game” is powered 100 percent by renewables (through Renewable Energy Credits and on-site generation), unused food is sent to shelters and signage is donated for repurposing, among other green things. “Sustainability is a key facet of Super Bowl 50’s core principles and values” opined Keith Bruce, CEO and President of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. With that in mind, the Committee created a category of Sustainability Partners. Bruce again: “The goal is to partner with companies with strong sustainability programs that need awareness.” Finally, Bruce and Groh agreed that, for the Super Bowl 50 sustainability effort to realize its potential, fans at the stadium and the infinitely bigger number watching on TV/internet (110 million in the US in 2014) will need to be engaged. I rarely watch any of the Super Bowl pre game coverage (6 hours?!?) but I will do so in advance of SB 50 because I want to see how (if) CBS covers the green story.



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  1. Thanks for the summary. Will be putting together a demo for FWF affinity program. I will send to you if interested.

  2. Hi Harry, thanks for the comment. Please send along what you have once you have it. BTW, I’m happy to say that the GSA folks really integrated the fan into this year’s Summit. The fan was a focus of each panel I attended. This new emphasis on the fan was a welcome and necessary improvement IMHO.

  3. […] Green Sports Alliance Summit IV: A Look Back […]

  4. […] conducted last summer by Turnkey Intelligence showed that sports fans disproportionately care about the environment. 1,000 self-identified […]

  5. […] indicates sports fans disproportionately care about the environment. Is there any way their stadiums can be […]

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