News and Notes

Green Sports News/Notes: Do Svidaniya Sochi


The Olympic Flame flickered off in Sochi, Russia Sunday night, putting an end to the XXIInd Winter Games.  The environmental disaster that was the Sochi Games, a prime topic at the intersection of Green & Sports, also got some mainstream media crumbs.

Thankfully, the 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an actual winter sports venue, rather than in a tropical climate with mountains, a la Sochi. Now that luge and biathlon are off the radar for another four years, let’s turn to other Green-Sports news.


The University of Colorado has gone Zero-Waste (defined as 90% waste diversion rates from landfill) at many of its home men’s and women’s basketball games this season, with an aggressive composting regimen helping the Buffaloes get there.
And the Boulder-based school is turning its stellar environmental performance into “Sustainable Gamedays” a green-themed program sponsored by BASF, the German chemical company (with US HQ in Florham Park, NJ) that has made making more sustainable plastic-based products a pillar of its business development efforts over the past decade.

The eight (8) Sustainable Gamedays, which tipped off earlier this month, feature a fan-friendly, sustainability-themed trivia game, with prizes for the winners. Videos air on BuffVision screens at the Coors Events Center with facts about sustainability, organics, and recycling.

This sponsorship would not have happened had not Colorado already gone Zero-Waste.  BASF does not sponsor sports teams.  Rather, it is sponsoring the Zero-Waste aspect of Colorado Basketball.  It is also doing the same with the Seattle Mariners (“Sustainable Saturdays”) at Zero-Waste Safeco Field.

The powerful lesson for sports teams is this:  Go Zero-Waste and additional sponsorship dollars can result.


Boston University’s Track & Tennis Center will realize annual savings  of 770,000 kWh (or 40% of its energy usage) by making the switch to LED lighting and controls.  Bluestone Energy Services in nearby Norwell, MA managed the project, replacing the existing metal halide fixtures with new GE LED fixtures and Daintree wireless controls.

BU Athletics will make out financially as well: Thanks to a grant by NSTAR, the payback period on the new system will be one year; after that, the Terriers will enjoy savings on their electricity bill.

Finally, the new lights have also made the facility noticeably brighter–and quieter. Fans and athletes often complained about a constant buzzing sound that was produced by the old fixtures; thankfully, the LEDs are silent.


BU Track-Tennis

Before and after view of the Boston University Track & Tennis Center with new LED lighting system (Photo Credit: Boston University)



The Hudson County (NJ) cities of Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City are teaming up to launch a regional bike share program this summer. The system, which will feature 800 smart-bikes, 50 bike stations, and 2 full-service pavilions at no cost to the cities (paid for by sponsorships, advertising and user fees), is expected to be the largest next-generation bike share system in North America.

What is a next-generation bike share system, you may ask?

Think ZipCar on two wheels and you get the gist. It utilizes GPS technology and the internet to locate, purchase and return bicycles. In the Hudson County program, the bicycles, made by German bike share pioneer NextBike, will emit real-time GPS locations that users can locate via the internet on their computer, tablet, or smart-phone. A prospective bike-sharer locates an available bike using an online map interface and receives a code to unlock the bike. The user can then leave the bicycle near their desired location, which will be shown to the public in real time. Thus, next-generation bike share provides increased flexibility (as bicycles can be left in more diverse locations) compared to the more static fixed bike share station system that form the basis of traditional bike sharing systems, like New York City’s CitiBike NYC.

Seems to me that traditional bike share system is better suited to a mega-city like New York which has the population size and density to support a multitude of bike share stations.  And the next generation systems, with far fewer stations, will be a good fit for smaller cities or regional bike share systems like Hoboken/Jersey City/Weehawken.


NextBike’s next generation bike share bike, similar to the type that will be used in Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken, NJ, starting this summer (Photo Credit:
I know, I know, I said we’d leave Sochi behind.  And we will.  But “Speeding Towards Environmental Disaster in the 2014 Winter Olympics” by Zoe Loftus-Farren of Earth Island Journal is too good to pass up.  Ms. Loftus-Farren quickly runs through the two things most folks who think about Green-Sports already know:
  1. Sochi, a warm weather summer resort with no existing outdoor winter sports infrastructure, was a (VERY) dumb place to hold a Winter Olympics; and,
  2. The Russians likely had no intention of delivering on the many green/sustainability promises made in their bid to the IOC back in 2007.

Thankfully, Ms. Loftus-Farren goes beyond the top line to give us the sad details of the Sochi environmental fiasco:

  • On environmental wrongs: “Large illegal waste dumps have cropped up around the region, including within Sochi National Park. More than 3,000 hectares of forest have been logged, including regions with rare plant species. Red deer and wild boar habitat have been destroyed, and large mammal migration routes have been interrupted.  Large swaths of previously protected wetlands now lay underneath the Olympic Village.”
  • On Putin’s disregard for environmental laws: “Russia used to have environmental laws preventing just this type of destruction, but environmental laws can be pesky, and Putin’s government amended several laws to make way for Olympic glory: In 2006, the Russia government amended a specific ban on holding large sporting events in National Parks, in 2007 it eliminated compulsory environmental assessment for construction projects, and in 2009 the legislature amended the Forest Code.”

The writer fairly points out that Sochi is not the first Winter Olympic city to exact a heavy environmental toll, with Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Games, a recent offender. But Sochi seems to be in its own ignominious class, especially since sustainability has become a bigger and bigger part of an Olympics’ DNA post-Salt Lake City.

As an alternative to the despoiling of pristine mountain habitats to accommodate Winter Olympics in cities new to the Games, one of Loftus-Farren’s interviewees suggests we hold them in the same city every 4 years.  I’d go with a rotation of 7 cities: The 6 that have hosted the games already (Albertville, Calgary, Cortina d’Ampezzo, St. Moritz, Salt Lake City and Sapporo) that are expected to be able to withstand climate change well enough to be able to actually host a Winter Olympics, plus 2018 host Pyeongchang–as that city is expected to be Olympics-worthy in 2100 as well.


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  1. Good post! I think the switchover to LED lighting is happening in many places now that there’s such bang for the buck from LED lights.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dave. Yes, it seems as though there’s a Moore’s Law of sorts going on with LED’s–as the price is coming down rapidly, which leads to greater adoption, which leads to greater economies of scale, which leads to lower prices, etc. A welcome positive feedback loop, indeed!

  3. Gotta LOVE the idea of sustainable game days!

  4. Yes indeed, especially since Sustainable Saturdays provides meaningful incentives (green prizes, meet/greet with players, etc.) for fans to get involved. Will dig deeper on the BASF/Mariners program for results since they have a 2 year track record.

  5. […] Men’s and Women’s Basketball. In this case, we are, as with the Mariners, sponsoring Zero-Waste at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, home of Colorado Basketball. Similar to the Mariners, videos featuring facts about sustainability […]

  6. […] University of Colorado, which started with Zero-Waste (diversion of 90% or more of waste from landfill) basketball games last season (sponsored by BASF), is moving towards Zero-Waste at Folsom Field, the home of […]

  7. […] constant variety at the ‘Intersection of Green & Sports'”. We’ve covered the Greenwashing of the Olympics, an English soccer club that serves only vegan food and the Greening of Rugby. Now, we’re […]

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