GSB News and Notes: Atlantic Cup Takes Sustainable Sailing to New Level, Greenest EURO 2016 Fan Bases


Sustainable Sailing continues to make news at the intersection of Green + Sports. The Atlantic Cup, the first-ever carbon neutral sailing race in the US, recently hosted Living on the Edge 3.0, a presentation on the under-reported intersection of Sustainability + The Maritime Economy + Human Rights, when the race stopped in New York City on its way from Charleston, SC to Portland, ME. Back on land, the Carbon Trust took a look at which fan base of the 24 countries competing in the EURO 2016 tournament has the lowest carbon footprint. And, a quick note about a story about the intersection of Green + Tobacco rather than Green + Sports. All in all, a busy TGIF News & Notes column.  

For Americans, if they’re aware of sailing racing at all, their knowledge likely begins and ends with the America’s Cup and Olympic sailing. But there is much more to the sport than that.
The Atlantic Cup, first contested in 2011, has made positive impacts both on and off the water.
It is the longest offshore race in the Western Atlantic—at over 1,000 nautical miles, the just-completed 2016 race sailed from Charleston, SC to Brooklyn to Portland, ME over the past three weeks. Gonzalo Botín and Pablo Santurde took the Cup aboard Spain’s Tales II.
Off the water, the Atlantic Cup became the first carbon neutral sailing race in the US in 2012. And it hired its first ever Sustainability Director for this year’s edition.
But that’s not enough from a green point-of-view for race CEO Julianna Barbieri.
She has made it a mission to go beyond sports to highlight a variety of underreported ocean health (or lack thereof) issues through the platform of Living on the Edge, a series of evening educational events held at 3 of the past 4 Atlantic Cups in New York City when the race swings through town.
Living on the Edge 3.0, which took place on June 1, focused on the economy of the oceans. One of the speakers was Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, Senior Advisor at Ocean Conservancy.
Her powerful talk focused on the growing problem of ocean debris and plastics—a threat to much more than open ocean sailing racing. Over the past 50+ years, it has grown exponentially, mirroring the pervasiveness of plastics in almost all walks of life.

Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, Ocean Conservancy Senior Advisor (Photo credit: Ocean Conservancy)

While plastics, of course, have many societal benefits, the problem, said Dr. Whitehouse, is not so much the amount of waste—which comes from natural disasters, illegal dumps, uncovered landfills, container spills, and more—but from the way it is managed or mis-managed. She compared Sweden and the Philippines. On a per capita basis, the former produces three times as much waste as the latter. But, because 99% of Swedish waste is properly managed, as compared to only 19% of Philippine waste, 56X more waste goes into the ocean from the Philippines#.  This is clearly and not surprisingly a developing world problem: China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are the other main contributors to the problem: 57% of leaked ocean plastics come from these developing Pacific Rim nations.
So what to do about it?
Better waste management was Ms. Whitehouse’s first answer—of course this is easier said than done as illegal dumping and open landfills are often seen as cost effective in those countries. Economic signals (i.e. pricing schemes, tax rebates, etc.) that lead to improved markets for residual materials and low valued plastics, as well as increased recycling and composting would help. Investment in smart waste practices from the well-managed and wealthier developed world accelerate the process.
Host France (3.5 to 1), reigning FIFA World Cup champion Germany  (4 to 1) and EURO 2012 winner Spain (5 to 1) are the betting favorites to win EURO 2016, the month-long, 24 nation soccer/football festival that kicked off on June 10.
Iceland? Their odds, at 125 to 1, are just a tad steeper than those of the soccer royalty listed above. That is to be expected as 1) this is the first European Championship for which Iceland has ever qualified, and 2) it is a country with a population of only 320,000+ (similar to that of Toledo, OH). France (66 million), Germany (80 million) and Spain (47 million) have a slightly bigger population pool from which to draw players.
Iceland gets into EURO getty

Iceland’s national soccer team celebrates after qualifying for its first-ever berth in the European Championships. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Yet Iceland has already won a EURO 2016 title. How is that possible?

A new analysis from Carbon Trust found showed Iceland’s fans have the lowest “carbon bootprint” (love that term!) from watching their team. The “carbon bootprint” calculates the amount of per capita carbon emissions for which individual fans are responsible while watching a game at home in each of the 24 nations competing in the tournament.

Iceland won thanks to providing almost all their electricity using hydropower and geothermal energy. Surprising, at least to me, was that Albania, also in its first EURO final, came in second place as it produces almost all of its electricity from hydroelectric power stations. Third and fourth, respectively, are Sweden and Switzerland. Both produce most of their grid electricity from a mixture of both hydropower and nuclear power. France, which generates around 75% of its electricity from nuclear reactors, came in fifth. Romania (22nd), Czech Republic (23rd) and Poland (24th and last) are in the “Relegation Zone”^ due to their reliance on coal for electricity generation.

Iceland geothermal Jellyfish proj

Icelanders take a natural hot springs bath, heated by the same geothermal forces that power most of the country. Geothermal and hydro lead Iceland to having the lowest “Carbon Bootprint” of the 24 teams at EURO 2016, according to Carbon Trust. (Photo credit: Jellyfish Project)

Regardless of how a country’s electricity is generated, individuals can have an impact on their “carbon bootprint” based on how they watch the game. According to Carbon Trust, watching on an LED smart TV is the lowest carbon option for watching a match while watching on a mobile device is the highest carbon option (providing mobile data requires far more electricity than broadcasting a digital terrestrial signal). How much higher? Watching on a smartphone in standard definition can be 40 times greater than an LED smart TV, whilst watching in high def on a tablet across a fast mobile network can be more than 180 times more carbon intensive.

Thank you in advance for indulging a brief detour from GSB’s coverage of the intersection of Green + Sports.
My friend Harriet Shugarman is a true hero in the climate change fight. She doesn’t complain about the problem, or ignore it. Harriet takes it on with gusto. An early member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, Harriet has been giving presentations of updated versions of the “An Inconvenient Truth” slide show to community groups in the New York-New Jersey area since 2009, and has also taken on a leadership role with the organization. She also founded and is Executive Director of Climate Mamaa non-profit that brings together moms (and dads) all over the US and beyond to advocate for climate action. Harriet is also a great climate change communicator, which, from personal experience, is not easy.
Thus I was not surprised when I read her powerful and touching article, “Climate Change and Cancer: The Long Goodbye,” in the June 15 issue of Elephant JournalIn it, darting from hope to anger, sadness to resolve, Harriet makes the link between climate change and her father’s metastatic lung cancer that was the result of a lifetime of smoking:

Unwittingly and knowingly we have created a crisis that scientists tell us threatens the very existence of the human species. My father, a smoker, unwittingly and then knowingly set in motion the cancer that jeopardized his existence and ultimately took his life. My family experienced many highs and lows throughout my father’s illness, as we pinned our hopes on small and large treatment options and on prayer. In Paris in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Conference, 195 countries recognized the seriousness of the crisis we face. Yet the Paris agreement pins solutions on small fixes that don’t meet the urgency of the sickness we have inflicted on our planet, and also on technology and cures that have yet to be invented.”

Harriet Shugarman

Harriet Shugarman and her dad. (Photo credit: Harriet Shugarman)

I hope you read Harriet’s and her dad’s story and, if you were moved as I was, please share it.

# Jambeck, et al, Science, 2015
^ “Relegation Zone” is a term from professional soccer (aside from MLS in the US/Canada) that refers to the teams that finish in the bottom 2 or 3 places in the standings. Those teams are “relegated” to the league below for the next season, with the top 2 or 3 finishers from the league below getting promoted. “Relegation Zone” is not literally applicable to EURO 2016 as there is no “next season”.
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  1. The story about Iceland warmed my heart—a pun, but it’s true!

    1. Love the pun, Candy. Iceland is now my favorite team in the Euros. A breath of fresh air in France, buffeted by hooliganism and in-stadium flares, with Iceland’s great carbon bootprint and amazing fans–estimates are 1/12 of the country (22,000) were at their 1st match, a 1-1 draw v. Portugal. Today they play Hungary. Við skulum fara til Íslands! Or “Let’s Go Iceland!”

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