In the sports world, the dog days of August mean that the kickoffs of both American football and the European club version of futbol (aka soccer) are around the corner. Today’s GSB News and Notes column focuses on both sports: The highly ranked Clemson (South Carolina) University football team ended its 35-year tradition of releasing balloons — for environmental reasons. The NFL’s Detroit Lions add solar to Ford Field, thanks to the initiative of punter Sam Martin. And Forest Green Rovers, the fourth division English soccer club buttressed their standing as the Greenest Team in Sports by becoming the first soccer team anywhere in the world to go carbon neutral.
CLEMSON FOOTBALL SAYS GOODBYE TO BALLOON LAUNCH TRADITION; ENVIRONMENTAL COST CITED
“Nothing says autumn like the color and pageantry of a college football Saturday!”
College football fans over the age of 20 can hear the distinctive tones of Keith Jackson, the late, great voice of college football on ABC and ESPN when they read that line.
And, for the past 35 seasons, college football color and pageantry at Clemson (South Carolina) University has meant the release of hundreds of thousands of mostly orange balloons as the Tigers would enter Memorial Stadium. Fans called this tradition the “Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football.”
When Clemson, projected to be a national championship contender, enters the stadium for their September 1st season opener vs. Furman, the band will play, the cheerleaders will perform and the 81,000+ in attendance will roar.
But there will be no release of balloons.
According to a July 27 story by David Hood, writing in TigerNet.com (the self-proclaimed “source for Clemson Sports Information”), the university came to this decision at least partly in response to pressure from environmental groups. Those organizations pointed out that “the balloon launch is a danger to the environment, including loggerhead turtles on the South Carolina coastline.”
For those readers unfamiliar with college football, know this: Traditions like the balloon launch at Clemson do not die easily.
Especially when, per Hood, citing clemsontigers.com, the practice earned Clemson a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records back in 1983 for, well, balloon launches (who knew?!): “Balloons were filled by 11:30 AM, and at 12:57 PM as the cannon sounded, the Tigers descended the Hill [for the 1:00 PM game vs. Maryland] while 363,729 balloons ascended to the heavens. From the press box, it was almost black, something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.”
The tradition of releasing balloons at Clemson University football games is ending (Photo credit: Tigernet.com)…
…thanks to their downstream effects on the loggerhead turtle (Photo credit: NWF)
Make no mistake: That the environment is coming out a winner over a beloved Clemson football tradition is a big deal, especially in a state —South Carolina — where acceptance of climate change is below the US average^.
DETROIT LIONS PUNTER HELPS BRING ON-SITE SOLAR TO FORD FIELD
Last month, the Detroit Lions became the NFL’s 12th team with on-site solar. The installations at Ford Field and the Lions’ nearby Allen Park training facility came about thanks to an assist from an unlikely source — punter Sam Martin.
Annalise Frank, writing in the July 24th issue of Crain’s Detroit Business, reported that North Carolina-based Power Home Solar “approached the Lions through a preexisting partnership with Martin, a supporter of renewable energy, and his Sam Martin Foundation.” The partnership featured Earth Day educational sessions with Detroit-area students.
Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin (Photo credit: Zimbio)
The Lions did not punt on this opportunity.
Power Home Solar will invest $1.5 million with the Lions over three years, covering panel costs and a sponsorship deal. The latter, per Frank’s story, includes “a Power Home Solar Lions pregame show, display advertisements in the stadium…[and] an outdoor pregame booth.”
According to team spokesman Ben Manges, the Lions couldn’t install solar panels within Ford Field itself. So they looked to the parking garage and training facility.
“We couldn’t seamlessly integrate them with our power grid,” Manges told Frank. “We had to install them on parts of our footprint [parking garage and training facility] that weren’t necessarily tied from a power standpoint. As the overall technology continues to get more and more sophisticated, you’ll see the potential for additional use.”
Manges added that the highly visible panels will hopefully lead fans to consider a personal move to renewable energy.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS BECOMES FIRST SOCCER TEAM TO GO CARBON NEUTRAL
Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer team that is, without question, the Greenest Team In Sports (its all vegan concession stands, solar powered Mo-Bots to cut the lawn, EV charging stations and much more are very familiar to longtime GSB readers) is about ready to launch its 2018-19 season.
When FGR visits Grimsby Town tomorrow, it will look to show significant on-pitch improvement over last season’s 21st place finish, only two places above the dreaded relegation zone. A cache of new player signings, led by Welsh international and former Fulham F.C. attacking midfielder George Williams, has hopes running high at The New Lawn stadium.
George Williams, formerly of Fulham, is bringing his attacking style to Forest Green Rovers (Photo credit: Shane Healey)
Of course every team is optimistic before opening day.
But there is a long, nine-month, 46-match slog ahead. And this is only Forest Green Rovers’ second season in the fourth tier, so they are battling a slew of opponents who are more used to this level of competition. The truth is, many variables, from injuries to luck and more, are out of a team’s control.
What FGR can control is building upon its stellar Green-Sports leadership.
Forest Green Rovers recently became the world’s first UN certified carbon-neutral soccer club by signing up for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative called Climate Neutral Now for the new season. The team committed to:
- Measure their greenhouse gas emissions;
- Reduce them as much as possible; and
- Offset those emissions which cannot be avoided by buying UN certified emission reductions (CERs) units.
CERs are generated by climate-friendly development projects, vetted by the UNFCCC, that help bring sustainable development benefits to communities in developing countries. These include improved air and water quality, improved income, improved health, reduced energy consumption and more.
“It’s a real honor to be the very first sports club in the world to be named carbon neutral by the UN,” Chairman Vince said. “We’re a small club with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic we can work together to champion the sustainability message worldwide. I’m personally looking forward to working more with the UN to help spread the word about the environment through football.”
The ticket office at The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers’ stadium in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England (Photo credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)
“The beauty about Forest Green Rovers is that it’s a small organization, with not a massive budget and still it’s doing so much to address the environmental footprint,” added Miguel Naranjo at UN Climate Change. “So if FGR can do it, anyone can do it as well.”
The question is: When will another team(s) do it, Forest Green Rovers-style? I mean, I love writing about FGR but when will other clubs follow suit so I can write about them?
^ Per a 2016 study by the Yale Program on Climate Communication
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