GSB News and Notes: Relan Grows By Upcycling Sports Stadium Signage, New Belgium Beer and Ben + Jerry's Support Protect Our Winters


For our TGIF GSB News & Notes, we offer up Relan, the Minneapolis-based company that partners with sports teams and venues to repurpose and upcycle stadium signs which would otherwise end up in the landfill, is having, pardon the pun, a banner year. And very green B-Corps New Belgium Brewing and Ben & Jerry’s are teaming up with winter sports athletes via Protect Our Winters (POW) to drink beer, eat ice cream, ski and create tangible ways to fight climate change. 

GreenSportsBlog first got wind of Relan and its President, Kari Brizius, at the 2014 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Santa Clara, CA. After talking with Ms. Brizius for all of two minutes, I knew that we had to write about a company devoted to keeping vinyl banners and signage from stadiums, arenas, and elsewhere out of landfills while at the same time offering sustainable yet cool fashion statements.
So, we interviewed the West Point graduate-environmentalist-athlete in 2014 and 2015 to track Relan’s growth and impact. The company grew strongly during those two years with sports being a key growth driver. Relan worked with the Portland Timbers, Kansas City Marathon, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, as well as companies like Mini Cooper and Pepsi to turn vinyl signs into backpacks, totes, handbags and other products.
And two weeks ago, we had our annual Relan checkup, er, I mean check-in. Suffice to say, the patient is doing very well.
Ms. Brizius was characteristically upbeat as the company had just announced a deal with United Airlines to take end-of-life airport banners and turned them into luggage tags, messenger bags, and backpacks. She noted that Relan and United share many values as the latter is a “leader in the movement to improve aviation fuel economy and also by its efforts to offer organic food options to its passengers.” According to Ms. Brizius, the partnership is kicking off with a test run to “see how the products sell with the goal of a larger roll out from there.” United will promote the Relan line via videos online and through social media. There is also a possibility that Relan-United products will be sold at the United Airlines Center, home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.

Backpacks (top) and luggage tags made on behalf of United Airlines by Relan from upcycled United signs and banners. (Photo credit: Della Brizius for Relan)

This follows a successful Relan promotion with the Indiana Pacers. The NBA team hosted their annual golf tournament last month, with players, staff, and sponsors on hand. When the participants sat down in their golf carts, they saw coolers made out of Pacers and Fever (WNBA’s Indiana team) banners. Additional coolers were provided to VIPs at other arena events.

Coolers, produced on behalf of the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, by Relan. (Photo credit: Doug Weitkamp, Indiana Pacers)

As for what’s on tap for Relan going forward, Ms. Brizius shared that “sports teams have grown from basically zero to 35-40% in our business. We’re continuing our work with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, making custom hockey bags for the club. And we’re also set to build on our relationship with the Portland Timbers of MLS and their National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) counterpart, Portland Thorns FC.”
If you operate an arena or stadium and have end-of-life banners or signs and don’t want to send them into the landfill, reach out to Relan at http://www.relan.green/contact/.

What four things do New Belgium Brewing, the Fort Collins, CO-based company that, per its Core Values statement, “honors nature at every turn of the business,” and Ben & Jerry’s have in common?

  1. They’re both B-Corp companies, which means they are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
  2. Their products are both sold by the pint (OK, credit for that pun goes to the blogger for New Belgium!)
  3. They are combining, for the second year in a row, on an ice cream-inspired beer. This year it’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale^#.
  4. Also for the second straight year, they are joining forces with Protect Our Winters (POW) to, per an October 3rd story in The Full Pint, “drink beer, eat ice cream, and create tangible ways to fight climate change.” POW, whose important work has been featured in GreenSportsBlog, is a nonprofit dedicated to the climate change fight, using top winter sports athletes to spread the word. A portion of the proceeds from Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale, which hits store shelves at the end of this month, will go to POW.


Six pack of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale from New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s.


Via the 100 Days to Change Our Ways campaign, the three organizations will press the new Administration in Washington to make climate change a top priority during its first 100 days. Events will be held in twelve cities across the country this fall/early winter to garner grassroots support. They will feature letter writing stations, POW athletes speaking out about the dangers of climate change, raffles, and of course beer and ice cream. 

The schedule of events is being finalized; please check newbelgium.com/benandjerrys from time to time to see when the tour will come to your area. 


“100 Days to Change Our Ways” has the potential to be one of the most powerful campaigns I’ve yet seen at the intersection of Green + Sports because 1) it directly and simply engages winter sports fans, and 2) the values of the three partners are perfectly and organically aligned. 

Here’s New Belgium’s Director of Sustainability Jenn Vervier: “Inaction needs to turn into action, from the highest levels of government to each of us. Combating climate change is something we’re passionate about and with the upcoming change in the White House Administration, now is the time to get vocal.”


Jenn Vervier, New Belgium Brewing’s Director of Sustainability. (Photo credit: About Beer Magazine)

Christopher Miller, Ben & Jerry’s Activism Manager weighs in: “Americans may disagree on whether their favorite pint is beer or ice cream, but Americans overwhelmingly understand that climate change is real and the time to act is now. Our campaign will ensure that the new president hears loudly and clearly that a bold commitment to fight climate change belongs at the top of their 100 days agenda.”

Chris Steinkamp, POW’s Executive Director adds, “we’re thrilled to be working with these amazing partners once again to help drive real climate action, centered around the idea that advocacy is our civic responsibility, and with beer and ice cream, it can be fun and collaborative too.”

A “100 Days” action plan will be delivered to the new Administration in January, outlining climate recommendations. A “Lobby Day” will follow in Washington next April to meet with key senators will help determine progress made on the plan and future initiatives. To make your voice heard, go to protectourwinters.org/100days.

^ Last year, New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s offered up Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale.
# Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale uses Ben & Jerry’s popular ice cream of the same name for inspiration, along with hefty doses of chocolate, brown sugar, and vanilla.


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