GSB News and Notes: The Atlantic Cup Gets Greener, Forest Green Rovers Fail in Promotion Bid, Yanks Sign Solar Sponsor


The Atlantic Cup, America’s 1st carbon neutral sailing race, gets even greener. Forest Green Rovers, the Greenest Team in Sports, fail in their attempt to be promoted to the Football League in England. And the Yankees, in the midst of a dark start to the season, see the solar light in a partnership with Sunrun. All in today’s GreenSportsBlog News & Notes.

Sailing has been a frequent topic of GreenSportsBlog conversation recently, with Land Rover BAR’s effort to win the 2017 America’s Cup as it reduces its carbon emissions through its sustainability partnership with 11th Hour Racing taking center stage (click herehere, and here for our three-part series on said partnership). But the Land Rover BAR-11th Hour story was not our first green-sailing foray.
Julianna Barbieri, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Manuka Sports Event Management, the Newport, RI-based company that manages the Atlantic Cup, a biennial offshore* sailing race that was the first sailing contest of any kind to garner carbon neutral status, spoke to us back in October, 2013 about the challenges of running a green, world class sailing race.
Since then, the Atlantic Cup’s sustainability efforts have amped up such that Manuka hired Brian Funk as its Sustainability Director in the run-up to the 2016 event, which starts in Charleston, SC on May 28 with its scheduled finish on the rockbound coast of Portland, ME on June 11. We caught up with Brian to see how the Atlantic Cup is deepening its shade of green.
GreenSportsBlog: So, Brian, how did you come to be Sustainability Director for the Atlantic Cup?
Brian Funk: Well, I’ve been an Environmental Systems Engineer, working on energy efficiency and carbon footprint-related projects for 20 years. I helped make the British Embassy in Washington more energy efficient and had worked on greening music festivals so, when I saw Julianna give a presentation over two years ago, I got enthused about the possibilities of making the Atlantic Cup greener than it already was—and the bar was set high. Julianna and I discussed the direction we wanted to take and I started right after Memorial Day, 2015. We’ve been aggressively planning the sustainability components ever since.
GSB: As you say, the green bar was set high. So how did you raise it?
BF: Yes, they were already doing the core sustainability components: Recycling, composting, water conservation and use of clean bio-diesel for back up power, to name just a few of their efforts. Now, we’re working to improve the rates on all of these things,. Also, in 2014, they had been rated a Platinum event, only 1 of 2 in the US, by Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit dedicated to clean regattas. But we’ve got a lot of new sustainability items this year.
GSB: Such as…
BF: We have a much more aggressive education program in our port cities (Charleston, SC; Brooklyn and Portland, ME). We’re using social media in a big way—engaging fans with our #AtCup1Thing hashtag—as in “one thing YOU can do” to help the environment. We’re also working on compliance with the ISO 20121 sustainable event standard.
brian k funk 2

Brian Funk, Sustainability Director of the Atlantic Cup. (Photo credit: Brian Funk)

GSB: You mentioned Portland–the Maine city is new to the Atlantic Cup lineup, right? How does sustainability fit in with Portland?
BF: Portland will be great from a green perspective. The city is very open to our education initiatives. Composting and recycling will play big roles in the race village.  Also, Brooklyn is new for us this year–we’ve been in Manhattan in prior years–and the ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina was chosen in part because it was designed from the ground up to incorporate sustainable technologies.
GSB: How do the sailing teams in the Atlantic Cup react to the sustainability initiatives and mandates?
BF: The Class 40 sailors are, I imagine, like any other sailors: they’re open to the green program but they need to be educated. We are conscious of the teams and the fact that they are, first and foremost, competing to win, but they do a good job when it comes to being environmentally aware.
GSB: What are your wish lists for 2018?
BF: Mobile renewable energy would be great for 2018; we’re already looking into it. Making sure all events are zero-waste.
GSB: How important is it to get children involved in sustainable practices and understanding the importance of the environment?
BF: There is no doubt that having a conversation with children about the environment and best practices to conserve is important. The Atlantic Cup does a great job of initiating that conversation with students during the Atlantic Cup’s Kids Day. This year, more than 1,000 students from Charleston to Portland will get an up close and personal look at sailboats, participate in a special meet and greet with the sailors competing in the Atlantic Cup, and learn about eco-friendly sailing and the environmental challenges facing the ocean.
In GreenSportsBlog’s almost 3 year existence, Forest Green Rovers, the innovative 5th tier English football club and its far-ahead-of-the-curve approach to Green-Sports, has been one of our favorite and most frequent storylines. From all-vegan concession stands, to manicuring the organic pitch via solar-powered mow-bots, to on-site solar, to its design contest that will result in a 22nd century-style, Eco-Stadium, Forest Green Rovers clearly deserves its “Greenest Team in Sports” designation.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyBkiCJr4A4&w=560&h=315]

Forest Green Rovers fans, and those of visiting clubs, offer their take on the club’s greening initiatives in this entertaining 8 minute video.

Thing is, there’s only so much attention to be garnered when one plays in the English football equivalent of baseball’s “low minors”. FGR is a member of the 5th tier Vanarama National League, is outside of England’s Football League, which is made up of the top 4 tiers—from 1 to 4, it’s the Premier League (and its 5,000-to-1 miracle champ, Leicester City FC), Championship, League 1, and League 2.  With the promotion/relegation system (top 2-3 teams in one league are “promoted” up to the league above for the next season, the bottom 2-3 teams are “relegated” to the league below) that permeates professional sports beyond North America, FGR is not consigned forever to the beyond-Football League wilderness.
FGR Chairman, Dale Vince, is keenly aware that promotion to League 2—and ultimately to the upper reaches of the Football League pyramid—is absolutely crucial to dramatically building awareness of his club’s sustainability approach and, ultimately towards other, bigger clubs, following the Rovers’ lead. That FGR has never made it up to the Football League in its 100+ year history makes that prospect even juicier.
Two teams from the Vanarama National League get promoted to League 2 each year. The first place finisher automatically moves up and the 2nd-through-5th place finishers go through a mini-tournament (2 vs. 5, 3 vs. 4) with the winners playing a promotion battle at England’s national football cathedral, London’s Wembley Stadium.
In 2014-2015, Forest Green Rovers finished 5th but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Vince and club management invested more into the club for this season and it paid off as they finished in 2nd place, behind the automatically-promoted Cheltenham Town. FGR knocked off 5th place Dover Athletic to get to Sunday’s pressure-packed promotion match at Wembley vs. 4th place Grimsby Town.
Sadly, at least from GreenSportsBlog’s POV, Grimsby Town got two first half goals from Omar Bogle, withstood a goal in the 60th minute from Keanu Marsh-Brown, added an insurance goal in stoppage time to earn promotion, 3-1, in front of 17,000+.
So, it’s back to Vanarama National for FGR for 2016-2017. An opportunity missed, to be sure. GreenSportsBlog will certainly be following the progress of the Eco-Stadium design contest, as well as FGR’s efforts to finish first so they get promoted without having to deal with the vagaries of the playoff.
Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town and their fans celebrate promotion from the Vanarama National League to League 2 after its 3-1 win over Forest Green Rovers (FGR) at London’s Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Fans of FGR, the “Greenest Team in Sports,” will need to “Wait ‘Til Next Year!” for another chance to move up. Actually, “next year” starts in August. (Photo credit: Paul Burgess)

Energy and oomph have been in short supply at the start of the 2016 New York Yankees season. They scored a MLB-low 74 runs in April and, although things have picked up since, any resemblance between this year’s club and the legendary offensive juggernauts of decades’ past is solely due to the pinstriped unis. Unless a trade or a call-up from the minors brings some added spark, the only way Yankee fans will find new energy will be through team’s new partnership with San Francisco-based Sunrun. And that energy will be clean.
Sunrun, which bills itself as the “largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States,” has become the Yanks’ Official Residential Solar Energy partner. Select Yankees home games will feature Sunrun “solar kiosks” so fans can get educated about home solar and Sunrun’s approach to it. The company is also running a contest on Twitter in which fans who tweet #NYYSunrunSaves can win access to the private Sunrun Rooftop Deck at Yankee Stadium.
GreenSportsBlog cannot speak to Sunrun’s quality as a company relative to other players in the solar market. But we can say that we’re energized by the mere fact that the Yankees have a residential solar energy partner of any (pin)stripe.

* “Offshore” racing is long distance. The 2016 Atlantic Cup starts in Charleston, SC, heads to Brooklyn, NY before finishing in Portland, ME. The America’s Cup, by comparison, is “inshore,” meaning the racing takes place locally.
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  1. […] 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 […]

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