GSB Green-Sports Awards

GSB’s Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2019


One theme clearly shone through as I sifted through GreenSportsBlog posts over the past year:

Women are Engines of Green-Sports.

What did that mean in 2019?

Women advocated, built and collaborated.

Women listened, learned and led.

Women lobbied, produced and won (and lost a few, too).

Women worked inside sports governing bodies, leagues and teams, from the entry level to the C-Suite, to devise and enact meaningful greening programs. 

Women from outside the Green-Sports ecosystem pushed sports to move faster on climate change.

What it means for us is that Women: Engines of Green-Sports is GSB’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2019one of four honors we reveal in today’s annual end-of-year awards column.


Women: Engines of Green-Sports

Women have been important players at the intersection of Green & Sports since 2004 — when Philadelphia Eagles minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie drove the launch of the club’s Go Green initiative — if not before.

Fast-forward to 2019 and their numerous positive and meaningful contributions to the sports greening movement became impossible to ignore. Here but a few examples:

  • Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, pictured above, led the U.N’s Sports For Climate Action Framework in its first full year of existence, as it picked up commitments from the IOC, NBA, New York Yankees and many more of sports’ leading lights
  • Madeleine “Maddy” Orr helped launch Sport Ecology Group, a non-profit that takes the growing body of sports-sustainability academic studies and translates them into a language that practitioners can digest
  • Tiffany Richardson managed a Green Team at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis, while Orr did the same at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa the same weekend. Richardson and Orr didn’t just show up at their respective Final Fours. They created and managed their projects from the get go, sold them to the local organizing committees and to the universities who supplied the student volunteers, trained the volunteers, made sure waste was diverted at the highest rate possible and wrote after-action reports. And more.
  • Susanne Wong, an organizer for Oil Change International, helped lead the No Coal Japan coalition, a group of nonprofits working together to pressure Tokyo 2020 Olympic sponsors MizuhoSMBC and Tokio Marine, the local organizing committee, and the Japanese government to stop financing coal-fired power projects.
  • Sports-Sustainability consultant Claire Poole hatched the idea of the Sports Positive Summit, and has made it a reality: The inaugural event will take place in London next March. Oh yeah — she also led the effort to create a sustainability scorecard that ranked all 20 English Premier League football/soccer clubs.
  • Alexandra Criscuolo became the first full-time sustainability employee at a major North American marathon when she joined New York Road Runners.


Tiffany Richardson (Photo credit: Tiffany Richardson)


Off the top of my head, this list could easily include at least 20 other women who are doing equally great and important Green-Sports things.

Why is this the case? The answers are varied and nuanced.

That is why tomorrow’s GreenSportsBlog will dig into this and related questions. The post will be authored by a group of insightful, successful women who work across the sports greening spectrum, from the entry level to the C-Suite.

But for today, GSB will leave it at this: The BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2019 is Women: Engines of Green-Sports.

2018: Leilani Münter

2017: The Athletes of Protect Our Winters (POW)

2016: The Rio “Climate Change” Olympics Opening Ceremony vignette

2015: Pac-12 Conference

2014: Forest Green Rovers


San Francisco’s Chase Center, Golden State Warriors, 

The Golden State Warriors five-year dynasty, which netted three NBA championships in five years, ended like a thud this summer. The departure of Kevin Durant in free agency and serious injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry did them in. Their 5-22 record is currently the worst in the league a third of the way through the 2019-20 season.

But the news is not all gloom and doom.

Curry is expected to return to the lineup in March. Thompson is on track to be ready for the start of next season and to make a full recovery from his Achilles tendon tear.

And the Warriors moved into Chase Center, their new home in San Francisco’s Mission District and GSB’s GREENEST NEW VENUE for 2019.

Chase Center:

  • Sits atop a reclaimed brownfield site.
  • Features a best-in-class water re-use program. A gray water recovery system captures storm water off the arena roof, stores it in the parking garage, treats it, puts into a storage tank. From there, the Warriors use the water for irrigation, the toilets and urinals.
  • Has a HVAC system that features IDEC or indirect evaporation and cooling air handling units that maximizes efficiency.
  • Offers added mass-transit options with a new MUNI light rail stop nearby and a bike valet with capacity for 300 bicycles.
  • Provides 29 EV charging stations for the increasing number of electric vehicle-driving fans.


The Warriors project that around half of Chase Center attendees will arrive via the MUNI light rail and other mass transit options (Photo credit: WSP)


Warriors’ management expects that Chase Center will soon earn LEED Gold certification.

Honorable Mention:

Allianz Field, the new home of Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United in St. Paul, deserves credit for devoting 28,000 square feet to green space. Used for fan activations on game days, the lawn becomes a public park on the 300+ non-game days.


The lawn outside St. Paul’s Allianz Field, home of Minnesota United, is a public park except on game days (Photo credit: Populous)

2018: Audi Field, D.C. United

2017: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United

2016: Golden1 Center, Sacramento Kings

2015: CHS Field, St. Paul (MN) Saints

2014: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers


Seattle Sounders, MLS

The Seattle Sounders checked the off-field box for their BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD award in March, announcing that they would become the first carbon neutral pro sports team in North America.

Team management partnered with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting, to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its carbon impacts wherever possible.

One reason the club’s commitment is award-worthy is that they included fan travel to and from games — which represents 28 percent of total emissions — in its calculations. Some teams and leagues that measure emissions do not yet do so. Hopefully, that will change going forward thanks to the Sounders’ leadership.

For GHG emissions unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches and scouting – the Sounders offset their emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a regional nonprofit.

Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps collaborated with the Sounders and fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover. This reduces CO₂, while enhancing air and water quality.

“The Sounders are incredibly honored to be recognized for their efforts,” said Sustainable Business Consulting CEO Kevin Wilhelm. “Ownership did not embark on carbon neutrality lightly and is proud to be the first pro sports team in North America to make that commitment.”

As for the award’s on-field (or, in this case, pitch) component, the Sounders took care of business by winning their second MLS Cup in November, knocking off Toronto F.C. 3-1 before a franchise record crowd of 69,274 fans at Seattle’s LEED CenturyLink Field.


Members of the Seattle Sounders celebrate with the MLS Cup after their 3-1 win over Toronto F.C. (Photo credit: MLS)

2018: Tie: Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta United

2017: Golden State Warriors

2016: Cleveland Indians

2015: New England Patriots

2014: Ohio State University


Gian Franco-Kasper, International Ski Federation (FIS) President, Denies Climate Change 

The International Ski Federation or FIS, has a high-minded sustainability policy.

And why not?

The ski industry and the winter sports world more broadly are suffering — and will continue to suffer — from the effects of climate change.

Thing is, you wouldn’t know that if you read FIS President’s Gian Franco-Kasper’s stunning comments denying climate change in February. Here are some lowlights,  translated from the German:

“There is no proof for [climate change]. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”

Next, Franco-Kasper links his disdain for environmentalists to a fondness for dictators:

“It’s just the way that it is easier for us in dictatorships. From a business view I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I don’t want to fight with environmentalists anymore.”


Gian Franco-Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)


For this stunningly Trumpish display of climate change denial from the President of the sustainably-minded (really?) governing body of international skiing, Gian Franco-Kasper earns GSB’s BIGGEST CLIMATE DENIER “award.”

Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, tried to fight back. The group wrote an open letter calling for Franco-Kasper to resign; thousands of its followers, including several medal-winning Olympians, did the same.

To this point, POW’s campaign has not been successful as Franco-Kasper remains in office.

Note: 2019 represents the first year GSB has named a BIGGEST CLIMATE DENIER. In the past, our annual infamy diss-honors have been given out to for the BIGGEST GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH or the GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

2018 (BIGGEST GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH): So-Called Eco-Athlete Sir Ben Ainslie Takes Fracking Company’s Sponsorship Money


2016 (GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR): Super Bowl L, Santa Clara, Super Green But (Virtually) No One (Outside of the Green-Sports Ecosystem) Knew About It

2015 (BIGGEST GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH): College Athletics Departments That Talk a Good Green Game But Took Koch Brothers Sponsorship Dollars

2014 (BIGGEST GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH): Sochi Winter Olympics



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