Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 2: Andy Newell, U.S. Olympic Cross Country Skier, Climate Change Advocate for Protect Our Winters (POW)

GreenSportsBlog does not often get to write about eco-athletes. And we’ve never been able to write about a married couple who are both involved in environmental activism.

Until now, that is.

Last week, in the first edition of GSB’s new occasional series, Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, we featured the story of Erika Flowers Newell, an American cross country skier who is pushing to make her first US Olympic team in 2018. She also works for Carol Cone On Purpose, an agency that helps companies do well by doing good. And, for Erika, doing good means taking positive action on the environment.

Today, in Part 2, we talk with her husband, Andy Newell, a three-time Olympian in cross country skiing about to start his campaign to qualify for the fourth time. He’s also a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Your wife’s story starts out in Big Sky country, Montana. Are you from that part of the world, too?

Andy Newell: Nope. I grew up in Shastbury, VT, near Bennington and started skiing as early as I could walk.

 

Andy Newell Young Red Cap

Young Andy Newell (middle, red cap), skiing with his family in Vermont (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: When I think of Vermont as far as skiing is concerned, I think of downhill and the other alpine events. Was it unusual for you to gravitate towards cross country?

AN: Not at all. Our area in particular is great for cross country. It’s a blue collar region and, as compared to alpine, cross country is more of a blue collar sport — alpine is much more expensive. I’ve been into it forever; I started racing when I was 5 years old.

GSB: Holy COW! So were you on an “elite” track from those early years?

AN: It turned out that way. I competed all the way through my teen years and attended Stratton Mountain High School, about 40 minutes from home. It’s a specialty school designed for skiers and snowboarders with an academy and a private ski school for kids in grades 8-12. It is tiny —there were 25 kids in my graduating class.

GSB: It sounds like the way many European countries handle top young athletes — by putting them in special sports academies — for top soccer and tennis players. Similar also to IMG Academy down in Florida. I didn’t know there was such a thing for winter sports here.

AN: I got a lot out of it. It was great preparation for my career as a pro skier, especially where time management was concerned. And the education was top quality. It was like I got a college education in a high school setting because I had to juggle academics and a full time training and racing schedule.

GSB: So I imagine you competed at a high level while at Stratton Mountain School…

AN: It was great. I got to travel in high school as part of the US Ski Team as I was named to the developmental squad when I was a senior.

GSB: Where did you ski in college?

AN: I never went to college, deciding to pursue professional skiing as a career. This is not unheard of. I jumped to the A-team in 2003 when I was 19.

GSB: Congratulations! That’s young for a cross country skier, I believe. The US was never a cross country power — I remember that Bill Koch of Vermont was the only Olympic medal winner and that was back in 1976…How did you deal with that?

AN: Well, things were starting to look up for the USA when I came of age. It’s a long process as cross country takes training, hard work, top coaching, along with strong athletes, patience and funding. In the mid 2000s, we started to have success as a team and I did as an individual, in the sprints. I was the first American male to make the medal platform at a World Cup race in 2006, taking third place in Changchun, China. I followed that up with a 5th place at the 2007 World Championships. And then, on the women’s side, Kikkan Randall made the podium in 2008, on her way to even greater success down the road at the Olympics. It was a fun, exciting time.

GSB: It sounds like you were on track to be on Olympian yourself…

AN: I went to my first Olympics in 2006 in Torino Italy. 4 years later at the Vancouver Games I was in the best shape of my life! I was a medal hopeful for sure but I crashed out of my sprint…

GSB: YIKES!

AN: Well, they say those kind of things are “character builders”…So I trained and worked…

GSB: …And built some character…

AN: Hopefully… It taught me a lot about the process of being an athlete. That there is a whole lot more to success than just winning medals, it’s about enjoying the process and also giving back. That perspective has a lot to do with why I got involved in environmentalism and later made the Olympic team in 2014 in Sochi.

 

Andy Newell Sochi

Andy Newell at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: You mean the Olympics that were held in a tropical zone?

AN: The very same. But this time, I wasn’t in my best form, I didn’t stand out. So now we’re in 2017. I’ve done well in World Cup seasons, have made it to several podiums but I haven’t put it together in Olympic years. So I’m giving it another go for Pyeongchang 2018 — just like Erika is — to see if I can do my best at the highest profile event in my sport.

GSB: And, as a member of Protect Our Winters or POW, doing well at the Olympics will raise the profile of your environmental advocacy. When did that begin?

AN: Early on — during my high school days and into my early 20s, the environment was not something I focused on. At all. Now, when I speak to school audiences for POW, I show a picture of me in my 1990 Chevy Blazer which got 10 miles per gallon. As I say, I didn’t care about the environment, so it’s important to communicate to school kids that you can learn, you can change — at any age. I wish politicians could admit to, in fact, honor the idea that they can change. It’s very important.

GSB: So when did your change to environmentalism take place?

AN: Bill McKibben, the founder and driving force of the climate change fighting nonprofit, 350.org, is a big cross country skier who lives near Middlebury, VT. My older brother was also a Middlebury skier so I heard of Bill through him as well.. I had met Bill at some of the local ski races and really admired his work and writing, and his excitement for activisim. So around 2010 was when I got started volunteering for a few 350.org projects. Between 2010 and 2014 I got more and more involved and started working with Protect Our Winters. In advance of the Sochi Olympics I communicated with Bill and he voiced his concerns over the negative environmental impacts of the Olympics and the importance of the upcoming Paris Climate talks and how we could rally support internationally.

GSB: Oh it was bad alright — we’ve written about the environmental disaster that was Sochi 2014.

AN: You got that right. It was an awful decision by the IOC to give Sochi the Winter Olympics. The development there devastated the wetlands…they clear cut national forests. So, I spoke up about this in the run up to the 2014 Olympics. And, Bill and I drafted a letter for a group of snow sports athletes called Athletes for Action and that letter was addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.

GSB: …Which was signed in December 2015, about a year and a half after Sochi. Congratulations! Of course, the current U.S. President is planning to pull us out of the agreement. Regardless, it seems to me that you’re a natural advocate.

AN: For me, becoming an activist was a smooth transition. I like to say what I think, to take a stand. I’m definitely not afraid. In fact I tried to recruit other athletes to join Athletes for Action, to get athletes from other countries who might be able to impact political decisions in their countries.

GSB: How did that go?

AN: It went OK, not great. We got some Canadian, Finnish and Swiss athletes to join. Russians? Not so much. Since then, I’ve become much more involved with POW, which really fits my lifestyle…

GSB: That’s FANTASTIC! What has that activism looked like?

AN: Well, I helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April; one of many marches I’ve done. I’ve written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014. I’m also one of the more active members of POW’s Ski and Riders Alliance.

GSB: What will POW’s presence be in Pyeongchang in February?

AN: Good question. They’ll have some presence, I’m just not sure what it will look like. The way I can be most effective will be to make the Olympic team, so that’s my focus heading into the qualifying season which starts in December.

GSB: All the best, of course. What do you plan on doing after your pro skiing career is over? And will environmental activism be a part of it?

AN: Well, I’m going to continue with pro skiing for as long as I can. And, for sure, my activism with POW will continue, especially on the grassroots level…making presentations, recruiting more athletes, lobbying members of Congress and other politicians on climate. On the recruiting, I figure if I, as a non-college graduate, can do this work, can lobby on Capitol Hill, so can many other winter sports athletes.

GSB: Have you lobbied Vermont’s two US senators?

AN: Absolutely…I’ve lobbied and talked with both Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who are great. I also had a one-on-one meeting with Todd Stern, President Obama’s lead negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks. My position was that we as the winter sports community need you negotiate an agreement with real teeth. He heard me for sure.

 

Andy Newell with Bernie Sanders

Andy Newell (l), with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Also pictured, Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent, both of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

Andy Newell w: Todd Stern

Andy Newell (l), with Todd Stern, the U.S. chief negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks in 2015, and Alex Deibold, also of POW (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: Unfortunately, as mentioned above, our current President plans to pull the U.S. out of Paris.

AN: Well, it’s not a done deal yet. One of my favorite quotes from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie about climate change, Before the Flood, is “we can create elected followers, not elected leaders.” Meaning if we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community as to why staying in Paris is the only sane way to go.

GSB: I feel a bit better about it all now, I have to say.

 

Andy Newell & Erika

Andy and Erika (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 


 

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Coors Light Makes Sustainability a Part of its “Climb On” Marketing Campaign

Coors Light is the second biggest selling beer brand^ in the United States. The fact that Coors Light, MillerCoors, and global parent Molson Coors have made substantive commitments to environmental sustainability and carbon emissions reductions is significant if not surprising — competitors like AB-InBev and Carlsberg are on a similar path. What is news is that Coors Light is telling its sustainability stories to consumers through its “Climb On” campaign and its “EveryOneCan” initiative. GreenSportsBlog talked to Lane Goggin, Associate Marketing Manager at Coors Light, to learn more.

 

Sports sponsors have, for the most part, chosen not to tell their greening stories to fans. Sure, some über-green brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Vestas (wind power) and BASF have used sports to promote their sustainability bona fides and/or urge positive environmental action by fans. But the mainstream sports advertisers (car companies, athletic apparel, beer, etc.) have largely been silent.

Until now, that is.

Coors Light, the second biggest selling beer brand in the US, is, according to Associate Marketing Manager Lane Goggin, “capturing super-engaged sports fans, while they’re at games, watching on TV or scrolling through Instagram.”

 

Goggin Head Shot

Lane Goggin, Coors Light Associate Marketing Manager (Photo credit: Coors Light)

 

Coors Light Artfully Brings Its Green Messaging to Six Major League Baseball Ballparks

Baseball fans were engaged this season when the brand diverted thousands of cans left or collected in the stadium in a very, well, diverting way — they were turned into sculptures at six Major League Baseball stadiums where the brand has existing partnerships: AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Angels Stadium (Los Angeles Angels), Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies) (no surprise there!), Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners), and SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves). Once stadiums take down the artworks, all cans will go back into the production cycle, although most of the teams plan to keep the sculptures in place. Says Goggin, “We’ve gotten a great response from the teams, fans and the artists. They love it!”

 

Coors Light Rockies

Coors Light sculpture created with cans collected from the Rockies Green Team throughout the 2017 season is now in the Denver Rockie’s Coors Stadium. Pictured here with local artist and creator, Price Davis (Photo credit: Brandon Tormanen)

 

 

Coors Light Mariners

Seattle Mariners fans can enjoy the sculpture created by local artist Elizabeth Gahan at Edgar’s Home Run Porch (Photo credit (Photo credit: Victoria Wright)

 

 

Coors Light Braves

Kaylin Broussard created the Coors Light sculpture for the new Atlanta Braves Stadium, SunTrust Park (Photo credit: Coors Light)

 

 

Environmental Messaging Will Find Receptive Audience in Millennials 

And, while not sports-specific, these environmentally-themed initiatives are reaching sports fans via Coors Light media buys and other sports-focused marketing efforts:

  • EveryoneCan is a nationwide program built on the principle that everyone, from brewers to bartenders to consumers, can and should strive to practice environmental stewardship. The program includes a partnership with TerraCycle, the Trenton, NJ-based green business All-Star that upcycles recycled stuff into different stuff. Working with TerraCycle and other partners, Coors Light will reduce environmental impact in a variety of ways, including rewarding consumers with cooler bags made from recycled vinyl advertisements and grills made from recycled kegs.
  • Select Coors Light TV and digital ads contain the tagline “sustainably brewing the World’s Most Refreshing Beer.”
  • The Coors Light XP (experience) consumer rewards app includes grills made from recycled kegs.

 

Why is Coors Light featuring the environment in its messaging to sports fans (and to the broader public) while most other mainstream brands are not doing so — at least not yet?

Goggin cited several research studies which show that consumers, especially young adults, care about environmental sustainability: “According to one; the 2015 Nielsen Global Sustainability Report, 66 percent of consumers and 75 percent of millennials say they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods and that number is growing.”

And promoting a clean, healthy environment is something that fits Coors Light’s decades-long outdoorsy, rugged, pristine Rocky Mountain heritage like a glove. “At Coors, recycling is nothing new,” shared Goggin. “It started in the 1950s, when Bill Coors determined that there had to be a more sustainable way to package our beer. He went on to pioneer the recyclable aluminum can, and it wasn’t long before others followed his lead. Today, aluminum is still the sustainable standard in the industry.”

 

MillerCoors a Green Leader

Much more recently, MillerCoors built the most powerful solar array at any brewery in the United States in 2015 with its 3.2 megawatt facility in Irwindale, CA. The eight major MillerCoors breweries in the US are landfill free — meaning no glass, paperboard, plastics or metal waste are sent to landfills — as of February 2016, as verified by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Any remaining non-reusable or recyclable brewery waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility, which has now become a standard practice across MillerCoors. Globally, Molson Coors is working towards reaching aggressive carbon footprint reduction targets by 2025: Reduce direct carbon emissions by 50 percent from a 2016 baseline, while achieving a 20 percent reduction from the entire supply/value chain.

 

MillerCoors Solar City

A portion of MillerCoors’ 3.2 megawatt solar array in Irwindale, CA (Photo credit: Solar City)

 

 

In addition to its broad, green-themed consumer marketing campaigns, Coors Light also connected with a much narrower target audience — green-sports practitioners — when it became the official beer sponsor of the 2017 Green Sports Alliance summit in Sacramento.

“Coors Light was the presenting sponsor and provided an indoor and outdoor bar,” related Goggin. “2017 was the right year to do it since we brought our sustainability messaging to sports venues and sports fans in a direct way. The Alliance Summit was a great opportunity for us to talk with and learn from so many green-sports experts. We learned a lot and hope to apply what we learned in the green-sports space going forward.”

 

Hope Coors Light Adds Climate Change to its Green Messaging

GreenSportsBlog hopes one of the most important things Coors Light learns from its forays into green-sports is that it is OK — and actually a plus — to mention “climate change” in its environmental sustainability-themed ads (and other messaging), including those that target sports fans.

The brand chose not to do so, despite millennials ranking climate change as the world’s most serious issue, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Shaper Survey#. Add to that the clear statement from Molson Coors saying it understands “the need to address the challenges that face our industry, from the impacts of climate change to the growing need to protect our natural resources.”

It says here that, if future green-themed Coors Light communications campaigns “go there” on climate change, millennials will react positively. But that is a discussion for another day. Today, Coors Light deserves major kudos for its big-brand, green-sports leadership.

Here’s one more GreenSportsBlog hope: That other big sports advertisers, especially those targeting the rising generations, follow the Coors Light example by serving up environmentally-themed messaging.

 

^ Bud Light is the biggest selling beer brand in the US
# World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Survey talked to 31,000 18-35 year olds in 186 countries and territories

 


 

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Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 1: Erika Flowers Newell, US Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Hopeful and Advocate for the Environment

The Winter sports world, from the NHL to climate change-fighting Olympic skiers and snowboarders, plays an outsized role in the Green-Sports movement. This makes sense, when one considers that climate change is at least partly responsible for shortened outdoor pond hockey seasons, canceled ski races, and more. Over the next few months, GreenSportsBlog will take an in-depth look at the intersection of Green & Winter Sports, in a new, occasional series, “Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports.”

We begin the series with the first of two stories about a pair of world class cross country skiers from the United States preparing for the start of their respective qualifying campaigns for the 2018 US Olympic teams, Erika Flowers Newell and Andy Newell. Both are environmental activists and also are married to each other! 

Today, the focus is on Erika, her skiing career, environmental advocacy along with her work for one of the legends of cause-related marketing. Next week, we shift over to Andy and his climate change-fighting efforts with Protect Our Winters (POW).

GreenSportsBlog: Erika, thank you for taking the time out from your pre-Olympic qualification training to talk with us about your skiing career, your role as an eco-athlete, and more. So let’s get right to it. When did you get into cross country skiing? And were you always an environmentalist?

Erika Flowers Newell: Skiing definitely came first. I was born in Missoula, Montana. I was always into sports — soccer and running — as well as theatre. When I was 10, we moved over to Bozeman. It was the middle of 4th grade. I knew no one but saw that a bunch of kids were into skiing. So I connected with a bunch of girls who were into cross country — they remain among my best friends today.

 

Erika Flowers Reese Brown

Erika Flowers-Newell (Photo credit: Reese Brown)

 

GSB: So you got into from a social point of view?

EFN: Yes. And I was a terrible skier at first…

 

Erika Flowers youth

A young, self-proclaimed “terrible skier,” Erika Flowers (Photo credit: Erika Flowers’ mom and dad)

 

EFN: …Really, I wanted to play soccer. But, truthfully, I wasn’t that good at soccer either…The only reason I made the team my freshman year was because I could run really fast. And, as time went on, I saw that I wasn’t such a terrible skier after all and I — and this a real surprise to me — really liked it. I loved to train, loved the running part of the training, plus the actual skiing. So, as a high schooler I made my first international trip, to the Scandinavia Cup and had some decent results. While still in high school, I ranked as high as #6 among all junior skiers in the US.

GSB: That’s incredible!

EFN: Believe me, I was shocked. I went from thinking I wasn’t much good at cross country skiing to believing I could compete at a very high level, get to travel all over the world. I thought this was pretty cool. But then my mom passed away while I was  in my junior year.

GSB: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

EFN: Thanks. It was very tough. In fact, I was at a race at the time. But I tried to borrow some of her grit and toughness after she passed, and that helped me win my first international race in the spring of my junior year in high school.

GSB: You are certainly talented and tough. So was college next on the horizon?

EFN: Yes…I looked seriously at three schools: Utah, Princeton and Dartmouth. Utah has a strong ski program but going to college out East intrigued me. So I visited Princeton — I liked the idea of going to the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs but…

GSB: …there’s not much skiing in and around Princeton, NJ!

EFN: Exactly. And so after we visited Princeton, we headed up to Dartmouth. It was right on the Connecticut River, the skiing trails are pristine, the campus is beautiful and the women’s nordic team was very good — at the time, five women on the Dartmouth nordic squad also were on the US Ski Team.

GSB: So that made the decision easy…

EFN: No doubt about it. I loved Dartmouth; I bleed Dartmouth Green for sure. Was surrounded by smart, interesting people. It was challenging academically. I studied government, health policy and more. And the skiing was even more challenging. As a freshman, I was just trying to get to compete in “Carnival”…

GSB: What’s that?

EFN: They are a big part of college skiing’s regular season — combined alpine and nordic events.

GSB: The alpine events are the downhill and the various slaloms (slalom, giant slalom, and Super-G). Nordic is the umbrella term for cross country, biathlon and ski jumping.

EFN: You got it! There are six weekends of carnivals in each of three regions; East, Midwest and West. You need to be in the top six at Dartmouth to make the carnival roster and top three to be assured of competing. And, as I was able to make it to carnival as a freshman, my next goal was to make it to the NCAAs — I said to myself “If I can go to the NCAA’s once before I graduate, that will be good.”

GSB: And what does one have to do to make it to the NCAA’s?

EFN: You had to be in the top 15 in your region across the various cross country disciplines — skate style and classic, sprints and longer races, and relays. To make it even harder, only three skiers from any one school can make it and Dartmouth, along with the University of Vermont, are perennial eastern powerhouses…

GSB: So you could be in the top 15 in your region but if you were, say, the fifth best on Dartmouth, you’d be out of luck, NCAA-wise?

EFN: That’s right. But that tougher climb made me a better skier. So junior year I got to go to the NCAAs in Stowe, VT…

GSB: Home mountain advantage!

EFN: …and finished fourth. Before senior year, I spent time in Guatemala working in a health clinic — I was planning to apply to medical school — but I constantly was daydreaming about skiing…

GSB: Clearly you weren’t ready to give it up!

EFN: That’s what I learned about myself. So senior year, I went to the NCAAs one last time, finished sixth. I was content with that and was happier that the team did really well — that was the best part of it.  

 

Erika Flowers Dartmouth

Erika, while skiing for Dartmouth (Photo credit: Erika Flowers Newell)

 

GSB: So what about medical school?

EFN: Well, before that decision was made, I started to volunteer with Fast and Female, a nonprofit founded by Chandra Crawford, a Canadian nordic Olympic gold medal winner in Torino 2006. Kikkan Randall, the best US women’s cross country skier ever runs the US group. The organization hosts events in the US and Canada for girls, 8-18. It’s a combination of physical events, socializing, motivational talks, and more. I loved working with them and being an athlete role model of sorts, so that made the medical school choice even harder. So I decided to go for skiing full time, see where it would take me. This was my time.

 

Erika Flowers Fast Female

Erika Flowers Newell, inspiring young athletes through “Fast and Female” (Photo credit: Tom Kelley)

 

GSB: So how does that work, exactly? Who funds you?

EFN: Great questions. Thankfully, I came along at a time where, in addition to the US Ski Team, there were professional development programs for elite skiers in the US. One is in Stratton, VT. I went up there along with two other skiers in 2012 with two goals in mind:

  1. Race internationally every weekend in the World Cup events — the regular season of cross country — and,
  2. Make the US Ski Team

The latter is a big deal because that gives you more of a salary, coaching, and support staff.

GSB: How many make the US nordic Ski Team?

EFN: Five men and 10 women — there are more women because our team is stronger relative to the men.

GSB: So if you’re on one of those elite teams but not the US Ski Team, how do you support yourself?

EFN: They do give support — they pay for a coach which is huge. But I have to secure my own corporate sponsorship outreach and sales, which takes about 25 percent of my time. This pays for my living expenses and travel.

GSB: I had no idea you had to be a sponsorship sales pro in order to have a ski career. A good skill to have, though. So I imagine it’s a lot easier if you make the US Ski Team. How does that happen?

EFN: Of course that isn’t easy, especially if you’re an older skier and I’m now 28. I’ve been at it awhile: I tried out for the Olympic team for Sochi 2014 but didn’t make it. But I did qualify for the 2016-17 World Cup, which was fantastic. So now I’m going for the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics, with the first qualifying races the first weekend in December in Montana…

GSB: Another Home Mountain Advantage! So what do you have to do to make the Olympic team?

EFN: There are likely going to be between 10-13 slots on the women’s nordic team. My goal is to finish first or second among the non-US Ski Team qualifiers. That would pretty much guarantee me a spot on the team. So I am pushing on all cylinders.

GSB: I have no doubt about that! So, now that our readers are cross country skiing experts, we turn to the green part of your story…Where does that fit in?

EFN: Well, first of all, as a full-time skier, it’s been a challenge to keep my mind as active as it was in college. But I know I have to develop myself professionally for my post-skiing life and sustainability is at the top of my list. So it was a happy coincidence that a friend of mine from Bozeman, Elizabeth Davis, was starting a new purpose-driven agency with Carol Cone…

GSB: …A corporate social responsibility pioneer!

EFN: YES! So they started Carol Cone On Purpose

GSB: Love that name!

EFN: And I saw on Elizabeth’s Facebook feed that were looking for interns. I applied and got it. Let me tell you, it was a real eye-opener for me about the intersection of business and purpose, the idea of doing good and doing well. And I brought the sports angle. So they allowed to help expand Fast and Female and I also worked with the Women’s Sports Foundation. After awhile, they hired me as a part-time Purpose Associate. They’ve been great about me working remotely and to get the work done around my skiing schedule. I handle research, social media and writing. On the research side, I’m diving into what companies are doing, well, on purpose.

GSB: What has that research shown you, if anything, about companies, sports and sustainability?

EFN: Oh, there’s definitely a growing interest on the part of companies about the Green-Sports intersection. From hockey arenas to ski areas and the companies that sponsor those venues and those sports, they clearly get it. And then, as a skier, I see the effects of climate change up close. There’s no way to avoid it. In the 10 years since high school, a lot of places at which I used to ski are just not viable. I mean, that’s 10 years, which is really nothing from a climate perspective.

GSB: Can you give an example?

EFN: Easily. Glacier Ramsau in Austria for years was a summer training ground for nordic athletes. Early on, we could ski there. The last two years? Un-skiable. The glaciers are melting before our eyes.

 

Erika Flowers races canceled MW 2017 Julia Kern

Cross country skiing races were canceled during the 2016-17 season because of lack of snow in the US midwest (Photo credit: Julia Kern)

 

Erika Flowers no snowman

In fact, there wasn’t enough snow for Erika (r) and her teammates to make a snowman (Photo credit: Erika Flowers Newell)

 

GSB: So where do you do summer training?

EFN: For training in snow, we go New Zealand. Of course then we get fan criticism, not completely unjustified, that here we are, talking about climate change and yet we spend massive amounts of CO₂ to train in the Southern Hemisphere. Also the climate problem is coming close to home. We used to do early season training in Bozeman but not now. The snow just isn’t there.

 

Erika Flowers Summer Training Matt Whitcomb

Erika Flowers Newell (2nd place, in blue top) trains with Kikkan Randall (1st place) and others in Soldier Hollow, Utah last fall (Photo credit: Matt Whitcomb)

 

GSB: Are the effects of climate change the same for nordic and alpine?

EFN: It’s actually more acute for nordic. Alpine events typically are at higher altitudes where it’s often colder. And there’s more snow making for alpine because those events are seen as being more glamorous.

GSB: So with your work at Carol Cone On Purpose and your front row seat for climate change as a cross country skier, you are really positioned well to be an eco-athlete advocate. With that said, are you involved with Protect Our Winters (POW), the great group of winter sports, well, eco-athlete-advocates?

EFN: I’m not yet in POW, but my husband, Andy Newell, a member of the last three US Olympic men’s nordic teams, is very involved. I’ve had too much on my plate just yet with Carol Cone On Purpose and skiing to join. But with Andy taking a lead role, I can see that being part of my future. No matter what, I’ll be an eco-advocate. Athletes have a powerful platform to share our stories and influence a lot of people in positive ways. Climate change really needs to be a platform for almost every winter sports athlete. We need to continue to push for meaningful carbon reduction policies. Why? Because we see the effects of climate change EVERY. DAY. We cannot wait to take action. And as much as I want to make the Olympic team and even win a medal, making a positive impact on climate is even more important.

GSB: When you and Andy met, was environmentalism an important part of your connection? Does he up your green game or vice versa?

EFN: Andy and I both value and appreciate the opportunities we’ve had growing up to spend time in the outdoors. We both recognize that the viability and longevity of our sport depends on a healthy global climate as well as the local communities that support land stewardship and the preservation of parks and open spaces. While sustainability and environmentalism where not the things that brought us together at first, I do think our similar value systems allowed us to bond and develop an appreciation for each other and the way we interact with the natural world. I was also very impressed with Andy’s work with POW, and continue to be inspired by his dedication to the organization as he travels to meet with politicians and speak at universities to build support for the cause. He definitely “ups” my green game! I’m much more informed on the state of climate change and the politics involved with climate change and sustainability because of Andy. I think I have a better pulse on the business side of climate change and sustainability while Andy knows more of the politics but we are both working towards a greener future and I think will continue to be involved in climate action for a long time.

 

Andy Newell & Erika

Andy & Erika (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: Well, you and Andy make up an important eco-athlete combination. Good luck in your environmental athletes and, of course, with qualifying for Pyeongchang.

 

NEXT WEEK: Andy Newell on his work with Protect Our Winters…and more.

 

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Ben Shardlow, Sustainability Committee Chair of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee

The Bay Super Bowl 50 Host Committee held what is widely regarded as the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever” in February, 2016. Unfortunately, sustainability took a step back earlier this year as the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee did very little, green-wise, for Super Bowl LI. Now, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee gets its shot to move the sustainability ball forward at gleaming US Bank Stadium, the home of the Vikings currently seeking LEED certification that opened in 2016. How will the city and Host Committee fare, green-wise? We spoke with Ben Shardlow, the Chair of the Host Committee’s Sustainability Committee, to find out.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Ben, I had hoped that, when the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee hosted the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever” in 2016, all subsequent host committees would follow their lead. Alas that was not the case in Houston this past February as that committee did little to nothing in terms of the environment. Yes, the NFL did its carbon offset programs as they do every year. But for sustainability to “pop” at a Super Bowl, it’s really up to an activist host committee to make that happen. So, with that as preamble, I’m anxious to hear what the Minnesota Super Bowl LII Host Committee has planned for the big game on February 4th sustainability-wise, as well as for the festivities leading up to it. But before that tell our readers how you got to the committee in the first place…

Ben Shardlow: Well, Lew, an urban planner and designer by trade; I’m the Director of Urban Design for the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District. Have been with those organizations since 2012. As part of that work, I do a lot of advocacy regarding downtown’s public spaces – tree canopy, Complete Streets, transit investments, things like that.

 

Ben Shardlow

Ben Shardlow, Chair of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Sustainability Committee and Director of Urban Design for the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District (Photo credit: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

GSB: Urban planning and hosting a sustainable Super Bowl? That sounds like a natural fit…so how did you get to the Host Committee?

BS: The Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee are partners, so a number of my colleagues are serving on committees to support planning work in various roles…

GSB: So you are a volunteer for the Host Committee?

BS: Yes. And as a local guy, I’m really excited to be part of it.

GSB: When did the sustainability effort get started?

BS: I got involved in April 2016, starting with an invitation from Dave Haselman, COO for the Host Committee. I was glad to hear that I wouldn’t be alone in the effort. The Host Committee’s Leadership 52 initiative has placed two vice chairs on all 26 volunteer committees, all of whom are rising leaders from Host Committee sponsors with deep subject matter experience.

GSB: Who are your vice chairs on sustainability?

BS: One is Bridget Dockter, Manager of Policy and Outreach for Xcel Energy. Bridget is an important local leader in renewable energy, playing a key role in staffing Minneapolis’ Clean Energy Partnership which looks to achieve aggressive sustainability goals through constant innovation. And, from the “you couldn’t make this up” file, the other is actually my twin sister! Eliza Clark is Director of Sustainability and Environment for Andersen Corporation, and she’s got great expertise in sustainability issues as broad as LEED, energy efficiency, supply chain issues and pollinator habitat. She’s working with other major Minnesota companies to design and build a true circular economy through the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. Really cool stuff. So it’s great for me to be able to collaborate and learn from both Eliza and Bridget.

 

Bridget Dockter

Bridget Dockter, Vice Chair of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Sustainability Committee and Manager of Policy and Outreach for Xcel Energy (Photo credit: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

Eliza Clark

Eliza Clark, Vice Chair of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee and Director of Sustainability and Environment for Andersen Corporation (Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

GSB: So, if that’s the volunteer leadership team, how have you worked with the Host Committee staff?

BS: We’re fortunate to have Alex Tittle as our liaison within the Host Committee’s leadership team. He’s VP of Business Connect and Corporate Affairs. What an amazing guy! A decathlete at The Citadel, he was charged with achieving the inclusive workforce goals for construction of US Bank Stadium. Under his leadership, that project significantly exceeded targets in terms of women and minorities.

GSB: The sustainability team certainly seems like it is of championship caliber!

BS: Thanks!

GSB: So what are the pillars of Super Bowl LII’s sustainability efforts?

BS: I see four main strategies:

  1. Super Bowl LII as a showcase for how Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the broader region are sustainable places to host major events. When we host a big event, like the 2014 MLB All-Star Game at Target Field, sustainability assets are front and center. Our area is set up that way. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have compact downtowns that are connected by transit. The 2014 opening of the Green Line Light Rail system was a crucial advance. It links downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota to downtown St. Paul to all the area’s sports venues — US Bank Stadium (Vikings), Xcel Energy Center (Wild, NHL), Target Field (Twins, MLB), Target Center (Timberwolves, NBA, Lynx, WNBA), the yet-to-open Allianz Field (Minnesota United, MLS) and CHS Field (Independent League Baseball’s Saints). The airport is close by and connected to downtown Minneapolis by light rail. And our major venues have impressive sustainability credentials, starting with a 4.3 MW solar array at the airport, to the 113,000 square foot green roof on Target Center, to the Minneapolis Convention Center’s renewable energy program to Target Field’s LEED Silver certification for both New Construction and Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, to CHS Field’s substantiated claim as the greenest ballpark in America. With all of that infrastructure in place, we have built in advantages in competing for major events that value sustainability.  All of this puts the region in play for Super Bowls as well as Final Fours and World’s Fairs. US Bank Stadium is under consideration as a venue for the expected joint US-Canada-Mexico bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
  2. The Legacy Fund. The Host Committee is giving away weekly health and wellness grants over 52 weeks, spread out around the entire state. This program isn’t under our committee’s purview, but we’ve coordinated efforts with them.

GSB: The focus on health and wellness makes sense to me, given the leadership Minnesota has shown with the Mayo Clinic and major health insurers…but where does the environment come in? I harken back to the great green work done by the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. Their Legacy Fund gave millions to several Bay Area environmental nonprofits…Houston, to the best of my knowledge, did nothing at all in this area, with Super Bowl LI. Will the Minnesota Host Committee do something similar to the Bay Area?

BS: I think the answer is yes, especially when you look at the Legacy Fund through the lens of the social aspects of sustainability. We have coordinated with the Minnesota Department of Health to provide grants for capital projects in communities of need. Some of the $2.5 million in grants that have been awarded already indeed have environmental aspects and benefits, with more to come as the project works toward awarding $4 million. For example, our grant to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe will help their community build a community garden, supplying healthy food in an area where access is lacking. And human health and wellness is, of course, closely linked to environmental health. The Host Committee has also partnered with the NFL, Verizon and Andersen Corporation to fund 14 habitat restoration and urban forestry projects across the state of Minnesota, resulting in the planting of 12,724 trees and 4,000 native species.

 

MN UrbanForestryPosterHorizontal

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, in partnership with the NFL, Verizon and Andersen Windows have planted more than 700 trees as part of their Urban Forestry Initiative for Super Bowl LII (Infographic Credit: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

GSB: Got it. OK back to the pillars…#3?

BS: #3 is to be the best local partner we can be for the NFL’s sustainability efforts. A couple of examples to note here:

  • We’re assisting the NFL with expanding their material diversion and recovery program. This has entailed connecting the NFL with local community service organizations on repurposing event materials that would otherwise go into the landfill. Fortunately, our awesome committee members have great connections with local organizations that are already doing that work.
  • Similarly, we’re working with the NFL on other major sustainability events, such as the recent partnership with Verizon for their E-Waste Drive. That event was held a couple of weeks ago at the Minnesota Zoo, and the results blew past events out of the water. The community responded tremendously, donating 42,000 lbs. of electronic waste. The NFL has several well-established programs like these, and we see our role as local resources to support great outcomes.

 

MN EWaste

Minnesota set a “Super Bowl Environmental Program record” for an e-waste recycling event by collecting more than 42,000 pounds of electronic waste. (Photo credit: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

GSB: That’s a lot of cell phones and computer monitors! And what’s the 4th pillar?

BS: Our 4th pillar is our collaborative, inclusive committee structure. I know that might sound touchy-feely but it’s substantive. We want to improve over time in the sustainability outcomes we achieve for our major events, and you can’t do that without partnerships and real relationships. Our sustainability committee has representatives from five or six Host Committee sponsors with deep green roots, local government sustainability experts and corporate practitioners. It can be challenging to work this way, but I expect it will be worth it in the end because we’ll learn things we can apply together in the future. Like I said earlier, we’re all volunteers so everyone wants to work on this…

GSB: So it sounds like you have an “Open Source,” startup kind of culture…

BS: Exactly. We’ve collectively come up with way more projects than the group has bandwidth to execute, so I fully expect a long tail of side projects generated by dialogue in our sustainability committee after Super Bowl LII.

 

US Bank Stadium MPR News

US Bank Stadium, site of Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018 (Photo credit: MPR News)

 

GSB: I’ll be interested to see what those side projects turn out to be. How will fans, both locally and beyond, find out about the sustainability programs? This issue is a big concern of mine. I mean, despite all the great sustainability work done by the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, a minuscule fraction of people actually were aware of it. Why? Because the Committee, the NFL and CBS, the network that broadcast that game, didn’t promote it. What will the sustainability committee and the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee more broadly due to insure this doesn’t happen again?

BS: I hear you. We certainly are aware of what the folks at Super Bowl 50 were able to accomplish, sustainability-wise and we’ve worked to learn from their example. Fans at the Minnesota Super Bowl will see some of the fruits of our efforts but just what that will turn out to look like is still being determined. Stay tuned as those decisions have to be made in the not-too-distant future. And, remember, our greening efforts are taking place in a region where sustainability and the climate change fight are already deeply embedded. For example, we live and work in a region that just had an all-night, public art shows that highlight both climate change themes and the idea of healthy urban and rural places.

GSB…Sounds like Minnesota and the Twin Cities are set up to host a sustainable Super Bowl. And we will stay tuned for sure on how that sustainability is communicated to  fans at the game and beyond.

 


 

 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since May 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams, athletes and events that are helping to lead the sports-greening movement. We haven’t focused on how they’re doing on the field. Until last month, that is. That’s when we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting the recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience. Also, it’s fun. And if there’s one thing the climate change/environmental world can use more of — including the Green-Sports niche — is fun. 

 

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 

The star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks joined the ranks of eco-athletes when he helped promote “Strawless in Seattle September,” the Lonely Whale Foundation’s (LWF) campaign to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage.

Wilson was challenged by actor and LWF co-founder Adrian Grenier on Instagram to #stopsucking — i.e. stop using straws — at least in September. He accepted and then challenged the “12s” — aka rabid Seahawks fans — to do the same: “I accept [Grenier’s] challenge to #stopsucking. Now I’m challenging you 12s! It’s going to take teamwork to save our ocean from plastic pollution.”

The 12s responded, as did many other Seattleites. According to Lonely Whale, in September alone, 2.3 million single-use plastic straws were removed from the city. In fact, the Seahawks, baseball’s Mariners and Major League Soccer’s Sounders all refrained from giving out straws to fans last month.

Yet, Wilson’s impressive success as a #stopsucking pitch man was outdone by his otherworldly performance on the field during Sunday’s thrilling, 41-38 instant classic win over the Houston Texans and their stellar rookie QB DeShaun Watson. While his stat line is phenomenal — a career-high 452 yards passing including 4 touchdowns (TDs) — it was the way Wilson led the Seahawks back, time and again, after Watson would put Houston ahead. He saved his best for last, driving Seattle 80 yards in just three plays with 1:39 left and no timeouts remaining.

 

Wilson Bleacher Report

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson prepares to pass during Sunday’s epic 41-38 win over the Houston Texans in Seattle (Photo credit: Bleacher Report)

 

The Seahawks, now 5-2 and in a first place tie with the LA Rams in the NFC West, host the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing Wins First Ocean Leg of Volvo Ocean Race

Is GreenSportsBlog a good luck charm, or what?

We shared Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s groundbreaking sustainable sailing story just this past Friday and then what happens?

Saturday, the team, led by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, won the first leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which traveled from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, in wire-to-wire fashion, by several hours. They stayed ahead of the other seven boats through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the island of Porto Santo, and north to Lisbon.

“Can’t argue with the results,” said skipper Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”

 

Leg 01, Alicante to Lisbon, day xx,  on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Photo by James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race. 27 October, 2017

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, racing through the Strait of Gibraltar to its way to a  first place finish in Lisbon in the initial leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing lived its sustainability ethos on the water just as it does on land. On the first day at sea, the crew partook in Meatless Monday, an international campaign to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment. “We are enjoying Mediterranean veggie pasta,” said team director and co-founder Mark Towill. “It is one simple way of lowering our carbon footprint and is part of our commitment to sustainability.”

The team will remain in Lisbon for one week, sharing their commitment to sustainability   with local fans at their interactive Exploration Zone, all the while preparing for the 7,000-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa, which starts November 6th.

 

Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers FC (FGR) was finding life in League Two (aka the fourth tier) of English football to be challenging after being promoted from the fifth tier for the first time in their 125+ year history in May.  The Greenest Team in Sports — it has earned that distinction in a myriad of ways, from solar panels on its stadium roof to solar powered “Mo-Bots” used to mow the organic pitch to all vegan-only concession stands — found itself in the dreaded “relegation zone” after an embarrassing 4-0 home drubbing by Newport County AFC on October 14th. The relegation zone means FGR was in one of the bottom two places in the 24-team league standings and, if it ended up there at season’s end in May, it would be relegated back down to the fifth tier.

Good thing for Forest Green Rovers is that, at that point, it had only played 13 of its 46 regular season matches. So there was plenty of time for a turnaround.

That turnaround started in strong fashion on the 17th when FGR won a taut 1-0 struggle on the road at 6th place Coventry City. Even more impressive was the comeback win at Stevenage FC on the 21st. Down 1-0 at halftime, FGR netted two goals within 12 minutes to secure the 2-1 win. The Green Devils extended their run of strong play with a third straight win on Saturday, this one a tidy 2-0 home decision over current relegation zone resident Morecambe FC.

 

FGR Morecambe

Keanu Marsh-Brown (upper right in green and black) scores for Forest Green Rovers in their 2-0 home win over Morecambe FC (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers FC)

 

The three game winning streak moved Forest Green Rovers from 23rd to 20th place. While hardly safe — there are 30 matches left and FGR is only one point above 23rd — 17th place is only two points away. Next up is an away test at Crawley Town FC on Saturday.

 

Oregon State Beavers 

Oregon State University became a green-sports leader last year with the launch of BAST — the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team — the first student-athlete run sustainability organization at a Division I school. The now-graduated Samantha Lewis (cross-country) and Jesikah Cavanaugh (swimming) helped steer the group through its infancy and led the establishment of its 3-pronged mission:

  1. Encourage and implement sustainable ideas within the athletic department
  2. Educate our fellow student-athletes about sustainability and environmental issues
  3. Work to engage with the rest of campus and the broader Corvallis community

BAST’s Year One programs included pom-pom and light stick return stations at OSU football games, recycling education tabling at men’s and women’s basketball games, and clear recycling bins — which resulted in increased recycling rates — at baseball games.

According to Cavanaugh, the BAST leadership baton, now in the possession of Marie Guelich (women’s basketball), Sam McKinnon (women’s cross country and track) and Mimi Grosselius (women’s rowing), is “in good hands.”

So how are the Beavers doing on the field/court?

If you’re looking for an on-field/court success story in Corvallis this fall, look no further than the women’s volleyball team. Its 16-8 record includes wins over 14th ranked Washington and 12th ranked Utah. The cross-country team had some early season success, with a second place finish at the Sundogger Invitational in Seattle.

 

OSU volleyball

The Oregon State University women’s volleyball team celebrates their upset over 12th ranked Utah (Photo credit: Mark Hoffman)

 

On the men’s side, the football team is suffering through a 1-7 season and are languishing at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Things are only slightly better for the men’s soccer team, which sits at 6-11 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12. The men’s team enjoying the best season thus far this fall is rowing, which earned a strong third place finish at the famed Head of the Charles regatta in Boston.

 


 

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Sustainability Front and Center for the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Team at Start of Volvo Ocean Race In Spain

The Volvo Ocean Race is a nine-month, round-the-world sailing test. Seven boats and crews shoved off from Alicante, Spain on October 22 to start the 2017-18 version. The Vestas 11th Hour Racing Team is going to significant lengths to be the most sustainable team ever to compete in the event. That commitment was on display for fans at the Exploration Zones in the squad’s base in the race village during the run up to the start.

 

The first ocean leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, from Alicante, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, started on October 22. The 1,450 nautical mile (nm) course is taking the seven competing teams through the Strait of Gibraltar and around the small island of Porto Santo, close to Madeira, before heading directly to the Portuguese capital.

Before the teams set off from Alicante, many thousands of sailing fans visited the race village. And no one should be surprised that sustainability was the focal point of the ground floor Exploration Zone at the home base of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team.

 

 

VESTAS, 11TH HOUR RACING AND THE TEAM: A NATURAL, SUSTAINABLE FIT

After all, Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas is the only global energy company dedicated exclusively to wind energy. And 11th Hour Racing of Newport, RI is an organization that promotes healthy oceans, in part by making world class sailing racing more sustainable.

One way they do this is through the sponsorship — and greening — of sailing teams in the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s most well known sailing contests. 11th Hour Racing was the exclusive Sustainability Partner of Land Rover BAR, Great Britain’s entry in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in June.

Now they’ve teamed up with Vestas to sponsor a team that aims not only to win, but also to be the most sustainable team ever to have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race#. 

Environmental sustainability, ocean health and climate change are also core tenets for team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright, making their partnership with Vestas and 11th Hour Racing a seamless fit. In fact, Mark and Charlie worked with a sustainability consultant to determine the environmental impact of their previous participation in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race with Team Alvimedica. 

 

Charlie Enright D3O

Charlie Enright, skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: D3O)

 

Mark Towill P. Bucktrout, BAS

Mark Towill, team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, holding a piece 1,000 year-old ice (Photo credit: P. Bucktrout, BAS)

Those data formed the baseline of what became a robust sustainability plan for the 2017-2018 edition. It covers all aspects of the team’s operations on their 45,000 nautical-miles around-the-world journey. Some of these include: 

  • Calculating its carbon footprint by tracking all travel, accommodations, electricity usage, water consumption and waste. That footprint will be offset at the race’s conclusion
  • Outfitting each team member with a “sustainability kit” that contains refillable water bottle, coffee mug, and bamboo toothbrushes, along with sustainable soap, shampoo, toothpaste and laundry detergent. It also includes a personal water filter to ensure clean, safe drinking water.
  • Eliminating the use of single-use plastics and straws
  • Creating a positive plastic footprint by removing more trash from beach cleanups than they use
  • Using a desalinator for on board water needs, saving an estimated 13,500 one-liter water bottles throughout the race
  • Achieving a 75 percent waste diversion rate
  • Wearing Karün sunglasses made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and using Aethic sunblock, produced with a unique formula that does not harm coral reefs 
  • Sourcing local, sustainable foods from the countries they visit, including sustainable seafood
  • Pledging to go Meat Free on Mondays both onshore and off
  • Raising awareness of the team’s vision of a cleaner, healthier environment at the race stops and during the race via the Vestas 11th Hour Racing website and the #LeadingSustainability hashtag

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing screenshot

Screenshot of Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s website’s home page on October 27, featuring a sustainability-themed trivia question

 

SAILING FANS EXPERIENCE THE VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING SUSTAINABILITY ETHOS AT THE EXPLORATION ZONE

Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zone is an dedicated, immersive educational space where the public could learn about renewable energy and ocean health through the prism of sailing’s most crucial elements; wind and water. From virtual reality goggles to interactive displays, the space was a must-see attraction among Alicante race village visitors, with over 1,000 people experiencing the Exploration Zone each day. 

 

Vestas Expoloration Zone

Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zone at their base in Alicante, Spain; where the Volvo Ocean Race started (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

Vestas Exploration Zone 2

Sailing fans outside the entrance to the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone in Alicante, Spain (Photo credit: Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

The team also brought its sustainability message outside the Race Village, as Vestas 11th Hour Racing sailors and local students met with a local environmental organization, Asociación De Naturalistas Del Sureste (ANSE). They toured ANSE’s wooden sailing vessel, Else, equipped to monitor and protect endangered species, study pollution effects on plants and animals, and implement coastal restoration projects. Hannah Diamond was among the team’s sailors who learned about ANSE’s endeavors: “I was most surprised that here in the Mediterranean there are sperm whales that are bigger than our Volvo Ocean 65 [foot boat].”

 

Vestas ANSE Boat

Members of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing staff on the ANSE boat (Photo credit Atila Madrona/Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

 

Ocean health and the issue of plastic ocean pollution were the themes of the Ocean Summit that took place in Alicante during race week. Mark Towill gave the keynote address to a full house of NGOs, government and the private sector. The Hawaii native reflected on his time at sea and also about how the Volvo Ocean Race can be a massive megaphone for the team’s sustainability messaging: “[We have] a real opportunity to use this race as a platform and we need to make the most of it.”

 

VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING EXPLORATION ZONES AT ALL BUT TWO RACE STOPS

Sailing fans around the world will be able to visit the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zones at all but two of the race stops before the finish in The Hague, Netherlands at the end of June. Here is a list of the stops, race village opening days and the start dates of the next race legs. 

  • Lisbon, Portugal: October 31 –  November 5
  • Cape Town, South Africa: November 24 – December 10
  • Melbourne, Australia: December 27 – January 8, 2018 (NO EXPLORATION ZONE)
  • Hong Kong: January 17 – February 1
  • Guangzhou, China: January 31 – February 5 (NO EXPLORATION ZONE)
  • Hong Kong: January 17 – February 7
  • Auckland, New Zealand: February 24 – March 18
  • Itajaí, Brazil: April 5 – April 22
  • Newport, Rhode Island: May 8 – May 20
  • Cardiff, Wales: May 27 – June 10
  • Gothenburg, Sweden: June 14 – June 21
  • The Hague, Netherlands: June 24 – June 30

 

Mark Towill and Charlie Enright tell the Vestas 11th Hour Racing story in this 2 minute 23 second video

 

# 11th Hour Racing is also providing sustainability consulting services to the Volvo Ocean Race as its Founding Principal Partner in Sustainability

 

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GSB News and Notes: Liverpool F.C. Under Fire for New Anti-Environmental Sponsorship Deal ; U of Michigan Football Approaches Zero-Waste; Formula E Revs Up its Promotion of Electric Vehicles

The watchword of today’s News & Notes column is BIG.

Liverpool F.C. has made a BIG mistake by partnering with Tibet Water Resources, a company that is allegedly exploiting the water supply in that region. Michigan Stadium, aka “The BIG House,” holds over 111,000 fans, making it the BIGGEST football stadium in the U.S. It recently diverted 87 percent of waste from landfill, close to the 90 percent level that will allow it to become the BIGGEST Zero-Waste stadium. Formula E, the global, electric vehicle racing circuit, partners with nonprofit The Climate Group to make EVs a much BIGGER percentage of the overall vehicle fleet. 

 

 

LIVERPOOL F.C. BUCKS GREENING-OF-ENGLISH-FOOTBALL TREND BY TAKING SPONSORSHIP CASH FROM TIBET WATER RESOURCES, ENVIRONMENTAL BAD ACTOR

Sustainable Brands, in its October 20 edition, is out with an important piece from Nithin Coca about English Premier League power Liverpool F.C.’s new sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources Limited, a company Coca asserts is committing “ongoing human rights and environmental atrocities in the region.”

 

Liverpool FC

Photo credit: Liverpool Echo

 

This is disappointing because English football/soccer has been a beacon of sports greening lately.

Premier League stalwarts Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City have put in place some strong sustainability initiatives, from partnerships with solar companies to installing LED lighting to advanced battery storage capacity. And GreenSportsBlog has written extensively about the great, green strides being made in the lower levels (aka minor leagues) of English soccer/football. Clubs like Forest Green Rovers (aka The Greenest Sports Team in the World), Dartford F.C., and Sutton United are innovating at a rapid pace. But the reach of those smaller clubs and their green good works is, of course, limited.

Liverpool is the opposite of a small club — it is a globally recognized sports brand. Per Forbes, the team is worth $1.49 billion, making it the eighth most valuable soccer club in the world^. According to the club, as of 2014, it had an estimated 580 million fans worldwide, or roughly 8 percent of the world’s population. That’s not the world’s population of soccer fans, but total human beings. How is that possible if England’s population is but 65 million?

Look to soccer-crazed Asia, where Liverpool F.C. enjoys significant support and with that, several lucrative marketing deals with companies like Konami (video games and Malaysia Airlines. And now, Tibet Water Resources, Ltd. has been added to the list.

But, to organizations concerned with the human rights violations and environmental degradations visited upon Tibet by China (note: the Chinese government would differ with this characterization but GreenSportsBlog feels it is largely an accurate one), there is a big problem with this new sponsor.

According to Mr. Coca, “Tibet Water is a Chinese-run company that is, according to [several NGO] groups, exploiting water for financial gain and giving little benefit to local Tibetans, who, instead, are seeing their environment destroyed. Though Tibet Water is just one of dozens [of water companies] operating in the region, it is, so far, the only one to make a deal with a foreign soccer club.”

While the Liverpool deal is a first, what is not unique, according to organizations like the Tibet Society, along with FreeTibet, SumOfUs (a nonprofit that tries to “stop big corporations from behaving badly”), and others, is the exploitation of Tibetan natural resources by Chinese companies. This has been happening since Tibet — more than twice the size of Texas — was invaded by China in 1950 and annexed shortly thereafter.

Tibet’s vast glaciers hold one of the largest reserves of freshwater in the world, the source for many of Asia’s great rivers including the Ganges and Indus, which flow into South Asia; and the Mekong, the lifeblood of Cambodia, Laos and Southern Vietnam. Water development, including bottling, could reduce flows in Tibet and downstream, impacting millions.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy at the Tibet Society, told Mr. Coca that, “This deal represents the issue at the very core of the Tibetan struggle: the detrimental effect of the Chinese occupation on Tibetans and the lack of consultation about their land and resources. For 70 years, Tibetans have endured injustice, indignity and discrimination at the hands of the Chinese authorities, as the occupation has resulted in systematic human rights violations against them.”

The Tibet Society, and the aforementioned like-minded organizations have joined in a campaign to get Liverpool F.C. to terminate the Tibet Water deal and thus stand up for environmental and human rights. Sondhya Gupta, a spokesperson for SumOfUs, told Mr. Coca that, “Liverpool really is giving its seal of approval to Tibet Water and saying its business model is normal and legitimate.”

Unfortunately, Liverpool F.C., whose principal owner John Henry also owns the Boston Red Sox (with a much-publicized garden atop the right field roof at Fenway Park), has shown no inclination to scuttle the deal. This despite having issued a strong statement in November 2016 on human rights. In fact, Mr. Coca reports that “the club has resisted opening up a dialogue with both fans and the organizations concerned about this partnership, and did not respond to Sustainable Brands’ requests for comment.” Over 40,000 people have signed a petition asking Liverpool to reconsider this deal (click here to sign), and take human rights and the environment into consideration when deciding partnerships.

Tibet Resources Petition

A portion of the petition asking Liverpool F.C. to drop its sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources

 

So far, there has been only silence from the management of the storied club that has captured 18 English top-flight league championships and 7 FA Cups. Somehow, methinks this story will get much bigger before it fades away.

Watch this space.

 

“THE BIG HOUSE” GETS CLOSE TO BIG ZERO-WASTE DESIGNATION

Rutgers — my alma mater! — is a big 23.5 point underdog against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House.” To have a chance at pulling a humongous upset, the Scarlet Knights will have to be supremely focused. Which means they are unlikely to notice the efforts their hosts are expending to attain Zero-Waste status by diverting at least 90 percent of the waste generated from the game from landfill.

According to a story last month by Kaela Theut writing in The Michigan Daily — the student paper at the University of Michigan — the school’s zero-waste gameday initiative got very close to the zero-waste threshold at their September 9 home opener vs. the University of Cincinnati.

 

Michigan Stadium Evan Aaron Daily

Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House (Photo credit: Evan Aaron, The Michigan Daily)

 

Benjamin Blevins, Director of Communications for Michigan Athletics, told Ms. Theut that, “We were very happy with our efforts [at the Cincinnati game] as we hit 87 percent diversion from landfill. Zero waste is 90 percent, so for our first week attempting this, we were happy to be so close.” Blevins credited the Big House’s operational staff as well as concessions partner Sodexo USA for changing most of their products to compostable options.

Athletics started working on waste diversion in 2015 as part of a university-wide initiative to reduce overall waste going to landfill on campus by 40 percent by 2025.

2016 saw Michigan Athletics begin research into going zero-waste at The Big House in partnership with the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability and Sodexo, testing various compostable products, as well as how to best streamline gameday cleanup and waste-separation operations. With crowds exceeding 111,000, this would a heavy lift.

Heavy lift or not, the initiative is in full swing this season.

New recycling bins, adorned with signs depicting examples of compostable and recyclable products, have been placed around the stadium. Stadium-goers have been heavily encouraged to place their waste into the right area to avoid contaminating the properly sorted recyclables and compost.

At the Air Force and Michigan State home games, diversion rates again came close to the 90 percent level — so far, they’ve averaged 87.6 percent for the season. Why hasn’t the Big House been able to crack the zero-waste threshold? More Blevins: “There are still a few things that would need to change to hit 90 percent. Some of [the] products we offer don’t have compostable or recyclable options so our concessions partner Sodexo is looking into finding those solutions.”

Blevins told Ms. Theut that educating the team’s fan base on how to separate waste properly can also help Michigan get to zero-waste: “There was contamination in our [waste] streams and that comes from people putting items in the wrong bins.” he said.

Fan education efforts include a public service announcement (PSA) that runs during games in-stadium, emails to season ticket holders, social media posts, and the new signage. Event team members are also knowledgeable and help answer fan questions on game days.

It says here that the compostable product solutions will be put into place, and fan education will have taken root in time for Michigan to achieve zero-waste status during the 2018 season. In the meantime, here’s hoping Michigan again matches their impressive 87 percent diversion rate at the Rutgers game on Saturday — and that the Scarlet Knights pull off the Upset of the Year!

 

FORMULA E PARTNERS WITH THE CLIMATE GROUP TO PUSH MAINSTREAMING OF EV’S

FIA Formula E, the electric vehicle racing circuit, recently signed on to become a Global Ambassador of The Climate Group’sEV100 initiative, which helps promote and accelerate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The Climate Group is an international nonprofit specializing in bold and high-impact climate and energy initiatives that bring together the world’s leading businesses, states and regional governments.

 

 

Formula E Bird 2nd Steven Tee:LAT Images:FIA Formula E via Getty Images

The 2017 Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

EV100 is the only initiative of its kind to actively encourage world-leading companies to commit to the quicker and smoother transition to EVs, helping to deliver on corporate and global sustainability goals, improving air quality and future-proofing operations.

Brands such as HP, Unilever, IKEA Group and Formula E sponsor DHL are already members of EV100, pledging to implement charging schemes in the workplace and swapping current diesel and petrol fleets to fully-electric by 2030.

The Climate Group has also joined the FIA Formula-E Championship as an Official and International Foundation Partner.

“I’m delighted Formula E has joined forces with The Climate Group and the EV100 initiative, as a partner to promote electric and sustainable mobility,” Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of FIA Formula E, said in a statement. “Our partnership with The Climate Group is proof that change is already happening and causing a positive shift in attitude towards cleaner transportation. Formula E shows that electric isn’t just the technology of the future – it’s the technology of today. I’m glad to see other leading companies follow suit as part of this new agreement.”

 

^ Ahead of Liverpool, #8 on the “Most Valuable Soccer Clubs of 2017” list, are: 1. Manchester United, 2. Barcelona, 3. Real Madrid, 4. Bayern Munich, 5. Manchester City, 6. Arsenal, and 7. Chelsea. Rounding out the Top 10 after Liverpool are 9. Juventus, and 10. Tottenham Hotspur.

 

 


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