GSB News and Notes: Wind-Powered RVs at Tailgate Parties?; A Green Cactus League Partnership; Errant Golf Balls Add to Pollution of U.S. Waterways

Wind-powered recreational vehicles (RVs) could become a thing at college and pro football games. Arizona State University and the Oakland A’s launch a sustainability partnership at Hohokam Stadium. And golf balls hit into the oceans, lakes and more are a hazard for wildlife and water cleanliness. All in all, it’s a busy mid-week GSB News & Notes column.

 

WIND-POWERED RVs COULD BECOME TAILGATE PARTY STAPLES 

Drop in on the parking area of any SEC or Big Ten college football stadium on the Thursday before a big Saturday game and you will see dozens of RVs, filled with tailgaters, barbecuing, imbibing in adult beverages, playing touch football, watching TV and…promoting wind power?

OK, that last bit about wind power may be a stretch.

Or maybe not. According Michele Boyer, a retired writer and full-time RVer, mini wind turbines are now designed to be able to be mounted atop RVs.

 

RVs Penn State

A village of RVs stretch out to the horizon in the tailgate area before a Penn State University football game in State College, PA. Someday, perhaps soon, a portion of those RVs will sport wind turbines on the roof (Photo credit: visitpennstate.com)

 

Writing in the March 2nd issue of TripSavvy magazine, Boyer reports that Southwest Windpower, a subsidiary of Xzeres, a leader in the small wind turbine (45-80 feet high) market over the last 15 years, has gone even smaller, manufacturing a mini version that mounts on a large boat or RV.

The small size and rapidly declining cost has turned small wind systems into an economically viable option for RV owners, including, of course, those who tailgate. Many are now pairing small wind with small solar panel units to minimize the impacts of the intermittency problem — i.e. the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Solar and wind costs have each dropped dramatically over the last decade, with wind the cheaper option in many cases. “The cost of small wind has gone below five cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), about half the cost of solar power,” noted Boyer. “Installation and initial investment for an RVer are significantly less for a wind generator than for equivalent power-capable solar panels.”

Boyer does point out that, in addition to its intermittency, there are some drawbacks for RVers, including noise and dangers from electrical storms. 

That said, when I attend the Big Ten contest between the University of Iowa and Rutgers (the latter my alma mater) this September in Iowa City, I expect to see a windy, zip code-sized tailgate area, filled with RVs. And maybe a few will be topped by mini-wind turbines.

 

OAKLAND A’S MOVE TOWARDS ZERO-WASTE SPRING TRAINING, THANKS TO PARTNERSHIP WITH ARIZONA STATE

The Oakland A’s and Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability launched a partnership last month to help Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona move towards zero-waste during the 2019 spring training season. The goals are to increase operational efficiencies and improve the fan experience, all while moving Hohokam towards the 90 percent diversion rate threshold necessary to claim zero-waste status.

The A’s-ASU “Recycle Rally” program looks to build upon a similar program launched during spring training last year by ASU, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies — the two National League West rivals share the Salt River Fields ballpark at Talking Stick, Arizona.

 

 

Hohokam

Panoramic view of Hohokam Stadium, spring training home of the Oakland A’s in Mesa, AZ (Photo credit: Baseball Pilgrimages)

 

As part of the initiative, a group of 21 ASU students are analyzing Hohokam Stadium’s waste stream and operations to help the 10,500-seat ballpark become more sustainable during the six weeks of spring training. They are putting their detective caps on to find the most innovative, fan-friendly and cost-effective approaches that can increase recycling, reusing and composting. After the A’s ship out at the end of the month to begin the regular season, the students will produce a report that recommends the best ways to approach waste minimization for spring training 2020 and beyond.

“The A’s are proud to call Mesa our home away from home, and we want to do our part to promote sustainability and minimize our environmental impact at Hohokam Stadium,” said A’s president Dave Kaval. “We are excited to team up with Arizona State University on this initiative and learn how to reach our goal of becoming a zero waste facility.”

Colin Tetreault, a senior sustainability scholar with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, is directing the class of 21 “change agent” students as part of a capstone project. “The School of Sustainability is honored to hit a home run for sustainability and zero waste with the Oakland A’s,” Tetreault said. “This collaboration is an example of how sustainability can drive innovation, reduce costs and overhead, and increase the fan experience.”

 

GOLF BALLS CAUSE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN SOME WATERWAYS

I gave up golf about 20 years ago, in part because too many of my wayward shots found their way into water hazards. My retirement from the links took place before I became passionate about sustainability and climate change, so thoughts about the environmental hazards associated with my inability to keep the little white ball dry did not enter my mind.

My perspective has changed, thanks in part to “How Golf is Polluting Our Oceans,” a recent story by Dalmeet Singh Chawla in Medium. The scale of the problem is bigger than I thought: Per Chawla, one estimate suggests the annual number of golf balls sent to the bottom of waterways could be as high as 300 million in the United States alone.

 

Matthew Savoca

According to esitmates, hundreds of millions of golf balls are hit into the waterways of the U.S. every year (Photo credit: Matthew Savoca)

 

That’s almost one wet golf ball per person in the U.S.

Crazy, no?

From that staggering macro number, Chawla’s story zoomed in to the micro, focusing on the efforts of 18-year-old scuba diver Alex Weber to do something about the problem. Since spring 2016, she has collected around 50,000 golf balls from Carmel Bay, California, not far from the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of the 2019 U.S. Open in June. 

To keep her beloved beaches pollution-free, she frequently carries out clean-ups to remove microplastics that wash up on the beaches from large ocean swells,” wrote Chawla. “One day in May 2016, Weber and her father decided to go free diving off the coast of their local beach. ‘What we came across was the entire sea floor was covered in golf balls,’ Weber recalls. ‘There were thousands of golf balls in every crack and crevice  —  I immediately felt sick to my stomach.'”

Her concern stemmed mainly from the toxins golf balls release from the bottom of oceans, lakes or bays, and the problems that poses for aquatic life. The solid core of a golf contain zinc oxide and zinc acrylate for enhanced the durability and flexibility. But both compounds are considered toxic in aqueous environments, and have been shown to activate stress responses in fish, algae, and crustaceans. Feeling responsible for cleaning up the mess that humanity created, the Webers continued collecting golf balls whenever they dove. 

Here’s more from Chawla: “Between May 2016 and June 2018, the Webers retrieved 50,000 golf balls in total, equaling around 2.5 tons of debris, roughly equivalent to the weight of a pickup truck. The father-daughter team have now co-authored a scientific paper, recently published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, describing the scope of the problem…Now known as the ‘Plastic Pickup Team,’ Weber and her father go on dives whenever the weather conditions allow, usually about six months out of the year. Sometimes, they spend up to 10 hours collecting golf balls.”

 

Alex Weber

Eighteen-year-old Alex Weber and her dad retrieve thousands of golf balls from Carmel Bay in Northern California (Photo credit: Alex Weber)

 

According to Matthew Savoca, a marine ecologist at Stanford University who co-authored the study with the Webers, around 10 percent of the collected balls were severely worn down. By calculating how much the balls had degraded, the authors predicted that the collected golf balls have given off around 28 kilograms of fragmented synthetic material to the oceans.

 

Robert Beck.png

Golf balls, unearthed from the bottom of the sea, in various stages of degradation (Photo credit: Robert Beck)

 

That said, and despite the Webers’ prodigious underwater efforts, golf balls represent a tiny percentage of the eight million tons of plastic humans dump into the oceans every year. And, as Robert Weiss, professor emeritus of polymer engineering at the University of Connecticut, remarked to Chawla, “the risk of leakage of harmful chemicals from golf balls is relatively low, partly because golf balls degrade slowly underwater.” 

But, per Savoca, in some locales —  in Carmel Bay, for instance  —  golf balls may be the most significant contributor of marine plastic. 

So what to do?

“The solution to our ocean pollution problem is not to take the plastic out but to stop the plastic from going in,” Weber told Chawla.

The researchers, along with the Pebble Beach Company, owner of several golf courses around Carmel Bay, are working with the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary   to identify possible solutions. PBC is already notifying golfers, directly and through caddies  that intentionally hitting balls into the water is prohibited. 

Other possible remedies include adding nets to prevent balls from landing in the water, training people to shoot more accurately (I wouldn’t bet on this one), and the development of biodegradable golf balls. On the latter, Albus Golf’s ecobioball®, biodegrades within 48 hours after hitting water, exposing an inner core consisting of fish food (brilliant, it says here!). Unfortunately, they don’t yet meet the exact requirements to be considered a golf ball by the U.S. Golf Association (USGA).

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 12.55.10 PM

The biodegradable Ecobioball® from Albus Golf

 

But it’s a start.

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: University of Chicago Fielded An-All Vegetarian Football Team*; Green Roof on Indiana Pacers Training Facility; Andrea Learned Pushes Bike Commuting at Global Climate Action Summit

* Back in 1907!

For real.

College Football Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the sport’s early innovators, became an unwitting #GreenSports pioneer by having his University of Chicago Maroons eat a vegetarian diet during their 1907 Western Conference championship season. Fast-forward to the present and the NBA’s sustainability efforts continue on the eve of the start of the 2018-19 season as the Indiana Pacers installed a green roof on its training facility. And Seattle-based strategic climate action communications expert Andrea Learned pressed bike commuting as an easy, low cost way to fight climate change at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. All in a multi-generational GSB News & Notes column!

 

 

U OF CHICAGO FOOTBALL STARTED #GREENSPORTS MOVEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING IT IN 1907 BY EATING A VEGETARIAN DIET

The University of Chicago now plays football at the small-college, Division III level. But the Maroons were a power back in the late 19th-early 20th century and were involved in two of the game’s most important firsts.

  1. The finest moment in the school’s football history took place in 1934 when Maroons running back Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as college football’s finest player.
  2. Twenty seven years earlier, legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg converted the team to an all-vegetarian diet, revolutionary for that time. Heck, that would be considered radical today. Coach Stagg thus unknowingly planted the seed for the Green-Sports movement about a century before it actually took root.

The latter story came to light in Tal McThenia’s fascinating “How a Football Team Became Mascots for Vegetarianism,” which appeared in the August issue of Atlas Obscura.

Here’s what I found most interesting:

  • Football was already in a period of rapid evolution in 1907. The forward pass was legalized a year earlier a way to open up the game. 
  • Coach Stagg, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, adopted vegetarianism in 1905 and brought it to his squad two years later, believing “the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh.”
  • Newspapers across the country savaged Stagg. “‘Vegetarians Only,’ sneered the Boston Globe. ‘Vegetable Football,’ quipped a wire story…The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote, ‘Dried Apples, Prunes, Nuts, and Water for Maroon Team,’ while the Tribune declared ‘Kickers to Train on Squash.'”
  • Ex-Maroon superstar quarterback turned rookie Trib sportswriter Walter “Eckie” Eckersall nicknamed his alma mater The Vegetarians.
  • Technically, vegetarianism could only be a suggestion to the team but “Stagg, who had long insisted on abstinence from smoking, drinking, and cursing, enjoyed fierce loyalty from his squad, which meant, as one paper put it, ‘his suggestions are law.'”

 

Coach Stagg and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team.

Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (top row center in hat) and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

When the season opening game arrived against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, McThenia reported that Maroons fans unveiled a new, veggie-themed cheer:

“Sweet potatoes, rutabagas, sauerkraut, squash!

Run your legs off, Cap’n De Tray^!

Sure, our milk fed men, by gosh!

Will lick ’em bad today!”

 

We’ll never know if it was the vegetarian diet — and/or the cheer — that did the trick for Chicago but they won easily over the Hoosiers, 27-6. Road victories at Illinois and Minnesota followed, and then came a home drubbing of Purdue, 56-0. Their 4-0 record earned the Maroons the championship of the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten (seasons were much shorter back then). A non-league loss at home to the Carlisle Indians did little to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the team nor Coach Stagg’s conviction that the vegetarian diet had played a positive role in Chicago’s title-winning campaign.

 

Stagg Article

A 1907 article on Coach Stagg’s “vegetable food” (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

Despite the team’s success in 1907, as the 1908 season beckoned, the coach’s ardor for vegetarianism had waned somewhat, both for himself and the team. Per McThenia, Stagg “recalls going flesh-free entirely for only two years, as part of a (failed) effort to eliminate the source of chronic sciatic pain.” As for the Maroons, Stagg continued to encourage a vegetarian diet but no longer pushed it. And, always on the lookout for a new strategy, the coach brought a new “thing” to the squad that year; stimulation by oxygen.

 

GSB’s Take: Atlas Obscura, the site that ran Tal McThenia’s story on The Vegetarians, is fascinating. It is a self-described “global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.” So if you’re looking for, well, obscure places to visit, check out Atlas Obscura. 

Back to The Vegetarians…More than a century later, there are several athletes and teams who have taken the vegetarian baton from the 1907 University of Chicago Maroons, including the all-vegan English fourth division soccer team Forest Green Rovers, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” and 11 members of the 2016 Tennessee Titans who adopted a vegetarian diet. Hopefully when the sports media writes about vegetarian-vegan athletes and teams, it will pick up on the climate change-fighting aspects of veggie and vegan diets, most notably that it takes 8-10 times as much energy for meat to get to one’s plate as compared to fruit, grains and vegetables.

Finally, how ironic is it that Chicago, known for a century or a more as the meat production capital of the U.S. — one of its nicknames is “The Hog Butcher of the World” — is also the home to college football’s first/only all-vegetarian team?

 

INDIANA PACERS PLANT GREEN ROOF ON NEW TRAINING FACILITY

When Victor Oladipo and his Indiana Pacers teammates reported for training camp on September 22nd at their one year-old St. Vincent (training) Center, they did so under a new 8,500 square foot rooftop garden. About 37 percent of the garden is devoted to wildflowers, crops, and plants indigenous to Indiana.

 

Two views of the new green roof at St. Vincent Center, the new training facility of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers (Photo credits: Christopher Cason)

 

According to Christoper Cason, writing in the September 16 issue of The Score, “Architecture firm RATIO, along with the Pacers, wanted something that would…set the franchise apart from other professional sports teams. RATIO reached out to Omni Ecosystems in 2015 about installing a green-roof system that would help regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater.” Omni builds green-roof and green-wall systems that support a wide range of plants — including foods— as well as grasses and  wildflowers.

The St. Vincent Center roof grows tomatoes, basil, beets, bok choy, carrots, green beans, kale, turnips, radish, and Swiss chard. Per Cason, “Instead of soil, the garden uses an engineered growing media that includes lightweight rocks, specific nutrients, and…earthworms.” The harvested vegetables will be used this season by Levy, the Pacers’ food service provider, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team’s arena next door. Any excess produce will be donated to Second Helpings, a local hunger relief non-profit.

The garden also acts as a natural HVAC system, keeping St. Vincent Center cool in hot weather and warm in the winter. This will mean lower energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“We’ve implemented a number of measures and campaigns around sustainability and conservation,” Brent Rockwood, senior vice president of corporate, community, and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, told Cason. “… We strive to set a positive example of environmental responsibility and innovation, and the green roof that sits atop the St. Vincent Center is a big piece to that.”

GSB’s Take: The NBA is upping their green game this season, especially at their training centers. In addition to the Pacers green roof, the LA Lakers recently installed solar panels on the roof of their new UCLA Health Training Center.

 

CYCLING MUST BE A MUCH BIGGER PART OF THE URBAN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS MIX, SAYS ANDREA LEARNED OF #BIKES4CLIMATE AT GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT

Seattle-based Andrea Learned is a multi-faceted individual.

She’s a strategic climate action communications expert who is well-known for her Twitter presence and her Learned On blog. Learned has worked with NGOs and corporations on their sustainability leadership platforms. And she’s a passionate urban biking advocate, having started for purely practical reasons some twenty years ago in Portland, OR.

Learned brought all of those skillsets to last month’s Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. She had hoped to see the climate change-fighting impacts of urban cycling — and walking — get visible and loud discussion as the low-hanging climate action fruit it should be.

 

Andrea with Kate White at GCAS1

Andrea Learned, donning the “Make America Green Again” cap, with Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (Photo credit: Kate White)

 

After all, it makes too much sense.

Per Eillie Anzilotti, writing about Learned and the GCAS in the September 27 issue of Fast Companyresearch shows that if, “globally, cycling commuting rates can rise from their current level of 6 percent (only around 1 percent in the U.S.) to around 14 percent, urban carbon emissions will drop 11 percent. Boosting pedestrian commuting would have similar benefits.”

Unfortunately, GCAS chose to ignore that low-hanging climate action fruit, as there was little evidence of these human-scale endeavors on the main stage. More Anzilotti: “In the summit’s list of key challenges, sustainable transportation appeared as something of a footnote; discussion of cycling and walking was often drowned out by talk of the admittedly more futuristic and startup-friendly electric vehicles.”

Of course the scaling up of EVs is crucial and the pace must accelerate quickly. But, as Learned told Anzilotti, a hyper-focus on electrifying transportation will grant a pass to cities, particularly those in the U.S., that have failed to create safe streets and bike lanes that actively encourage walking and biking.

Urban cycling as a “thing” for mayors and other politicians faces an uphill climb. EV’s are, after all, sexy. The same goes for solar panels, bus rapid transit, storage batteries and more.

To Learned, who started, builds and curates the #Bikes4Climate hashtag, big city mayors should start climbing.

“We need mayors to visibly ditch their traditional black Suburban transportation, on occasion, and bike commute instead. That will send the clear message that they some awareness of the safety and infrastructure challenges we city bike riders and commuters face every day” Learned told GreenSportsBlog, “It would also highlight the climate action and behavior change potential in individuals. Right now, the only mega-city mayor I know of who makes a point to be seen on a bike and talks about it as a carbon emissions reduction tool is Anne Hidalgo of Paris. Imagine if she’d hosted a whole session about the topic at GCAS? But, and especially in the United States right now, we have to identify, name and fame the leaders, small town or large city, who ARE pedaling their talk. ”

There is a smattering of urban cycling-pedestrian success stories, thanks in large part to women. Anzilotti highlighted a couple of them:

  • Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau plans to double its cycling network in 2019 (she needs to move fast!), and reduce all vehicle traffic by 21 percent..
  • Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is proposing to lower speed limits, and the creation of pedestrian zones around schools.

 

To Learned, there’s an opportunity for policy makers in the climate action space (mayors, chief sustainability officers and more) who DO bike in their cities (for short trips and/or for their commutes) to learn from bike advocates, and to collaborate with those in the bikeshare and mobility sectors. “Leaders need to come together to see bicycles as climate action and transportation tools,” said Learned. “Seeing them as solely recreational toys is a huge mistake.”

GSB’s Take: Urban bike and pedestrian commuting needs to be a key part of any serious urban climate change-fighting plan, not the afterthought it appears to be most of the time. In fact, if people-friendly mobility isn’t already a priority in your city, then it’s time for a new mayor.

^ Leo DeTray served as captain of the 1907 University of Chicago football team

 


 

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