The GSB Interview: Monica Rowand, Bringing Green-Sports to University of Louisiana. Part I: Honing Her Craft at UCLA and CU-Boulder

Monica Rowand is one of the brightest, young stars in the Green-Sports world as she helps to lead the University of Louisiana’s (Lafayette) athletic department’s burgeoning sustainability efforts. 

Despite Monica’s youth, her story is rich and deep, so much so that we’re dividing the interview into two parts. Today’s Part I delves into her lifelong love affair with sports, her discovery of Green-Sports at UCLA and her work with Dave Newport and University of Colorado-Boulder’s powerhouse Green-Sports program.

In tomorrow’s Part II, we move with Monica to 1,200 miles to the southeast to Lafayette, LA to find out what she and the University of Louisiana’s sustainability department are doing to green the Ragin’ Cajuns athletics department. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Monica, you’ve done so much important Green-Sports work and you’re not yet 30. When did you start, when you were in middle school?

Monica Rowand: Well Lew, I wanted to work in sports for as long as I can remember, baseball specifically. In fact, when I was a little girl I knew the exact job I wanted…

GSB: …Which was?

Monica: To manage the Los Angeles Angels, or Anaheim Angels as I grew up calling them!

GSB: I’m dating myself by saying I grew up calling them the California Angels! Why not aim high?

Monica: Exactly! And that Angels job is still in my plans. But Green-Sports really started for me while I was an undergrad at UCLA

GSB:…Recently named the number one public university in the country!

Monica: I know! Anyway I started out as a business economics major but then switched to geography and environmental studies.

GSB: Why did you switch?

 

RowandM2

Monica Rowand (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

Monica: Good question. I had first gotten interested in the environment in high school when I saw “An Inconvenient Truth.” Then at UCLA I signed up for a Global Environment class to, if I’m being honest about it, take care of a science requirement.

GSB: Many of us can relate to that kind of college class scheduling…

Monica: The thing was, I really loved it! Then, in my senior year, I took this amazing class — Remote Sensing…

GSB: What is that?

Monica: It’s about using satellites, radar and other tools to scan the earth and obtain information that include temperature and other weather and climate metrics. We were told to pick semester project topics based on our passions so, given my love of baseball, mine was about the size of parking lots at Major League Baseball stadiums and the resulting heat island effect. I also looked at tree coverage in those lots. All of this was done using remote sensing. I studied the LA Dodgers…

GSB: …Dodger Stadium has massive circular parking lots surrounding it…

 

Dodger Stadium

Aerial view of the massive parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (Photo credit: change.org)

 

Monica: Yeah! Awful for heat island effect. We also looked at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants and Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. I really enjoyed the project; this was the first time I realized I could combine sustainability and sports.

GSB: Did you work on any other Green-Sports projects while at UCLA?

Monica: Yeah. The second one looked at the waste generated at large sports events by league — Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL. I figured out the average amount of waste per league and then compared that to total waste in the U.S.

GSB: It must’ve been tiny…

Monica: Oh it was. But that didn’t deter me. In fact, it made me realize that the real promise of Green-Sports was in engaging fans to care about the environment, climate change, and more…more so than focusing on greening the games themselves, because, like I said, total waste and carbon emissions from sports events are quite small relative to everywhere else.

GSB: So you knew you were Green-Sports 2.0 rather than Green-Sports 1.0…

Monica: That’s right. Sports is perhaps the most powerful platform in the world and it is past time that it was used in service of the environment!

GSB: Indeed! So what did you do when you graduated?

Monica: I moved to Denver — needed to get out of LA then. I got a job at a gym because, well, I needed a job. We did waste reduction and recycling, had an Earth Week program but that wasn’t a green job. But I networked like crazy with something called the Rocky Mountain Green Venue Partnership. All the major Denver area sports venues were in the group…Coors Field, home of the Rockies, Pepsi Center, home of the NBA’s Nuggets and NHL’s Avalanche. CU Boulder was there too. It was at these events that I became convinced that I wanted to work in Green-Sports and that I could get a job in it. It just didn’t happen then…

GSB: And next you…

Monica: …Moved to New Orleans in 2012 as I decided to join the Americorps VISTA program and work with Global Green doing community outreach.

GSB: Global Green is a great group!

Monica: I loved that job. I worked on so many things — education, energy efficiency, and community organizing. During this time I also networked in Green-Sports: I went to the 2013 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn. I connected with Jarian Kerekes…

GSB: …Then the NBA’s Corporate Social Responsibility head.

Monica: Yes. We collaborated on ideas to help green the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. I spoke to leading Green-Sports practitioners like Omar Mitchell of the NHL and Paul Hanlon of MLB. Both told me I should get an MBA, with the idea being that I already had a strong environmental background but I needed to learn about business. So I looked for business programs with a strong sustainability bent. At that time, Dave Muller at the Green Sports Alliance said, “You should talk to Dave Newport at CU-Boulder. He runs the Environmental Center there and is doing amazing Green-Sports things.”

GSB: What did Dave Newport tell you?

Monica: He said, “Come to CU and I’ll hire you to help grow ‘Ralphie’s Green Stampede!'” So I went off to Boulder. I mean, sports and B-school? INCREDIBLE!!

GSB: Sounds like the perfect spot as Ralphie’s Green Stampede is arguably the best Green-Sports initiative in college athletics.

Monica: Oh yeah! For several reasons. Number one: Dave has the same mentality I do: Sports has the power to change behavior. Two: The Green-Sports infrastructure was already in place when I arrived there in 2015. Ralphie’s Green Stampede, which launched in 2008, had already helped CU Athletics become Zero-Waste, reduce its carbon emissions, get involved in water balancing and…

GSB: What is water balancing?

Monica: Athletics reduced their water usage. Whatever we did use, BEF worked with us on river restoration projects, thus adding the same amount of water back that CU Athletics had used.

GSB: Who funded this?

Monica: We were able to get corporate sponsors to pay for it.

GSB: Brilliant! What was your role with Ralphie’s Green Stampede?

Monica: I was the program manager for fan engagement…

GSB: AGAIN, perfect for you!

Monica: YES!!! I got to work with Dave, Athletics, and Learfield, the company that sold CU Athletics sponsorships. Working with Learfield’s Brandon Leimbach, a true rock star, we were able solidify a unique category of sponsorship that created value for our sports property, the corporate partner, and our community.

 

Ralphie Team

From left, Monica Rowand and Ralphie’s Green Stampede teammates Dave Newport, Brandon Leimbach and Angie Gilbert (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: What kind of sponsorship programs did you guys develop and sell?

Monica: On water restoration, working with the aforementioned BEF, we created Water For The West for men’s and women’s basketball in 2015-16 and then football in 2016. Wells Fargo and Kohler sponsored it. CU’s venues have high efficiency water fixtures like faucets and then CU Athletics purchased 10 million gallons of water restoration credits.

GSB: Where did the fan engagement piece come in?

Monica: The idea with fans was to get them to follow the Buffs’ lead and save water at home, work, and play. So we set up a text platform, text “CU Water” to 27126 — I believe it’s still live — and promoted it at games and on social media. By texting, you were committing to saving water on your own— we showed them how by texting them water saving tips. For every text pledge we got Wells Fargo would restore an additional 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River through the BEF water restoration certificate program.

 

Water For The West promotional video (1 min 4 secs) featuring CU Women’s Soccer player Taylor Kornieck

 

GSB: What a neat program! How many people participated and how much water was restored?

Monica: In addition to the 10 million gallons that balanced the Buffs’ annual water footprint, 956 students and fans made text pledges during the 15-16 basketball seasons. So in the program’s first season an extra 956,000 gallons worth of water restoration projects could be done!

 

TOMORROW’S PART II: Monica Rowand moves from CU-Boulder to the sustainability department of the University of Louisiana in Lafayette to help launch their Green-Sports initiative.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Sports Sponsor Volvo to Make Only Hybrid and EV Cars; 2017 Final Four Gets Highest Level Green Certification; MLS’ C.J. Sapong Brings Urban Farming to Philadelphia

After a week off, GreenSportsBlog is back with a News & Notes column about a trio of Green-Sports winners: Swedish car maker and sports sponsor Volvo announced it will only be making hybrids and electric vehicles (EV’S) as of the 2019 model year. The 2017 Men’s Final Four in Phoenix received the highest certification possible from the Council for Responsible Sport. And C.J. Sapong of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union teaches kids in the City of Brotherly Love about nutrition. 

 

VOLVO WILL MAKE ONLY HYBRIDS AND EV’S BY 2019; SPORTS FANS NEED TO HEAR ABOUT IT

In a story that should’ve gotten much more attention amidst the Trump-Putin meeting at the G-20, Volvo announced on July 5 that every car it introduces from the 2019 model year (fall 2018) onward will have an electric motor as they will only offer hybrids or electric vehicles (EVs). The Swedish company is the first major carmaker to take that step.

Now, this doesn’t mean Volvo is ditching gasoline and diesel engines—at least not yet—but it does put them on an inexorable path to ultimately phase out and replace internal combustion engines with cleaner and more efficient drivetrains. The next big step for the company is to transform all of its current models into hybrids, as well as launching five EVs between 2019 and 2021.

This is the latest move in the Swedish automaker’s rapid carbon footprint reduction program. Ciprian Florea, writing in the July 5 issue of Top Speed magazine, noted that in 2013, “Volvo described V-8 engines as ‘dinosaurs’ and pledged to eliminate [them] from its lineup. Come 2017, and all new Volvo vehicles feature four-cylinder engines only, some backed by electric motors in plug-in hybrid versions.”

“This is about the customer,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo president and CEO, in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

 

Samuelsson Volvo

Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo president and CEO (Photo credit: Volvo)

 

To ensure increased demand for electrified cars turns into increased sales for Volvo and not its competitors, the company will need to promote its new hybrid and EV models.

That’s where the company’s sports sponsorships should come into play. Interestingly, in recent years, Volvo has exited the premium car industry’s traditional sponsorship bailiwicks of auto racing and golf, preferring instead to focus on environmentally-friendly sailing along with tennis.

 

Volvo Ocean Race, October 2017-June 2018

The 2017-2018 round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which has sustainability coursing through its DNA, provides a fantastic platform on which to promote the switch to hybrids and EVs:

  • The 2017-2018 edition has adopted the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Clean Seas initiative, plastic ocean waste reduction campaign.
  • The race’s commitment to reduce its overall carbon footprint will be on display through educational and science programs at the fan villages at each of the 13 race stops, from its start in Alicante, Spain to its conclusion in The Hague, Netherlands.

 

Volvo Ocean Race

The 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race will start in Alicante, Spain and end in The Hague, Netherlands.

 

The race’s timing and length, from October 2017 to June 2018, as well as its consistent, worldwide broadcast coverage (NBCSN will follow the race in the U.S., Rogers SportsNet in Canada and Sky Sports in the U.K.) offers the company a global, 9-month run up to the start of the 2019 model year (beginning in August-September 2018). One can easily imagine ads touting the Volvo hybrids and EVs, themed to the Volvo Ocean Race, airing on TV and via digital channels during race broadcasts. It would be a huge opportunity missed if such ads don’t run.

 

Volvo Car (Women’s Tennis) Open, March 31-April 8, 2018, Charleston, S.C.

While the Volvo Ocean Race makes only one U.S. stop (Newport, R.I., May, 2018), the company has another stateside sports sponsorship; the Volvo Car Open Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in Charleston, S.C.

The tournament, at least from publicly available information, has not made the environment nor sustainability a priority. That is unfortunate but Volvo can take the green lead at its own tournament by promoting its EVs and hybrids on site. And, more importantly, they can do so during Tennis Channel’s exclusive coverage of the event.

Tennis Channel, as of March, 2017, reaches 52 million U.S. homes and has one of the most affluent audiences of any cable network. Since at least two of its five EVs will be at the high priced end of the car spectrum, Volvo and Tennis Channel will make for a strong marriage. And, as title sponsor, Volvo will have plenty of advertising opportunities during the tournament to stoke demand.

 

2017 MEN’S FINAL FOUR IN PHOENIX EARNS COUNCIL FOR RESPONSIBLE SPORT’S HIGHEST CERTIFICATION

A record crowd of more than 77,000 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, along with an audience of millions more on TV and online, saw the University of North Carolina Tar Heels upend the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 71-65, to win the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship back in April. Likely unknown to all but a few folks at the time was the fact that the 2017 Men’s Final Four was under consideration for the top level of sustainability certification available from the Council for Responsible Sport.

Consideration has now become reality as the Council and Phoenix Local Organizing Committee recently announced that the 2017 NCAA Final Four Basketball Championship garnered the top-level Evergreen Certification for its sustainability efforts and achievements. As long-time readers of GreenSportsBlog know, the Council for Responsible Sport is an Oregon-based not-for-profit organization that provides independent verification of the socially and environmentally responsible work event organizers, from road races to cycling events to Final Fours, are undertaking.

 

UNC Final Four

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after winning the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Glendale, AZ. The 2017 Men’s Final Four recently achieved the top level of sustainability certification (Evergreen) from the Council For Responsible Sport. (Photo credit: David J. Phillip)

 

The Organizing Committee made the Evergreen grade by achieving more than 90 percent of the 61 total best practice standards offered in the Council’s framework across five categories: planning and communications, procurement, resource management, access and equity and community legacy. Here are some highlights:

  • 91 percent of all unavoidable waste was diverted from the landfill via a robust recycling, reuse and compost strategy led by the City of Phoenix Department of Public Works, which has a 40 percent diversion rate goal for Phoenix by 2020.
  • 5,300 Fan Fest, Tip Off Tailgate, and Music Fest visitors took a water saving pledge (and a selfie to #DropBuckets4AZ). Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) pledged to restore 1,000 gallons of water to Arizona Watersheds for each picture taken, resulting in restoring 5.3 million gallons of freshwater into an Arizona ecosystem.
  • All of the electricity used at the Phoenix Convention Center for Fan Fest and at the stadium during the event weekend was sourced from clean energy sources through the purchase of verified Renewable Energy Certificates.
  • An e-waste collection, with the support of LG, resulted in the proper recycling of 925 pounds of electronic waste.

 

PHILADELPHIA UNION’S C.J. SAPONG TEACHES KIDS ABOUT URBAN FARMING, NUTRITION THROUGH “SACRED SEEDS”

C.J. Sapong has been a top performer in Major League Soccer (MLS) over his seven year career. The Philadelphia Union forward won the Rookie of the Year award and, while with Sporting Kansas City, earned MLS and U.S. Open Cups. This season, Sapong is off to his best start ever, with nine goals in his first 18 games.

 

Sapong Goal Eric Hartline

C.J. Sapong of the Philadelphia Union. (Photo credit: Eric Hartline/Goal Magazine)

 

But as impressive as that record is, it is what Sapong has been up to off the pitch that drew GreenSportsBlog’s attention.

Sapong, an avid gardener and a student of hydroponics (the process of growing plants in sand, gravel and/or water, but without soil), is working, with his new nonprofit Sacred Seeds, to help children in Philadelphia reach their potential through improved nutrition. ​He shared his story in a must-read, “as told to” interview with Kevin Koczwara in the June 21st issue of Good Sports. Here are some excerpts:

  • “After some incidents that nearly derailed my career, improving my eating habits helped me get back on the field. My experience opened my eyes to the importance of diet, and as I looked around, I could see kids weren’t getting the nutrients they needed, either. But for them, it wasn’t a choice. In Philadelphia…I could see food deserts depriving kids of their basic needs. So I began brainstorming ideas on how to bring healthy, nutritious food to less-fortunate children [by] empowering kids to take charge of their own diet while getting their hands dirty.”
  • “There is a serious problem in Philadelphia and other major cities with food deserts…where access to fresh fruit and vegetables is nonexistent because of a lack of grocery stores or farmers markets. Usually occurring in impoverished neighborhoods, food deserts have a negative impact on the people living in them…A healthy diet helps quell things like anxiety, depression, lethargy, and behavioral issues. With that in mind, I wanted to combine my research [into micro-greens, hydroponics and aquaculture] to help combat food deserts in Philadelphia.”
  • Sapong partnered with Temple and Drexel universities to launch Sacred Seeds. “We’re implementing hydroponics in the greenhouses…using recycled materials, like used and discarded tires dumped around the city…but want to eventually move towards aquaculture…where plants grow in an environment that is fed by fish that live in a tank under the grow pads, feeding the plants on constant loop while the plants provide nutrients back to the fish. [This allows] the greenhouses [to] almost [fully] maintain themselves while providing children and neighborhoods with nutrient-rich food for their diets.”
  • The Union’s leading goal scorer this season wants kids in Philadelphia to help lead Sacred Seeds. “We need to teach kids [to] feel the positive energy that comes with harvesting something you created. We want them to get their hands dirty, to dig and grow their food. Nothing tastes as good as the food you make and grow.”

 

Sapong Good Seeds

C.J. Sapong of the Philadelphia Union works with Philadelphia kids as part of the Sacred Seeds initiative. (Photo credit: C.J. Sapong via Instagram)

 


 

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