The 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was crystal clear: Humanity has 12 years to decarbonize by 45 percent if we are to have a reasonable chance to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. To put that in sports terms, we only have the length of Mike Trout’s recent mega-contract extension with the Anaheim Angels, to make these changes.
Thus it is fitting that climate change will have a much bigger role at the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit than any of the organization’s previous annual gatherings. The schedule features three sessions with climate in the title and I am proud to be moderating one of them, “Sports, Carbon and Climate.” Here’s a brief preview.
“Sports, Carbon and Climate” will delve into the best ways for the sports world to go about reducing carbon emissions and thus climate change, while navigating the scientific, political and cultural challenges inherent in sports taking on these fights . Specifically, the panel will discuss how:
Carbon pricing could potentially benefit the sports industry;
Going carbon neutral can help teams and events engage fans to take climate action;
Carbon offset projects, funded by sports teams and leagues, can make a positive impact, as well as their limitations
Our All-Star panel lineup includes:
David Antonioli, CEO, Verra: The nonprofit develops and manages standards and frameworks to vet environmental and sustainable development efforts, build their capacity and enable funding for sustaining and scaling up their benefits. Its Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program is the world’s most widely used voluntary greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions program.
Steve Hams, Director of Engagement, Business Climate Leaders (BCL): BCL is an initiative of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan grassroots advocacy group with nearly 120,000 members in over 450 U.S. chapters. It helps American businesses understand and take action in shaping federal climate policy, with a focus on carbon pricing. Specifically, BCL encourages leaders from businesses of all sizes to endorse the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act: the first bicameral, bipartisan carbon pricing bill ever introduced in Congress.
Aileen McManamon, Founder and Managing Partner of 5T Sports: McManamon has been working to promote the United Nations Sports for Climate Action initiative which she co-authored. She works with sports teams and leagues on triple bottom line business operations throughout North America and Europe.
In a TGIF GSB News & Notes, we share two positive news stories and one naggingly troubling if still hopeful note.
On the positive side, Kevin Anderson, the world’s fifth ranked men’s tennis player, took on the plastic waste issue in Jon Wertheim’s SI.com much-read mailbag column. And the Seattle Sounders used the term “climate crisis” (Italics my emphasis) when they announced their commitment to going carbon neutral in the season that kicks off on March 2. I’ve never seen a team put the words “climate” and “crisis” together before.
On the flip side, despite many calls for his resignation, Gian-Franco Kasper remains the President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) almost three weeks after he outed himself as a climate change denier. But an effort to generate public pressure to force his resignation, led by Protect Our Winters, shows no signs of slowing down.
KEVIN ANDERSON, WORLD’S 5TH RANKED TENNIS PLAYER, SERVES UP PLASTIC OCEAN WASTE TO SI.COM READERS
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, who is Kevin Anderson? And how popular is tennis, really?”
Kevin Anderson (Photo credit: Tony O’Brien/Reuters)
The hard-serving, 6′ 8″ Anderson is currently the fifth ranked men’s player in the world¹, having reached the finals of two grand slam tournaments since 2017. You might remember this incredible left-handed shot (Anderson is a righty) after having tumbled to the grass late in his marathon, 6 hour-plus 2018 Wimbledon semifinal vs. John Isner that propelled him to the final.
As to tennis’ popularity, a 2018 WorldAtlas.com study reports that the sport has 1 billion fans globally, enough to make it the fourth most popular sport on the planet, trailing only soccer (#1 at 4 billion fans), cricket (2.5 billion), and field hockey (2 billion). To my knowledge, the only active eco-athlete who be more well known than Anderson is Mesut Özil, the German soccer star who currently plays for Arsenal.
Back to Wertheim’s mailbag.
The first question came from a reader in Toronto who asked, “When is tennis going to stop its environmentally unfriendly use of plastic?”
Instead of answering it himself, Wertheim gave Anderson, “tennis’ green czar” (who knew??), the court.
An excepted version of Anderson’s reply reads this way:
That your question was submitted to Jon Wertheim’s mailbag makes me very pleased to know that tennis fans are also taking the plastics issue seriously.
Reducing plastic pollution — and particularly keeping plastic waste out of the oceans — is one of my biggest passions. In fact, in December I hosted a charity event at home in Florida with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Ocean Conservancy’sTrash Free Seas Alliance. Once your eyes are opened to the plastic pollution problem, it’s hard not to care about the consequences. I hope that tennis players can be leaders in this space to raise awareness and help make the public more mindful of reducing single-use plastics when possible.
As a member of the ATP Player Council, I’ve been sharing my passion for this issue and last November, the ATP developed measures to reduce its negative impact on the environment at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. For the first time ever, players were given reusable bottles for on-court use, staff were given reusable bottles and encouraged to refill them at water stations, and fans were given reusable cups when they purchased drinks at The O2 (Arena). There are many more things that can be done in the future, but I believe this was a great first step in the right direction.
I’m hopeful we can continue to make other changes, such as do away with plastic racquet bags after re-stringing (which I always politely decline or make sure to recycle), put recycling bins at all tournaments for fans to dispose of their rubbish properly (and on the practice courts for players), and most importantly – provide education. If we can get more and more tournaments, players and fans to recognize the issue we have on our hands, and just how dire of a situation it is, we can make more change.
GSB’s Take: So glad to hear Kevin Anderson is leading the anti-plastic ocean waste movement on the ATP Tour. Hopefully he is recruiting others, including his women’s tennis counterparts, to join his effort. And if his interest in plastic waste becomes an on-ramp to a broader commitment to the climate change fight, all the better.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS, MLS’ FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL CLUB, USES “CLIMATE CRISIS” TERM
The Seattle Sounders committed to going carbon neutral starting with the 2019 season — FC Cincinnati visits CenturyLink Field on March 2 to kick off the new campaign — marking them as the first professional soccer team in North America to do so. In a press release announcing the move, the club pledged that their “operations will make no net contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading cause of the climate crisis.”
Wait a second.
Did you notice anything special in that press release quote? Because I sure did.
A North American pro sports team, used the term “climate crisis.”
But widen the lens a bit and one sees that most pro teams, including those who have done great green work for years, do not even speak of climate change. At all. Benign terms like “sustainability” and “environmentally responsible” are used much more frequently.
It says here that the Sounders use of climate crisis is at least as big a deal as the team going carbon neutral.
And that’s saying something because the club’s carbon neutral commitment is certainly important and substantive.
One reason is that the Sounders included fan travel to and from games — which represent 28 percent of total emissions — in its calculations. Some teams and leagues that have claimed carbon neutrality have not done so.
Fan travel accounted for 28 percent of the Sounders’ emissions in 2018, trailing only team travel (33 percent) and CenturyLink Field operations (29 percent)
Team management partnered with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For emissions unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – the Sounders are offsetting their emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a regional nonprofit. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover. This not only reduces CO₂, but enhances air and water quality.
“We’re incredibly excited to announce that our club is officially carbon neutral,” said Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer. “The Sounders have always been committed to investing in our community, and that includes recognizing the immense responsibility we have as environmental stewards.”
And climate crisis fighters.
Adrian Hanauer, owner of the Seattle Sounders (Photo credit: Seattle Sounders FC)
GSB’s Take: This is a win-win-win Green-Sports story if I ever saw one: Win #1: The Sounders go carbon neutral. Win #2: The club includes fan travel in their emissions calculations. Win #3: Rightfully calling climate change a CRISIS is a big step forward. Kudos to the Sounders for doing so. Will this give other pro teams across all sports the confidence to use the words “climate” and “change” together? Watch this space. Note that I’m starting slowly here and not asking teams to say climate “crisis”. Yet. If you want to let the Sounders know that you appreciate their bold green-sports steps, click here.
CLIMATE DENIER GIAN-FRANCO KASPER REMAINS IN POWER AS HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL SKI FEDERATION;
We close the week with an update on the Gian-Franco Kasper story.
The President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) denied climate change in a February 4 interview, saying, “There is no proof for it. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”
Gian-Franco Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)
Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, quickly wrote an open letter calling for Kasper to resign and encouraged its followers to do the same.
As of February 19, over 8,300 letters had arrived in FIS’ in box.
But that’s not all.
Jessie Diggins, who won Olympic gold at Pyeonchang 2018 in cross country skiing, and other elite winter sports athletes like Jamie Anderson, Danny Davis, and Maddie Phaneuf, made strong statements condemning Kasper’s remarks.
In the sports world, the dog days of August mean that the kickoffs of both American football and the European club version of futbol (aka soccer) are around the corner. Today’s GSB News and Notes column focuses on both sports: The highly ranked Clemson (South Carolina) University football team ended its 35-year tradition of releasing balloons — for environmental reasons. The NFL’s Detroit Lions add solar to Ford Field, thanks to the initiative of punter Sam Martin. And Forest Green Rovers, the fourth division English soccer club buttressed their standing as the Greenest Team in Sports by becoming the first soccer team anywhere in the world to go carbon neutral.
CLEMSON FOOTBALL SAYS GOODBYE TO BALLOON LAUNCH TRADITION; ENVIRONMENTAL COST CITED
“Nothing says autumn like the color and pageantry of a college football Saturday!”
College football fans over the age of 20 can hear the distinctive tones of Keith Jackson, the late, great voice of college football on ABC and ESPN when they read that line.
And, for the past 35 seasons, college football color and pageantry at Clemson (South Carolina) University has meant the release of hundreds of thousands of mostly orange balloons as the Tigers would enter Memorial Stadium. Fans called this tradition the “Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football.”
When Clemson, projected to be a national championship contender, enters the stadium for their September 1st season opener vs. Furman, the band will play, the cheerleaders will perform and the 81,000+ in attendance will roar.
But there will be no release of balloons.
According to a July 27 story by David Hood, writing in TigerNet.com (the self-proclaimed “source for Clemson Sports Information”), the university came to this decision at least partly in response to pressure from environmental groups. Those organizations pointed out that “the balloon launch is a danger to the environment, including loggerhead turtles on the South Carolina coastline.”
For those readers unfamiliar with college football, know this: Traditions like the balloon launch at Clemson do not die easily.
Especially when, per Hood, citing clemsontigers.com, the practice earned Clemson a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records back in 1983 for, well, balloon launches (who knew?!): “Balloons were filled by 11:30 AM, and at 12:57 PM as the cannon sounded, the Tigers descended the Hill [for the 1:00 PM game vs. Maryland] while 363,729 balloons ascended to the heavens. From the press box, it was almost black, something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.”
The tradition of releasing balloons at Clemson University football games is ending (Photo credit: Tigernet.com)…
…thanks to their downstream effects on the loggerhead turtle (Photo credit: NWF)
Make no mistake: That the environment is coming out a winner over a beloved Clemson football tradition is a big deal, especially in a state —South Carolina — where acceptance of climate change is below the US average^.
DETROIT LIONS PUNTER HELPS BRING ON-SITE SOLAR TO FORD FIELD
Last month, the Detroit Lions became the NFL’s 12th team with on-site solar. The installations at Ford Field and the Lions’ nearby Allen Park training facility came about thanks to an assist from an unlikely source — punter Sam Martin.
Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin (Photo credit: Zimbio)
The Lions did not punt on this opportunity.
Power Home Solar will invest $1.5 million with the Lions over three years, covering panel costs and a sponsorship deal. The latter, per Frank’s story, includes “a Power Home Solar Lions pregame show, display advertisements in the stadium…[and] an outdoor pregame booth.”
According to team spokesman Ben Manges, the Lions couldn’t install solar panels within Ford Field itself. So they looked to the parking garage and training facility.
“We couldn’t seamlessly integrate them with our power grid,” Manges told Frank. “We had to install them on parts of our footprint [parking garage and training facility] that weren’t necessarily tied from a power standpoint. As the overall technology continues to get more and more sophisticated, you’ll see the potential for additional use.”
Manges added that the highly visible panels will hopefully lead fans to consider a personal move to renewable energy.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS BECOMES FIRST SOCCER TEAM TO GO CARBON NEUTRAL
Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer team that is, without question, the Greenest Team In Sports (its all vegan concession stands, solar powered Mo-Bots to cut the lawn, EV charging stations and much more are very familiar to longtime GSB readers) is about ready to launch its 2018-19 season.
When FGR visits Grimsby Town tomorrow, it will look to show significant on-pitch improvement over last season’s 21st place finish, only two places above the dreaded relegation zone. A cache of new player signings, led by Welsh international and former Fulham F.C. attacking midfielder George Williams, has hopes running high at The New Lawn stadium.
George Williams, formerly of Fulham, is bringing his attacking style to Forest Green Rovers (Photo credit: Shane Healey)
Of course every team is optimistic before opening day.
But there is a long, nine-month, 46-match slog ahead. And this is only Forest Green Rovers’ second season in the fourth tier, so they are battling a slew of opponents who are more used to this level of competition. The truth is, many variables, from injuries to luck and more, are out of a team’s control.
What FGR can control is building upon its stellar Green-Sports leadership.
Forest Green Rovers recently became the world’s first UN certified carbon-neutral soccer club by signing up for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative called Climate Neutral Now for the new season. The team committed to:
Offset those emissions which cannot be avoided by buying UN certified emission reductions (CERs) units.
CERs are generated by climate-friendly development projects, vetted by the UNFCCC, that help bring sustainable development benefits to communities in developing countries. These include improved air and water quality, improved income, improved health, reduced energy consumption and more.
“It’s a real honor to be the very first sports club in the world to be named carbon neutral by the UN,” Chairman Vince said. “We’re a small club with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic we can work together to champion the sustainability message worldwide. I’m personally looking forward to working more with the UN to help spread the word about the environment through football.”
The ticket office at The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers’ stadium in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England (Photo credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)
“The beauty about Forest Green Rovers is that it’s a small organization, with not a massive budget and still it’s doing so much to address the environmental footprint,” added Miguel Naranjo at UN Climate Change. “So if FGR can do it, anyone can do it as well.”
The question is: When will another team(s) do it, Forest Green Rovers-style?I mean, I love writing about FGR but when will other clubs follow suit so I can write about them?
^ Per a 2016 study by the Yale Program on Climate Communication
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