“Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports” — Part IV: r.Cup Reduces Number of Single Use Plastic Bottles at Sports, Entertainment Venues

“Which metro area is the Green-Sportsy-est in the US?”

While coastal areas like San Francisco-Oakland-Santa Clara and Seattle might come to mind first, it says here that Minneapolis and St. Paul, smack dab in the heartland of the country, wins the title. In fact, the Twin Cities’ Green-Sportsy-ness runs so deep that we can’t cover it all in one post.

In Part I of our four-part GSB special series, Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports, we looked at US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium and CHS Field (Independent baseball’s St. Paul Saints) from a green perspective.

Part II featured Chef David Fhima, who brought clean, healthy, organic food to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Target Center.

Then in Part III we went back to the venues, this time visiting Target Field (Minnesota Twins), Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild/NHL) and Allianz Field (Minnesota United/MLS).

In today’s Part IV finale, we profile Mike Martin, a pioneer in the sustainable concert space. He recently launched r.Cup, a Minneapolis-based startup whose goal is to dramatically reduce the number of single use plastic bottles at concerts and, going forward, sports events.

 

GSB: Mike, before we get to the r.Cup story, before we get to how sports venues can dramatically reduce the number single use plastic bottles, I’d like to understand how you got into the green concert world back before there really was a green concert world.

Mike Martin: This goes back to the 1980s. I was in the investment banking world, selling mortgage backed securities…

GSB: …The “Go-Go 80s”

Mike: You got that right. I mean I was selling to the Trump Organization at that time. Anyway, I was doing well but during that era the Bhopal disaster¹ happened, the Exxon Valdez spill² happened. I realized helping companies like these was not what I was supposed to be doing and wanted to create opportunities for capitalism to have a positive impact on the health of people and the planet.

 

Michael Martin Headshot

Mike Martin (Photo credit: Mike Martin)

 

GSB: So what did you do?

Mike: A friend got the rights to produce the official concert for the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day celebration in 1990. I had formed a concert committee when I was a student at Carroll University in Wisconsin. Based on that “vast experience”, the friend asked me to produce the event. So I left my job and set about managing the concert. It took place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. A dozen artists including Ziggy Marley, Indigo Girls and Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of REM performed; over 20,000 people showed up. And these artists formed the core of the Earth Day + 20 rally on the National Mall which drew 500,000 people, and the revenues generated from the concert helped fund the rally.

Anyway, the next day, Jonathan Kraft called. His dad, Robert, was buying the New England Patriots. He wanted to do something positive for Boston and offered up the stadium for free if we would put on a similar concert in 1991 at Foxboro Stadium, the Pats’ home at the time. We produced that event — it aired on MTV, which was a very big deal back then.

We reunited Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on Earth Day 1993 at the Hollywood Bowl. Broadcast on VH1, it was the “tent pole” (or centerpiece) event that tied in with 30 markets nationally to create that year’s National Earth Day Campaign. It raised money for PETA, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

 

McCartney

Mike Martin presents Paul McCartney and his wife Linda (since deceased) with an Earth Day “Concerts for the Environment” poster in Minneapolis in 1993 (Photo credit: Michael Martin)

 

As part of producing these events, we greened the stadium, from installing the most energy efficient light bulbs available at the time to recycling to managing water usage. At the Earth Day Festivals, we also introduced many of the components still in use today: eco-villages, rewards for taking environmental action, community involvement, the whole thing.

GSB: And thus, basically overnight, you became a purpose-focused concert producer, with green as a major thread! How cool is that?

Mike: Yes, I feel very fortunate to have been able to not only influence the live event industry, reaching millions of people, and in the process, work on creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest environmental problems.

For the last three decades, I’ve acted, mainly behind the scenes, as a catalyst to bring culture and business together to tackle some of the most pressing social issues facing humanity. One of the things I am most known for is, helping to put the concept of global warming on the map for mainstream America. In the 90s, I started reading research papers about climate change and global warming and thought “this is a massive problem.” I decided I had to do something.

I spent a year talking to leading environmentalists and acted as a catalyst to unite the top 20 environmental organizations to create the first national global warming campaign.

So in 1999-2000, in partnership with Ben & Jerry’s and 20 environmental nonprofits, we produced the Ben & Jerry’s Dave Matthews Band One Sweet World Campaign. The concept was: “Eat This Ice Cream and Lose a Ton…..of CO₂”. This was the amount of CO2 each American needed to reduce their emissions according to the Kyoto Protocol. The campaign educated the country on steps individuals could take to reduce their CO₂ emissions.

 

One Sweet Whirled1

Ben & Jerry’s One Sweet Whirled/Dave Matthews Band limited edition ice cream (Photo credit: Ben & Jerry’s)

 

“One Sweet World” become the most successful Ben & Jerry’s launch up to that point. This helped reinforce the company’s commitment to social change, which helped re-invigorate the brand image, even after being sold to Unilever. Dave Matthews Band established its bona fides as a green band.

From there, we realized we were becoming a purpose-driven marketing agency of sorts…

GSB: …Long before purpose-driven was a thing…

Mike: Then it was called “cause marketing.” Well to us, it was the effect or impact that really mattered so in 2008 we changed the name of the company from Music Matters to Effect Partners, with a focus on developing the practice of “Effect Marketing”.

GSB: What were some of Effect Marketing’s highlight projects?

Mike: We helped launch Toyota’s Prius back in 2000. In 2005-6 we developed “Green Notes” for Clif Bar. This program is still in place. We work with cool emerging artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Soja, Michael Franti and Bon Iver, teaching them how to green their tours, while giving them tools to help inspire their fans to take positive social change actions.

In the early 2000’s we started working with Kim and Jack Johnson to help them develop their greening strategies and messaging. In 2008, we worked with Kim and Jack Johnson on creating their “All At Once” sustainability non-profit and tour. We introduced hydration stations to the music industry with the Brita Filter For Good program. And, we’ve worked with brands like Proctor & Gamble, Target and Apple on developing their Effect Marketing strategies and campaigns

GSB: That’s an amazing track record. Billboard magazine called you the “guru of live music greening.”

Mike: That was very kind of them. That’s been our mission from the beginning. Music is the platform to open the hearts and minds of fans and so it is the obvious way to move people along the continuum of awareness to action on environmental and social issues.

Going to back to Foxboro in 1991, we started something that was behind the scenes but also very important: We created a document called the “EnviroRider™” that can be added to the contracts a band signs with a venue or event promoter. You know, bands have production riders and catering riders, so why not have an EnviroRider? Steve Miller was the first artist who asked me to make this for his tour. By using an EnviroRider, bands would have leverage to make sure that their concerts would be as environmentally-friendly as possible. And it works. Venues do what bands want.

What makes me very happy is how many of the items on the EnviroRider that venues, concessionaires and promoters would say they could not do in the 1990’s and 2000’s are now common practice. Composting on site, offsetting emissions, using biodiesel to power generators, bicycle corrals, fan rewards for recycling, eliminating single-use water bottles, local food, organic food.

We’ve been the Sustainability Director for U2 since 2009 when they launched the 360 Tour, still the biggest tour in history. Our goal for them was to dramatically reduce their waste reduction and carbon footprint. We did that in a number of ways, including creating an offset that provides water filters for people in sub-Saharan Africa so they would not use wood for boiling water.

We moved the needle!

GSB: I’ll say! Talk about how you also got into the fight for clean water. 

Mike: This was in 2000-1. As you may know, arsenic run-off from farming is a by-product of the chemicals and pesticides used on our food. It gets into our drinking water supply. I got involved with getting artists to support a campaign against legislation from the Bush 43 administration that would have allowed more arsenic in our water.

That led to advocating for organics and to producing the “Go Organic for Earth Day,” working with 4,500 stores nationally. The result? Sales of organics jumped by up to 25 percent nationally. The other campaign was called ONE (Organic and Natural Experience). With ONE, we took up to 25 companies at a time out on the road to major events and concerts and distributed organic samples and coupons for organic products. Amazingly, we enjoyed up to 10 to 15 percent redemption rates…

GSB: That’s an insane redemption rate. Most successful coupon campaigns get between 1 and 1.5 percent. So an organic-based promotion outdid that by tenfold! When did sports come into your work?

Mike: Well, I never was that far away from it. Of course most of the venues the bands with which we work play at also host sports events. We created a very exciting campaign that ran during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The USOC and the Dairy Industry Association…

GSB: The Milk Mustache people…

Mike: Them! Anyway they’ve had a long-term partnership, with US Olympians extolling the virtues of milk. But there is increasing awareness and more and more athletes who are adopting plant-based, vegan diets, and who decry the animal cruelty surrounding the dairy industry. So we created an ad that featured vegan Olympians called Switch4Good that refuted some of the pro-dairy claims in milk ads and extolled the virtues of a vegan diet. We ran the ad on NBC, it aired in one market and the Dairy Association complained and so NBC pulled it. But that was okay — we got a ton of publicity, plus we ran the ad on the Oscars broadcast.

 

The Switch for Good ad (60 seconds)

 

GSB: I remember that. Very cool! Now let’s talk r.Cup. How did it begin? 

Mike: To me, after greening live concert events for almost three decades, the environmental Holy Grail has always been waste reduction, especially those single-use plastic cups. We’ve tried fan education, fan incentives, trash goalies, etc. Truth is, most fans don’t really care about taking the time to recycle at concerts or sports events. They just want to enjoy the event!

A great example of this was when Live Nation hired me in 2016 to help them design the optimal way to green their amphitheaters. I was able to take the greening decisions out of the fans’ hands. No plastic, everything was designed to be recycled or composted. I thought we had the solution! But…But there was a big problem: About 80 percent of trash on the ground at a venue does not go to recycling or composting. It goes to landfill. And a lot of that trash was cups. For compostable plastic to work it has to be hand sorted and taken to an industrial composting facility. If not, it contaminates the recycled material.

And so I started to think about how to actually reduce the number of cups that end up on the floor and ultimately go to landfill from big concerts and sports events. We needed to see how we could reduce, reuse…Could we create a rent, refill, return mechanism? Now you can see where the germ of the idea for r.Cup came from.

GSB: Clever! How does it work?

Mike: r.Cup is simple and works amazingly well. You come to the event, buy a beverage of any kind. It’s served in a high quality artist or team branded cup. You pay for the beverage plus a $3 deposit for the cup. Then, if you want another beer or water or whatever, you come back with the same cup and get a refill. At the end of the event, you come to the r.Cup staff and get your $3 back or you can take your up home.

 

 

rCup Stones

An r.Cup from the Rolling Stones 2019 No Filter tour (Photo credit: r.Cup)

 

r.Cup provides the cups, handles all the logistics and tracks the positive environmental impact of the program. No waste is generated, venues do not have to clean-up or dispose of trash, saving them money. The concessionaires do not need to buy cups and can make a small fee on each cup kept. Additionally, we are seeing reports of increased per-head sales. I guess if you are holding a cup, you want to fill it up! Ten percent of the company is owned by ocean cleanup non-profits so as r.Cup grows, the plastic waste crisis begins to lessen.

 

 

r.Cup_U2_3

An r.Cup ambassador explains how the program works to a fan at a U2 concert (Photo credit: r.Cup)

 

GSB: So r.Cup gets its revenues from the people who keep the cups?

Mike: Exactly. And the cups are dishwasher-safe and recyclable. We’re working on a cup that’s fossil fuel-free. For concert tours, which is where we started in 2017, we sterilize the cups and then move on to the next city. For festivals, we will sterilize and warehouse any cups for next year’s festival.

For  sports teams — we’re dabbling in it this year with a big rollout in 2020 — obviously the cups stay where they are. And sports is a huge opportunity for us. Sports contributes far more in single use plastic waste than the music industry. We’ve been approached by sustainability leadership from all the major sports leagues. And six or seven teams at least, all among the leaders in Green-Sports, have reached out, so you will start seeing r.Cup at sport events in the near future.

GSB: Good to hear. How does sports differ from concerts for r.Cup?

Mike: They’re very different. A major band might tour every couple years. A major league baseball team has 81 home games every season. NBA clubs have 41, and NHL teams have 40. So the deposit for a cup model will not work as well in sports. That’s why we have a “no deposit model” for sports in which we become a cup service. The concessionaire pays us to provide the cups, collect, wash, house and manage the cups as well as providing environmental impact tracking. The cost of the cup service is embedded in the beverage. We collect the cups left behind, wash and sterilize them and put them back into use.

GSB: Let us know how it works out. r.Cup is based in Minneapolis, for my money, the hub of Green-Sports in the USA. Are Twin-Cities teams on your radar? And why do you think the Twin Cities sports teams are so green-minded?

Mike: Yes they are! We are in discussions with several of the local teams and you will be seeing r.Cup at some Twin Cities sports events this year.

The Twin Cities is one of the most aware and progressive communities in the country, so fans expect their teams to reflect their values. The owners of the Twin Cities teams are committed leaders who work hard to provide a positive fan experience. Eliminating tons of toxic plastic waste, creates a positive fan experience, helps the community, increases the bottom line, and, most importantly, it is the right thing to do!

 

¹ The Bhopal disaster was a gas leak incident in December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. It is considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster as up to an estimate 16,000 people died.
² The Valdez was an oil tanker owned by Exxon that spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. The oil slick ultimately impacted 1,300 miles of coast line.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Previewing the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit with Executive Director Roger McClendon

Philadelphia is known for its birthplaces.

Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, is the Birthplace of America.

About three and a half miles south sits Lincoln Financial Field. In 2003 the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles arguably became the Birthplace of Green-Sports. It was then that the club, under the leadership of principal owner Jeff Lurie and, in particular, minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie, launched its groundbreaking Go Green initiative.

Fast-forward 15 years and, on June 19-20, “The Linc” will play host to the ninth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit, the first under the direction of new Executive Director Roger McClendon.

With the Summit’s PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION theme as backdrop, GreenSportsBlog chatted with McClendon about his first four months on the job as well as the new programs and initiatives he and his team have in the incubator for summiteers in Philly. 

GreenSportsBlog: Roger, it’s been four months since you started as Executive Director at the Alliance and we are less than a month out from your first Summit as leader of the organization. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, could you reflect on your tenure so far?

Roger McClendon: Lew, it’s been an exciting, productive and busy 120 days or so. We took this time to do a lot of listening. Met with our league partners in New York, spoke with teams and venues across North America, finding out what they need and think are the best ways forward. Looped in our corporate partners, board members and other stakeholders to find out if we’re delivering All-Star level value to our nearly 600 members from the pro and collegiate sports worlds.

I was impressed by the energy and ideas generated at the Alliance’s Sports & Sustainability Conference at Arizona State University in January. We most recently partnered with the Portland Trail Blazers organization and completed a successful symposium in April. Internationally, we connected with the UNFCCC, signing on to their exciting new Sports for Climate Action Framework. We’re in the infancy of an engagement with Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) through our connection with ex-Alliance President Allen Hershkowitz, so that’s exciting too.

 

roger mcclendon suzanne

Roger McClendon (Photo credit: Suzanne McClendon)

 

GSB: That is a whirlwind four months! What have you learned?

Roger: So many things, Lew. #1. Many sports teams and vendors now believe and manage towards a triple bottom line model — people, planet, profit. #2. Teams and venues and leagues seem ready to change. #3. When sports organizations look at environmental impact, it cannot only be from a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction standpoint. In some cases, cost reduction will take the lead role, based on an owner’s priorities, the fan base. Sometimes, a team will emphasize environmental benefit. It’s really a case-by-case basis thing.

GSB: That makes sense, even if I personally would like to see GHG reductions always be the Green-Sports hero. Widening out the lens a bit, that you’re having these fan engagement questions — what we call Green-Sports 2.0 as compared to Green-Sports 1.0, the greening of the games — represents important progress. What say you?

Roger: As we move forward with fan engagement on the environment, on climate, we have to accept that some sports fans just…don’t…care about it. Sometimes, they simply want to go to the game. What I’ve learned is that we need to listen to fans to get relevant fan/consumer insights. That feedback will show us how to communicate with fans more powerfully on environmental issues so more of them care more about it. It’s not easy and there’s not one answer. The Portland Trail Blazers and LA Kings have done some great work in getting fan feedback and enacting green-themed programs and events.

GSB: If memory serves, the last time the Alliance funded projectable, quantitative fan research was five years ago. It provided valuable insights. Will the Alliance fund new fan research in 2019 or 2020? If not, why not?

Roger: Yes, in the next year or two we plan to go deeper into the research, particularly around stadium owners/operators and what they can do to directly impact their consumers, the fans. We are likely to work with partner organizations and members to gather additional quantitative and qualitative data in years to come. Part of the challenge surrounding fan engagement is the actual measurement component. Some organizations like the Portland Trail Blazers have been tracking it via the Eco Challenge platform and others have been working to develop surveys for fans and season ticket holders about what they see value in and what’s important to them as fans. We hope to push the envelope to create different ways to track what fans are doing at home and in their communities and to determine if there is any correlation to a sports team influence, program, or initiative on the fan’s behavior. Exciting stuff, albeit challenging!

GSB: I look forward to seeing the next round of fan-based research, hopefully in 2020. Last time we talked, you said you were interested in moving to Green-Sports 3.0! What does that mean?

Roger: [LAUGHS] Hey Lew, we’re pushing the Green-Sports envelope here at the Alliance! So Green-Sports 3.0 focuses on WHAT’S NEXT; specifically how sports can help publicize and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not all team and league executives know the 17 SDGs exist; even fewer fans are aware. PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION, the theme for the Summit in Philadelphia, is a nod to Green-Sports 3.0 — how the movement can push the SDGs forward — while also providing us with an opportunity to celebrate the present, and the past, the folks who’ve made a difference over the past 10, 15 years.

As far as the past is concerned, it’s fitting that the Summit is being held at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The team, from owners Jeff and Christina Weiss Lurie on down, have been Green-Sports pioneers since they launched Go Green in 2003 So the Eagles will have a prominent role. In terms of the present, we will of course celebrate our annual award winners, including awarding the USTA, Billie Jean King and Lauren Tracy [the USTA’s director of strategic initiatives] with the 2019 Environmental Leadership Award — the Alliance’s highest honor.

Regarding the future and WHAT’S NEXT, young people will have a big role, in particular students from the many Philadelphia-area colleges and universities and beyond. They will get to see up close how folks in their 20s and 30s are making their marks as practitioners in various corners of the Green-Sports ecosystem. And, we are looking forward to our annual, forward-leaning Women, Sports & the Environment Symposium. This year’s WSE includes Melanie LeGrande with MLB, Jan Greenberg with MLS, Heather Vaughan with Pac-12 Conference, and the aforementioned Lauren Tracy with USTA.

But if we stopped there, that would mean we were running a “same old, same old” type of Summit. And we can’t afford to do that.

So we’re breaking the mold with many of our plenary sessions and panels, taking on topics that we’ve more or less glossed over in past years: Climate action, global income inequality, gender issues, and more.

 

Lincoln Financial Field

Solar panels cover the east wall of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles and site of the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit (Photo credit: Mark Stehle/Invision for NRG/AP Images)

 

GSB: Bravo, Roger! There’s no time to waste. As you know, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said humanity has 12 years — the length of Anaheim Angels star Mike Trout’s contract extension — to decarbonize by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous consequences of climate change. In the interest of full disclosure, I am excited to be moderating a panel discussion called “Sports, Carbon and Climate.” These are the types of discussions that are necessary at Alliance Summits. What other panels and plenary sessions would you like to highlight?

Roger: We’re excited to offer our first ever environmental justice-focused main stage panel “Beyond the Ballpark: The Role of Sports in Environmental Justice Reform” featuring Alliance Board member Kunal Merchant with Lotus Advisory and Mustafa Santiago Ali, Co-Host, Hip Hop Caucus’ “Think 100% – The Coolest Show on Climate Change” and former Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization, Hip Hop Caucus.

Attendees will hear from Federico Addiechi, Head of Sustainability & Diversity at FIFA; Mike Zimmer, President of the Miami Super Bowl LIV Host Committee; and Bill Reed, Principal, Integrative Design and Regenesis. The Thought Leadership Forum is back with an impactful lineup of speakers including Elysa Hammond, VP of Environmental Stewardship at Clif Bar & Company and Jami Leveen, Director of Communications & Strategic Partnerships at Aramark.

Twelve breakout sessions will feature various topics, from the role of sport in resilience and climate preparedness, to speaking science and making climate change and sustainability relevant to fans. Check out the full program lineup on our website here.

 

Mustafa Ali Santiago

Mustafa Santiago Ali (Photo credit: Larry French/Getty Images North America)

 

 

Elysa Hammond

Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

GSB: That’s an impressive, “break the mold” lineup. We interviewed Elysa Hammond of Clif Bar about 18 months ago — she’s terrific. See you in Philadelphia!

 

If you would like to register to attend the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Philadelphia, June 19-20, please click here.

 

 


 

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Tommy Caldwell and Other Elite Rock Climbers Team Up to Fight Climate with POW Climb

A group of the top U.S. rock climbers who are also concerned about climate change have worked with Protect Our Winters to launch POW Climb, a new division that will focus on engaging the climbing community to join the climate fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with elite professional climber Tommy Caldwell to find out how he came to support POW and POW Climb as well as what he hopes will result from his efforts.

 

“It’s time to give the climbing community a platform to speak up about climate change.”

So said Tommy Caldwell regarding Monday’s launch of POW Climb, a new division of the Protect Our Winters’ (POW) Alliance.

Protect Our Winters turns passionate outdoor and winter sports enthusiasts of all levels into effective climate advocates. The Alliance is POW’s community of elite athletes (skiers, snowboarders and more), thought leaders and forward-thinking business leaders working to affect systemic political solutions to climate change.

One of the top professional climbers in the U.S., Caldwell joins fellow climbers and Alliance members Conrad Anker, Adrian Ballinger, Emily Harrington, Angela Hawse, Beth Rodden, Matt Segal, and Graham Zimmerman as charter members of POW Climb.

 

LIFELONG CLIMBER AND ENVIRONMENTALIST SEES THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE 

That Northern Colorado native Tommy Caldwell is a world class climber and an up-and-coming climate change fighting eco-athlete would surprise absolutely no one once they learned the outlines of his story.

“I grew up climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park,” Caldwell recounted. “My dad, who taught during the school year, was a mountain guide there. We climbed every weekend. I was climbing in Yosemite when I was three years old. In my teens, I climbed in the Alps and Bolivia. Of course this meant I was in nature all the time and developed a deep passion and appreciation for it.”

 

Tommy Caldwell

Tommy Caldwell of POW Climb ascends the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park (Photo credit: Brett Lowell/Red Bull Media House)

 

Rock climbing globally for more than three decades means Caldwell has experienced the impacts of climate change up close.

“I’ve been climbing in the Argentine part of Patagonia since my early twenties,” Caldwell recalled. “You can’t miss or doubt climate change when you go there over a period time. There’s one incredible mountain, Aguja Poincenot, its east face is accessible only by traversing a glacier. Or, should I say was accessible. Fellow climber Topher Donahue told me the glacier was passable in the 80s and up through part of the 90s. By the time I first visited there in 2003, the glaciers had receded and broken up to the point where crevasses blocked the passage. The beautiful approach from the east is now virtually inaccessible.”

 

Aguja Poincenot

The lower east face of Aguja Poincenot in the Argentine section of Patagonia is now virtually inaccessible to climbers. (Photo credit: Elvis Acevedo)

 

Sadly, reported Caldwell, the weight of climate change’s impacts is heavier on mountains that are still being climbed: “Now, in some parts of Patagonia, virtually when there’s a good weather window for climbing, someone dies. That’s because the mountains are thawing for the first time since climbers started visiting the area. Rocks loosen and ultimately fall. Death from sporadic rock fall is becoming common. I question weather I should climb in those mountains anymore — hey, I have kids now.”

 

ON BECOMING A CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHTER AND PART OF POW CLIMB

Patagonia played a key role in Caldwell joining the climate change fight.

Patagonia the outdoor apparel company, that is.

“I got into climate activism when I became an Ambassador for Patagonia, a sponsor of mine,” said Caldwell. “Then, as a board member of the Access Fund, the advocacy organization for climbing, I got into lobbying in DC on climate change as well as other issues that are clearly important to climbers. In fact, my Access Fund colleagues and I lobbied, through our ‘Climb The Hill’ initiative, on behalf of the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund Act which became law as part of a bigger bill that was signed by the President on Tuesday.”

Caldwell, who was featured in the must-see “Free Solo,” which won the Academy Award last month for Best Documentary, sees POW Climb as the next step in his climb up the climate change activism mountain, with the next challenge being carbon pricing.

“POW reached out to me a few months ago. I then went to an Alliance athlete training, heard from the scientists, saw their legislative and electoral strategies and I was all in. I’m excited to push on carbon pricing and to help elect candidates who will support it and other climate change fighting actions. Now is the time.”

 


 

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Eco-Athlete’s Journey: Stacey Cook, Olympic Skier, Climate Activist

One of GreenSportsBlog’s major initiatives this year is to feature “eco-athletes” whenever we can. They are a small but growing breed and they need the oxygen to share their views and passions when it comes to the climate change fight and other environmental issues.

Winter sports athletes make up a big percentage of the eco-athlete”population. That is no surprise since their playing fields — snowy mountains or valleys — are at high risk due to the effects of climate change. It is great to see alpine and nordic skiers, snowboarders, and more, go outside of their comfort zones by lobbying for climate action in Washington and in state capitols. One such athlete is the recently retired U.S. Olympic downhiller, Stacey Cook.

GreenSportsBlog chatted with Stacey about her journey from tagging along on ski outings with her big brother to developing her own talents on the slopes to discovering her voice beyond skiing through climate change.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Stacey, I am so heartened to see so many elite winter sports athletes getting involved with the climate change issue. And that’s why I am happy to talk with you, an Olympic alpine skier who went way beyond her comfort zone to get involved with climate activism. My guess is you’ve been skiing your whole life. Is that right?

Stacey Cook: Right you are, Lew. I grew up in the Lake Tahoe area of California in a tiny town called Truckee. Snow was a constant so I got into winter sports, skiing in particular, from the time I was four years old. Dad taught my older brother and me — that was the only thing to do in winter — and I had a raw passion for it almost from the get go. And I grew up with great skiers — Julia Mancuso, an Olympic gold medalist in giant slalom, is a lifelong friend.

GSB: Did you go for the alpine events from the beginning — downhill, giant slalom, and slalom — or did you try cross country?

Stacey: Alpine all the way! I loved it. It was total freedom. I was on a team with my older brother and his friends — I was on the slopes from 9-to-5, basically.

 

Cook_Stacey

Stacey Cook (Photo credit: US Ski Team)

 

GSB: Did you know you were good? Were you kicking your brother’s backside?

Stacey: No clue. I did some recreational racing when I was a kid, nothing serious. But I really owe a lot of my success to my older brother Gary — a very strong skier who ended up focusing on football, playing at UNLV plus one season with the Oakland Raiders — I spent so much time chasing him around that I had to get good just to keep up. Someone told my dad he should enter me into a race when I was ten. He did and, you know what? I won!

GSB: WOW!! Did that get you into the competitive youth skiing circuit?

Stacey: Not really. Tell you the truth, I was oblivious to all that. Really, I was passionate but I wasn’t on a travel ski team at all. But what happened was that, in my teens, people I used to beat started to beat me. They were on a team and took it more seriously than I did. And you know what? It pissed me off! So I committed, when I was 16, to make myself a real skier.

GSB: How did you do that?

Stacey: Well, I had a great coach who gave me confidence. So I made a presentation to my parents. I wanted to move to Mammoth Mountain three hours away. I went into the costs, the benefits…

GSB: …How old were you?

Stacey: I was going into my senior year in high school. I had enough credits to graduate after the fall. So after my fall soccer season, I moved to Mammoth on my own and lived with a host family along with other athletes from Washington. Mammoth Resort was founded by Dave McCoy (now 103 years old), who helped back me. It made things much cheaper for my family. So I could follow my passion and become a strong racer. I stayed there and two years later, I made the national team. And from there I went from being unranked to the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

GSB: What event?

Stacey: I was all about the speed events — downhill and Super G.

 

Cook_Stacey 2015

Stacey Cook in action at the 2015 Alpine World Championships in Vail, Colorado (Photo credit: Nathan Bilow, Getty Images)

 

GSB: Wow! A daredevil. High risk, high reward?

Stacey: You know what? I was abnormally healthy over my career — no surgeries — but unfortunately, my crashes came at the Olympics. I crashed in Vancouver in 2010, crashed in practice in Sochi in 2014 and then, in Pyeongchang this year, I got something called “compartment syndrome” in my legs two days before the Games.

GSB: Never heard of it. Sounds serious.

Stacey: It can be very serious. It cuts blood flow to the nerves and muscles. I did 12 hours of rehab a day to try to compete but I couldn’t even do a training run. I was in tears but I was able to make it to the Opening Ceremonies. Which was huge because that was my last Olympics.

GSB: So what to do next? And where does the environment and climate change come in to the mix?

Stacey: Well, I’ve been outside in nature basically my whole life. And my dad was a water fowl hunter, the California Waterfowl Association has a great wetlands and species preservation program. That was my introduction of sorts into environmentalism. But it was traveling all over the world over the many years of my career that really drew my attention to climate change. I saw firsthand how ski communities were being impacted by snow shortages and how that problem was increasing over time.

GSB: That is something I’ve heard from talking to a number of your friends-competitors. So what spurred you to action?

Stacey: I really have to thank Clif Bar, which sponsored me. They were the impetus. Clif makes it easy for athletes to join the climate conversation. I mean, we live in our own bubbles and to take on a complicated issue like climate change is not easy at all. That’s why their resources allowed me to expand my horizons. Plus they have many other athletes in similar situations.

GSB: When did your relationship with Clif, the company with a quintuple bottom line ethos, start?

Stacey: I met folks from the company back in 2008 and loved what they were all about. But Nature Valley was still the US Ski Team sponsor in that category at the time. But when Nature Valley dropped out and Clif replaced them, the door opened and I walked through.

GSB: They are an incredible company.

Stacey: They really are. I spent a lot of time at their headquarters, talking with sports marketing and other folks. They actually listen to your concerns.

GSB: What a concept!

Stacey: Right?? Clif really educated me on climate change. So I was ready this spring when I went to Washington with Protect Our Winters (POW) for the first time to lobby Members of Congress on climate change from a snow sports perspective.

GSB: How did that go?

Stacey: I hate to say it but I was scared. I’m from a tiny town and I’d never done anything like this. I mean, talking to congressmen and women? Senators? Are you kidding?

GSB: I can understand that to a point. I mean you’ve been in the Olympic downhill. THAT’S scary…

Stacey: To you, maybe. But I’ve been skiing my whole life. No, talking to congress members about climate change was much scarier.

GSB: So how did you do?

Stacey: I was a little shaky at first but became energetic by the end. What turned it around was simply telling stories — stories about the changes we’ve seen to the environment. This turned out to be easy. I mean I’ve seen glaciers recede past chair lifts in some areas. And that change happened within the time span of my career. In the end, winter sports athletes are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. We see its effects first.

 

Cook_Stacey CCL

Stacey Cook (center), alongside four other U.S. Winter Olympians for their lobbying day on Capitol Hill this spring. From left, it’s Maddie Phaneuf (biathlon), David Wise (halfpipe), Stacey Cook, Arielle Gold (snowboard) and Jessie Diggins (cross-country skiing). Protect Our Winters and CLIF helped organize and fund their trip (Photo credit: Citizens’ Climate Lobby)

 

GSB: With whom did you meet?

Stacey: Senators and House members from states with big winter sports industries. We met Dean Heller, Republican senator from Nevada…

GSB:  …He will soon be an ex-senator as he lost his race to Democrat Jacky Rosen…

Stacey: True. We also met with House members from Colorado, Minnesota and New York. We impressed upon them the economic costs of climate change on their economies. We weren’t making any hard asks but I believe we get them and their staffs more engaged on climate than.

GSB: That’s a great start and then I heard you followed it up by lobbying for the bill in the California state legislature in Sacramento that the state be powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2045.

Stacey: It really was incredible. Ceres, the nonprofit that is helping to transform the economy to build a sustainable future, led the lobbying effort. Clif, Target and Kleiner Perkins

GSB: …The venture capital firm?

Stacey: Yes…They were all involved. I got to learn what big companies are doing around climate change, which was fascinating and impressive. Thing is, Ceres had never used an athlete to help lobby.

GSB: So you were the first? That is SO GREAT!

Stacey: I know! We created a bit of a stir. Having an athlete as part of the team perhaps allowed us to catch the ear of more Assembly members than would have otherwise been the case. And the bill passed the Assembly in late August.

GSB: The California State Senate had already passed its version of the bill back in May 2017 so the Assembly’s passage meant that outgoing Governor Jerry Brown had something to sign. And he did! Congratulations for your role in all this.

 

California SB100

 

Stacey: Thank you, Lew! I can’t wait to see the great things this new law does for the climate, environment and business in my home state.

GSB: What’s up next for you? Running for office?

Stacey: No way! My plans are in flux a bit. For now, I’m continuing to work with Clif, in particular working with other Clif athletes on the environment, helping them get their voices out there. And I will do more with POW. I do know that, whatever my work turns out to be, the environment will be part of it.

 


 

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#CoverGreenSports

GreenSportsBlogger to Moderate Panel April 3 at NYU Stern School of Business

Will you be in New York City next Tuesday evening? Interested in Green-Sports? Then come on down to NYU’s Stern School of Business at 6:30 PM ET for an engaging panel discussion on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business,” sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Business. As a Stern alum, it will be my pleasure to moderate the event.

 

Next Tuesday evening’s panel discussion at the NYU Stern School of Business on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business” comes at an inflection point of sorts for the Green-Sports movement.

It has been quite successful at what I call “Green-Sports 1.0,” the greening of stadia and arenas. LEED certified venues and zero-waste games are more the rule than the exception these days, and that is a very good thing.

Now, we are slowly pivoting to the early days of “Green-Sports 2.0,” in which the sports world engages fans to take positive environmental actions. For this effort to have maximum impact, teams, leagues and the media that cover them must bring environmental messaging beyond the venues. That’s because the vast majority of fans who follow sports do so not by schlepping to the ballpark or arena, but rather via TV, online, mobile, radio, and newspaper sports pages.

And, it seems to me that for version 2.0 to get where it needs to go, the sponsors and advertisers who provide much of the mother’s milk for the sports industry, will have to take a leading role.

With that in mind, I could not imagine a better panel with whom to talk about the passing of the proverbial Green-Sports baton and more:

  • Doug Behar: Senior Vice President of Operations at Yankee Stadium
  • Alicia Chin: Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League
  • David McKenzie: Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Anheuser-Busch
  • Will Yandell: Northeast Regional Marketing Manager, Clif Bar & Company

The event, which takes place at Stern’s Tisch Hall (40 West 4th Street, Room 411-413), is FREE (such a deal!) but you do need to register as seating is limited. Click here to do so. Start time is 6:30. I recommend that you arrive early as it is first come, first serve and seats are not guaranteed.

 

Tisch Hall NYU

Lobby of Tisch Hall at NYU’s Stern School of Business, site of next Tuesday evening’s panel discussion on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business” (Photo credit: Yelp)

 

Thank you to the panelists and to Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business for hosting the event. I hope to see you there! If you know someone who would be interested in attending, by all means, please forward this post.

 

 


 

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Clif Bar: Pushing Green-Sports Boundaries for 25 Years By “Thinking Like a Tree”

If there were a Green-Sports Corporate Hall of Fame, Clif Bar would be a charter member. The Emeryville (near Berkeley), CA-based company has produced tasty, nutritious, organic energy bars for cyclists, climbers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, surfers triathletes, runners and other outdoor/adventure athletes since 1992. And to say that sustainability is core to its DNA is a massive understatement.

GreenSportsBlog took a deep dive into Clif Bar, its history as a sustainable business and green-sports leader, along with its plans to take both to the next level.

 

“We aspire to be a company that thinks like a tree,” enthused Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship, at an engaging talk in New York City this fall.

Huh?

What does “think like a tree” mean?

“Trees run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, and sustain and improve the places where they grow,” explained Hammond, “‘Thinking like a tree’ is how we go about making good on the most critical part of our environmental mission, which is to help build the climate movement.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a food company with an environmental mission of “building the climate [change fighting] movement.” But am I ever glad there is one, and that it’s Clif Bar.

 

Elysa Hammond

Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

And once I learned about Clif’s history, its “do well by doing good” ethos, its “Five Aspirations” (we’ll get to that a bit later) — and its deep connection to sports —the company’s environmental mission made perfect sense.

Now, you may ask, “What does its deep connection to sports have to do with Clif’s ‘build the climate movement’ mission?”

It goes back to Clif’s beginnings about 25 years ago.

You see, according to Hammond, Clif was “born on a bike.”

OK, now I get “think like a tree” but “born on bike”?

Turns out, Gary Erickson, the company’s founder, was on a 170 mile bike ride — referred to in Clif Bar lore as “The Epiphany Ride” — eating primitive, unappealing energy bars. He said to himself, “I can make a better tasting, more nutritious bar.”

 

Gary Erikson

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

Erickson and his team have certainly raised the bar on tasty (as well as nutritious and organic) energy bars and other foods — while also leading the sustainable business and climate movements, with winter, adventure and outdoor athletes playing integral roles.

 

Clif Bar: Sustainable Business Leader

We will get to the Clif—athletes connections in a moment. But first, please indulge me while I give you a CliffsNotes version of the company’s unusual history. [Ed. Note: OK, you knew that pun was coming sooner or later. I thought “let’s get it out of the way early.” It won’t happen again.]

  • The company’s name, Clif, also happens to be the first name of Erickson’s dad
  • Clif Bar took off soon after its founding and, by 2000, “Big Food” suitors looked to buy it. In fact, Quaker was prepared to snap Clif up for $120 million. Erickson was poised to sign the papers — his business partner wanted to sell; a less sure Erickson was going to go along with it…Until…Minutes before he was going to sign, Erickson said to the lawyers in attendance “I need to take a walk.” Upon returning, he said “no deal.” He wanted to remain independent, to run the company sustainably. A bank was found to loan Erickson money to buy out the partner and he was able to retain control of the company.
  • Staying independent spurred Erickson to incorporate a “Five Bottom Line” approach to sustainably managing the business, which ultimately became the “Five Aspirations,” which Clif incorporated into its bylaws in 2010:
    1. Sustaining the Business: Building a resilient company, investing for the long-term.
    2. Sustaining the Brands: Creating brands with integrity, quality and authenticity.
    3. Sustaining its People: Working side-by-side, encouraging each other, Clif is its people
    4. Sustaining Communities: Promoting healthy, sustainable communities, locally and globally
    5. Sustaining the Planet: Conserving and restoring natural resources while growing a business that operates in harmony with the laws of nature. To make good on this aspiration, Clif works diligently on four sustainability “progress areas”
      • Sustainable Food and Agriculture
      • Climate Action
      • Zero-waste
      • Conserve and restore natural resources

Beginning in 2002, major, long-term, sustainability-infused business decisions became hallmarks: Clif Bars would be made with organic and sustainable ingredients, baked in facilities that run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, come wrapped in eco-friendly packaging, and shipped in ways that don’t pollute.

 

Clif Bar

 

No sweat, right?

Those decisions have led to stunning results, as the company:

  • Earned organic certification for the Clif energy bar in 2003, the first of many of its foods to be so designated
  • Now generates 80 percent of the electricity used at its headquarters from an on-site solar array
  • Achieved an 88 percent diversion rate of waste from landfill
  • Is aggressively greening its supply chain. “We have a ’50/50 by 2020′ goal with our supply chain,” explained Hammond. “That means we are working with 50 supply chain facilities to source 50 percent or more the electricity used for Clif products from clean power by 2020.”
  • Is transitioning away from trucks and towards rail, which will result in a 70 percent reduction in transportation-related carbon emissions.
  • Reimburses employees up to $6,500 when they purchase a car that meets Clif standards including being electric or a hybrid that gets 45 miles per gallon or more

 

Adventure Sports Exemplify Clif Bar’s Ethos and Key to Early Growth

For Hammond, the Clif Bar-Sports story goes all the way back to that famous Epiphany Ride. “Climbing and cycling were foundational sports from the very beginning. Athletes were our first customers and have been evangelizing for Clif and a sustainable planet since the beginning. In fact, many of the athletes we sponsor are passionate environmentalists. Now, to get the full Clif Bar-Sports story, you should talk to Bryan Cole.”

Who is Bryan Cole? The 15-year Clif Bar veteran’s very long job title — senior manager of adventure sports marketing and environmental partnerships — is matched by the long list of adventure sports in which he takes part — Backcountry skier, mountain biker, surfer, and climber.

When Cole described his perfect work world being one “in which I can merge as many of Clif Bar’s Five Aspirations as possible into actual projects, with athletes who care about the planet,” I naturally asked for examples.

“On the micro-level, we took three pro athletes we sponsor — a snowboarder, a surfer, and a prone paddler — to Nicaragua ” shared Cole. “During the days, we worked on the ‘Sustaining our Communities’ aspiration with Surf For Life by helping to build a music room at a school. This allowed a marching band to form and have a place to practice.”

Looking through a wider lens, Cole also cited the company’s sponsorship of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team as being rooted in shared values and quality: “The relationship came to be because the team liked our products’ nutritional profile and taste and we are proud to support these athletes and a team whose values align with ours.”

 

Clif Bar Sponsored Athletes Go the Extra Green Mile

The environmental actions taken by many Clif athletes, from helping advocate in the fight against climate change to conservation advocacy, and more, are nothing short of incredible.

Snowboarder Jeremy Jones is the founder of Protect Our Winters (POW), originally a group of winter sports athletes who are at the forefront of rallying the outdoor sports community to build a movement against climate change. POW is in the early stages of expanding its athlete ambassador roster to include non-winter adventure sports.

 

Jeremy Jones - Jeff Curley - Clif

Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Jeff Curley)

 

 

Greg Long, is a big wave surfer and an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation and Parley for the Oceans, two innovative nonprofits dedicated to finding comprehensive solutions that will result in the protection of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

 

Greg Long, 2015

Greg Long (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

 

I saw big mountain skier Caroline Gleich speak powerfully about the urgency and importance of protecting America’s public lands from development at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. Clif and Caroline are perfect partners.

 

DCIM100GOPROG0030053.JPG

Caroline Gleich (Photo credit: Caroline Gleich)

 

 

Forrest Shearer is a true Green-Sports renaissance man: Big mountain snowboarder. Surfer. POW member. Advocate for wilderness protection.

 

Forrest Shearer via Barbara Weber

Forrest Shearer (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

 

Mountain biker Casey Brown, from the woods of western Canada, needed funding to pursue her sport. “Casey turned down opportunities from energy drink companies as they and their products did not align with her values,” related Cole. “As part of our contract with Casey, we decided to create and have her wear a Clif branded helmet. This was one of our first moves into full helmet branding and we believed that her authenticity would connect with younger fans. So we made Casey a Clif Bar branded helmet and are glad we did.”

 

Casey Brown in Pemberton, British Columbia, August 2016.

Casey Brown (Photo credit: Sterling Lorence)

 

If Clif Bar Really Wants to Build the Climate Movement, Shouldn’t It Connect with MLB, NBA, etc.?

Clif Bar’s partnerships with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, the athletes listed above, as well as with organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and more, make perfect sense from the brand’s outdoor, adventure, somewhat outsider image.

And that approach has certainly worked — while Clif is privately held and thus isn’t required to release sales figures, the company has been on a steady growth path, recently opening a state-of-the-art “green” bakery in Idaho and acquiring a bakery in Indiana. And its brand image is pristine and authentic.

But, if the company’s mission is to build a climate movement that touches and inspires as many people as possible, shouldn’t Clif become involved with the sports with the biggest followings? In North America, that, of course, means baseball, basketball, football, and more. Especially since athletes in those sports are increasingly embracing healthy eating as well as lifestyles. Or, would doing so put the company at risk of being seen as too mainstream, a sellout of sorts, by its fans as well as by the athletes they sponsor?

“Adventure sports is our heritage and we are therefore cautious regarding the bigger sports. We want to ‘keep it real’ for our athletes and consumers,” acknowledged Cole. “On the other hand, we do recognize that our products and our mission would appeal to athletes of all stripes and to their fans. So we will carefully explore working with more mainstream team and individual sports as time goes on.”

My 2¢? The big sports need the cache, authenticity, outsider-ness and energy that Clif Bar would bring them as much if not more so than Clif needs them. Thus, to my mind, Clif can thread the needle — keeping it real and going big league at the same time. I bet fitness and nutrition devotees like LeBron James, Serena Williams and/or Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, to name a very few, would be good fits for Clif — and vice versa.

 


 

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