Green-Sports Corporate All Stars: adidas Launches Shoe Made from Plastic Ocean Waste; Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” College Tour

Conventional wisdom has it that, given the anti-environmentalist attitudes of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the corporate sector will need to step up, bigly, on behalf of serious action on climate change. With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog will, from time to time, highlight “Green-Sports Corporate All Stars” taking the lead at the intersection of Green + Sports. Today we feature adidas, and its recently launched sneaker made primarily from plastic ocean waste, and Patagonia, the über-Green outdoor sports apparel designer and retailer as it encourages longer life spans for its (and its competitors’) garments. 

 

CORPORATIONS NEED TO STEP UP THEIR CLIMATE CHANGE GAME

The forecast for positive climate change action from the current administration is stormy.

At Tuesday’s sort-of State of the Union, President Trump did not mention climate change. One of his executive orders is designed to eventually allow coal companies to more easily dump waste into streams. Newly installed EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, talks longingly about dismantling the very agency he was hired to run and is a climate change skeptic at best.

All is not gloomy on climate in Washington, D.C.—Republican éminences grises James Baker, Hank Paulson, and George Shultz all endorsed, through their newly formed Climate Leadership Council, a revenue-neutral price on carbon; nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby^ continues to press for something similar among members of Congress from both parties, with some modest successes among House Republicans. But with climate change skeptics and deniers in charge of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, concerted pressure for meaningful, positive climate action will be needed from large corporations that have the heft to force real change, now more than ever.

The news from the corporate sector is mixed. Many have been and are doing great things: from pledging to reduce their carbon footprints and that of their supply chains, to curbing waste, to buying renewable energy and more. But—and this is a huge but—corporations have been much less likely to tout their environmental bona fides to consumers even though they are doing great things. And they have been mute when it comes to lobbying Congress on behalf of action on climate change. 

The good news-bad news on the climate for corporate climate action is also the case in the sports world. Many companies involved in sports are doing the right things, sustainability-wise; fewer are engaging their consumers and/or talking about it.

With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog is today launching a new occasional series, “Green-Sports Corporate All Stars,” in which we highlight the corporations that are making positive things happen at the intersection of Green & Sports.

 

ADIDAS DIVES DEEP TO BRING SNEAKER MADE FROM PLASTIC OCEAN WASTE TO MARKET

“Our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”

So said Eric Liedtke, adidas Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing, in a November, 2016 press release announcing the launch of the company’s UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneaker, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste.

Talk about thinking—and acting—big!

GreenSportsBlog first got wind that adidas’ plastic ocean waste shoe plans back in July, 2015. It took 16 months for the Herzogenaurach, Germany-based company to turn concept into reality.

The sneakers are made as part of a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental nonprofit that draws much-needed attention to ocean pollution and waste. Each shoe’s “upper” (the part that goes over the top of the foot) is made from 5 percent recycled polyester and 95 percent waste plastic (plastic bottles, containers, etc.) dredged from the ocean around the Maldives, an archipelago that is existentially threatened by climate change off the southern coast of India. Most of the rest of the sneaker (including the heel, lining, and laces) is also made from recycled material. 

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adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneakers, made from 95 percent ocean waste. (Photo credit: adidas)

 

Priced at approximately $US220, the Uncaged Parley started slowly—only 7,000 pair were stocked at adidas retail outlets worldwide at launch in November—but the company is ramping up quickly, with audacious goals for this year: “We will make one million pair of [Uncaged Parley] shoes in 2017,” said Liedtke.

And adidas is not limiting its recycled-content vision to shoes.

In the February 1 issue of The Druma digital marketing-for-good news source, Tony Connelly reports that adidas brought the SS17 Parley swim collection to market. It  features two designs: a wave print that references the source of its fabric, and a Parley inspired graphic. The swimsuits are made from used fishing nets as well as the upcycled ocean plastic waste similar to that used in the sneakers. 

Speaking to Swimming World magazine, Tim Janaway, general manager of adidas Heartbeat Sports said: “Created with the ethos ‘from the oceans, for the oceans’, the Parley swim collection represents our dedication to consistently deliver swim products that protect that waters in which we perform.” Currently, 50% percent of the company’s swimwear is made from recycled material; that percentage is clearly going to rise.

Check out this spot that brings home the true power of the adidas-Parley for the Oceans collaboration:

The SS17 Parley Swim Collection ad (1:37)

 

PATAGONIA ENCOURAGES COLLEGE STUDENTS TO WEAR CLOTHES LONGER 

Athletic/outdoor-wear designer and retailer Patagonia is one of the greenest companies in the world.

It is also one of the most radical. Don’t believe me? Here is an excerpt from CEO Rose Marcario’s 2016 year-end letter:

For the sake of Planet Earth, let’s all become radical environmentalists. This sounds like a big leap—but it’s not. All you need is a sewing kit and a set of repair instructions. As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.

Why is repair such a radical act? Fixing something we might otherwise throw away is almost inconceivable to many in the heyday of fast fashion and rapidly advancing technology, but the impact is enormous. I tell you this as CEO of a clothing company that, despite a deep commitment to responsible manufacturing, still takes more from the earth than it returns.

Ms. Marcario can’t mean we should wear clothes longer, thus buying less frequently from, say, Patagonia, can she? Oh, yes she can.

You see, Patagonia has embarked on the Worn Wear program which teaches consumers to repair their gear to keep it in action longer, along with providing an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’re beyond repair.

This year, the Patagonia Worn Wear College Tour repair team is bringing its truck, Delia, to campuses all across the country. The team fixes about 40 garments per day of any brand, free of charge, on a first come, first served basis. They also give quick lessons on how to repair clothes, sell used gear at marked-down prices and screen a short film about the Patagonia ethos, The Stories We Wear.  

patagonia-we-wear

patagonia-worn-wear-donnie-hedden

Images from Patagonia’s Worn Wear College Tour. (Photo credit: Donnie Hedden)

 

The Spring 2017 tour started on February 16 at College of Charleston (SC). It’s in the midst of an east coast/New England swing, stopping at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City today and at Yale University on Monday.  The tour wraps up at UC Santa Barbara on April 26. Click here for the entire spring Worn Wear College Tour schedule.

 

^ In the interest volunteer my time on behalf of Citizens’ Climate Lobby
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The GSB Interview: David Muller, Green-Sports-Corporate Partner Matchmaker

David Muller has successfully shown sports teams, venues, and leagues, as well as corporations large and small, the value of attaching themselves to the Green-Sports Movement. After playing a key role in building the Green Sports Alliance from start up to mature force, Muller went off on his own to increase his impact. We sat down with Muller to get his take on the Movement, where it’s going and what he sees his role as being.

 

GreenSportsBlog: David, how did a kid from Springfield, IL find his way to the epicenter of the Green-Sports Movement?

David Muller: Things certainly didn’t start out that way. Yes, I am from Springfield. Grew up a Bulls fan during the Jordan Years, and of course love the Bears and White Sox too. But I didn’t intend to work in sports at all. I wanted to move west and went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR as a Religious Studies major. Thought I would go the academia route but you know what? Whenever I looked at an academic, they seemed so unhappy—bored, really, and removed from the real world. So I ditched that plan and wandered—worked in education and journalism, taught English in Argentina, then worked in software project management. Over time I came to the conclusion that I needed to work in sustainability in some way, shape or form. Ended up going to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s (BGI) Graduate Business School for Sustainability in Seattle. Now part of Presidio Graduate School, I was attracted to it because it embedded sustainability in every aspect of the curriculum with the goal of making the world a better place through business, or “changing business for good” as the motto goes.

GSB: That’s a lofty goal, indeed…

DM: No doubt about it. They really want to change business from the inside out.

GSB: So how did you go from BGI to the Green Sports Alliance?

DM: During my time at BGI, Jason Twill came to speak. He was working at Vulcan

GSB: …Vulcan is Paul Allen’s company, Allen being one of the co-founders of Microsoft.

DM: Correct. Included among Vulcan’s assets at the time were the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and the Portland Trail Blazers. Twill worked for Allen at Vulcan and was one of the co-founders of the GSA. He made the point that sports can change the world; that it can be a powerful platform for social change. I got it immediately, being an avid sports fan, having experienced in person and up close the power of sports to be a great unifier. Twill also said, “If you hear someone speak that inspires you, reach out to him/her.” So I took him at his word and did just that. The GSA hadn’t even launched yet, but Jason invited me to a board meeting/workshop. Soon enough I was an intern, there for its birth. And 9 months later, I was the second-ever staffer behind the original Executive Director Martin Tull.

GSB: What was your role there?

DM: I started out as a Jack-of-all-Trades, handling communications, writing blogs, and researching the ‘state of the state’ of the fledgling Green Sports Movement. I developed and managed the webinar program from its inception, focusing on the key identified impact areas of waste, energy, water, purchasing, transportation, and fan engagement, and featuring leading practitioners and successful case studies. We secured some terrific speakers early on, including several GMs and Directors of Operations of major professional sports venues, executives from international corporations like Aramark and Waste Management, as well as leading environmental NGOS and the U.S. EPA—and we quickly built a solid audience.

muller-matt-cohen

David Muller (Photo credit: Matt Cohen)

 

GSB: How many people attend those webinars?

DM: We started with an audience of 20-30; as of the spring 2016, we were getting 150-200 people per webinar. And then I took on generating memberships among teams, venues and leagues.

GSB: How did you do there?

DM: Well, from about 20 members when I came on board in 2011 as Membership Director, the GSA grew to nearly 400 members as of 2016.

GSB: That’s really impressive, David. Congratulations! How much did the memberships go for?

DM: There were two levels: Basic was $500/year and Premier went for $2,500. Premier members got a deeper level of direct support on greening initiatives from myself and other staff, as well as more significant promotion through the GSA website, public communications, and events.

GSB: What kind of services did the GSA offer its members?

DM: As far as the team and venue members were concerned, the we helped them reach their sustainability commitments and goals, whether it be recycling, composting, energy efficiency, etc. We really became sustainability consultants for stadium operators who increasingly were getting the direction from team management that they needed to take smart and fiscally responsible actions to reduce environmental impacts.

GSB: And they weren’t equipped to do so…

DM: Well, we provided the sustainability expertise they needed by reviewing their operations, examining their supply chain, researching available grants and incentives, etc.

GSB: At $500-$2,500 per year, that’s a great bargain!

DM: We thought so. And the spirit of collaboration among GSA members and staff was incredible.

GSB: Can you share a specific example of how you and the GSA worked with a team?

DM: Ah, it’s tough to pick out just one…

GSB: That’s why I ask the tough questions!

DM: OK, I really enjoyed working with the Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium and the Maryland Stadium Authority. My key contact was Jeff Provenzano, who at the time was running Stadium Operations at M&T Bank Stadium. When we first met in Baltimore, we spoke for almost three hours about how Jeff and his team, who already helped make the operations more efficient, needed to secure the investments to take their greening program to the next level. It was invigorating, really.

GSB: Did the Ravens buy in?

DM: The Ravens owners challenged the stadium ops team to prove greening measures could save them money. So, Jeff and his team showed them how this could work with a modest investment and a terrific pay off. The entire staff at the stadium was engaged in a massive effort to lower its energy usage. It started off with little things like closing doors when leaving the office, turning lights off, reporting spaces that were being heated/cooled even though no one spent any significant time there (e.g. supply closets). Over several months, they reduced their energy usage by some 40-50%, which translated to an annual savings of ~$500,000—or about the cost of a rookie contract at the time.

GSB: I bet that got their attention.

DM: No doubt about it. Ownership embraced this and agreed to invest some capital in the program. They decided to go for LEED certification for existing buildings, but in order to achieve it, they needed access to a substantial amount of comparison data from other stadiums. In the spirit of collaboration that really defined the GSA at the time, I was able to work with other GSA members and obtain the relevant, sensitive data the crew in Baltimore needed for their LEED application, and they were able to attain Gold status a year or two later.

mt-bank-stadium-balt-sun

M&T Bank Stadium, now the LEED Gold certified home of the Baltimore Ravens, thanks in part to the work of David Muller and the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

 

GSB: That’s a great story; one that the NFL should’ve told. Turning to the annual GSA Summit; that must also have been part of your responsibilities, no?

DM: Absolutely. The GSA was a very a small team the first few years, so everyone had to pitch in. We only had about three or four months of planning time for the first summit in Portland in 2011. Despite the short lead-time it turned out to be a big success—and we surprisingly turned a meaningful profit, mainly through getting the sports supply chain as sponsors/exhibitors–the Aramarks and Waste Managements of the world.

GSB: Did you manage that as well?

DM: No, sponsorships were mainly the responsibility of Martin Tull at the time, while I handled the memberships and communications.

GSB: As the Summit grew over time, with 700-800 attendees, the responsibilities must’ve grown with it.

DM: No doubt about it. I played a central role in designing the program, securing speakers, writing up session descriptions, coordinating volunteers, that sort of thing. And everyone else on the GSA team was multi-tasking as well. It was lots of work but it was also a lot of fun as we were all mission-driven and riding this rapidly-rising wave of engagement and activity.

muller-chicago-gsa

David Muller (l) presenting University of California, Berkeley with the Pac-12 Zero-Waste Award, at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

GSB: I can imagine. Why did you end up leaving GSA?

DM: Well, over time, in large part because of how many members we brought in while still maintaining a very small staff, the GSA became more focused on PR and storytelling—which they’re good at and is important—while moving away from the consulting, advisory, and operations support work. We simply didn’t have the capacity to continue the same level of service to individual members.

GSB: …Like what you did with the Ravens?

DM: Yes. And that’s what I was most interested in doing. Plus, I was also interested in the health and wellness aspects of sustainability and seeing how sports venues, and everyone who spends time in them, could benefit by focusing on people’s health and wellness within their operations, be it that of staff, fans, the active roster, etc. So, I left GSA last summer and became a sustainability-focused consultant. I’ve worked with small-to-medium sized health and wellness organizations including Green Seal, Delos/International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and AtmosAir—to help them with market research and also how to compellingly present what they offer to sports venues.

GSB: I gotta believe sports venues and teams want to keep their athletes healthy—and their fans, for that matter. Good niche. Talk about your involvement in Sport and Sustainability International or SandSI.

DM: SandSI is an outgrowth of work I did in Europe in the spring of 2015 with Allen Hershkowitz…

GSB: Then the President of GSA.

DM: Yes. Allen, as well as Alice Henly, who also worked with Allen at the NRDC before coming to the GSA. I had connected in late 2014 with Neil Beecroft, who was the Sustainability Manager of UEFA at the time.

GSB: And, shameless plug, Neil’s a GreenSportsBlog interviewee.

DM: Yes. So in conversation with Neil, we kind of realized that while Europe is ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental concern and government action, it was behind in Green-Sports. So, we accepted Neil’s invitation to meet with him and other leaders of the European Green-Sports Movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as in Paris and London.

GSB: Lausanne is the capital of European sports, home of the IOC, FIFA and UEFA.

DM: The European sports entities, to a person, said “we need help” with greening. We were excited about sharing the knowledge we had gained over the previous few years, and making the GSA a truly global organization. But the GSA felt, at the time, that there was still a lot more to do in North America, and didn’t see an immediate ROI, so the European work was put on the back burner.

GSB: And, Allen, having left GSA, became one of the prime movers of SandSI.

DM: Yes. It’s still early days but things have really heated up over the past six months or so. I am an Organizing Committee member, and am helping develop the membership program for sports entities as well as corporations and NGOs.

GSB: Aside from the geographic differences, what do you see as the main distinctions between SandSI and GSA?

DM: I’d say the main differentiator is that SandSI takes a broader view of sustainability than the GSA. SandSI takes a “Triple Bottom Line” approach, considering social sustainability and ethics on an equal level with environmental and economic sustainability. The GSA made a strategic decision very early to become experts on the environmental side only, which made good sense at the time as a start-up trying to gain relevance. But I think an environmental-only approach puts a ceiling on what you can accomplish, because legitimate sustainability is comprehensive at its core, and the best environmental policies are always at risk of backsliding or discontinuation if the people responsible for carrying them out aren’t well-taken care of themselves.

GSB: I think that’s smart overall but my fear is that environment, and in particular, climate change, could be de-emphasized—just when the opposite is necessary.

DM: Oh don’t worry, SandSI places great priority on taking on climate change! But I think people often forgot that environmentalism is still ultimately about people, about keeping the environment clean and stable in order for humans to thrive. It’s not about saving the Earth for Earth’s sake (in the geologic timeframe, all of human history is but a blip), it’s about keeping the Earth livable so that our children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s grandchildren have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy, meaningful lives as well. It is for them, as well as those already suffering from its impacts right now, that we confront climate change with all our resolve and ingenuity.

GSB: Amen!

 

 


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The Politics of Climate Change and Sports

After a spasm of activism during the 60s and 70s —mainly on civil rights, the Vietnam War and women’s rights—North American athletes, have, for the most, kept quiet about politics. That is clearly changing. Ignited by the Black Lives Matter movement, accelerated by the ascendancy to the White House of Donald J. Trump and spurred on by his recent immigration ban, politics and the issues of the day have increasingly found their way on to ESPN, si.com and other sports media platforms.

Climate change has not been on the politics-meet-sports agenda. This should surprise no one. You won’t find the topic near the top of the “most important issues” list facing the American public. It involves science, which can be daunting. And the sports world likely wants to stay away from angering the portion of the U.S. population that is still skeptical about/denying the reality and human causality of climate change.

Conventional wisdom would likely say that it is a good thing for the Green-Sports movement to stay away from the political crossfire. But the conventional is not always wise. Avoiding the realm of politics could actually stunt the growth of the Green-Sports movement and thus reduce its impact in the climate change fight, especially among sports fans under 35.

 

SPORTS AND POLITICS MEET AGAIN

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

That 1990 quote, attributed to Michael Jordan, was allegedly# uttered by His Airness in response to a request for an endorsement of Harvey Gantt, Democratic Mayor of Charlotte and an African American. Gantt was running that year for the US Senate seat in North Carolina held by Jesse Helms, seen by many as racist. Jordan didn’t endorse anyone, Helms was re-elected and the quote became a kind of shorthand for “Avoidance of Politics,” the basic default position for athletes (as well as for owners and sports sponsors/advertisers) for the next twenty or so years.

gantt-alchetron

Harvey Gantt, former mayor of Charlotte, NC. Michael Jordan famously did not endorse Gantt for US Senate in 1990 vs. incumbent GOP Senator Jesse Helms, allegedly because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” (Photo credit: Alchetron)

 

Fast forward to 2016-17.

Things have changed, in particular regarding issues of race and, just in the last few weeks, immigration:

On race:

  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked nationwide controversy and conversation in September when he “took a knee”, refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem as a statement of support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and John Tortorella, coach of hockey’s Team USA, among many others, criticized Kaepernick.
  • Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, veterans of the 60s and 70s protest movements, came out in support of the Niners’ QB, as did Megan Rapinoe, a key member of the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
  • NBA stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony made a strong Black Lives Matter statement during the opening segment of the 2016 ESPY Awards show.

On the recent “immigration/refugee ban” executive order from the Trump Administration:

  • Two of the winningest and most respected coaches in the NBA, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr, voiced strong public opposition to the policy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban echoed those sentiments.
  • Many athletes have done so as well, including retired NBA star Steve Nash, Toronto F.C. and U.S. Soccer captain Michael Bradley, and NASCAR’s Dale Earnhart, Jr.
  • News was made in the run up to the Super Bowl LI when Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady would NOT opine on the immigration ban.
  • Budweiser aired a 60 second, pro-immigration ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast (cost of air time: roughly $10 million). AirBnB ran a 30 second spot with a similar theme. Google’s and Coca Cola’s efforts, while not specific to immigration, celebrated ethnic diversity.

 

Budweiser’s pro-immigration ad that ran during Super Bowl LI

 

While many team owners would rather have their players keep their political views to themselves, a few are starting to encourage their players to take stands. Speaking at a November town hall on race and sports at Arizona State University, Stephen M. Ross, Principal Owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, opined that “Athletes recognize their role in society. Let’s take advantage of that…I am probably in the minority of NFL owners encouraging players to express [their political] feelings and speak out. This country needs it.”

So, with apologies to Bob Dylan, “The Times, They are a’ Changin’…”

 

POLITICAL CLIMATE RIPE FOR SPORTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE, EVEN IN TRUMP ERA

…Except, for the most part, when it comes to climate change. Greening sports teams, leagues, and mega sports events have largely ignored or danced around climate change, especially when communicating their greenness to fans. (why are sports greening, after all, if not to, you know, help solve climate change?!?!) The networks that broadcast sports, and the sponsors/advertisers that support them also stay away from climate change.

If the climate change-themed vignette at the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics, seen by as many by a billion people worldwide, is the rare exception to the unspoken “avoid climate change” rule; that axiom is exemplified by the just completed Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO).

Let’s get this straight from the get-go: I LOVE the WMPO. Why? To use the tournament organizers’ words, it may well be the “most sustainable sporting event in the world.” The WMPO:

  • Has been Zero-Waste for four straight years with 100 percent of the waste generated at the tournament repurposed for beneficial reuse. This is especially impressive when one considers that more than 600,000 fans or more showed up over the course of the tournament, making it the most well-attended event on the PGA Tour by far.
  • Directly involved fans in the event’s greenness through Green Out SaturdayFor every fan who wore green to the third round on Saturday, the tournament hosts make a donation to three deserving, sustainability-focused, non-profits. Now in its seventh year, Green Out has raised over $390,000.
  • Supports Change The Coursea water sustainability campaign supporting water flow restoration projects. These include Northern Arizona’s Verde River, which flows into canals that provide water to the tournament course.

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Recycling and compost receptacles at the Zero-Waste Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Photo credit: Waste Management)

 

But visit the WMPO website and you will not find climate change mentioned on their sustainability-focused pages. Enter “climate change” into the search box and you will find it in the eighth paragraph of one press release highlighting the tournament’s designation as an “Inspire” event by the Council for Responsible Sport, a terrific, Eugene, Oregon-based sustainable sports event standards-setting organization.

It says here that leaving climate change out of the WMPO’s greening story was unwise.

I have been working in the sustainability world for 11 years and know very well that the politics of climate change are challenging. And I know Arizona voted for Trump and Trump is a climate skeptic/denier. And because the politics is tricky and because of the red-state-ness of Arizona, I know that talking directly about climate change runs the risk of some blowback from customers, fans, talk radio hosts and who knows who else.

And to all that, I say so what!

The current political climate, even with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, is more ripe than ever for the WMPO, an athlete, a sponsor/advertiser, and/or a network to talk to fans about climate change, especially those fans under 35.

  • Millennials (18-34 year-olds) and Generation Z (11-17), the Holy Grail cohorts for the sports industry, are proving to be extremely difficult to grab and hold. A significant chunk of the well-publicized ratings drop suffered by the NFL this season was attributable to younger viewers. Major League Baseball is considering rules changes to speed up the game to cater to the <35s.
  • Climate change is important to Millennials and Gen Z-ers. The issue is a much bigger deal for folks under 35 than it is for their older (and, on this issue, not wiser) counterparts. And while engaging on climate change will not attract younger folks to become sports fans (I’m not suffering from Green-Sports fever); doing so will help keep them in the fold once they’ve become hooked.
  • The reality of climate change—and humans causal role in it—is now accepted by a majority of Americans. According to an April 2016 poll from Gallup, a record 65 percent of Americans blame human activity for climate change. That means a significant number of Republicans think this is the case. And check out “A Conservative Case for Climate Action,” an Op-Ed in yesterday’s New York Times from three esteemed GOP economists.
  • Brands are less afraid of wading into the political pool and when they do, for the most part, they’re wading in on the progressive end—where climate change swims: While there were some online protests of AirBnB, Budweiser and Coca-Cola as a result of their politically-themed Super Bowl ads, they were relatively small in size and low in volume. Early reports show that the ads garnered more positive attention than negative. And, while one might expect “Blue State” brands like AirBnB and Google to air pro-immigration, pro-diversity ads, what does it say that quintessential “Red State” brands Budweiser and Coke did the same?

Finally, avoiding a challenge—i.e. shying away from mentioning climate change—is antithetical to what sports is all about. Think about almost every sports movie you’ve ever seen. Or Super Bowl LI* for that matter. You know the script: Player and/or team is behind, things are going badly. Formidable obstacles make victory seem impossible. Then player/team regroups, often heroically, working hard to comeback until an incredible triumph is won. Or a valiant loss is suffered with the journey deemed to be well worth it.

Keeping that “overcoming obstacles” ethos in mind, it’s time for the many precincts of the sports world that are greening to strongly and consistently say why they are doing so. And the prime reason in many cases is the climate change fight.

Now is the time for sports to take on climate change. It is why sports is greening.

We will delve into how that fight should be waged in coming posts. In the meantime, the sports industry should take on any incoming climate change flak; your team, your league, your brand will most certainly survive and thrive.

 

# There is some doubt as to whether Jordan actually said those exact words. He may have said it, indicated that was his position or it may have been Jordan biographer Sam Smith’s interpretation of Jordan’s attitudes about politics in general and the Gantt-Helms race in particular.
^ POTUS = President of the United States
* I rooted HARD for the Falcons but kudos to the Patriots for the most incredible comeback in Super Bowl history.

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GSB News and Notes: LA Coliseum Goes Zero Waste; The Green(er) Aussie Open; Last Day in Office for First POTUS to Talk Green-Sports

A busy GSB News & Notes kicks off with the newly minted Zero-Waste Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Zero-Waste part is new; the Coliseum opened during the Harding Administration). Also greening is tennis’ first major championship, the Australian Open, now underway in Melbourne. And, finally, a brief send off from GreenSportsBlog to President Obama, the first POTUS to publicly talk about the importance of the intersection of Green + Sports, on his last full day in office.

 

LA COLISEUM GOES ZERO-WASTE

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is huge, both literally—it holds 93,607 for football— and in terms of its place in American and global sports history.

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The Los Angeles Coliseum, packed and jammed for USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry game in 2005 (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Just consider that the Coliseum:

  • Hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. If Los Angeles is chosen to host in 2024, the Coliseum will play a key role.
  • Was the landing place for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958 (until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962)
  • Hosted Super Bowl I in 1967
  • Is the home of USC Trojans football. UCLA shared the Coliseum with its crosstown rival from 1928-1981*.
  • Starting last season, is the temporary home for the NFL Rams after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. The club will move to the gaudily-named City Of Champions Stadium—for the 2019 campaign#.

And, as of 2016, this west coast sports mecca became a Zero-Waste facility—the second-largest such stadium in college football and the largest in the NFL. 

“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum. This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. “Our university, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”

“A large part of making our communities a better place includes making as little an impact on the environment as possible,” said Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement.

The Zero Waste program diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste over the season. It took a 3-step effort between fans (who first sorted waste into bins), a crew of 80-100 custodial and sustainability staff (who further sorted the waste), and Athens Services, the Coliseum’s recycling partner, to make the grade. 

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Recycling bin outside of the LA Coliseum on USC game day (Photo credit: USCTrojans.com)

 

 

Corporate green-sports stalwarts BASF and EcoSafe added their waste management expertise as partners of the Coliseum’s Zero-Waste efforts. They were joined by Legends Hospitality (sustainable catering), ABM Janitorial Services (green cleaning), and Waxie (sustainable sanitary supply). 

THE GREEN(ER) AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The team responsible for sustainability at the Australian Open—Tennis Australia (governing body of tennis in Australia), Melbourne & Olympic Parks (host facility of the Australian Open), and the State of Victoria—is in the midst of a 15 year, $AUD700 million redevelopment project with the goal to establish Melbourne & Olympic Park as “one of the most sustainable sports and entertainment venues in the world.”

About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog gave the Australian Open “Green Team” high marks for their on-site sustainability efforts but saw room for improvement in 2016 in terms of fan engagement and awareness of their sustainability good works.

How did they make out?

Thanks to a fine case study from the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA, Australia’s version of the Green Sports Alliance), it looks like the Tennis Australia and the Australian Open continued its strong greening performance on site but the fan engagement portion still rates an “Incomplete” grade. The Tennis Australia Green Team:

  • Continued its decrease in water usage. The effort, which started in 2008, has now reached 25 percent, in part by:
    • Irrigating Melbourne Park with recycled water thanks to large underground water tanks installed onsite.
    • Switching irrigation systems from overhead spray to drip and sub surface.
    • Installing above ground water tanks at Hisense Arena with 550,000-liter capacity to use rainwater for washing courts, stadiums and irrigation.
  • Invested in smart solar powered lighting 

  • Converted 100% of takeaway food packaging to recyclable materials
  • Ensured all seafood is served according to Australia’s Marine Conservation Society’s Seafood Watch “avoid list”

  • Added state-of-the-art roof coatings that reflect 70 percent of the sun’s heat, keeping buildings cooler on the many very hot days that often plague the tournament.

 

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Infographic detailing Australian Open/Tennis Australia’s greening efforts from Sports Environment Alliance

 

Tennis Australia still needs to better communicate the existence and benefits of the green initiatives to fans. This last point is echoed in the SEA case study: “Australian Open organizers know all about these greening efforts, however there remains a need to engage” the 700,000+ fans expected to attend the tournament about the greening efforts. I would add that fans watching on TV and online also need to be made aware that the Australian Open is a leader of the Green-Sports movement.

 

LAST DAY IN OFFICE FOR FIRST POTUS TO TALK GREEN-SPORTS

Today is the last full day in office for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It is not at all a stretch to say he was the first Climate Change President:  Obama, mainly through executive actions, authored more stringent fuel economy standards for automobiles; enacted the Clean Power Plan, which is leading to a reduction in carbon emissions; signed a meaningful carbon emissions deal with China, and led the effort that resulted in the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 195 countries. He also is the first POTUS ever to publish a peer reviewed journal article,“The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” appearing in Science.

Obama, a serious sports fan and, at 55, still a competitive basketball player, was also the first POTUS to publicly discuss the power of the intersection of Green + Sports. GreenSportsBlog chronicled Obama’s and his administration’s dives into Green-Sports, from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz speaking to the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit to the White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtables to POTUS’ mention of the NHL’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ commitment to sustainability (“we wanna continue to have ice so that we can play hockey”) at the latter’s White House ceremony celebrating its 2016 Stanley Cup win.

President Obama talks Green-Sports at the October 2016 ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).

As Vice President Joe Biden so eloquently put it after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in 2010, Obama’s Green-Sports forays were “big BLEEPING deals” for the movement. Because, while the sports world has done incredible work greening the games themselves over a very short time span (the Obama presidency began before the Green Sports Alliance was launched), it has a long way to go as far as generating fan awareness of, and interest in said greening is concerned. A President talking about Green-Sports automatically generates both.

Obama used sports to promote social causes beyond Green-Sports. Has there ever been a POTUS who embodied Nelson Mandela’s “Sport can change the world!” ethos more than the 44th President? I think not. Among other things, Obama:

And, it seems likely that the first black President was a key catalyst for the recent expressions of social conscience by African American athletes. That’s one of the points made in “Obama’s Basketball Jones Connected Him to Hoopheads Everywhere” by Mike Wise^. His STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS column appears in the January 17 issue of ESPN’s The Undefeateda website that explores “the intersections of race, sports and culture.”

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President Obama, driving to the basket during a pickup game with White House staffers at Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2009. (Photo credit: The White House/Pete Souza, official photographer)

 

Will President Trump link sports and social causes? If so, which causes will he pursue? It is safe to assume that Green-Sports will not be a high priority for the 45th President. But that’s a discussion for another day.

For now, I say a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for his service, leadership (especially on climate change), integrity and dignity.

* UCLA has called the Rose Bowl home since 1982.
# The Rams will be joined by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.
^ Wise cited a June 6 piece in The Undefeated by colleague L.Z. Granderson, “Will Current NBA Stars #staywoke After Obama Leaves Office?”, as the source for his linkage of the activism of African American athletes and President Obama.

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Tesla and Nike: Promote Your Greenness to Sports Audiences

Precious few companies with sustainable product/service lines have used sports as a platform on which to market their greenness to fans. Fear of consumer backlash could be a reason for the reticence. 

Sure, some aspects of those fears could be well founded. But, it says here that the marketing climate, even despite the results of November 8, is more favorable than not for Green Giants (companies with sustainability as a core value and a market cap of at least $1 billion as detailed in the book of the same name by recent GSB interviewee Freya Williams) who are also influential, trend-shapers to market their sustainability bona fides.

Companies like Tesla and Nike.

In case these two Green Giants are not quite ready to advertise a sustainability-focused and/or climate change-fighting message, GreenSportsBlog is here to offer rationale—and even some free creative concepts—to nudge them in the green direction.

 

 

BASF and White Wave are two companies with strong sustainability track records who successfully market their greenness through sports. They both get that, in an ever more fragmented media landscape, sports is still the best way to reach a mass audience. And they obviously believe that promoting their greenness through sports will enhance their image and build their business.

But BASF, a global chemical conglomerate that is aggressively shifting to greener processes and products, is mainly in the Business-to-Business (B-to-B) space. White Wave is a small-but-growing, purpose driven food company. Neither are major, Green Giant consumer brands with the ability, spending-wise and image-wise, to use sports to influence a wide swath of the population.

Is it time for Green Giants to build upon what BASF and White Wave have started to market to fans of the New York Giants—and those of many other teams? 

Yes, it is.

But what about those consumer backlash fears?

Perhaps the election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump validates the notion that companies should shy away from promoting their greenness as an important feature through sports or any other advertising platform. 

But other data from 2016 point in a very different direction:

  • Several polls show that up to 70% of Americans think climate change is real (Monmouth University, January), with about half citing human activity as the main cause (Pew, October). 
  • Concern about climate change was at an 8 year high as of March (Gallup).
  • And, post-election, a majority of US adults say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost (Pew, December).
  • More broadly, a global research study sponsored by Green Giant Unilever revealed that 78 percent of US shoppers feel better when they buy sustainably produced products. (Europanel and Flamingo, December)

Our take? The winds seem more at the backs of the Green Giants in terms of marketing their greenness than not. But even if there are some headwinds, GGs like Tesla and Nike have made their reputations in part by going against the grain. 

So here are some ways Tesla and Nike can go about using sports to communicate their green bona fides.

 

TESLA

Tesla, synonymous with the small but fast-growing electric vehicles (EV) market, is one of the coolest brands of this era. It launched in 2008 with the ultra-high end, ultra-high profile, ultra-hip $110,000 Roadster. That many, including company founder Elon Musk, judged the Roadster to be a technical failure was of little import; Tesla’s ultra cool brand image was born.

The company broadened its potential audience in 2014 by moving down to merely the high end market with the $70,000 Model S sedan, seen by most observers as a clear technical and commercial success. And, by the end of 2017, although Tesla is notoriously late on actual launch dates, its Model 3 is expected for delivery. Expected to be priced at $35,000—while, according to the company, not making any compromise on range and performance—the Model 3 will be Tesla’s first EV offering targeted to a mass audience. 

tesla-model-3

Premarket version of the Tesla Model 3. (Photo credit: Tesla Motors)

 

To reach that mass audience, Tesla would do well to reach sports audiences.

The Super Bowl is always the most watched television show of any year by a wide margin. The number one rated series in 2016? Sunday Night Football on NBC, despite the NFL’s well publicized ratings drop. The Olympics, Final Four and World Series all easily out-rate most other non-sports shows.

One could imagine the Model 3 being advertised on NFL games, especially since its mass audience (even despite this season’s ratings drop) will be a great fit for the leader in the fast growing/scaling EV market—according to a study by Navigant Research, EV sales are expected to almost triple between 2015 and 2024.

With a $35,000 price point, the Model 3 should also consider the NBA with, compared to the NFL, its hipper, younger, more urban, above-average-but-not-other-worldly income viewer base. If Tesla could get an NBA star or two to drive a Model 3, look out! Add a sprinkle of tennis and/or golf to get higher end viewers who still weren’t able to afford the Roadster and Model S and you have a smart, sports oriented TV plan for the Tesla Model 3.

But we’re not suggesting Tesla only use TV. Upscale millennials will be a key target and many of them have cut the cable cord (ESPN had 99 million subscribers in 2013; that number is down to 89 million in 2016). But, according to Beth Egan, Associate Professor of Advertising at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, Tesla can reach a good chunk of those cord cutters “where they get sports, via their mobile devices, streaming services, on social media and ‘over-the-(TV set) top’ offerings like Roku and Apple TV.”

This sounds like a great start to a sports-focused media plan for Tesla, except for one tiny problem.

Tesla does not advertise.

Or, at least it hasn’t done so yet.

This can work when you’re a boutique brand, trading on word-of-mouth and Elon Musk’s élan.

But will that ad-free strategy carry the day as Tesla looks to compete with the EVs that are/will soon be on offer from the BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Acuras of the world, not to mention their internal combustion engine cousins?

Nope.

Tesla will have to advertise if it’s going to  maintain and build its EV leadership status as the category grows and gets more crowded and competitive. Sports will be the perfect venue, both in terms of audience size and demographics, as well as the powerful creative messaging potential.

On the latter point, GSB is happy to provide Tesla with two creative approaches:

  • Testimonial: Tesla would sign athletes who drive Model 3s as spokespeople (future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and punt returner Jordan Norwood of the Denver Broncos are among the athletes who drive Model S.) Some will talk about how cool the car is, how well it performs, how it goes from zero to sixty in less than three seconds. Others will talk about how it will help save the planet for their kids—to go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds
  • Hate-Love: Find players who are loathed by most fans (think Christian Laettner, Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady). Show scenes of fans expressing their venom. Then show the hated stars with their Model 3s, talking about how the car’s greenness is their gift to their fans and the planet. Voilà, the haters turn into devoted fans.

 

NIKE

Per GreenSportsBlog’s interview with Freya Williams, the super-fast Flyknit shoe “cuts waste by 80 percent and makes the shoe 20 percent lighter…it symbolizes the future of sustainable business at scale. “Despite having a strong environmental story to tell, Nike has, to date, chosen not to tell it. 

flyknit

Flyknit by Nike (Photo credit: Nike, Inc.)

 

Ads for Flyknit have, like most Nike ads over the past 45 years, emphasized performance and a cool look. This makes perfect sense as it is Nike’s business to help people to run faster. One 30 second ad hints at the “natural” aspects of the shoe, but Flyknit’s sustainability/climate change-fighting benefits are not spelled out. 

 

30 second ad for Nike’s Flyknit shoe

 

Should Nike add a “Just Green It” spot with a climate change message to its Flyknit ad portfolio?

Absolutely, and here’s why.

  1. Nike can mention Flyknit’s greenness and its strong performance in one 30 second spot. There is enough time (Miller Lite was able to promote “tastes great” and “less filling”) and the two are not mutually exclusive.
  2. A good chunk of potential Flyknit customers should also be in favor of Nike taking positive environmental action. Data from a 2013 Running USA survey indicates that runners are more highly educated and have higher incomes than the average American. The high education/income cohort, in the main, supports action on climate change. And it’s not a stretch to imagine that the Flyknit target audience is more highly educated and has a higher income than the average runner.
  3. Nike ads have taken on social issues (e.g. “If You Let Me Play” campaign which promoted the benefits of access to sports for girls)
  4. Nike has not shied away from controversy (e.g “I’m Not a Role Model” with Charles Barkley).

Taking a stand on climate would break the mold, spark some dialogue about the issue, and generate more sales from sustainability-minded athletes. All of this is perfect for Nike.

What might the ads look like? You know, Wieden + Kennedy and Nike’s other agencies do a phenomenal job. I will leave it to them. 

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The GSB Interview: Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals Outfielder and Eco-Athlete

Stephen Piscotty’s career is on the rise. In 2016, his first full major league season, the 25 year old St. Louis Cardinals right fielder batted .273 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. Much is expected of the Stanford grad this season as he tries to help lead the Redbirds back to the playoffs. Off the field, Piscotty, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering, is very interested in an industry on the rise—clean tech—specifically solar and smart grid. GreenSportsBlog recently spoke to Piscotty about his journey to renewable energy, being an eco-athlete and more.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Stephen, we don’t see too many major league baseball players who major in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering—in fact I don’t know of any, other than you. How did you come to your interest in renewable energy and climate change?

Stephen Piscotty: For me, it began at Stanford. I started out as a Management Sciences and Engineering major, which was really a business program of sorts. It didn’t interest me much. I stumbled upon Atmosphere and Energy Engineering by accident, while browsing through course catalogues. I had learned a bit about climate change and wind power while in high school and thought renewable energy was going to be a big, important industry going forward. It sparked an interest and then, once I started taking classes, I realized I had found my passion.

GSB: Were there any unique difficulties in balancing what sounds like a challenging major with playing college baseball at the highest level on the way to a pro career?

 

Manager of Photography

Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder and a graduate of the Stanford Atmosphere and Energy Engineering department. (Photo credit: Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals)

 

SP: I was lucky in that I had great advisors. Lynne Hildemann was particularly helpful—she was flexible, understanding the challenges of my baseball schedule, and she also paid a lot of attention. Marc Jacobson, the director of the Atmosphere and Energy program at Stanford…

GSB:…Oh, I know Jacobson! He’s one of the lead spokespeople for The Solutions ProjectTheir goal is to show how it is realistic to get the US and the rest of the world to 100 percent clean energy in an economically feasible way by, I believe, 2050. I saw him talking about this with David Letterman a few years back!…

SP: That sounds like Marc! He really was a great mentor and is a true visionary in this space. I was fortunate to have him as my professor.

jacobson

Marc Jacobson, Director of Stanford’s Atmosphere and Engineering program (Photo credit: Stanford University)

 

GSB: You got that right: Jacobson is a true visionary, and an inspiring one at that. You left Stanford without graduating to start your professional baseball career, came back and got your Atmosphere and Energy Engineering degree in 2015, just as you about to make it to the big leagues with the Cardinals. To get that degree you must’ve studied the wide swath of clean tech, from solar to wind, energy efficiency to nuclear. And more. What areas of clean tech interest you most?

SP: Solar energy is intriguing for sure. The technology is improving and the cost is dropping, both at a rapid pace. In fact, I’m sure the technology advancements have been significant even since I graduated last year.

GSB: No doubt about it. And there’s been great strides made in solving the intermittency (i.e. the sun doesn’t shine at night) and storage problems since then with great advances made in battery storage from companies like Tesla.

 

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Stephen Piscotty while at Stanford. (Photo credit: Stanford University)

 

SP: Very exciting…I’m also interested in the business possibilities surrounding smart grid technology, the dynamics of a 2-way system, from home to grid, grid to home. I also do my own personal investing and am looking closely at solar and smart grid as investment options. And then, and this is a long-term technology—we’re talking a 30 to 50 year horizon—but fusion is something that holds great promise. The clean energy generation potential is almost limitless—the only by-product is water. Key, of course, to get us from here to there, are stability, safety, and cost.

GSB: Fusion rarely gets discussed amongst the climate change mitigation/clean energy generation options. Solar, wind, biomass, hydro, nuclear, efficiency? Yes. Fusion, likely because of its long term development time horizon, not yet…

SP: I know, but I really do think that’s where the long term future is. My interest in fusion is certainly due, in part, the fact my dad and uncle work at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Northern California…My dad worked on the first fusion sustained burn back 6-7 years ago. The burn lasted a very short time, but there was a fusion reaction. Yes, it’s long term but there’s huge potential there.

GSB: That is incredible! The apple doesn’t fall far from the clean tech tree! Switching gears, how have your Cardinals teammates reacted to your academic background, and interest in renewable energy? Is it something that’s even discussed?

SP: Yes we definitely talk about it. The announcers mention it all the time on our broadcasts. It’s interesting—there’s about a 50-50 split. I’m challenged on it—renewable energy, climate change—as much I’m told how cool it is…by players, staff.

GSB: 50-50? That’s disappointing if not surprising. Is there any tension around it?

SP: Not at all! There’s no mean spiritedness, nothing personal. It’s all cool—hey, our clubhouse basically is a reflection of the society and the world—we’re no different. I will tell you one kind of bizarre story. There’s one guy on our club—he’ll remain nameless—anyway, we get to talking about climate change. He says ‘It’s a hoax, it’s fake. What’s really causing global warming is the planetary influence from Mars.’

GSB: Whoa; I’ve never heard that one before!

SP: Me neither! It caught me completely off guard. I really didn’t know what to say back to the guy.

GSB: I wouldn’t have either…Probably the best way to go if something like that happens again—although I doubt you’ll get the Mars influence thing any time soon—is to direct the person to Skeptical Science (http://skepticalscience.com), which gets “skeptical about global warming skepticism.” How much do you think climate change skepticism and denial is politically driven?

SP: Oh, that’s a huge factor, along with geography and cultural differences. For me, when I came to Stanford, I had an open mind about climate change. Then I read about it, studied it and came to the simple conclusion that the reality of climate change’s existence and its human cause is obvious. There’s really no denying it.

GSB: Of course that’s true. And of course, many people are still denying it. You, as a St. Louis Cardinal, have a tremendous platform to speak out on the reality of climate change and give your your thoughts on combatting it. What kind of environmental actions have you taken in your personal life?

SP: I really take note of efficiencies. So I’ve started out by changing out light bulbs, making sure appliances that don’t need to be running aren’t, lights are turned off…

GSB: That’s a good start. Somehow I’m seeing an electric vehicle (EV) in your not too distant future! Will you speak out on climate change issues? I mean, the green-sports movement and climate change fight needs people like you—eco-athletes at or approaching their prime—to lend their voices to the cause. Yet I know you have to balance any activism with focusing on getting better on the field.

SP: I will speak out on climate change when the right opportunities present themselves. I can’t be distracted from baseball but I’ll do what I can. Climate change and clean tech are huge passions, my interest in them is a core part of who I am now and will likely be where I focus my professional energies once my playing career is finished.

 

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