The GSB Interview: JoAnn Neale, Helping Major League Soccer Reach its Greener Goals

Welcome to Day III of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Week extravaganza!

Click here for Monday’s brainstorm among Green-Sports luminaries to find big, “Moon Shot” ways for sports to impact the climate change fight. And click here for Tuesday’s story about the New York Yankees’ strong climate change statement.

Today we turn to Major League Soccer, which just completed its “Greener Goals Week of Service.” 

MLS’ efforts surrounding sustainability earned it the title of No. 1 most responsible football league in the world according to ResponsiBALL, an annual report ranking the most prominent soccer leagues based on actions related to community and environment.

GSB believes MLS is perfectly positioned to lead on Green-Sports. Its fan base is the youngest of the five North American major professional men’s sports leagues. Young people “get green” at far higher percentages than their older counterparts.

We spoke with JoAnn Neale, MLS President and Chief Administrative Officer, about the league’s sustainability efforts, including what’s new this season. Before that, we delved into how Neale came to her unique role as one of the most senior female executives across all major professional sports leagues.

 

GreenSportsBlog: JoAnn, I have so many things to get to — the history of Major League Soccer and its Greener Goals program, how the league can leverage green more powerfully than it has to this point, where climate change fits into the league’s green messaging. But first, how did you come to run MLS’ greening initiatives?

JoAnn Neale: I grew up on Long Island and started playing soccer when I was five years old. Playing soccer and being an athlete was a big part of my identity. I also always had a dream of being a lawyer and an intention of going into litigation.

GSB: …Saying “I object!” and “May I approach the bench?” always sounded exciting to me! Was it?

JoAnn: While at NYU Law School, I had an internship in a firm’s litigation division and realized it wasn’t for me. The idea of going to court was exciting, but the reality was most cases take years before they get to court and a heavy focus is on research.

 

JoAnn Neale1 - Primary

JoAnn Neale (Photo credit: Major League Soccer)

 

GSB: So what did you do?

JoAnn: After law school, I was fortunate to land a job at Latham & Watkins. I did transactional work and realized my love for negotiating and working with clients in a collaborative way. The concept of getting alignment from both parties and overcoming obstacles to have the same end goal was always intriguing. It was really fulfilling work.

GSB: How and when did soccer come into the picture?

JoAnn: While studying for the bar exam in law school during the summer of 1994, my friends and I would take breaks and watch the World Cup games that took place in the USA that year. It was then that the formation of Major League Soccer was announced. I recall thinking it would be interesting to be part of the creation of the league. Ultimately, two lawyers at Latham & Watkins were involved with the founding of MLS. Fast forward a couple years and a friend of mine had gone to work at the league. Two months later, she said there was an opening in the law department and I joined in 1998.

GSB: What did your friends and family say? Going from a big firm to a new soccer league?

JoAnn: People said, “You’re crazy!” and ‘Why would you want to do THAT?!’ But it felt right and it was.

GSB: It must’ve been very exciting being at what was essentially a startup. What was your role in those early days?

JoAnn: The first four-to-six years I primarily did legal work. After that, I expanded into other areas like Human Resources and projects like spearheading a team responsible for all the logistics of moving MLS to our current headquarters in Manhattan.

In 2006, the executive team discussed the need for creating a social responsibility platform. We believed it was important to give back to the communities in which we live and play our games, as well as to our fans. I raised my hand and said I would like to lead the charge in developing the platform. MLS WORKS launched in 2007.

GSB: Congratulations! What is MLS WORKS’ mission?

JoAnn: MLS is dedicated to using soccer as a vehicle for positive social change. Through MLS WORKS, MLS and its clubs seek to enrich the lives of those in need across the United States and Canada.

From executing national programs and legacy projects, to charitable giving campaigns, MLS creates sustainable communities and promotes inclusion at all levels of the game. MLS WORKS has a strategic four-pillar approach to corporate social responsibility.

  • Soccer For All – This signifies that everyone is welcome to MLS, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
  • Youth Enrichment – This includes our work with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build soccer pitches in inner cities.
  • Kick Childhood Cancer – The league “goes gold” throughout the month as part of the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign to raise awareness and funds for Children’s Oncology Group.
  • Greener Goals – The initiative kicks off this week with the Fourth Annual Greener Goals Week of Service leading into Earth Day weekend.

 

GSB: Not surprisingly, I’d like to hear more about Greener Goals. What kinds of programs are under that heading?

JoAnn: MLS has committed to measure, reduce and offset the league’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote healthy, sustainable communities throughout the United States and Canada, and areas in need throughout the rest of the world. Our clubs activate in different ways. Some have been heavily focusing on reducing food waste, others on raising awareness around plastic pollution, others on recycling, etc.

GSB: Can you share some examples?

JoAnn: Of course! On food waste, Sporting Kansas City provides fans with easy-to-implement tips on reducing food waste. Orlando City SC is partnering with the city of Orlando to deliver food waste to an energy/fertilizer plant at Walt Disney World. Seattle Sounders FC use compost from CenturyLink Field to grow vegetables at a nearby farm. On plastic waste, FC Cincinnati

GSB: …The league’s newest expansion team…

JoAnn: That’s right. The club worked with Newport Aquarium to drive awareness, attention and action around Earth Day. Fans bring single-use plastic bags to the team’s matches and the Newport Aquarium where collections will be taken on-site. On Earth Day, a special event was hosted to demonstrate the impact the bag collection will have on local Cincinnati-area waterways and its wildlife, and at a larger scale in oceans. Students at local schools and after-school programs will help repurpose the bags into useful items, including sleeping mats for the area’s homeless community.

 

IMG_1887a

FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma (l) and Greg Garza show off their new reusable bags created using recycled plastic bags at the Newport Aquarium (Photo credit: FC Cincinnati)

 

On energy, Real Salt Lake has a 2020-kilowatt (kWh) solar panel system at Rio Tinto Stadium which offsets approximately 73 percent of the organization’s total annual stadium power needs.

GSB: I knew about their solar installation but I didn’t know it offset such a high percentage. That’s great news. The Seattle Sounders recently committed to go carbon neutral. What does that mean exactly?

JoAnn: You’re right. The Sounders are the first professional soccer team in North America to go carbon neutral. The club worked with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For sources unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – Sounders FC is offsetting the club’s emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a nonprofit that works for regional sustainability. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and its fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover.

GSB: That’s impressive, JoAnn. I know the league is also involved in carbon offsetting as part of Greener Goals. What emissions is MLS offsetting and what kind of offsets did the league purchase?

JoAnn: Well, first I want to thank Allen Hershkowitz

GSB: …Environmental Science Advisor for the New York Yankees…

JoAnn: …and also Doug Behar, VP of Operations with the Yankees. They shared the offset program the Yanks embarked upon and we said, “MLS has to be involved!” So we started by offsetting emissions, including executive travel, surrounding the MLS All-Star Game. It was fitting that the 2018 All-Star Game was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a venue that is LEED Platinum. In 2018 MLS compensated 5,400 tons of CO2 equivalent associated with hotel accommodations, ground transportation, staff, player, executive and MLS guest travel, and stadium operations as part of MLS All-Star Week and MLS Cup in Atlanta, in addition to player travel during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs

To date, MLS’ investment has created tangible, constructive impacts for local communities that were generated by the distribution of 4,407 improved cook stoves in rural communities in Kenya. As of October 2018, the use of these cook stoves are estimated to have positively impacted the lives and wellbeing of 15,000 women and children.

 

GreenDayMariettaSixthGradeAcademy_0031a

Mercedes Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum football stadium in the USA, hosted 60 Marietta Middle School students for the stadium’s first sustainability tour in which the students learned about the venue’s greenness. In conjunction with the tour, Atlanta United’s players helped educate students about sustainable food choices, healthy eating and the environmental impact of locally sourced foods, followed by a taste test competition. Here Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann serves up some of the tasty dish he cooked up (Photo credit: Atlanta United)

 

GSB: That’s important work. How did you communicate the Greener Goals expansion to MLS fans? Did you air PSAs in stadium and/or on TV broadcasts?

JoAnn: Social media was big for us — Facebook and Twitter in particular. Our Greener Goals messaging focuses on what MLS and our clubs are doing in or near the stadiums and in the communities that our teams play. Our Greener Goals PSAs focus on what we’re doing in or near the stadiums from an environmental perspective.

GSB: Really? I think the carbon-offsets-cookstoves project would make for a great PSA. Beyond the offsets, how else has MLS expanded Greener Goals?

JoAnn: All 24 MLS clubs wore special adidas-Parley eco-friendly kits over Earth Day weekend. These innovative uniforms are made with Climalite technology and built of technical yarns created with Parley Ocean Plastic™, made from up-cycled marine plastic waste, as a part of the global adidas x Parley initiative. The collaboration with adidas to support Parley for the Oceans also serves to encourage fans to decrease their use of single-use plastics and reinforcing the importance of changing human attitude and behavior towards plastic pollution.

 

Parley Timbers

The Portland Timbers version of the adidas Parley for the Oceans eco-friendly jerseys worn by all MLS players over Earth Day weekend (Photo credit: MLS)

 

GSB: Love that program — but why only use the Parley uniforms during Earth Week? Couldn’t all teams use Parley unis all the time?

JoAnn: Great question, Lew. We’re exploring that option.

GSB: Good to hear. I have one last question: Does MLS include climate change in its Greener Goals messaging?

JoAnn: Not yet. MLS does not want to get into a political debate on climate change. Rather, we want to focus our efforts on improving lives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing recycling, and more.

GSB: I think MLS is missing an opportunity by not directly talking about climate change with its fans. As discussed earlier, the demographic groups that make up the MLS fan base — Millennials, Gen-Zers, Hispanics — are also demanding real action on climate. My bet is that MLS fans would reward the league for linking its Greener Goals program to the climate change fight.

 


 

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Yankees Make Strong Statement on Climate Change on Earth Day

Earth Week 2019 continues on GreenSportsBlog!

The New York Yankees, one of the most iconic sports franchises in the world, are on a roll in 2019 from a climate action perspective.

A Green-Sports leader for more than a decade, the club took its climate change fight to a higher gear in January when they hired Dr. Allen Hershkowitz as the first Environmental Science Advisor in team sports history. And earlier this month, they became the first major North American pro sports team to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. 

Sunday’s Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony at home plate — which highlighted the Yankees’ climate change work directly to fans — was their biggest Green-Sports step to date. 

 

Surreal

That is the only word to describe the experience.

It was a few minutes before the 1:09 PM first pitch of the Yankees’ Easter Sunday matchup against the Kansas City Royals.

Standing a few paces behind home plate at Yankee Stadium, watching a ceremony I could not have imagined when I started GreenSportsBlog almost six years ago.

 

YANKEES TELL FANS THEY’RE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE

At home plate, Yankees manager Aaron Boone had sauntered over from the dugout to join Doug Behar, the Yankees’ Senior Vice President and Director of Ballpark Operations, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the club’s Environmental Science Advisor; and Satya Tripathi, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.

The dulcet tones of public address announcer Paul Olden voice wafted through Yankee Stadium, telling the crowd that would grow to more than 40,000 that the Yankees had “become the first professional sports team in North America to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.” And that “the framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.” The giant scoreboards beyond the bleachers augmented Olden’s story; fans clapped in a respectful tone.

 

Yankees Earth Day

Sunday’s Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony commemorated the Yankees commitment to operate by the tenets of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform. From left to right, it’s Doug Behar, Yankees Director of Operations; Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary General; Yankees manager Aaron Boone, and Allen Hershkowitz, Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

 

But don’t let the fans’ measured reaction fool you. This was a watershed moment for the Green-Sports movement.

According to Hershkowitz, “The Yankees on-field climate event with the UN, announcing the team’s support for the UNFCCC’s Climate Action Principles was one of the most influential and important moments not only in the history of the sports greening movement, but in the history of climate action communication.”

And that is why the ceremony seemed so surreal to me.

After all the New York Yankees spoke to their fans — clearly and without any dodgy language — about climate change!

Are you kidding me?

We’re not talking the Seattle Crunchy Granolas! These are the establishment, conservative New York Yankees! 

 

YANKEES SHOW WILLINGNESS TO HELP LEAD A CULTURAL SHIFT ON CLIMATE

At a Yankee Stadium press conference that preceded the ceremony, UN Assistant Secretary General Tripathi clearly laid out the scope of our climate problems: “The planet is unwell, and humanity has 10 to 12 years to make big changes towards decarbonization so we can turn the corner.”

After concurring with Tripathi, Hershkowitz pivoted, making the point that moving the Yankees’ towards zero carbon emissions over the next few years will not be the club’s biggest contribution to the climate change fight: “The emissions from the Yankees’ operations, which total about 14,000 tonnes of CO₂, equivalent per year, are minuscule compared to the world’s annual total of 37 billion tonnes.”

Rather, it will be the power of the Yankees’ brand to influence the culture of sports and business about the need for urgent action on climate change that moves the needle.

“The biggest thing humans must do if we’re going to take on climate change at the needed scale and speed is to change cultural assumptions how we relate to the planet, to the eco-systems that give us air to breathe and water to drink,” Hershkowitz asserted. “That requires a massive cultural shift. The Yankees brand represents an uncompromising commitment to excellence and performance — the team is universally admired for its determination to succeed. It provides a unique platform to make that cultural shift happen. The potential cultural and market impact of an organization with the stature and brand image of the Yankees leading on climate and carbon emissions is incredible.”

The Yankees hope that, once other teams in baseball and across the sports world see them leading on climate, more of them will step up to the plate on climate action.

The organization has been building its climate change-fighting platform for 20 years, largely under the radar of the general public. That pace has accelerated since the move into the current Yankee Stadium in 2009, as the organization:

  • Installed energy efficient lights that were state-of-the-art in 2009, saving 35 percent on energy usage vs. their predecessors. And then, when the technology had improved again a few years later, ownership approved another switch, this time to LEDs. The result? An additional 70 percent energy usage reduction.

 

Yankee Stadium Lights

The two square light fixtures on the far left are examples of the energy efficient LEDs installed by the Yankees (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

  • Now diverts 85 percent of total waste from landfill via recycling and composting. Management is working diligently towards getting to 90 percent diversion and Zero-Waste status
  • Measures and reduces its carbon emissions while offsetting the unavoidable environmental impacts they can’t eliminate through the innovative distribution of efficient cookstoves in some of the world’s poorest regions, saving lives in the process.

The offset program warranted an explanation.

“The number one cause of death in the world is air pollution,” said Hershkowitz. “Consider that three billion people cook over open flames or with simple stoves powered by unhealthy coal, wood or other forms of biomass. According to the World Health Organization, four million people, mostly women and girls die prematurely every year because of inefficient, dirty stoves. The cookstoves the Yankees purchased and had distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa reduce air pollution from cooking by 35 to 50 percent. As a result of their investment in cookstoves, it is estimated the Yankees organization saved more than 7,000 lives in just the last year, primarily women and children.”

 

Cookstoves

Clean burning cookstoves (Photo credit: South Pole Group)

 

That is one “save statistic” that the great Mariano Rivera would be proud to own.

 

JUST THE BEGINNING

Sunday’s press conference was covered by local mainstream media, including WCBS Newsradio 880 and News 12 — the cable news channel for the Bronx. The Yankees’ own media outlet, the YES Network, sent a reporter. Getting the climate change fighting story out to a mass audience via media — and to the fans through the ceremony — is a crucial start to building the climate change “cultural shift platform” that Hershkowitz described above.

Where will the Yankees go from here?

Will Hershkowitz be talking climate change with John Sterling and/or Suzyn Waldman on the Yankees radio network anytime soon?

That conversation — one I’d pay to hear — is not going to happen in the near future, but Michael Margolis, the Yankees’ Director, Baseball Information and Public Communications, did say, “Sustainability has been and will continue to be a point of emphasis for the Yankees. We plan to increase climate messaging to our fans in the future.”

 

GSB’s Take 

Allen Hershkowitz is spot on: Sunday’s home plate ceremony at Yankee Stadium really was “one of the most … important moments not only in the history of the sports greening movement, but in the history of climate action communication.” It also provided a bit of much needed climate hope for those in the Green-Sports world and beyond.

That hope was tempered somewhat by a brief conversation I had with UN Assistant Secretary General Tripathi at the press conference.

I mentioned that humanity has 12 to 15 years to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half. Tripathi quickly corrected me: “Twelve years is the maximum.” 

That’s the same time span as the new mega-contract Mike Trout signed with the Anaheim Angels.

Think about that for a second.

We have the length of one baseball player’s contract to make the sizable and necessary cultural shifts and behavioral changes on climate to which Hershkowitz referred.

The Yankees know this and that’s why Sunday can only be the beginning of their public facing climate efforts. I look forward to see how the next innings of this most important game play out.

 


 

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Sportecology.org: A Platform for Green-Sports Practitioners To Connect with Academic Research

The growing Green-Sports world has spawned a cadre of academics who study the movement’s myriad of topic areas. The result is a blossoming of substantive, peer-reviewed research.

The challenge for academics in this newly busy and somewhat unruly space is how to get the research — and its insights — into the hands of Green-Sports practitioners in ways that can be easily digested and acted upon.

Stepping up to try to solve this problem is Madeleine Orr, a PhD candidate in Sport Management at the University of Minnesota. She and several colleagues from Green-Sports academia are launching Sportecology.org on Earth Day — April 22 — as a platform to connect people working in Green-Sports with research that can help propel their efforts forward.

 

“Academic journal articles are very important but for the most part, nobody reads them except for other academics. The insights in those articles aren’t getting to the people who need them. That is true in the Green-Sports world. We created Sportecology.org to bridge that gap and to become the ‘CliffsNotes’ of sustainable sports.”

So said Madeleine “Maddy” Orr, PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and faculty member in Sport Administration at Ontario’s Laurentian University, about the new venture she and a group of leading sustainable sports academics are launching on April 22 — Earth Day.

 

MaddyOrr1.2017

Madeleine “Maddy” Orr (Photo credit: Katya Moussatova)

 

Orr envisions Sportecology.org as a platform that will help Green-Sports practitioners — from facilities managers to sustainability coordinators at college athletics departments to organizers of mega-sports events to journalists and more — improve the quality and accelerate the impact of their work.

“Groups like the Green Sports Alliance, Sport Environment Alliance in Australia and BASIS in Great Britain are all doing great work but it is largely anecdotal, based on case studies of one organization’s experience or successful initiative” noted Orr. “Peer reviewed research can give practitioners credibility and offer empirical, scientifically tested evidence to support their ideas and programs. But they can’t get that credibility if they don’t know the research exists.”

Academics will benefit because their audience will be bigger and broader.

“Believe me, no one in academia dreams of having their work gather dust on a shelf,” shared Orr. “I would talk to sport-sustainability colleagues at conferences run by the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) and we’d all ask ‘how can we work better with practitioners; how can we get them to access our work.”

The idea of what would become Sportecology.org popped into the Toronto native’s head in 2015, picking up real steam about a year ago.

“I started to build a database of sport-sustainability journal articles to help me study for my PhD exams, writing it out long-hand at first,” recalled Orr. “At some point, I started to think ‘this should be for everybody.’ So I began to build out what would become Sportecology.org, including starting a digital record of all the files on my computer.”

Each two-paragraph book review-like entry includes:

  • Article name and author
  • What question(s) is the author trying to answer
  • The context of the question(s)
  • What the author found

Orr, after compiling the first 100 of the 200 or so existing peer-reviewed Green-Sports-focused journal articles, realized she needed assistance to get the platform up and running. That help started to appear after she presented her idea for Sportecology.org at last year’s NASSM conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I teased the idea in one of my presentations and the audience seemed to love it,” Orr recalled. “Soon after, I got an email from Brian McCullough at Seattle University saying he was interested in collaborating, which was fantastic in helping to get us started. He’s now our Co-Director.”

Orr secured some initial seed money from the University of Minnesota — where she’s getting her PhD — and Laurentian University to get the website off the ground.

 

Maddy 3MinThesis 2018

Maddy Orr pictured with University of Minnesota Vice-Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, accepting the award for the UMN’s 3 Minute Thesis First Place Winner in December 2017. Maddy was subsequently a finalist in the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools’ 3 Minute Championship Round in 2018 (Photo credit: Silke Moeller)

 

Other members on what is turning out to be a Sportecology.com All-Star team from the Green-Sports-Academia intersection include Walker Ross, who starts at the University of Florida Southern College in August, Tiffany Richardson, a mentor of Orr’s from the University of Minnesota, NC State’s John Casper, Sylvia Trendafilova at UT Knoxville, Tim Kellison at Georgia State, and Jamee Pelcher, who studied under McCullough and will begin her PhD studies at the University of Tennessee this fall.

The initial interest from Green-Sports academics and the energy brought by the burgeoning Sport Ecology Group begat more funding — from “small grants from universities and companies in the green space,” said Orr. This allowed the group to bring student “Green Teams” to the recent NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Fours and for Orr to produce a Green-Sports podcast series called Climate Champions, on which I was an interviewee. The podcast will launch in June 2019 as a limited series, and will be available on iTunes and Spotify.

 

Maddy Tampa2019

Maddy (far right, kneeling) and some of her students in Tampa where they served as the Green Team at the recent NCAA Women’s Final Four (Photo credit: Mykelti Stephens)

 

After Earth Day, the Sportecology.org team will shift their efforts into a higher gear.

Per Orr, “We will have student interns this summer who will help us get the remaining sport ecology journal articles up on the site by August. Every month, a team member will write a news summary article. And we will highlight the news and activities of the academic side of the sport sustainability arena every quarter. We’re also building a ‘story map’ of all the sport management programs at universities, and organizations that have Green Sports programming or commitments, to accelerate collaboration between the private and university sectors. The goal is to become an easy access portal for Green-Sports practitioners, as well as professors, students and anyone interested in the topic.”

 

GSB’s Take: If one wanted evidence of the maturing of the Green-Sports world, the launch of Sportecology.org is a good data point. It says here that the site will quickly become a valuable resource for practitioners of all stripes, including GreenSportsBloggers. I for one look forward to digging into Sportecology.org come Earth Day.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Big Earth Day for Green-Sports in Baltimore, Chicago and London; Eco-QB Josh Rosen Drafted By Arizona

The Green-Sports world was on overdrive over Earth Day last weekend. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beautiful home of the Baltimore Orioles, earned LEED Gold status. The Chicago White Sox became the first team in Major League Baseball to no longer dispense plastic straws at their home games. The London Marathon tried out compostable cups. And the Kia Oval, South London home of the Surrey County Cricket Club, announced it would be single use plastic-free by 2020. Plus, a few words on the first round of the NFL Draft as the Arizona Cardinals traded up to the 10th spot to take UCLA QB — and eco-athlete — Josh Rosen.

 

ORIOLE PARK EARNS LEED GOLD CERTIFICATION FOR EXISTING BUILDINGS

The Baltimore Orioles and Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) celebrated Earth Day by announcing that 26 year-old Oriole Park at Camden Yards — the venue that ushered in the “retro stadium” movement in baseball and a must-visit if, like me, you love ballparks — earned LEED Gold certification for existing buildings. Oriole Park now is part of a four-member club of LEED Gold certified MLB ballparks (AT&T Park in San Francisco, Marlins Park in Miami and Minneapolis’ Target Field are the other three).

The iconic B&O Warehouse, which is home to the Orioles offices just beyond the right field fence, also earned LEED Silver certification. Both facilities garnered LEED points for a variety of sustainability practices, including waste management, recycling, paperless tickets, and the installation of state-of-the-art energy efficiency systems.

 

Camden yards Ballparks of Baseball

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, newly certified at LEED Gold for existing buildings, with LEED Silver B&O Warehouse beyond the right field wall (Photo credit: Ballparks of Baseball)

 

“The historic and iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards, already amongst the best ballpark experiences, is now further enhanced with energy efficient equipment and environmentally conscious improvements,” said Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “The LEED certification project, fully funded by MSA, supports Maryland’s commitment to sustainability, every day, and especially this Earth Day.”

To celebrate the LEED-i-fication of Camden Yards, all Orioles players and coaches wore green-accented jerseys and caps for last Sunday’s Earth Day game. The game-worn jerseys and caps were autographed and authenticated, and are being auctioned online at www.orioles.com/auctions to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX SAY NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, the Chicago White Sox announced that they would become the first MLB club — and the first Chicago pro team, no matter the sport — to no longer provide plastic straws with drinks sold at their stadium. Biodegradable straws are replacing their plastic cousins at Guaranteed Rate Field^.

The policy, which went into effect on Earth Day, is the result of a partnership with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and its “Shedd the Straw” campaign which encourages Chicago residents to stop using single-use plastic straws.

 

Shedd The Straw

 

“As an advocate for wildlife, Shedd Aquarium has declared that Earth Day is the last straw for single-use plastics that threaten water health and environmental quality,” the aquarium said in a statement.

 

COMPOSTABLE CUPS AT LONDON MARATHON

Earth Day’s London Marathon was the hottest in the race’s 37 year history, with temperatures reaching 75°F. That meant the 40,000 or so runners faced even more of a thirst-quenching, endurance test than normal with huge numbers of drink bottles and cups distributed.

 

London Marathon

Sunday’s London Marathon was run in record heat (Photo credit: London Marathon)

 

The plastic waste issue is significant and organizers took an important step to address it by piloting the distribution of 90,000 compostable cups along three drink stations.

Mike Childs, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told BBC Radio 5 Live that: “The compostable water cups being trialled have the potential to lessen the amount of plastic waste created by the marathon, but there are challenges when it comes to the correct collection and processing of these to ensure they have their full impact”.

That is why race organizers also made 760,000 recyclable plastic bottles available to runners. A spokesperson for the London Marathon told BBC Radio 5 Live that using recyclable plastic bottles remains “the best solution for the distribution of water and sports drinks to the more than 40,000 runners.”

 

KIA OVAL TO GO SINGLE-USE PLASTIC-FREE BY 2020

Meanwhile, in South London, Surrey County Cricket Club announced it plans to make the Kia Oval a single use plastic free stadium by 2020.

According to an April 20 story in sportindustry.biz, the commitment is a logical extension for the club that, since 2015, has served beer in recyclable and reusable pint glasses, and this season banned plastic straws, introduced compostable coffee cups, and is phasing out plastic bags in the club shop.

 

KIA OVAL Sport Industry Group

Kia Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club (Photo credit: Sport Industry Group)

 

Going green has certainly been good for business for Surrey CCC: Last year, it inked deals with new sponsors Fidelity Energy and ENGIE, which ensures that all electricity used at the Kia Oval is generated from sustainable sources. The partnership has already saved 223.8 tons of carbon.

 

 

ECO-QB JOSH ROSEN DRAFTED BY ARIZONA CARDINALS IN FIRST ROUND

Two weeks ago in GSB, I opined that with the third pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, my quarterback-needy (desperate?) New York Jets should select UCLA’s Josh Rosen, the “best pure passer and the most intelligent” player available.

And that was before I found out climate change is a big concern of his. In an in-depth interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour, Rosen declared, “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”

How cool is THAT?!?

While I clearly preferred Rosen to two of the other three quarterbacks being considered as top 10 picks, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, I did make one hedge. If Sam Darnold was available when the Jets picked, I’d go with the USC signal caller over the twice-concussed Rosen by a smidge because he moves better and will likely be more durable. Draft experts at the time felt Darnold would be gone by the Jets pick, with either the Cleveland Browns at one or the New York Giants at two taking him. In that case, I would’ve been more than happy to see a green Rosen to wearing Jets green.

But, the Browns selected Mayfield with the first overall pick and the Giants did not pick a QB, opting for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, generally regarded as the best player in the draft, regardless of position. The Jets, with both LA quarterbacks available, chose Darnold. And Rosen began to fall.

 

Sam Darnold USC Trojans

Sam Darnold (r) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, after being picked by the New York Jets with the third pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft (photo credit: USC Trojans)

 

That slide ended when the Arizona Cardinals traded with the Oakland Raiders so they could snag Rosen with the tenth pick.

Arizona is a perfect place for Rosen, from a football perspective (the Cardinals run an offense that fits his skill set) and climate change-wise (the Phoenix area has been buffeted by its effects, from frequent and deep droughts to high temperature records being broken frequently).

 

Rosen Ringer

Josh Rosen, new QB of the Arizona Cardinals, with commissioner Goodell (photo credit: The Ringer)

 

So here’s hoping that, on February 7, 2021, at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, the Jets with Darnold defeat the Rosen-led Cardinals in Super Bowl LV.

Before that, here’s hoping that Darnold joins Rosen in the climate change fight. And when Darnold joins the eco-athlete club, let’s tell the sports media they should let fans know about it (#CoverGreenSports).

 

 

^ I know naming rights deals are lucrative but Guaranteed Rate Field doesn’t have a great ring to it IMHO.

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Renowned Climate Scientist Michael Mann On The 20th Anniversary of Publication of “Hockey Stick” Graph in Nature Magazine; Reprise of our GreenSportsBlog Interview

This is a big week for environmental anniversaries.

Earth Day #49 takes place on Sunday, and this week marks the 20th anniversary of the publication by Dr. Michael E. Mann (et. al.) of the “Hockey Stick” graph that clearly showed a dramatic spike in earth’s temperature since the Industrial Revolution.

Dr. Mann is director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and a worthy, fact-based fighter against the climate change denialism and fiction practiced by many in the Republican leadership in Congress. 

But it is that connection to sports; the metaphorical “hockey stick,” that drew GreenSportsBlog to Dr. Mann. We interviewed him in August, 2016 for our “Sustainability Leaders On Green-Sports” series and are pleased to re-run it here.

Wait a second.

Before you read our GSB interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann from 2016, I urge you to click here so you can link to “Earth Day and the Hockey Stick: A Singular Message,” Dr. Mann’s powerful reflection on his 20 years in the cross-hairs of the fossil fuel industry and the politicians who do their bidding. The article appeared in today’s Scientific American blog.

Did you read it? What do you think?

I think that the piece shows that humanity is the big winner twenty years after Dr. Mann wrote the “hockey stick” article.

You see, thanks in large part to that hockey analogy, Dr. Mann was thrust by climate deniers into a role — climate change scientist-as-target — that he was at first unprepared for but has since embraced in gung-ho fashion. To continue with the hockey metaphor, let’s hope that Dr. Mann’s ability — as well the talents of his colleagues — to advance the climate science “puck,” all the while taking constant body checks from goons like climate change denying senators like James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), will lead to goals (carbon pricing and more) galore and wins (far fewer deniers in positions of power) galore. Perhaps the referees (aka the voters) will eject Senator Cruz come November. What about Senator Inhofe, you ask? His seat is not up this year.

OK, now here is our August 2016 interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann. Enjoy and have a Happy Earth Day!

 

Freestyle Photo Getty Images

Photo credit: Freestylephoto/Getty Images

 

GreenSportsBlog: “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar®-winning documentary film was highlighted by your temperature hockey stick!! That is so cool! We will get to hockey sticks and Congress’ attempt to put you in the climate change penalty box in a bit. Before doing so, I guess I’d like to know how you came to climate science.

Dr. Michael Mann: I came to it circuitously. Growing up in Amherst, MA, while I did like sports—I ran cross country, played basketball, loved the Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Tiny Archibald Celtics—I was really your basic math nerd, hanging out on Friday nights with other math/computer nerd friends.

GSB: Sounds like a blast!

MM: Oh, you have no idea! I come from a math family—my dad was a math professor at UMass in Amherst…

GSB: …The Minutemen!

MM: …Indeed. And then I went to UC Berkeley and studied applied math and physics.

GSB: What is applied math anyway?

MM: It’s geared towards solving real world problems rather than theoretical ones. Then I went to Yale for graduate school to study physics. But, mid-degree, I wasn’t excited about the problems I was being given to solve. So I looked at Yale’s catalogue of scientific research to see where I could use what I had learned to work on a big problem with real world significance. And I found geology and geophysics, which uses math and physics to model the earth’s climate. This was very interesting to me.

GSB: Which is a very good thing for climate science!

MM: So for my post-doc, I went back home to Amherst, to UMass…

GSB: Did you live at home with the folks?

MM: In fact, yes, I did, I lived in an attic apartment in the house. It worked out quite well, actually. And it was there that my interest got piqued in climate change. We worked to use paleo-climate data to extend the climate record, which, at the time, extended to only a century of thermometer-based information.

GSB: Is that where you looked at tree rings?

MM: Exactly! We used tree rings and coral records and other so-called “proxy” data; natural archives that record past climate conditions, to extend back in time our knowledge of global temperature changes. By 1998 we we were able to go back 600 years; by the next year, we were able to extend the record back in time 1,000 years, a millennium.

GSB: And what did you find?

MM: That the earth’s temperature rise since the onset of the Industrial Revolution was unprecedented, as far back as we could go. I was the lead author of the article in Naturepublished on Earth Day—April 22, 1998—that introduced the “hockey stick” curve and demonstrated the unprecedented nature of the recent temperature spike.

 

Hockey Stick

The temperature “Hockey Stick,” resulting from the research of Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues. (Credit: Dr. Michael Mann)

 

GSB: Did your research also include data going back hundreds of thousands of years on atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

MM: The CO2 records, collected from ice core samples, already existed. What was new from our work was the temperature data. And of course it showed a remarkable synchronicity with the already existing CO2 information. It showed that temperatures rose when CO2 in the atmosphere rose. What’s most worrying now is, that CO2 levels are off the charts and temperatures are still in the process of rising in response.

Mann Iceland Glacier

Dr. Michael E. Mann at the edge of a melting Iceland glacier in May, 2016. (Photo credit: Dr. Michael E. Mann)

 

GSB: Believe me, I’m well aware of that from seeing the hockey stick in “An Inconvenient Truth,” and from being a volunteer Climate Reality Leader—I, along with thousands of other everyday citizens from all over the world, have been trained by Al Gore and his staff to give the slide show that was at the heart of his Academy Award® winning documentary to community groups in their own neighborhoods. The “hockey stick” played a key role in the slide show to be sure. Speaking of the “hockey stick,” did you come up with it yourself?

MM: Actually, the hockey stick term was coined by a colleague at Princeton who’s no longer with us by the name of Jerry Mahlman. Because sports analogies and metaphors are so powerful, this framing seems to have clicked with the public, but I have been surprised how strong the click has been. I think the imagery is particularly powerful in Canada—no surprise there. Basically, the “hockey stick” became shorthand that conveys the severity of human-caused climate change.

GSB: Staying with the sports metaphor, you’ve also used the term “climate on steroids” which is, of course, a nod to the link between increased home run totals in Major League Baseball during the 90s-early 2000s and the prevalence of steroid usage during that time…

MM: Yes. Sometimes people ask the wrong questions when it comes to climate change—for example, was hurricane Katrina caused by climate change? That’s like asking whether the 68th home run hit by Barry Bonds in 2001 was caused by steroids. We can never answer that question. But we can conclude that collectively, many of his home runs were due to the steroid use, just as we can conclude that the increased occurrence of devastating hurricanes is due to human-caused climate change.

GSB: And couldn’t you also say Barry Bonds would hit the ball that turned out to be his 68th home run no matter what. But, due to steroids, some portion of that ball’s journey was enhanced by steroids use.

MM: Exactly! And, listen, I also want to bring football into the discussion. Not long ago I saw the movie “Concussion.” It is the perfect analogue to climate change denial.

GSB: How so?

MM: Well, the NFL’s denial of the link between pro football-related concussions and brain related diseases like CTE^ despite knowing the science says the opposite is analogous to the fossil fuel industry denying the reality and seriousness of climate change even though it knows full well the solid science behind it.

GSB:  You can add that certain members of Congress, funded by the fossil fuel industry to spout climate change denial, are like refs paid by gamblers to fix games.

MM: Of course. Look, I’m a scientist and a communicator. You cannot be an effective communicator without recognizing the power of sports—it’s so engrained in our culture—it would be a lost opportunity if you didn’t use sports analogies and metaphors to drive home your points.

GSB: You’ll get no argument from me there. Now, back to “Concussion”: In the movie, Will Smith played Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-American pathologist who discovered the link between concussions and CTE and who thus had to face the wrath and weight of the NFL. Since you have been grilled by hostile members of Congress—as detailed in your 2012 book from Columbia University Press, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” and your research and funding has been challenged by them, are you kind of like the Omalu of climate change in the USA?

 

Mann Hockey Stick

 

MM: I’ll take that comparison any day. And, while it’s certainly not fun to have your work demeaned, challenged and picked at in public, I can handle it. You see I want the ball at the free throw line, down one point, with two foul shots and no time on the clock. Because the climate change fight is one game we have to win and I want to be a part of winning it.

GSB: Somehow I see you making those free throws!

^ CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalothapy

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Tigers Rally Around Earth Month

Earth Day? I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, some observances seem underwhelming — NBCUniversal’s/Comcast’s “Green Is Universal” is one example. They have what seems like a promising initiative on reducing food waste (#NoFoodWasted) this year. Yet MSNBC and NBC News mention climate change and the environment rarely and, when they have covered it in recent days, their focus has been on the ethical scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rather than on his and his boss’ destructive, anti-climate change agenda. And this is MSNBC! Imagine how climate change is covered on Fox News. On second thought, it’s best to leave that one alone.

The flip side is — and this is somewhat sad to say — even one-offs are better than nothing when it comes to coverage of the environment. In the Green-Sports corner of the world, any positive fan engagement news is welcome and there is now a significant amount of it on Earth Day — and now Earth Month. Or, as the teams and leagues call it, Green Month.

In today’s TGIF GSB News & Notes post we highlight two such stories. We travel to Pittsburgh, where the Stanley Cup champion Penguins began their Green Month festivities with a Green Game, and Detroit, where the Tigers are providing much-needed support to local non-profit Greening of Detroit

 

PENGUINS SUPPORT NHL EARTH MONTH WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY PURCHASES, WATER RESTORATION PROGRAM

The NHL, which last month issued its second sustainability report (the first was published in 2014), also used March as a starting point for its first Green Month — in prior years, the league featured Green Week — to provide a forum for its 31 clubs to call attention to the way they’re being environmentally responsible.

To kickoff Green Month, fans of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins were treated to a two-course Green Game of sorts when the club hosted the Dallas Stars on March 11 at PPG Paints Arena.

The first course was St. Patrick’s Day-themed. Pens players wore commemorative green jerseys during pregame warmups that ultimately were auctioned off to fans in an effort to raise funds for several of the Penguins Foundation’s youth initiatives.

Turning to the NHL Green Month-focused second (main!) course, the club used the March 11 contest to highlight its commitment to environmental sustainability. The game was:

  • Powered by 100 percent renewable energy provided by the Penguins and the Penguins Foundation.
  • Designated as “Zero-Water” in that the organization purchased enough H2O to fully counterbalance what was used.

 

 

Jake Guentzel Penguins

Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins dons his St. Patrick’s Day/Green Month-themed jersey during warmups for the club’s March 11 matchup vs. the Dallas Stars (Photo credit: Pittsburgh Penguins)

 

The Penguins are not rookies when it comes to sustainability.

In 2010, PPG Paints Arena became the first sports facility in North America to earn LEED Gold certification. In addition, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, while not LEED certified, was designed with many LEED attributes. This has resulted in significant cost savings by 1) reducing energy consumption and 2) accessing utility rebates during high electricity demand times.

And, in October 2016, when President Obama welcomed the Penguins to the White House to celebrate that year’s Cup win, he thanked the organization for being “leaders in the Green Sports Alliance, [making] their facilities more energy and water efficient, [and for] lowering their carbon footprint when they travel.”

I am quite confident that such a statement will not be forthcoming from the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should the Pens sip from the Cup for a third straight year. I am equally confident that the unwelcome policy and tonal switch on climate from the White House will not deter the Penguins — nor their 30 NHL counterparts — from building upon their Green Month accomplishments (someday perhaps the NHL will have a Green Season?)

 

DETROIT TIGERS SUPPORT “GREENING OF DETROIT” VIA EARTH DAY PROMOTION

Fans attending the Detroit Tigers game on Sunday April 22 — aka Earth Day XLVIII — at Comerica Park will get their money’s worth, even if the home team loses to the visiting Kansas City Royals.

In addition to admission to the game, a ticket purchase nets the fan a green-colored t-shirt with the Tigers’ famous logo on the front and the logo and mission statement of local non-profit, Greening of Detroit, on the back. That mission is to is “to enhance the quality of life for Detroiters by planting trees, providing job training and involving our youth in the education of the natural environment.” The Tigers will make a donation to Greening of Detroit for each ticket sold to the Earth Day game.

 

Greening of Detroit.png

The T-shirt that will be given to fans who attend the Tigers-Royals game at Comerica Park in Detroit on Earth Day (Photo credit: Greening of Detroit)

 

The partnership makes in ways that go far beyond “let’s do something nice for Earth Day.” The Tigers get that the Greening of Detroit is not only the name of a non-profit but also an important part of the rebirth of the city.

Detroit, is, as you are well aware, a poster child for Rust Belt manufacturing-related job losses. As a result, its population dropped an astounding 62.5 percent from its 1950 high of 1.8 million to an estimated 675,000 in 2016.

The city has started a what will be a long, slow comeback and the green economy is a core facet of that renaissance. Greening of Detroit is well-positioned to play an important role since urban agriculture is thriving in the Motor City.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Urban agriculture? In cold, decaying Detroit? No way.”

YES WAY!

Two results of the population decline are 1) an abundance of empty land lots and abandoned warehouses, and 2) increased hunger and malnutrition.

This has created the space and the imperative for urban agriculture. With the help groups like Greening of Detroit, that space is beginning to be filled.

An article in the July 13, 2017 issue of The Green Economy explains that, “Farms and gardens along empty lots teach residents — many of whom have never seen a melon sprout or lettuce grow — about fresh produce, while warehouses for hydroponics growers produce food year round. A study by Michigan State University calculated that Detroit growers could supply between 31 and 76 percent of vegetables and 17 and 42 percent of fruits currently consumed by City residents, depending on the methods of production and storage used.”

So, if you’re in the Detroit area on Earth Day, head on over to Comerica Park!

 


 

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New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux

About two years ago, I wrote a post in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to me), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular segment on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Real Time, I entitled the post “New Rules for Green Sports.” Despite the autocratic leanings of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania and my own strong love for democracy, I thought it’s time to once again put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux.^”

 

 

Mike Francesa, the pompous, yet immensely popular host of New York’s SportsRadio WFAN’s afternoon gab fest is often termed the “Sports Pope.” I wonder, if Pope Francis is aware of Francesa’s moniker, how He feels about sharing the pontifical stage. 

Francesa

Mike “Sports Pope” Francesa, pontificating. (Photo credit: Awful Announcing)

 

I have no interest in being the Green-Sports Pope. There should be only one Pope, period (sorry, Mike). And I think Francis, who has aggressively embraced the climate change fight, per his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, is fantastic. 

Still, I wouldn’t mind having a smidge of unilateral power, just for one day, to be able to enact some Green-Sports initiatives that would help accelerate the climate change fight.

For that, my model is not the Pope, but rather an anti-Pope of sorts: Bill Maher. Host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill MaherBorn Catholic but staunchly atheist. Maher ends each episode of his show with New Rules in which imagines enacting his own rules for politics and life in general. 

 

Bill Maher and New Rules from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, original air date May 4, 2017. (Courtesy HBO and YouTube)

 

Riffing off of Maher, we ran a New Rules for Green-Sports column in February, 2015. Here are three of them:

  • Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight. While this hasn’t happened yet, there have been Green-Sports themed PSAs seen on NBA TV and the NHL Network. Good start, but we need to pick up the pace.

 

NBA Green Energy All-Star video (0:58)

 

  • Auto racing (that’s NASCAR, F-1, Indy, drag racing, etc) must commit to using only Electric Vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Formula-E, the EV circuit, continues to grow. Who knows? With the power, efficiency of EVs going up and the price coming down, this could be possible.

 

  • Fans who travel to games via mass transit, drive EVs or hybrids get a rebate, paid for from parking revenues. Fans who come by bike or walk also qualify. UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, ran a program during the EURO 2016 championships in France, in which fans with tickets to games in some cities could ride the Metro for free. A step in the right direction.

 


I know what you are thinking: “Lew, we need some new New Rules!” So, without further ado, we reveal our New Rules of Green-Sports, Part Deux!

New Green-Sports Rule #1Every Major League Baseball team and every Major League Soccer club must have a Climate Change Solutions Day on or around Earth Day. MLB and MLS are the only North American pro sports leagues in the midst of their regular seasons on Earth Day. Each team in those sports must host Climate Change Solutions Day at a game on or close to April 22. Climate Change Solutions Day will include:

  • Having a climate scientist throw out the first pitch/make a ceremonial first kick
  • Running a video on the scoreboard about what the team is doing to reduce carbon emissions
  • 10% of all ticket revenue will go to a climate change fighting non-profit

Might this offend some climate change skeptics or deniers? Sure but so what! Fans boo a pitching change they don’t like, some fans will boo a video. Life will go on. And young fans, for whom climate change is a priority, will, in the main, think this is cool. That is especially important for MLB, which has struggled to attract younger demographics.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #2Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand. As long-time readers of GreenSportsBlog know, our vote for Greenest Sports Team in the World goes to Forest Green Rovers, the fifth division (equivalent to the low minor leagues in baseball) English soccer club, owned by a renewable energy CEO. FGR, among other green innovations, only serves vegan food at its concession stands. According to club owner Dale Vince, fans were angry at first but now are supportive of the vegan-only approach (“[many fans say] it’s inspired them to go veggie – which is a great thing.”) Our rule does not look to shock the sports system here in North America so all we’re demanding is that teams have a vegan only stand, not go all-vegan. Maybe next year.

 

Eight minute video shows fan reaction to Forest Green Rovers’ greening efforts, including its vegan-only concession stands.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #3Super Bowls, College Football Championship Games, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournament Games/Final Fours, and US (golf) Opens cannot be awarded to states whose governors do not publicly state “climate change is real, humans are the main cause and we need to take meaningful steps to solve the problems.” North Carolina lost out on hosting NCAA Men’s basketball tournament games because of its “bathroom bill” requiring transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender. The Tar Heel State’s hoops addiction led the state legislature to change the law, sort of. Let’s apply that approach to climate change. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), you want to deny climate change? Fine. No college football championship game in Tampa. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), you want to question the science behind climate change? Go right ahead but that Super Bowl you want for Dallas is going to go to Jerry Brown’s “carbon free by 2050” California.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #4Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break. Teams across all sports, in all markets, are greening their games in many ways. That’s why we’ve been able to write over 400 posts about Green-Sports in less than four years. But precious few fans seem to know about it. Teams seem loath to push Green-Sports stories and, even more so, to make the link between their greening efforts and the climate change fight. We offered a stick in Green-Sports Rule #3; in Rule #4 we provide teams with carrots—dollars from the government in exchange for promoting their work on climate change to fans. In arena/stadium and on the air.

 

Now, you might say, “Lew, you are ahead of the general public here. Shouldn’t you go more slowly?” To that I say, “Go big or go home!” Plus these are my New Green-Sports Rules. I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to add some in the comments section.

 

^ Part Deux is an homage to the people of France, who said NON to xenophobia and authoritarianism and said an emphatic OUI on behalf science and the climate change fight when they elected Emmanuel Macron to the Presidency on Sunday.

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The GSB Interview: Diane Wood, President, National Environmental Education Foundation, on its Partnership with the NBA

We are in the midst of Earth Fortnight (Earth Day was Saturday, April 22; related celebrations were held during the week prior and are continuing this week), a great time for sports leagues to highlight their sustainability bona fides to their fans and other stakeholders. GreenSportsBlog is celebrating with two columns this week: Tuesday, we reviewed the Earth Fortnight activities of Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the NFL Draft. And today we talk with Diane Wood, President of the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), about its innovative “energy saving” fan engagement partnership with the NBA.

GreenSportsBlog: Diane, I can’t wait to share with our readers the nuts-and-bolts of the program NEEF and the NBA launched at the start of the playoffs a week or so ago, encouraging fans to take energy saving actions and then measure those actions. But they will have to wait just a bit. First, let’s talk a bit about your story—how you got to NEEF, what led you to the NBA, etc.

Diane Wood: Well, this partnership between NEEF and the NBA seems like a natural evolution for me. After getting my Masters in Science and Environmental Education, I went to the Peace Corps, helping Paraguay develop its first environmental education program. It was truly life changing—I saw that I was able to make a real difference in peoples’ lives. It was a privilege, really.

GSB: I love it! Thank you for your service. What came next?

WoodD

Diane Wood, President, National Environmental Education Foundation. (Photo credit: NEEF)

 

DW: Next came the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I was there for 18 years, running their Latin America and Caribbean programs most of that time and then spending a few years leading their research and development program. But, after awhile, I got a bit restless: I had adopted two kids from Colombia and the travel from the US and being away from the girls was taxing. And, almost as important, I felt that the environmental problems that animated a lot of my international conservation work emanated from the USA. I wanted to help Americans learn about how people and the environment beyond our borders were suffering consequences because of our actions or lack thereof. So when the NEEF opportunity came up, I thought to myself, “Oh, this is ideal.”

GSB: What did the opportunity look like?

DW: Let’s take a step back. When I arrived, I found a great model, what we call Lifelong Environmental Education, that was based on reaching people through trusted professionals—think meteorologists, medical care providers, teachers and land owners. NEEF provided environmental education content for them and they disseminated it to their audiences.

GSB: How was that working out?

DW: It went well, but…

GSB: I knew there would be a “but” there!

DW: …But I and the NEEF board felt we were risking being successful only on the margins, meaning we were only touching hundreds or maybe thousands of people. That is several orders of magnitude shy of the numbers of people we need to impact. So, even though we were in the midst of the Great Recession, we decided to go big.

GSB: Hey, never let a crisis go to waste. And the econo-pocalypse certainly qualified. So what did you mean by “going big”?

DW: We set ourselves a vision that by 2022, 300 million Americans actively use environmental knowledge to ensure the wellbeing of the earth and its people. Yes that is about 90 percent of the population.

GSB: You know what? That qualifies as “Going Big”. How the heck are you gonna do THAT?

DW: Well, we set benchmarks through a 2012 survey that queried the US population on their environmental attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors. We gave people eco-scores and then segmented them. The most knowledgeable and environmentally active group we call the “bloomed”, but the group we were most interested in engaging is what we refer to as the “moveable middle,” which represents some 129 million Americans.

GSB: What defines the “moveable middle”?

DW: They want to do the right thing environmentally, but simply forget or feel it’s too expensive, both in terms of money and time. Or, by doing the right thing, these folks feel they would somehow have to become someone else to fit in. These are real barriers that cast the environment as something extra to care about, an obligation to add on to an already very busy lifestyle. Even though they understand that we all need a healthy environment to survive.

GSB: So, how does NEEF overcome “green is too hard to do?”

DW: Our approach is fourfold: 1. Start where people are; 2) Individual environmental actions matter; 3. Taking environmental action can make you feel good, save money, and improve health, and 4. Collectively, people are motivated by their peers and are rewarded by being part of something much bigger than themselves.

GSB: That makes sense to me as a way to make environmental action less daunting. But that approach and motivating 129 million Americans? That’s a heavy lift!

DW: We knew that and that’s why we needed to find trusted partners with scale to amplify our reach and engagement. And that led us to professional sports.

GSB: Bingo! As Allen Hershkowitz, former President of the Green Sports Alliance, often says, 65-70 percent of people follow sports.

DW: Yes…sports reaches a diverse national—even global—audience, engendering both trust and emotional connection. We have also worked with zoos, natural history museums, and aquariums as they too, when you roll them up nationally, engage huge numbers of people in an immersive experience that creates a high level of trust and emotional connection too. So sports and zoos are in great positions to reach many people when they’re open to receiving a positive environmental message, and to then lead them to making better everyday environmental decisions. Now, speaking of Allen, he has been key to our sports journey. We went to several GSA summits during his tenure. And it was he who brokered our introduction to the folks at NBA Cares.

GSB: Why did you decide to go to the NBA and not one of the other pro leagues?

DW: Well, we saw great value in all of the major sports leagues and hope to work with more going forward. But, to start off, we felt the NBA fan base was the best match with our 129 million “moveable middles” we were trying to, well, move. Specifically, we found their audience to be a fit with our target on a variety of metrics, including diversity in the broadest sense, household income, social media engagement and, size. They had also decided to move away from their focus on a once a year “Green Week” and were working with Allen to identify a more on-going eco-outreach opportunity.

GSB: Plus it has to help that the league, at least in my opinion, has the highest cool factor of all of the leagues.

DW: Don’t get me picking favorites Lew. We think they’re all cool. Plus we found the league to be—and I know this will sound cliché—authentic.

GSB: Absolutely. So you, NEEF and Allen Hershkowitz identified the NBA as your prospective partner. What did you propose to do with them?

DW: We pitched our concept to NBA Cares and they were very open to extending their fan engagement around energy saving—something many teams are already championing in-arena. They already had done “NBA Green Week” in the past, and were looking for a fresh way to involve fans in saving energy at home in their everyday lives. They invited us to further develop our concept, and, following some preliminary meetings, we chose energy efficiency as the focus. Our challenge was to then develop an approach that would garner attention without interrupting the flow of the game. So, in late 2015, a group of us, including Allen and a brand consultant, Ryan Gallagher of Good Gallagher, met with Kathy Behrens and her team at NBA Cares, to share our “Learning By Doing” fan engagement concept. It has two main components: a fun animated video featuring a handful of diverse former NBA and WNBA players, as well as a text messaging (SMS) option to remind and prompt fans to take a series of six energy saving actions at home (unplugging electronics when not in use, switching laundry from warm to cold water wash, etc.). We call this platform “NBA Green Energy All-Star.”

GSB: Great! How did the NBA Cares folks react?

DW: Positively. They invited us back to work with their NBA Cares leadership team and we added our pro bono creative agency, Culture ONE World. Our message had to be tight, relevant, and fun. The working group came up with four concepts, each of which fit within NBA culture. The winner turned out to be the animated bobblehead video, which was launched by NBA Cares and through NBAGREEN.com on Earth Day (April 22nd) with the video and “timeout tips.” The video and timeout tips are being promoted by all NBA and WNBA teams to their fans on social media and through other outreach. In addition, at NEEFUSA.org, you can find more information about why these energy saving actions count.

NBA Green Energy All-Star video (0:58)

 

GSB: What about in-arena during the NBA playoffs?

DW: It is certainly possible that the video will run in-arena during the playoffs but that is up to each individual team. The big news is that the video aired on NBA TV on Earth Day!

GSB: That’s a big win. Let’s hope that most of the remaining teams show the video…and hopefully the Green Energy All-Star campaign makes it to WNBA arenas this summer. Now, speaking of All Stars, how was it to work with those former NBA and WNBA greats?

DW: The former players themselves who were “bobble-ized” were great to work with: Dikembe Mutombo…

GSB: Oh, he’s a tremendous humanitarian and gets environmental issues.

Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo bobblehead (Courtesy of NEEF)

 

DW: He’s terrific. Also Bill Walton…

GSB: Another fabulous “get”…

DW: …Swin Cash, Ruth Riley, Jason Collins and Felipe Lopez. Then fans are cued by text to take an energy saving actions— The fan then receives a “slam dunk” or a “swish” response message that positively reinforces their action and provides an option to learn more about that specific environmental action.

GSB: That seems to fit the “it’s easy” metric quite well and also will appeal to the slightly younger demographic of the NBA attendee as compared to the NFL and MLB. Speaking of metrics, what does success look like??

DW: Our greatest success is developing our working relationship with the NBA on the issue of environmental literacy. I hope we can continue to build on this good work. In terms of metrics, we will be looking at multiple measures, from total impressions across social media and web, to texting opt-ins and action-taken, and then estimating collective energy savings, including how that translates to dollars and greenhouse gases prevented. We know that individual actions taken together can add up to a significant lasting impact. We look forward to sharing the results of the NBA community’s collective impact at the end of this campaign.

GSB: Please let us know the results when you have them. We would also love to talk about Year 2 when the time is right.

DW: Will do!

 


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