Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports: Vikings, U of Minnesota, St. Paul Saints LEED the Way

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

While coastal areas like San Francisco-Oakland-Santa Clara and Seattle might come to mind first, it says here that Minneapolis and St. Paul, smack dab in the heartland of the country, wins the title.

In fact, the Twin Cities’ Green-Sportsy-ness runs so deep that we can’t cover it all in one post.

We started things off last week with our look at the sustainability efforts surrounding the recent NCAA Men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings.

Today, in the first of our four-part Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports series, we examine the greenness of three of the area’s many sports venues. 

The tour starts at US Bank Stadium. Then we get on the light rail’s Green Line and head east across the Mississippi River to the University of Minnesota to check out TCF Bank Stadium, home base for Gophers football. Finally, we hop back on the eastbound Green Line ride, ending up in St. Paul and CHS Field, home of the Saints, an innovative independent baseball club.

 

PEAKS AND VALLEYS GETTING TO ZERO WASTE AT US BANK STADIUM

Bradley Vogel, sustainability coordinator at US Bank Stadium, has seen a lot since he arrived in November 2016 after wrapping up his Masters Degree in Sustainability Management at the University of Minnesota.

His rookie year coincided with the Minnesota Vikings’ first season at the viking ship-shaped building. Then he and his operations team had a mega-event doubleheader for which to prepare: Super Bowl LII in February 2018 and April’s NCAA Men’s Final Four.

 

Bradley Vogel headshot

Bradley Vogel (Photo credit: MSFA)

 

Pressure came with the Super Bowl-Final Four back-to-back for Vogel and his team. 

Management wanted US Bank Stadium to achieve LEED Gold for Building Design and Construction — it ultimately earned that certification last year — but the waste diversion rate was too low at the outset.

“Our diversion rate was only 15 percent in Year One, July 2016 to June, 2017,” Vogel recalled. “But our director of operations Curtis Schmillen had a huge plan to turn that around. So in Year Two, we added compost in our back-of-house (kitchens) operations and throughout the rest of the stadium. It helped that Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis are committed to composting.” 

ESPN’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) team played a big role with composting as well. “They are composting experts,” reported Vogel. “ESPN’s X Games became an annual event at US Bank Stadium starting in July 2017, and so they helped us get past some of the pitfalls that come with trying to compost at a big event.”

With the help of funding for composting from Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which owns the building, and the state, US Bank Stadium upped its diversion rate to 46 percent in 2017.

But, with Super Bowl LII upcoming in February 2018, MSFA management was not satisfied. 

“Management and NFL Environmental asked ‘what can do to make US Bank as green as possible by Super Bowl LII?,” Vogel said. “The answer: Get us to zero waste — at least 90 percent diversion. And despite an up-and-down 2017, we knew we had the ability to get to 90 percent diversion, especially since, per Minneapolis law and MSFA policy, everything had to be compostable or recyclable, including things like ‘to go tubs’ and cutlery.”

When it came time for the Super Bowl, concessionaire Aramark upped its game on compostables. Pepsi had “bin guards” to make sure fans placed their waste in the correct bins. When all was said and done, the post-game sort revealed that the US Bank Stadium team, like the Philadelphia Eagles, were winners, as the diversion rate came in at 91 percent.

 

Jack Groh NFL Environmental Bradley Vogel

Jack Groh of NFL Environmental gives instructions to Pepsi bin guards prior to Super Bowl LII (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

US Bank Sort board Bradley Vogel

Waste Sort Board educates US Bank Stadium staff on the proper ways waste should be disposed (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

But achieving zero waste for a Super Bowl, with sponsors and the NFL pitching in is one thing. Doing it for a full, 10-game Minnesota Vikings campaign, without that outside assistance, is quite another. The US Bank Stadium sustainability team notched a solid 72 percent rate for the 2018 season but they fell short of Super Bowl LII’s 91 percent diversion level.

Vogel believes the lessons learned at the Super Bowl and the Men’s Final Four (a lower-than-expected 64 percent diversion rate, due in part to back-of-house issues that were specific to that event), will help his team get US Bank Stadium and the Vikings over that season-long zero waste hump this fall.

“We’ve maximized our compost rate back-of-house,” Vogel noted. “Now we’re working on getting our fan-facing, front-of-house composting to similar levels. That’s how we’ll get to zero-waste on a season-long basis. In the meantime, our overall sustainable approach earned US Bank Stadium LEED Platinum for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) status, making us the first stadium to attain that level. Official certification will come in June or July.”

 

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: LOOKING TO SWITCH TO RECYCLABLE PROMOTIONAL ITEMS AT GOPHERS FOOTBALL GAMES TO INCREASE DIVERSION RATE

Getting to zero waste for a full season is also goal for University of Minnesota football. The Gophers play their games at TCF Bank Stadium, their 50,000 seat, LEED silver home adjacent to the light rail’s green line.

“We’ve averaged 82 percent diversion over the past four or five years at TCF Bank Stadium, and that includes 2014-15 when the Vikings played here and 2017-18 when we hosted Minnesota United¹,” said Jeff Seifriz, assistant athletics director- facility operations. “Getting to 90 percent has proven to be tricky but we made strides last season by working with the university’s sustainability office and third party vendors like Aramark and the University of Minnesota Waste Recovery Services to do detailed audits of our post-game sorts.”

 

Jeff Seifriz

Jeff Seifriz (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

One thing that has kept the Gophers’ sustainability team from getting to zero waste has been promotional items: “The problem is that vessels like souvenir cups and serving boats have complex graphics that make them difficult to be accepted by recyclers. We’re looking at going to a simpler ‘single print’ approach that hopefully will get these items into the recycling stream and get us to 90 percent diversion.” It says here that venues and teams can reduce the environmental cost of promotional items by having fewer promotional days, at least those that involve giving out stuff.

Seifriz wishes that zero waste had been a thing when TCF Bank Stadium was in the planning stages back in 2006 (it opened in 2009): “Had zero waste been our radar back then, we would’ve made space for composting on site and for compactors.”

 

TCF Bank Stadium Exterior

TCF Bank Stadium, home of University of Minnesota Gophers football (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

Since then, Seifriz and his team have gone to school on some of the best in Collegiate Green-Sports, studying the successes of the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Washington and Big Ten rival Ohio State. The 20+ year University of Minnesota facilities veteran also shares best practices with his Green-Sports-minded counterparts from the St. Paul Saints, as well as the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, and Wild at the occasional brainstorm session (aka Happy Hours): “It’s a terrific group of committed practitioners who want to make a difference on the environment.”

 

ST. PAUL SAINTS: INCUBATING GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATION AT CHS FIELD

Independent League Baseball leagues and teams — they are not affiliated with and/or owned by major league league franchises as opposed to minor league clubs — are proving to be the sport’s petri dishes.

This season, the independent Atlantic League is experimenting with some outside-the-box rule changes, like moving the pitcher’s mound two feet farther away from home plate with the goal of reducing strikeouts and increasing the percentage of pitches that are hit in play.

The St. Paul Saints, who play in the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, have been a proving ground for green innovation since planning began about eight years ago for what would become CHS Field.

Tom Whaley, aside from a four year hiatus, has been with the Saints since 1993. He is now an owner of the club and serves executive vice-president.

Whaley said that the Twin Cities’ sustainable heritage was one of the main reasons that green figured so prominently in the new ballpark.

“Green became a top priority for us when we started planning for the new ballpark in the early 2010s for four key reasons,” recalled Whaley. “#1. A clean, healthy, environment is very important to most people in our area, #2. Industry was heading in a green direction, #3. The City of St. Paul has a cabinet-level sustainability position, and #4. We are in an eternal quest to connect with young fans and green is something to which they respond.”

 

TomWhaleyHeadshot

Tom Whaley (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

Sustainable elements at the 7,200-seat CHS Field that were state-of-the-green-ballpark-art when it opened in 2015 — especially in the world of independent baseball — included:

  • On-site 100 kWh solar array that supplies 17 percent of the ballpark’s electricity, thanks to a grant from Xcel Energy
  • A graywater re-use system, with water supplied from the roof of a large adjacent transit facility, used to water the field and flush toilets
  • A vigorous waste diversion effort, funded in part by a grant from the state of Minnesota.

As the ballpark opened, the team wrapped a green sponsorship around the initiative called “The Greenest Ballpark in America”, with Ecolab, a global sustainable cleaning solutions company based in St. Paul, coming on as title sponsor. The sponsorship is critical to helping the Saints communicate the ballpark’s environmentally friendly features and benefits to its fans.

“Our goal is to bring green closer to home for our fans, to get them to think ‘CHS Field has solar; I should look into solar at my house’,” added Whaley. “We have two touch screen kiosks on the concourse to educate fans, a mobile platform (sustainability.chsfield.com), do in-game public address and video board announcements, plus on-field contests, all to engage our fans around the ideas and technologies. In 2018, we began an internship program dedicated to sustainability, and we deploy a volunteer Green Team of about 15-20 fans that spread our green message at about one third of our home games.”

 

StPaulSaints solar

100 kWh solar array located in beyond the left field wall supplies approximately 17 percent of the electricity needs at CHS Field (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

StPaulSaints Ecolab Kiosk

Ecolab partners with the Saints on kiosks that take real-time data from CHS Field’s Building Automation System to show fans the amount of power generated and saved (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

The Saints’ sustainability efforts earned CHS Field GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Ballpark award for 2015.

How have the fans reacted to the Saints’ greening? “It’s been very well received,” offered Whaley. “One thing we haven’t done yet is survey the fans about it. We should and we will.”

 

Next in Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports, Chef David Fhima brings clean, sustainable, tasty food to the Target Center, home of the NBA’s Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx.

 

¹ The Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium while US Bank Stadium was under construction. And Minnesota United played its initial MLS season at TCF Bank while Allianz Field was being built.

 


 

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Greening the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Seattle

How great is it when an iconic cause-based event like the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games embraces another cause — in this case, environmental sustainability? We’re talking really great.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with the sustainability team for Special Olympics USA 2018 Seattle — Karlan Jessen, Director of Volunteers and Sustainability; David Muller, Sustainability Consultant; and Tim Reeve, Sustainability Advisor — to find out how it came together, what worked well and what could’ve been better.

 

It was about a year before the July 1, 2018 Opening Ceremonies for the Special Olympics USA Games Seattle took place at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus, and an environmental sustainability plan was nowhere in sight.

And, since there had never been a sustainability effort at any of the three prior quadrennial USA Games, the odds were that Green would not be a part of the 2018 version.

Karlan Jessen, David Muller and Tim Reeve collectively and figuratively said “to heck with those odds,” and formed a Sustainability All-Star team of sorts. They created and implemented a greening program in what had to be record time.

 

Special Olympics Karlan_Headshot

Karlan Jessen (Photo credit: Karlan Jessen)

 

Special Olympics David Muller and Tim Reeve

David Muller (l) and Tim Reeve at the University of Washington (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

Jessen’s experience owning two used sporting goods stores, managing bicycle tours and running events made her an ideal pick for the Director of Volunteers and Sustainability role. Muller has deep experience consulting on sustainable events, focusing on environmental impact mitigation and positive social impact. And the Vancouver-based Reeve heads Reeve Consulting Group, a sustainability advisory firm. He’d worked with the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on sustainability and responsible sourcing issues.

 

“I THOUGHT THERE SHOULD BE A SUSTAINABILITY EFFORT SO I RAISED MY HAND”

As general planning for the Seattle Special Olympics got started in earnest, Jessen started to get questions about sustainability from some of the event’s existing corporate partners. “ESPN in particular asked about what could be done. Nothing was being planned at the time” Jessen recalled. “I thought there should be a sustainability effort, and even though we only had a year or so to make it happen, I raised my hand. I knew David from our sustainability studies at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (which later merged with Presidio Graduate School), so it was natural to team up with him.” It wasn’t long before Reeve joined to make the group a triumvirate.

The team quickly established a plan that was made up of six sustainability pillars. Four were environmentally focused, while the other two fall in the social portion of the broad Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) definition of sustainability:

Environmental Pillars

  1. Waste/Recycling
  2. Transportation
  3. Food/Beverage
  4. Sourcing

Social Pillars

  1. Accessibility/Inclusion
  2. Legacy/Education

Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond and the title sponsor of the 2018 USA Games, quickly bought into the social pillars. “Education and legacy were very important to Microsoft,” Jessen noted. “Inclusion, especially fair hiring practices, also was a big deal to them. And when you think about it, the Special Olympics demonstrates inclusion by its very existence!”

“Education and legacy was a home run,” chimed in Reeve. ”

 

BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL SUCCESSES: WASTE AND TRANSPORTATION

The environmental sustainability portion was more challenging. The success stories came from waste and transportation.

“Our waste-to-recycling program and food donations programs worked really well, thanks in large part to the University of Washington food service team,” reported Reeve. “Recycling is one of the most highly visible examples of a greening program at a sports event so we had to get that right. And we did.”

 

Special Olympics Green Team Volunteers success story

Green Team Volunteers sorting recycling, compost, and food donations (Photo credit: Tim Reeve)

 

Coca-Cola pitched in by bringing their reverse vending machines to the event. Fans and athletes would put empty plastics into the machine and a 5¢ donation would be made to Special Olympics for each donation. Per Muller, “Final numbers were not made public but it’s safe to say that thousands of bottles were recaptured.”

“Transportation was also a big win — that’s where we saw the biggest greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” added Muller. “The University of Washington was a great set up — it’s compact, very walkable and is located on a transit route. There is a robust bike share infrastructure at UW. Energy efficient shuttles ferried athletes and their families to and from events. And Lyft provided discounted as well as free ride sharing.”

 

Special Olympics Light Rail

Athletes and coaches taking light rail to T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) for the Special Olympics’ Night at the Ballpark (Photo credit: Cori Dixon)

 

The nearly 4,000 athletes and their families noticed Seattle’s greening efforts around the Special Olympics.

“We had numerous conversations with athletes and their families during the Special Olympics and they were really impressed by the city’s commitment to making this a green event,” recalled Reeve. “A sustainability passport was provided for the athletes for things like transportation so they were involved with the greening effort almost as soon as they arrived in the city.”

In a survey conducted after the Special Olympics among athletes and their families by Brian McCullough of Seattle University showed that 60 percent said, “My attitude toward environmental sustainably has improved due to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games initiatives.”

 

TIME WAS THE SUSTAINABILITY TEAM’S BIGGEST ENEMY

Here’s a note to the leadership group that is organizing the 2022 Special Olympics USA for Orlando: Jessen, Muller and Reeve agreed that a year was not nearly enough time to maximize the effectiveness of a sustainability plan.

“Lack of time really challenged us in terms of getting buy-in on the value proposition of a robust sustainability effort from the CEO and Executive Committee,” noted Reeve. “That kind of early support would have been crucial in terms of being woven into the budgeting and sourcing processes, as well as securing sustainability-focused sponsors. That would have helped us on food donation, signage and more.”

The team had a plan to offset emissions but there was no budget for it.

“About 90 percent of event emissions came from air travel,” Muller said. “We were looking at offset costs ranging from $25,000-$60,000 but there was no budget for it. Had we started earlier, we certainly could’ve found a partner to fund the offsets.”

What kind of time frame would be ideal to develop and manage an effective sustainability effort at a Special Olympics?

Consider that planners for the FIFA 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA will have eight years to get sustainability right, and the organizers at the LA 2028 Olympics will have had eleven years since being award the Games in 2017.

Now, no one is saying that the Special Olympics USA is of a similar scale as those two mega events.

Given that’s the case, what is the ideal length of time to put a sustainability plan in place that the team would be proud of?

The verdict was unanimous:

“Three years!,” said Judges Jessen, Muller and Reeve.

 

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Lex Chalat, On Where Green-Sports Fits with Beyond Sport and thinkBeyond

Green-Sports is one spoke of the Purpose & Sports wheel that also includes child protection, diversity and inclusion, supporting refugees and more. Lex Chalat began working in that space in 2008 when she joined Beyond Sport, which was just starting out in London, and she hasn’t left.

Since then, she helped the organization become an influential convener and funder of sport-for-good nonprofits around the world. And Lex also has been a driving force behind thinkBeyond — a consultancy born out of Beyond Sport — that “helps organizations and people that do good, to do it better through sports.”

Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, including where the environment fits in the Beyond Sport/thinkBeyond “cause lineup” and how green can become a bigger factor going forward.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Lex, I’ve wanted to interview you for GreenSportsBlog for a long time so thank you! I can sometimes get very myopic about Green-Sports and so having the perspective of someone who looks at all aspects of Purpose & Sport, from gender to refugees to, well, green, is valuable indeed. How did you get into the sport-for-good niche?

Lex Chalat: I was a gymnast growing up in Colorado, so I got the power of sports early on. Went to UPenn in Philadelphia and became captain of the gymnastics team, which was just an incredible experience that has had a lasting influence on my life. Majored in journalism and art history. After graduation, I became a journalist in Philly, working at a small local paper in the southwest section of the city. It was really a forgotten neighborhood of Philadelphia, not well connected to mass transit. The problems were many and serious but there also was a lot of good going on in the Southwest. We only wrote good news stories about the community — which meant most of them focused on arts, music and sports — hey, if you wanted to read about murders in the area, then you’d read The Inquirer! From there I moved to being editor at South Philly Review, which covered similar topics. I also wrote about community development and art for Philadelphia Weekly, including a weekly column called The Edge that told stories about how arts and sports were both gentrifying but also supporting the development of the areas on the fringes of the city. I loved and became obsessed with not only the writing but also community development.

 

Beyond Innovation Summit

Lex Chalat (Photo credit: Beyond Sport)

 

GSB: Did you go into community development?

Lex: No. Instead I got my Masters at the London School of Economics, choosing that school because of its independent, open-ended approach. So I created my own path, studying about unique catalysts for change — like sports and arts — in urban areas. In fact, my dissertation was entitled, “Art Affects.”

GSB: Very cool. What did you do next?

Lex: So in 2008, I saw that an entrepreneur and ex-athlete, Nick Keller, was starting something called Beyond Sport. He had some very prominent early backers, with Tony Blair being the chairman of the Beyond Sport Ambassadors…

GSB: You can’t get more prominent in Great Britain than Tony Blair! He had just left the Prime Ministership at that time, right?

Lex: That’s right. He and Nick both saw the power of the connection between sport, the business world, and society. Not a lot of people were talking about it then, especially not in the private sector.

GSB: Having Tony Blair onboard was a huge coup!

Lex: Yes! He helped Beyond Sport get support from other elite athletes and celebrities of that time like David Beckham, Seb Coe…

GSB: Former world record holder of the mile and the head of the London 2012 Olympics…

Lex: …former NBA basketball star and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, legendary Olympic swimmer Donna De Varona and more.

GSB: That’s an impressive roster

Lex: I saw that Beyond Sport launched and said to myself, ‘Obviously I’m going to work for them.’ I found out they were looking for an intern and even though I had a Masters degree, I said ‘YES!’ right away. We were a true startup — there were eight of us at the time. Our approach was to connect governments and the private sector to help publicize and fund the most effective nonprofits in the burgeoning “sport for good” world. And we had early success, thanks in large part to signing Barclays as a lead sponsor. By the summer of 2009, we were hosting the first Beyond Sport global summit in London. Desmond Tutu, Australian Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Ian Thorpe, and Marcus Agius, the CEO of Barclays at the time, headlined the speaker list. Sport-for-good organizations applied for Beyond Sport awards, which included a prize of funding and business support, in categories like Sport for Education, Sport for Health, and the Environment. We covered the cost of all short-listed organizations to get to London for the Summit. It was INCREDIBLE!!!

 

Adolf ogi-and-Desmond tutu1

Adolf Ogi, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace and former President of the Swiss Confederation, presents the 2009 Beyond Sport Humanitarian in Sport to Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Photo credit: Beyond Sport)

 

GSB: No kidding! So convening the private sector and governments to fund sport-for-good became Beyond Sport’s ‘special sauce’?

Lex: That’s right…And the Summits allowed us to educate, tell stories, and inspire. Since those early days, we’ve diversified and grown, with Beyond Sport United, which brings the major U.S. leagues together to explore how they can make a bigger social impact, Beyond Innovation — focused on Sport-for-STEM, Beyond Soccer, Beyond Rugby, Beyond Sport UK, Beyond Sport Mexico… the list goes on.

GSB: I’ve been to one global Summit and several Beyond Sport United events, although none in the last couple years. And, full disclosure, I was a judge for the environmental category shortlist a few years back. The events I attended were indeed inspiring — seeing the incredible Sport-for-Good nonprofits, like Skateistan, an organization that teaches kids in war torn Kabul, Afghanistan to skateboard, was, well…beyond. What’s been happening with Beyond Sport since 2015-2016?

 

Skateistan1

Kids participate in 2013 ‘Sport For Education’ Beyond Sport Global Award winner Skateistan’s program in Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo credit: Skateistan)

 

Lex: A lot has changed since we first started. First, the sport for good world has become far more sophisticated. Second, the corporate and government sectors are far more interested and committed to purpose than they were a decade ago. And finally, we have found people are interested in engaging in content in a different way. As a result of these three key components, we are constantly trying to revolutionize how we evolve and deliver our platforms so we can continue to benefit the sectors, but also push forward and grow. This year, we’re really changing it up with Beyond Sport United this September.

GSB: How so?

Lex: For the past few years, Beyond Sport United has expanded beyond a one-day conference to include peripheral events – from Community in Action to roundtable, senior leadership discussions. This year, we are creating something called Beyond Sport House, which will be one location that will host many small, vibrant sessions. Along with Beyond Sport United, which will still focus on teams and leagues, there will be pop-up talks here, workshops there, debates across the hall, networking in a corner over there. The discussions will be solutions-oriented, no matter the topic, from human rights to mental health to STEM to the environment. The content will be partner-led and attendees will be able to curate their own itinerary, as well as run their own sessions and side meetings. There will also be a chance to attend affiliate UN week events after Beyond Sport House closes. It will be a very fluid way of serving content and a different way to engage people. Details will be coming out soon.

GSB: WOW! It sounds like you and your team have gone beyond shaking things up! Does this mean the Beyond Sport Awards are no longer?

Lex: Not at all! That’s one of the most exciting things we’re working on this year. The awards will still play a major role, although we are re-envisioning them. There will still be a number of categories, a short list for each and then a winner. What’s new is that we are looking to add two big awards to deal with two big UN Global Goals. One is likely to be gender or social-related and — you will like this — the other is likely to be climate action. We’re looking to get bigger funding and name multiple “sport for good” organizations — likely three to five — as winners of each prize. They will be tasked with teaming up to come up with big solutions to the defined mega-problem.

GSB: So it’s a matter of the whole being great than the sum of its parts?

Lex: Exactly. We’re really excited about this.

GSB: I can see why. I’m looking forward to attending. Now, let’s pivot to thinkBeyond. What is it, how did it come about and how does it relate to Beyond Sport?

Lex: This goes back to 2013. Barclays announced they were ending their partnership but they gave us a three-year off-ramp, which was very generous of them. So we had some time to think about how to diversify our revenue generation because, since the Great Recession of 2008, the corporate sponsorship world was changing dramatically. Getting corporates to sponsor conferences and summits like ours became exponentially harder. On the other hand, many corporations were becoming increasingly interested in ‘purpose’engaging their communities and stakeholders for good, enhancing their brands, attracting and retaining employees — but didn’t know how to do it! Through Beyond Sport, we had the expertise about how to use sport to develop and execute purpose-driven strategies. And we sat at the intersection of hundreds of governing bodies, incredible sport-for-good nonprofits — most of which many brands had never heard of — and government agencies that could help activate those strategies. thinkBeyond grew out of this, really taking off in 2014-15.

GSB: So thinkBeyond is a purpose-driven strategic agency that uses the deep experience developed through Beyond Sport. With whom have you worked and what kind of work have you done?

Lex: We work in three main buckets — 1. Helping corporations and sports governing bodies develop their ‘sport for good’ strategies; 2. Implementing and activating those strategies; and 3. Helpng to position and communicate those strategies. ESPN is a great example of our work in all arenas. thinkBeyond developed and project manages their international purpose-driven initiative, “Built To Play,” in Latin America, India and Australia. It creates safe spaces to play as well as providing access to sport for women, employment training programs and more. Key to the program’s success was our ability to find the nonprofits on the ground in the local areas that made things happen. We also work with SAP on their sport and CSR strategy. The NFL and NHL are also clients we work with on developing purpose-driven content. So is the Qatar FIFA 2022 World Cup as well as World Rugby.

In January we launched thinkBeyond Talent — we advise athletes on how to make the most of their purpose-driven efforts.

GSB: Who have you signed on so far?

Lex: We manage Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson’s foundation, work with Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, helping him develop his new foundation, and Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, British Olympic field hockey players and the first gay married couple on Team GB, developing their cause narrative.

GSB: Great work on two counts: 1. Coming up with a smart, sustainable response to the need for Beyond Sport to change its business model, and 2. Developing impactful thinkBeyond programs that benefit people on the ground and sponsor brands. Now let’s talk environment and climate. It’s always seemed to me that green has taken a bit of a back seat to the other areas of endeavor at Beyond Sport. What’s your take?

Lex: To be totally honest, Beyond Sport has struggled in the green space. We’ve never gotten huge interest from our nonprofit and corporate networks on environment and climate. It’s been on the periphery. Since we’re not “Sport for Climate” experts, judging Beyond Sport’s environmental awards and creating our green content have largely been outsourced to the Green Sports Alliance and other leaders. thinkBeyond changed all that, finding corporate clients interested in green, in climate. We helped BT in 2015-16 with their 100% Sport initiative in the UK that got athletes and teams to push for action on climate. We handled their online campaign and managed their activation at the COP21 climate conference in Paris…

GSB: …The conference where Paris Climate Accord was signed.

Lex: We’re also working with Lewis Pugh, the long-distance swimmer, to get corporate partnerships through thinkBeyond Talent. He swims in places like Antarctica to highlight the seriousness of climate change.

GSB: Pugh is an incredible eco-athlete and humanitarian…

 

Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh trains for his 2018 across the English Channel which helped spur the UK government to take action to protect the world’s oceans (Photo credit: Kelvin Trautman)

 

Lex: Absolutely. We’ve done better, green-wise, with thinkBeyond which I think is a sign that people care about it they just don’t know how to activate that interest. But we’re not where we want to be yet. And we’re ramping up, green-wise, on Beyond Sport. In fact, there will be a Global Goals workshop focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Beyond Sport House in New York in September. So green will be featured — along with gender equity, refugees, safe play and more.

GSB: What can Beyond Sport, thinkBeyond, the Green Sports Alliance, the UN, and others do to accelerate sport’s involvement with the climate crisis? Because, per the UNFCC’s latest report, the world doesn’t have time to waste. And I ask this question knowing there are politics involved.

Lex: I think Beyond Sport can ensure there is always a platform for experts to share how they are tackling climate issues through sport; thinkBeyond can do its part by tooling up our strategic services to cater to those who want to develop sustainability strategies – so we can make sure we help them in a smart way; and I think GSA and other experts need to move forward, and go beyond sport (no pun intended) by that I mean: In addition to trying to fix the sports world, we need to work with sports to fix the world. And, as far as climate change is concerned, we need to go beyond greening the sports world, and find ways for sports to green the world.

 

 

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Kevin Anderson, 5th Ranked Tennis Player and Eco-Athlete; Seattle Sounders Call Climate Change a “Crisis”; Climate Denying Ski Federation President Remains at Helm Despite Pressure to Resign

In a TGIF GSB News & Notes, we share two positive news stories and one naggingly troubling if still hopeful note.

On the positive side, Kevin Anderson, the world’s fifth ranked men’s tennis player, took on the plastic waste issue in Jon Wertheim’s SI.com much-read mailbag column. And the Seattle Sounders used the term “climate crisis” (Italics my emphasis) when they announced their commitment to going carbon neutral in the season that kicks off on March 2. I’ve never seen a team put the words “climate” and “crisis” together before.

On the flip side, despite many calls for his resignation, Gian-Franco Kasper remains the President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) almost three weeks after he outed himself as a climate change denier. But an effort to generate public pressure to force his resignation, led by Protect Our Winters, shows no signs of slowing down.

 

KEVIN ANDERSON, WORLD’S 5TH RANKED TENNIS PLAYER, SERVES UP PLASTIC OCEAN WASTE TO SI.COM READERS

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson instantly became one of the world’s most well-known eco-athletes on Wednesday when he took on the plastic ocean waste issue — and tennis’ contribution to it — in Jon Wertheim’s popular SI.com mailbag column.

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, who is Kevin Anderson? And how popular is tennis, really?”

 

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson (Photo credit: Tony O’Brien/Reuters)

 

The hard-serving, 6′ 8″ Anderson is currently the fifth ranked men’s player in the world¹, having reached the finals of two grand slam tournaments since 2017. You might remember this incredible left-handed shot (Anderson is a righty) after having tumbled to the grass late in his marathon, 6 hour-plus 2018 Wimbledon semifinal vs. John Isner that propelled him to the final.

 

 

As to tennis’ popularity, a 2018 WorldAtlas.com study reports that the sport has 1 billion fans globally, enough to make it the fourth most popular sport on the planet, trailing only soccer (#1 at 4 billion fans), cricket (2.5 billion), and field hockey (2 billion). To my knowledge, the only active eco-athlete who be more well known than Anderson is Mesut Özil, the German soccer star who currently plays for Arsenal.

Back to Wertheim’s mailbag.

The first question came from a reader in Toronto who asked, “When is tennis going to stop its environmentally unfriendly use of plastic?”

Instead of answering it himself, Wertheim gave Anderson, “tennis’ green czar” (who knew??), the court.

An excepted version of Anderson’s reply reads this way:

That your question was submitted to Jon Wertheim’s mailbag makes me very pleased to know that tennis fans are also taking the plastics issue seriously.

Reducing plastic pollution — and particularly keeping plastic waste out of the oceans — is one of my biggest passions. In fact, in December I hosted a charity event at home in Florida with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance. Once your eyes are opened to the plastic pollution problem, it’s hard not to care about the consequences. I hope that tennis players can be leaders in this space to raise awareness and help make the public more mindful of reducing single-use plastics when possible.

As a member of the ATP Player Council, I’ve been sharing my passion for this issue and last November, the ATP developed measures to reduce its negative impact on the environment at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. For the first time ever, players were given reusable bottles for on-court use, staff were given reusable bottles and encouraged to refill them at water stations, and fans were given reusable cups when they purchased drinks at The O2 (Arena). There are many more things that can be done in the future, but I believe this was a great first step in the right direction.

I’m hopeful we can continue to make other changes, such as do away with plastic racquet bags after re-stringing (which I always politely decline or make sure to recycle), put recycling bins at all tournaments for fans to dispose of their rubbish properly (and on the practice courts for players), and most importantly – provide education. If we can get more and more tournaments, players and fans to recognize the issue we have on our hands, and just how dire of a situation it is, we can make more change. 

 

GSB’s Take: So glad to hear Kevin Anderson is leading the anti-plastic ocean waste movement on the ATP Tour. Hopefully he is recruiting others, including his women’s tennis counterparts, to join his effort. And if his interest in plastic waste becomes an on-ramp to a broader commitment to the climate change fight, all the better.

 

SEATTLE SOUNDERS, MLS’ FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL CLUB, USES “CLIMATE CRISIS” TERM

The Seattle Sounders committed to going carbon neutral starting with the 2019 season — FC Cincinnati visits CenturyLink Field on March 2 to kick off the new campaign — marking them as the first professional soccer team in North America to do so. In a press release announcing the move, the club pledged that their “operations will make no net contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading cause of the climate crisis.”

Wait a second.

Did you notice anything special in that press release quote? Because I sure did.

A North American pro sports team, used the term “climate crisis.

At first glance, the Sounders’ use of climate crisis should not raise eyebrows. After all, a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study released in October said that humanity has but 12 years to cut carbon pollution by 40 percent if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences.

But widen the lens a bit and one sees that most pro teams, including those who have done great green work for years, do not even speak of climate change. At all. Benign terms like “sustainability” and “environmentally responsible” are used much more frequently.

It says here that the Sounders use of climate crisis is at least as big a deal as the team going carbon neutral.

And that’s saying something because the club’s carbon neutral commitment is certainly important and substantive.

One reason is that the Sounders included fan travel to and from games — which represent 28 percent of total emissions — in its calculations. Some teams and leagues that have claimed carbon neutrality have not done so.

 

Fan travel accounted for 28 percent of the Sounders’ emissions in 2018, trailing only team travel (33 percent) and CenturyLink Field operations (29 percent)

 

Team management partnered with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For emissions unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – the Sounders are offsetting their emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a regional nonprofit. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover. This not only reduces CO₂, but enhances air and water quality.

“We’re incredibly excited to announce that our club is officially carbon neutral,” said Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer. “The Sounders have always been committed to investing in our community, and that includes recognizing the immense responsibility we have as environmental stewards.”

And climate crisis fighters.

 

Adrian Hanauer

Adrian Hanauer, owner of the Seattle Sounders (Photo credit: Seattle Sounders FC)

 

GSB’s Take: This is a win-win-win Green-Sports story if I ever saw one: Win #1: The Sounders go carbon neutral. Win #2: The club includes fan travel in their emissions calculations. Win #3: Rightfully calling climate change a CRISIS is a big step forward. Kudos to the Sounders for doing so. Will this give other pro teams across all sports the confidence to use the words “climate” and “change” together? Watch this space. Note that I’m starting slowly here and not asking teams to say climate “crisis”. Yet. If you want to let the Sounders know that you appreciate their bold green-sports steps, click here.

 

CLIMATE DENIER GIAN-FRANCO KASPER REMAINS IN POWER AS HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL SKI FEDERATION; 

We close the week with an update on the Gian-Franco Kasper story.

The President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) denied climate change in a February 4 interview, saying, “There is no proof for it. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”

 

Gian Franco-Kasper

Gian-Franco Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)

 

Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, quickly wrote an open letter calling for Kasper to resign and encouraged its followers to do the same.

As of February 19, over 8,300 letters had arrived in FIS’ in box.

But that’s not all.

  • Jessie Diggins, who won Olympic gold at Pyeonchang 2018 in cross country skiing, and other elite winter sports athletes like Jamie Anderson, Danny Davis, and Maddie Phaneuf, made strong statements condemning Kasper’s remarks.
  • Companies from throughout the snow sports world — from Aspen Skiing Company to Burton, from Patagonia to Clif, and more — pushed the word out
  • The coverage of POW’s open letter generated more than 200 million media impressions worldwide: The New York Times, ESPN and The Daily Mail, among many others, got into the act.

Now, as of February 21, Kasper remains in office. But for how long will that be the case?

 

GSB’s Take: The POW letter campaign is ongoing. If you believe Kasper should go and would like to participate, click here.

 

 

¹ Anderson currently sits below #1 Novak Djokovic, #2 Rafael Nadal, #3 Alexander Zverev, and #4 Juan Martin del Potro in the ATP rankings. He is ahead of #6 Kei Nishikori and #7 Roger Federer.

 

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GSB News and Notes: NY Times Links Federer Upset Loss to Climate Change; Lakers Go Solar at their Training Facility; Denver Broncos Give Out 100% Recycled Rally Towels

September is, without question, the most wonderful time of the sports year in the US:

  • The final tennis grand slam tournament, the US Open, concludes;

  • Baseball’s long season comes down the home stretch;

  • The college football and NFL seasons kick off;

  • Basketball and hockey teams hit training camp;

  • The Ryder Cup takes over the golf world

GreenSportsBlog’s TGIF News & Notes reflects that full calendar, with tennis, basketball, and football on the docket.  

 

NEW YORK TIMES MAKES LINK BETWEEN FEDERER UPSET LOSS AT US OPEN AND EXTREME NIGHTTIME HEAT AND HUMIDITY

Until Serena Williams’ dispute with the chair umpire in her straight set defeat to Naomi Osaka at the US Open final became an international hot topic, excessive heat was the dominant storyline during the recently completed tournament in Queens.

  • The ATP, the governing body of the men’s pro tennis tour, took the unprecedented step of instituting a new rule, after the tournament began, that allowed players to go to the locker room for a 10 minute cooling break after the third set (women’s players already were permitted such a break after the second set).
  • With on-court temperatures reaching as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius), it was common to see players draping large ice wraps over their shoulders during one minute changeover breaks. 
  • Eventual men’s champion Novak Djokovic was almost felled in two early round matches by two implacable foes: the oppressive afternoon heat and humidity.
  • Night matches were affected: Unheralded John Millman shocked Roger Federer in the Round of 16 on a particularly hot, sticky, stuffy evening. 

 

Novak US Open

Novak Djokovic suffering from the heat and humidity during a changeover in his first round match at the 2018 US Open (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

While ESPN covered the heat/humidity story during the tournament’s fortnight — there was no way the cable-caster could avoid it. After all, players were wilting and fans stayed away from the sunny side of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center venues in droves. But ESPN did not get delve into any potential links between the extreme weather at the Open and climate change. 

And, while Federer cited heat and stuffiness as the main reason for his upset loss — “It was hot. It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air; there was no circulation at all.” — he didn’t “go there” on climate change. 

 

Federer

Roger Federer struggled on an extremely hot and humid night in the round of 16 at the US Open, losing to John Millman (Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

 

Thankfully, reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis of The New York Times’ fantastic “Climate Fwd” newsletter, did make the climate connection for millions of readers on September 4 in Roger Federer Is Tough to Beat. Global Warming Might Have Pulled an Upset.” Her particular focus was the relatively unsung trend of increasingly hot nights.

Per Pierre-Louis, “To some, the comments by Federer…may sound like sour grapes. But they also underscore a growing problem: increasing nighttime temperatures…[Global] warming is not happening evenly. Summer nights have warmed at nearly twice the rate of summer days. Average overnight low temperatures in the United States have increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit per century since 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…While daytime temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) have been a persistent problem at this U.S. Open, conditions [during the Federer-Millman night match] were not much cooler. Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, with the humidity for much of the match above 70 percent. The heat index, which combines heat and humidity to indicate a ‘feels like’ temperature, was in the 90s.”

The effects on the human body of exercising in high temperatures with high humidity can be calamitous, reported Pierre-Louis. That’s because sweating, “a key cooling mechanism,” gets stymied. When the air is excessively humid, sweat drips instead of evaporating. And that eliminates the cooling effect on the body. 

GSB’s Take: As a lifelong resident of the New York City metro area, let me tell you, a nighttime heat index in the 90s, a rarity back in the 1970s-80s, is becoming all too common in July and August. While heat and humidity played a major role in Federer’s exit from the US Open, such extreme weather is much more perilous for non-athletes. And until humanity, non-athletes and athletes alike, gets its act together on a massive decarbonizing effort to break climate change’s serve, extreme heat and humidity that makes exercise — among many other activities — risky will become the norm. I wonder if, as the effects of climate change get more severe, tournaments like the US Open and Australian Open, which are played in the heat and the humidity of the summer, will move towards more temperate times on the calendar.

 

LAKERS WELCOME LEBRON JAMES TO TRAINING CAMP WITH NEW SOLAR INSTALLATION 

When LeBron James joins the Los Angeles Lakers for his first training camp in Los Angeles later this month, he’ll be doing so at a training facility with a new rooftop solar array. 

According to a story by Kyle Field in the September 2 issue of CleanTechnica, Vaha Energy installed a 171 kW system comprised of 456 LG Solar panels on the roof of the team’s new LEED Platinum, 120,000 square foot UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.

 

The solar array at the LA Lakers new UCLA Health Training Center (Photo credit: CleanTechnica)

 

“The system is expected to save about $38,000 per year, on a rate of 16 cents per kWh,” wrote Field. Vaha Energy projects that the team should be able to pay off the system in a relatively quick four years.

Joseph McCormack, the Lakers Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance, told Field, “One of our goals as an organization is to be at the forefront of energy efficiency, and these panels further our commitment to sustainability.”

The Lakers plan to communicate their greening efforts at UCLA Health Training Center to fans — the cozy venue seats 900 — during team practices and at home games of the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers.

 

GSB’s Take: The move by the Lakers to solar-ize their new UCLA Health Training Center is, of course, welcome news. As costs of solar continue to go down, we can expect more such on-site solar installations at sports venues. It says here that the Lakers would’ve done even better to install solar panels atop car ports in the parking lot, in addition to their rooftop array. That way, fans could not miss the Lakers solar play — the panels on the roof are not easily visible to passersby. Oh yeah, it would be cooler than cool if LeBron agreed to be featured in video messaging about the Lakers’ solar installation.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS GIVE ORANGE RALLY TOWELS MADE FROM 100 PERCENT RECYCLED MATERIALS TO FANS AT HOME OPENER

A crowd of 76,000+ at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver saw the home team open their 2018 NFL season Sunday with a come-from-behind 27-24 home win over the Seattle Seahawks. Fans 21-and-older were able to urge the Broncos on by waving orange rally towels, presented by Bud Light, made from 100 percent recycled materials from earlier Broncos games. 

 

Rally Towel Broncos

The rally towel, made from 100 percent recycled materials, that was given out to Denver Broncos fans at Sunday’s home opener (Photo credit: Denver Broncos)

 

Believed to be the NFL’s first promotional giveaway made from fully recycled materials, the towels are made from plastic Coke bottles from Broncos Stadium. The 100% recycled icon is located on the lower left of the towel, clearly visible to fans.

Here’s how the Broncos Stadium bottles turn into Broncos Stadium rally towels:

  • Coke bottles get hauled from the stadium to Waste Management’s Denver Recycling Center.
  • The bottles are then delivered to a Materials Recovery Facility and sold to a plastic processing plant.
  • The processing plant breaks the bottles down into flakes or pellets and sells them to yarn manufacturers, who in turn sell the yarn to fabric weavers and knitters around the world.
  • Fabric makers sell the fabric to cut, sew and decorating plants — in this case, G&G Outfitters, a Maryland-based NFL licensee — where the towels are produced, decorated and shipped back to Denver for the game.

“The Denver Broncos and Coca-Cola are teaming up to show fans the value of recycling,” said Antoinette Williams, account executive at Coca-Cola, USA. “Recycling is the first step, but Coca-Cola and the Broncos want to create a ‘Life-Cycle’ story and make sure once the bottles are recycled they continue on a sustainable path.”

“We have never executed a promotion to this nature for any NFL team where the giveaway was made 100 percent out of certified recycled bottles collected from their own waste,” added Danny Papilion of G&G Outfitters. “To our knowledge, the Broncos are the first NFL team to do so.”

GSB’s Take: I love this promotion — a towel that is clearly marked as 100 percent recyclable given out to many thousands of fans. But how cool would it be if the Broncos encouraged fans to bring their towels every time they come to a game? Show your towel at four games and you get a free Bud Light. Or some other idea. No matter the promotion, the team would be emphasizing the important sustainability principle of reuse as well as recycling. 

 


 

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Justin Zeulner Leaves Green Sports Alliance; Group Begins Search for New Executive Director to Take on Green-Sports 2.0

The Green Sports Alliance and Executive Director Justin Zeulner, its Executive Director since 2014, recently parted company. The Portland, OR-based organization will soon begin a search for its next leader. 

 

Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance since 2014, has left the organization. Prior to leading the Alliance, Zeulner helped build it in its early days while working for three organizations owned by Microsoft co-founder and Green-Sports pioneer Paul Allen: the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, Vulcan Philanthropy and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

“Since leaving Vulcan Philanthropy/Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in 2014 to lead the Green Sports Alliance, Justin has successfully guided the organization to new heights. The sports greening movement has become a relevant change agent and prevailing force in environmental stewardship, enabling the sports and entertainment industry to create healthier, more sustainable communities where we live and play. As one of the inaugural members of the Green Sports Alliance and innovators of our movement through his earlier career at the Portland Trail Blazers, we cannot thank Justin enough for his efforts, dedication to our mission and service to our members, stakeholders, and the organization,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“It has been both an honor and privilege to work closely with everyone involved in developing the Green Sports Alliance and our global movement,” said Zeulner. “It is with a heavy heart that I leave the organization, but I’m thrilled with the amazing progress we have made, together. I look forward to continuing to work with the entire sports greening family as I enter this new chapter in my life.”

 

Zeulner GSA

Justin Zeulner (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GREEN-SPORTS 2.0 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES LIE AHEAD FOR NEXT ALLIANCE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The Alliance said it will soon launch a national search for its next Executive Director.

Whoever takes that job will be doing so as the Sports Greening Movement continues its transition from Green-Sports 1.0 (the greening of the games and the stadia and arenas in which they are played) to Green-Sports 2.0 (engaging sports fans to take positive environmental actions).

In the space of about a decade, Green-Sports 1.0 has become an unqualified success. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Alliance and of people like Justin Zeulner, LEED certified stadia and arenas, Zero-Waste games, on-site renewables and more have become commonplace.

The next Alliance Executive Director will certainly have a plate full of Green-Sports 2.0 challenges and opportunities.

To my mind, demonstrating to teams, leagues, corporate sponsors and mainstream sports media outlets that sports fans will react positively to environmentally-themed messaging and marketing initiatives needs to be at the top of the list. This goes for fans who attend games as well as the much larger group who consumes sports on TV, online and elsewhere, but not at the stadium or arena.

The good news is that there are reams of publicly available data that show broad public support for renewable energy (“2/3 of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy over fossil fuels”^), climate change (“Most Americans say climate change affects their local community”*), carbon pricing (“Yale poll shows nationwide support for revenue-neutral carbon tax”**) and other green indicators.

 

Yale

Infographic from Yale Center for Climate Change Communications showing widespread support throughout the US for revenue neutral carbon pricing (August 2018)

 

The Alliance must buttress these data by funding quantitative research that would measure fan awareness of, interest in, and engagement with, Green-Sports initiatives. It last invested in such research in 2014. Those results are old news; such studies need to be conducted annually or biannually.

Hey, keeping score is what sports is all about?

But what if, for argument’s sake, the next study shows that awareness of Green-Sports initiatives among fans is low? Wouldn’t that kind of negative result be a disaster for the Green-Sports movement?

No way.

It just would mean that the Alliance — and its global counterparts BASIS (UK), Sport Environment Alliance (Australia) and SandSI (Europe and elsewhere) — are in the early innings of a long Green-Sports 2.0 game.

And this game is certainly a “must-win”.

 

 

^ Pew Research Center, January 2017
* Pew Research Center, May 2018
** Yale Program for Climate Change Communications, August 2018

 


 

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New Rules for Green-Sports, Part Three

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written two posts in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to my way of thinking), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular “New Rules” segment on Bill Maher’s HBO political-comedy-satire talk show, Real Time, I entitled the posts “New Rules for Green Sports.”

Maher’s show is currently on hiatus until August 3 — given the sad performance by the US President at the NATO conference and at the summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that episode should be a doozy^. With that being the case, I thought now would be the perfect time to fill that void, put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rulesfor Green Sports, Part Three.”

 

For those of you who don’t have HBO and have never seen Real Time with Bill Maher, the host ends each hour-long episode of his show with “New Rules,” in which Maher gives himself autocratic powers to enact his own rules for politics and life in general. Here’s a sampler from April.

 

Video courtesy of HBO and YouTube

 

In the first two “New Rules for Green-Sports” offerings I (benevolently) ordered, among other things, that:

  • 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
  • Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight
  • Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand
  • Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break

 


 

OK, enough with the preliminaries; now it’s on to the third edition of “New Rules for Green-Sports”

New Green-Sports Rule #1ESPN will give out an “Eco-Athlete of the Year” honor at the 2019 ESPY Award show. Tonight’s 2018 ESPYs show will highlight the great works of athletes and coaches in their communities. It will also honor the coaches who perished in the Parkland (FL) High School mass shooting. But ESPN, which last month won the Green Sports Alliance’s “Environmental Leadership Award,” doesn’t yet use the ESPYs to spotlight athletes engaged in environmentalism and the climate change fight. That will end with next year’s ESPY’s with the addition of the “Eco-Athlete of the Year” award.

If the ESPY’s would have had the foresight to award an Eco-Athlete of the Year for 2018, I have a great suggestion for the first honoree: Leilani Münter, the self-described eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” who is having a solid year on the track, including a fifth place finish at the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Off the track, her work is even more important, as Leilani supports a booth, sponsored by two non-profits, that dispenses vegan Impossible Burgers during the week of each race she enters.

 

Leilani Munter Scott LePage

Leilani Münter, eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” will earn a 2019 Eco-Athlete ESPY, if the GreenSportsBlogger has his way (Photo credit: Scott LePage)

 

New Green-Sports Rule #2The Tour de France will use only EV — or at least hybrid — support vehicles. The biggest race in all of cycling has, over the past two decades, been severely tarnished by well-publicized doping scandals. One way for the Tour to improve its image would be to become a Green-Sports leader. Since cyclists use only human energy to get up and down the Alps, it already has a head start on greenness. To help nudge the Tour along its green path, our second Green-Sports “New Rule” says that, for 2019 and beyond, all team and race organizer support vehicles must be electric vehicles (EVs). If EV range is a concern, hybrids will suffice. It should be noted that the most of today’s EVs have range necessary to support the cyclists from beginning to end —the longest stage of the 2018 Tour is 143 miles.

EV and hybrid support vehicles will be a highly visible sign to the 10 to 12 million fans who annually line the route and the many millions more who watch on TV and other media platforms that the Tour de France is headed in the right, green direction.

 

Support Vehicles 2014 Tour

Support vehicles at the 2014 Tour de France (Photo credit: Times of London)

 

New Green-Sports Rule #3: FIFA will never again award a Men’s or Women’s World Cup to a country (or group of countries) where outdoor stadiums have to be air-conditioned. Russia was not my choice to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup — I tend not to want to reward a country whose government murders journalists, invades neighboring states and interferes in US elections with the world’s most watched sports event.

But I wasn’t in the “New Rules” business back in 2011 when FIFA awarded Russia with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and Qatar — thanks in large part to a massive corruption scheme — was named host of the 2022 tournament.

The selection of Qatar was derided almost from the moment when then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced it had won the bid, with the country’s extreme heat, exacerbated by climate change, being among the top concerns for fans and players alike.

 

Sepp Blatter2

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA in 2011, announces the selection of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup (Photo credit: Telegraph of London)

 

With June and July temperatures regularly reaching 110°F/43.3°C, FIFA decided to move the 2022 tournament to December*, when temperatures are more likely to be in the 80s Fahrenheit (27°-31° Celsius).

But, even in December, it can get bloody hot in Qatar. Organizers thus decided that all eight stadia that will be built for the World Cup will be air conditioned — despite all of them being open air buildings!

To say the least, the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup flies in the face of FIFA’s recent sustainability efforts.

But now that I’m on the case, FIFA will never again award the World Cup to a country that needs to build open air, air conditioned stadia. Not on my “New Rules” watch!

 

^ With two plus weeks between now and the August 3rd episode, there will likely be new reality show-style nonsense from POTUS that will make Helsinki and NATO seem like old news
* The switch to December will play havoc with domestic club league (English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Budndesliga etc.) seasons around the world but, gifting (grifting?) the World Cup to a country with no soccer tradition and no World Cup-quality stadia must be worth that small bit of trouble, right?

 


 

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Tuesday at the (Very) Interactive 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit: Climate Change Takes a Starring Role; ESPN Wins Environmental Leadership Award, But Are They Really Leading?

Executive Director Justin Zeulner promised that the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta would be “much more interactive than in past years — more workshops than panel discussions.” The Alliance made good on that promise at Tuesday’s full day session, with workshops that were more substantive and less jargon-y than in the past. Here are some of the highlights from Day 1 of the Summit.

 

THOUGHT LEADER WORKSHOP TAKES ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND SPORTS

Climate change, politics, and sports — not often mixed together at the four Alliance Summits I had attended previously — were featured items on the menu at the somewhat wonkish lunch time Thought Leader workshop. Co-led with verve by Colin Tetreault, Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University and Anne Kelly, Senior Director, Policy at Ceres, the session also featured Matt Ellis, CEO and Founder of Measurabl, Ben Jarrett, North American Sustainability Leader at Kimberly-Clark, Scott Mercer, CEO of Volta Charging, and Kat West of JLL.

 

Colin Tetreault

Colin Tetreault (Photo credit: Arizona State University)

 

Audience members, yours truly included, probed the panel (and the panel probed back) about, among other things, how athletes, teams and leagues can and should talk about climate change. The issue of politics hung over that question.

Mr. Mercer questioned the premise, saying in effect that climate change is not political. There was some pushback, both from Mr. Jarrett and some audience members. Ms. West suggested that emphasizing positive environmental actions and staying out of the politics of climate change is probably the best approach. I volleyed, saying “like it or not, climate change is a political issue and we can’t be afraid of that. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was a controversial issue and now he’s a hero. Muhammad Ali’s criticism of the Vietnam War was a controversial issue and now he’s a hero. We don’t have the time to wait for our sports-climate heroes.” That led to more respectful dialogue from a variety of perspectives.

Which was great.

Too often I’ve seen panels — at the Summit and elsewhere — where everyone agrees in a Kumbaya-ish sort of way. I think workshops like this, which featured a healthy and respectful debate, are much more valuable and informative.

On the way to the next workshop, I heard several people saying, “I could’ve stayed for another hour.” I silently seconded that emotion.

 

DOES ESPN DESERVE ITS “ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP AWARD”

ESPN won the Alliance’s Environmental Leadership Award for 2018 .

In accepting the award, Kevin Martinez, ESPN’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship, showed a video that highlighted impressive environmental achievements at the ESPY Awards, the Winter X Games and the College GameDay studio shows for both football and basketball. And ESPN’s sprawling Bristol, CT headquarters campus has been greening for the better part of a decade, including on-site solar and a strong waste diversion program (62 percent in 2017).

 

Kevin Martinez - March 5, 2013

Kevin Martinez, ESPN’s vice president of corporate citizenship, accepted the Alliance’s Environmental Leadership Award (Photo credit: Rich Arden/ESPN)

 

These accomplishments deserve to be commended.

Just not, it says here, with the Environmental Leadership Award.

I just don’t see leadership from from the Worldwide Leader in Sports in the environmental arena.

That’s because ESPN has not told Green-Sports stories to its massive audiences — 86 million cable subscribers, 115 million monthly espn.com visitors, 2.1 million ESPN The Magazine subscribers, etc.

There have been occasional exceptions: Outside The Linesthe 60 Minutes of ESPN, covered the effect of the polluted waters of Rio on the sailors and rowers at the 2016 Summer Olympics as well as the impact of wildfires in California and of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The producers are planning to mark the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey in August.

But that’s not leadership, at least not in my eyes.

The good news is that it’s not that heavy a lift to get to leadership. Taking some or all of these steps would do the trick:

  • Tell some of the many inspirational, positive, interesting Green-Sports stories out there.
  • Air a “Climate and Sports” series on SportsCenter 
  • Produce an ESPN 30 for 30 or a Nine for IX (women’s sports focused) documentary on an Eco-Athlete
  • Add an Eco-Athlete of the Year Award to the ESPY’s roster

You get the idea.

Now, you’re probably dying to ask me, “So Lew, to whom would you have given the Environmental Leadership Award?”

My vote would’ve gone to another sports media behemoth, Sky Sports of Great Britain, for its Sky Ocean Rescue initiative. According to SkySports.com, it shines a spotlight on “the issues affecting ocean health, finds innovative solutions to the ocean plastic problems and inspires people to make small everyday changes that collectively make a huge difference.” Just last week, the network named modern pentathlete Francesca Summers and para-swimmer Ellen Keane as Sky Sports Scholars for their Sky Ocean Rescue/beach cleanup work. Sky Sports also features Sky Ocean Rescue-related content on its air. And they are partners with the environmentally forward leaning Volvo Ocean Race.

 

Francesca Summers

Francesca Summers and Ellen Keane clean trash from beaches as part of the Sky Ocean Rescue program (Photo credit: Sky Sports)

 

ARTHUR M. BLANK WINS COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

The Alliance’s first annual Community Champion Award, given to a sustainability leader in the Summit’s host city, went to Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United and builder of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mr. Blank’s commitment to going the extra mile to make sure the stadium earned LEED Platinum certification was likely well known by many in the audience. My guess is few attendees were aware of his vision to make the stadium an economic and cultural engine for the adjacent West Side neighborhood.

In decline for more than 40 years, the West Side was once home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a nucleus of the civil rights movement. And now, thanks in part to Mr. Blank, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium team, as well as the Atlanta and Georgia governments, that historic neighborhood is starting on the long road back.

 

GSA Arthur Blank-headshot

Arthur M. Blank, a deserving winner of the Green Sports Alliance’s Community Champion Award (Photo credit: Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment)

 


 

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#CoverGreenSports

 

 

 

 

Let’s Start a Movement to Get the Sports Media to #CoverGreenSports

Longtime readers of GreenSportsBlog know I believe that Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of stadia and arenas — has been a great success. They also know I believe that Green-Sports 2.0 — engaging the 65-70 percent of humans who are sports fans on environmental issues, including climate change — is the more important yet far heavier lift.

For Green-Sports 2.0 to have a chance of meaningful success, the media — sports and otherwise — needs to do a much better job of sharing the many inspirational Green-Sports stories with its sizable audiences. It says here that the media won’t do so on its own. So we, the GreenSportsBlog community, need to push them. And that starts today with the launch of the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. 

 

 

Since I launched GreenSportsBlog almost five years ago, I’ve found there are two opposing forces in the sports-greening movement:

#1: The sports world is greening rapidly: And that pace has picked up to the point where:

  • LEED certification for stadia and arenas is considered the cost of doing business. In fact, the biggest question is often not IF a venue will go for LEED, but will it go for Platinum or “settle” for Gold,
  • Zero-waste games — to qualify, stadia or arenas must divert 90 percent or more of food waste from the landfill — are increasingly commonplace, as are on-site solar panel installations, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and much, much more.

#2: A precious few sports fans know about this: Despite an increased number of fan engagement efforts by a gaggle of teams and leagues recently, I would bet real money on the accuracy of this statement.

Absent any meaningful data on sports fan awareness of Green-Sports initiatives (note to the Green Sports Alliance — a quantitative, projectable study, updated over time, is much needed here) the best I can offer right now is this nugget of anecdotal data:

In early April, I moderated “The Intersection of Sustainability, Sports and Business,” a panel discussion held at the NYU Stern School of Business and hosted by their Center for Sustainable Business. Before turning to the panel, I asked the audience if they knew that Ohio State home football games are zero-waste, that the Super Bowl offsets all of the direct emissions associated game, and more.

 

Zero-Waste 1

Zero-Waste 2

Zero Waste Stations and signage, Lower Level Concourse at Ohio Stadium, home of Ohio State football. The stadium has been Zero-Waste — diverting more than 90% of food waste from landfill — since 2013 (Photo Credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Maybe two or three hands moved skyward in response to each question — a tiny number considering there were 50-60 people in the room.

Not good, I thought.

We need to get awareness about Green-Sports waaaaay up among sports fans. How high? Given the existential nature of the climate crisis I would be satisfied with awareness levels similar to the number of people who know that you can save 15 percent or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO!

 

GEICO Ad Age

Awareness of Green-Sports approaching awareness levels of nearly ubiquitous GEICO ads? Now THAT would be surprising…and welcome (Photo credit: Ad Age)

 

The only way we get that close to that exalted neighborhood is through significant sports media coverage of the great, sports-greening advances happening virtually every day in many corners of the sports world.

Not so fast, you say! “TV networks and cable sports outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports want their announcers talking about the games. They don’t want them talking about the environment!”

Of course, the game is the thing during a broadcast, but it’s not the only thing.

Sportscasters often bring up the causes promoted by the league, teams and/or athletes they’re covering. Those mentions are sometimes prompted by a contractual relationship — i.e. when the NFL sponsored Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the networks that broadcast the games in the U.S. (CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC) ran breast cancer-related public service announcements (PSAs). Or sometimes an announcer will organically bring up the cause-related work of a player he/she is covering (I’m making this up: “LeBron James scored 40 points tonight, which means $4,000 is donated to the LeBron James Family Foundation.”)

Environmental issues, especially climate change, need similar oxygen on sports broadcasts, no matter the medium.

But that won’t happen unless the broadcast and cable networks airing sports events, along with the websites, newspapers, and magazines that write about them believe there is an audience for environmentally themed content.

That means green-minded sports fans are going to have let the ESPNs, the CBS Sports’ of the world know that the sports-greening movement is important to them. That also holds true for sports websites like TheRinger.com and SI.com, news websites like npr.com and Slate.com as well as sustainability-focused sites like GreenBiz.com.

Fans should reach out to sportscasters who are active on social media and who are known for speaking about issues beyond the playing field. Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN), the long-time host of ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” is Exhibit A. Peter King (@SI_PeterKing), the long time Sports Illustrated NFL writer, and author of the must read MMQB (Monday Morning Quarterback) column on SI.com, is Exhibit B.

Newscasters with an expressed interest in sports (there are a lot of them!) should also be contacted. Mike Pesca (@pescami), host of The Gist podcast — which tackles sports along with other topics — on Slate.com, needs to be in the know about Green-Sports. And Alabama Crimson Tide, Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. fanatic Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) should be added to the list. I’m sure you can come up with more.

And that’s where #CoverGreenSports comes in.

When we (and that means YOU!) hear about a Green-Sports story, through this blog or anywhere else, we need to reach out to the folks listed above via social media with the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. Here’s what I mean:

Ex-UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to be selected in the top 10 in Thursday’s NFL draft. For argument’s sake, let’s say he’s selected by the Buffalo Bills (per my column a couple of weeks back, I hope he ends up with the New York Jets. But I think they’re going to pass on him in favor of Baker Mayfield so Rosen will shuffle off to Buffalo.) Any green-minded Bills fans should reach out to the team and to the local broadcast stations with a tweet that could go something like this: @Josh3Rosen is a member of the @BuffaloBills! How gr8 is THAT!? We have a QB that will lead us to the #SuperBowl and who cares about #climatechange! Please tell Rosen’s green story. #CoverGreenSports

If you’re not a Bills fan, you could still craft a tweet tailored for the national media (ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.): @Josh3Rosen, new @BuffaloBills QB, is also an #ecoathlete. Tell his green story during Bills games — millennials and GenZ viewers will thank you. Don’t be afraid of those opposed; Green-Sports a winner. #CoverGreenSports

And — now this is really important — we also need to give BIG shout outs to those who ARE ALREADY COVERING Green-Sports and who may start to use the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. That is a small club for now but membership is growing slowly but surely. We can be the catalyst that accelerates the growth trend.

I will tweet the #CoverGreenSports hashtag (and use it on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) whenever appropriate – to “nudge” those who need to cover it or to “fame” those who already, wisely, are. Will you retweet? Are you with me?

Let’s DO THIS!

Of course we can’t just do this willy-nilly; a strategic approach is what’s needed. Since hashtags and connecting with influencers are not my bailiwick, I reached out to someone who lives and breathes strategic influencer outreach.

Andrea Learned (@AndreaLearned) is a Seattle-based, self-described “communications strategist, with deep expertise in influencer relations.” Sustainability is one of her primary beats on Twitter. Andrea has made it a cause to generate interest in urban cycling-for-transportation by promoting the #Bikes4Climate hashtag as part of the broader #Cities4Climate movement.

 

Andrea.Profile.HardiePic

Andrea Learned (Photo credit: Hardie Cobbs)

 

In a free-flowing conversation a few weeks back, Andrea enthusiastically offered these suggestions:

  • “Map out an influencer strategy that goes beyond the tried and true, established ‘influencers’ — in the environmental space, that might mean Leo DiCaprio — to find new up and comers.”
  • “Find social media influencers who are interested in sports and climate. Athletes and non-athletes. Use the community you already know and expand from there. For example, I am always attuned to climate journalists who also happen to be big city bikers. Those writers have the potential to be climate action INFLUENCERS in capital letters “
  • Reach out to them with Green-Sports messaging and #CoverGreenSports and retweet their responses. Love them UP for even mentioning green-sport elements in any of the reporting they do already. “

Suffice to say, while I will be on the lookout for new influencers to move the #CoverGreenSports hashtag, I realize I already am connected to a great group influencers — y’all!

So please help spread the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. I promise you three things:

  1. Doing so will take a minimal amount of time, and
  2. It will be fun, and
  3. Your impact per minute spent has the potential to be massive!

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Ex-MLBer Chris Dickerson Leads Players for the Planet

Chris Dickerson played major league baseball for five teams in a seven-year career. As impressive as that is — heck, only 18,856 people have played in “The Bigs” since the National League was founded in 1876 — GreenSportsBlog is more interested in Dickerson’s role as a leading Eco-Athlete and his efforts to recruit others to join the climate change fight through Players for the Planet.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris, I was so glad find out about you — as an Eco-Athlete and founder of Players for the Planet! When did you become interested in the environment and climate change?

Chris Dickerson: I was the athlete of the family — I played everything; baseball, football, basketball. I noticed some kids my age couldn’t play sports because of asthma. Everyone I grew up with up in Southern California was aware of elements of significant environmental misfortune in the area, from air pollution due to the area’s heavy reliance on cars to water quality to plastic waste on the beaches. And my dad is an avid recycler. I remember he built color-coded bins made of PVC pipe and showed us which bins to toss which materials into. This was before the state required recycling so my dad was an early adapter! So I noticed the environmental irresponsibility of Southern California from a young age but it wasn’t until after college that I really got into it.

 

Chris Dickerson Yankees

Chris Dickerson, in the dugout after hitting a home run for the New York Yankees in 2012… (Photo credit: Getty Images/Hannah Foslien)

 

Chris Dickerson

…And here’s Dickerson in his role as co-founder of Players for the Planet (Photo credit: Players for the Planet)

 

GSB: What prompted the change?

CD: In 2007, I was just starting out in pro ball after my college career at USC and Nevada Reno. Seeing Al Gore’s documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” really was a wake up call and prompted my passion for environmental stewardship. So I started to research climate change. I devoured the 2008 Time Magazine “Green Issue,” read New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s pieces on climate change…

GSB: …Really?! Friedman’s writings on climate, from scientific and geopolitical points of view, that inspired me to work on climate change!!

CD: Amazing! His book on climate change, “Hot, Flat & Crowded” was an important influence for me. All of this became building blocks for Players for the Planet.

GSB: How did Players for the Planet come to be?

CD: Back around 2007-2008, I saw two ads that really had an impact on me. One was for Brita — it showed that a plastic water bottle takes 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. The other was for a refillable water bottle from Sigg, a Swiss company. In 2008, I had been called up to the Cincinnati Reds. We, like every other sports team, used an incredible number of plastic water bottles. So I had Sigg send 50 bottles to the clubhouse…

 

Players for the Planet

 

GSB: How did your teammates react?

CD: I’d say the initial reaction was that it all was a bit silly — they certainly didn’t dive right in. But, after awhile, the guys saw that using the Sigg bottles was more convenient than getting a new plastic bottle several times a day. Convenience became my main selling point, rather than the environment. And so they eventually switched and we were able to cut down on our plastic water bottle waste by 50 percent. An article was written on the Sigg bottles, the Reds and me that caught a lot of people’s attention. ESPN and MLB.com got in on it and then the fans in Cincinnati caught on — there were banners of me and the recycling symbol. Once I saw that kind of response, I felt I needed to step up to the plate and use the platform I had to something positive, something big on the environment and climate.

GSB: What did you do next?

CD: I reached to other baseball players I knew, along with athletes from other sports. Jack Cassel, who was pitching for the Houston Astros at the time, was from Southern California. He really “got it”…

GSB: …Is Jack related to Matt Cassel, the former Patriots backup quarterback who now serves the same role for the Tennessee Titans?

CD: They’re brothers. I knew Matt from USC and he joined us as well, as did a third Cassel brother — Justin. I also engaged two of the biggest stars in baseball stars of this era: Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies. So that was the beginning of Players for the Planet.

GSB: What did you have those guys do? And what were some of Players for the Planet’s early activities?

CD: Those athletes and more shared my vision, lent their names and offered quotes and other types of support. Our first event was at the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa…

GSB: Super Bowl XLIII? The one in which the Steelers beat the Cardinals on the Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes last minute TD pass?

CD: That’s the one! So we gave out gift bags made of recycled plastic bottles at the Super Bowl party hosted by Michael Strahan.

GSB: Very high profile…

CD: That was our goal. Back in Cincinnati in 2009, we formed an alliance with the Reds to kick off an E-Waste recycling event. Fans from around the city were invited to drop off their electronic devices that were collecting dust in their garages and attics. The E-Waste would then be handled and recycled in safe fashion. Some of my teammates and would come out to the participating Kroger supermarkets in the area. These became very popular. We would load up DVRs, TVs, stereos, computers, tablets, and cell phones.

 

Chris Dickerson e-waste

Chris Dickerson helps out at a Players for the Planet e-waste recycling drive during his days with the Cincinnati Reds (Photo credit: Chris Dickerson)

 

GSB: How much stuff did you collect and e-recycle?

CD: About 235,000 lbs. worth! It was one of the largest E-waste drives ever done in the area. This continued for seven seasons, even after I left the Reds in 2010 when I was traded to the Brewers. Jay Bruce and Ryan Hannigan took the baton and did great jobs.

GSB: Were you able to build Players for the Planet in Milwaukee?

CD: It wasn’t easy to focus on it because I was only in Milwaukee for part of the 2010 season. Then I went to the Yankees in 2011 and the Baltimore Orioles in 2013. So I was moving around a lot, trying to advance my career on the field, which made it somewhat challenging to build Players for the Planet at that time. That being said, there were some successes. In 2012, we worked with the MLB Players Association to have a Green Carpet at the All-Star Game in Kansas City to highlight the work we and the clubs were doing on recycling. The Royals used that game to feature biodegradable silverware. We also collected empty plastic bottles and cans at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. On another front, a bunch of the Southern California guys in Players for the Planet organized a beach cleanup in Marina del Rey. They got on paddleboards and picked up all sorts of crap, from tires to traffic cones.

GSB: We’ve covered the ocean waste issue quite a bit in GreenSportsBlog — it’s serious and it’s pathetic. How have you kept Players for the Planet going since you last played in the big leagues in 2014?

CD: It’s been a challenge to keep it going, to build on it, and to find new “keepers of the flame,” that’s for sure. Guys I came in with and who joined me in this effort are retired or will retire soon. So we’ve had to pivot in some ways. We’ve teamed up with OneVillage, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable global development through individual community empowerment in underdeveloped countries. And I’m in the process of building a corporate responsibility sports agency with my business partner, Brian Ingram a former minor league baseball player out of Oregon State. One of our main goals, not surprisingly, is to find athletes concerned with climate. OneVillage is working with us to help find corporations to support this initiative. On another front, we’re working with Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners to get Watly solar powered water de-salinization and filtration systems to the Dominican Republic and other places in the developing world…

GSB: WOW! The Watly sounds incredible and like it can be a real game changer!

CD: It really can be. Access to clean, drinkable water is a real crisis, of course. Watly’s also can provide WiFi and electric power.

GSB: I had no idea.

CD: Amazing, right? Brian went to Italy to see the first demonstration of the Watly and said it was “incredible!” On the same trip, Brian also went to Belgium, where he investigated a potentially groundbreaking urban farming project in which the produce would be dropped by drone into places like Syria and East Africa. We see an application for this approach in the urban food deserts of the U.S. as we don’t have the luxury of growing outwards — we have to look at growing vertically. Also in the U.S., we also are looking to build a fully sustainable little league baseball field.

GSB: What would that look like?

CD: Among other things it will be powered 100 percent by solar, only refillable bottles will be used, and the turf will be organic.

GSB: That is an ambitious agenda, to be sure. Back to your playing days, when you would talk about climate change in the locker room, how did your teammates react? Were there deniers among them?

CD: Oh yeah, definitely. It was a problem — I’d say climate change denial was at a significant level. I found that they really weren’t open to learning. Some guys accepted that there were environmental problems but didn’t connect them to climate change. Truthfully, most just didn’t care one way or the other…

GSB: …That tracks with the U.S. public’s attitude on climate — one of general indifference — although I was heartened by a December poll that showed environment/climate change now ranks as the 4th most important issue; let’s see if that sticks…

CD: …I hope so. But back in the early 2010s, it was hard to turn the naysayers among my teammates into believers about climate change when they would see that teams talk about how green they are but don’t engage the fans in meaningful ways…

GSB: …With notable exceptions in places like Seattle — with the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders engaging fans in environmental actions — as well as the University of Colorado in Boulder.

CD: Of course; those are great exceptions — we need those kind of programs to quickly become the rule. Also my clubhouse managers would see that haulers taking the recycling from the clubhouse weren’t doing the job properly, primarily just taking the recycling and throwing it in with the regular trash.

GSB: That needs to be brought to light. Now even though you’ve been out of the bigs for a few years now, are you hearing from your friends who are still playing that attitudes are starting to change?

CD: I would love to say yes but the best I can say is that attitudes are probably still the same.

 

 


 

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