Green Sports Alliance Announces Environmental Innovator of the Year Awards

The Green Sports Alliance today announced ten winners of its 2019 Environmental Innovator awards. The honorees — a wide-ranging group that includes a chef in addition to the more teams, venues and nonprofits one might associate with this award — will be presented with their hardware at the Alliance’s Summit at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on June 19.

 

Last week, the Green Sports Alliance announced that the USTA, Lauren Tracy, its director of strategic initiatives, and the legendary Billie Jean King, had won its 2019 Environmental Leader award.

Today, the Portland, Oregon-based Alliance followed that up by recognizing ten organizations with 2019 Environmental Innovator awards. In no particular order, the winners are:

The Center for Sport and Urban Policy (CSUP) at Georgia State University works to enhance public understanding of issues related to sports and environmental sustainability by bridging the gap between academic research and the sports industry. CSUP provided volunteer recruitment services for the Playoff Green program at the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, where more than 40 students, faculty, and staff served as Green Ambassadors to promote sustainable behavior during the game. 

Despite not reaching the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks had a breakout 2018-19 regular season, securing the league’s best regular season record. The club also moved into the beautiful new Fiserv Forum, which earned LEED Silver certification soon after it opened. And arena management, in conjunction with concessionaire Levy, announced a broad swath of sustainability initiatives, including plans to not offer straws at events and to utilize compostable food packaging. To date, Fiserv Forum has eliminated 370,000 straws and 50 tons of food waste that would have otherwise gone to landfills. 

 

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Fiserv Forum, newly-minted LEED Silver certified home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Ty Helbach)

 

Staying in Milwaukee, Chef Seth VanderLaan, of Delaware North, has made sustainability a focus at Miller Park, home of MLB’s Brewers, since arriving four seasons ago. He regularly speaks at regional events discussing how to source food locally for 45.000 fans and added an on-property biodigester — during its 2018 test phase it diverted over 28,000 lbs. of waste from the landfill. Chef Seth also works with children on their “Roots for the Home Team” farm-to-stadium program and was instrumental in building the on-property gardens at the 18 year-old ballpark, where produce is harvested to serve the team and fans.

 

Seth VanderLaan

Chef Seth VanderLaan (Photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Michael Sears)

 

During the 2018 football season, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Zero Waste Program diverted more than 91 percent of the 293 tons of waste generated at the stadium and achieved zero waste during 14 of the 17 football game days during the season. The Coliseum, which hosts USC football and the LA Rams of the NFL, until the latter moves into its new home in 2020, uses its zero-waste program and annual Green Game as an engagement platform to educate fans about recycling, composting, and sustainability.

 

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The world-famous LA Coliseum (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Sticking with diversion, NC State University’s Zero Waste Wolfpack (ZWW) program has engaged students and fans to reduce waste at athletic events. Since its launch in 2015, the diversion rate inside Carter-Finley Stadium, home of NC State football, has improved from 18 percent to 44 percent in 2018. But ZWW goes beyond football: Last year, more than 18,000 fans at every men’s and women’s soccer match and thousands of fans attending home track and field events were able to recycle, compost, and engage with ZWW volunteers. 

Pocono Organics is a 90-acre organic farm located in Long Pond, PA that grows a number of regenerative crops including fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, potatoes, and greens. When fully operational, the farm will draw power from the 25-acre 3MW solar farm that also powers its sister company, Pocono Raceway. Pocono Organics has developed the first-ever “Farm-to-Track” program with Pocono Raceway. The raceway diverts 75 percent of event-weekend waste and sends its compostable waste to the farm. The farm uses the compost to grow organic foods, which in turn will be served at the raceway. 

 

Pocono Organics

Representatives from Pocono Organics speak at a news conference last July for the groundbreaking of the company’s 50-acre farm in Long Pond, Pa. (Photo courtesy of Pocono Organics)

 

The San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park) earned LEED Platinum Certification in 2019. The club was able to move up from LEED Gold (achieved in 2014) to Platinum in part by installing or investing in:

  • LED field lights (55 percent energy reduction)
  • A new field irrigation system (reduced water usage by more than 50 percent)
  • Renewable energy credits (offset 50 percent of their energy use) 

2019 saw the Seattle Sounders FC commit to carbon neutrality, becoming the first professional franchise of the five major leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL) to do so. The pledge, well-received by fans and the broader community alike, is not a one-off: The club has guaranteed to remain carbon neutral in perpetuity.  

The Banff Marathon takes place annually in beautiful Banff National Park in Alberta where it hosts more than 10,000 participants over a series of activities spanning three days. Since the inaugural race in 2014, in partnership with SustainDriven, event organizers have continuously worked to decrease its environmental footprint and mitigate those environmental impacts it cannot eliminate. The green highlight of the 2018 event was its incredible 100 percent waste diversion rate. You read that right: No waste was sent to landfill! A robust education program and “Sustainability Village” that engaged runners, sponsors, volunteers, staff, vendors, media, and spectators certainly helped. 

 

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Runners helped the 2018 Banff Marathon achieve a 100 percent waste diversion rate (Photo credit: Banff Marathon)

 

Last but certainly not least, University of Texas (Austin) Athletics created a strategy for all UT athletic events to achieve zero waste by 2020. They are getting close at their crown jewel, Longhorns football: The athletics department closed in on the 90 percent diversion rate threshold needed to claim zero waste, reaching 76 percent diversion at one home game last season at the 100,000-seat Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium. To get there, 900-ish volunteers donated 2,700 hours of time, with their actions reaching more than 600,000 fans. Looking ahead to the 2019 season, GSB predicts that the Longhorns, ranked #6 in the Sporting News preseason poll, will make it to the College Football Playoff semifinals and the athletics department will get to zero waste a year ahead of schedule. 

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Plogging (Trash Pick Up while Jogging) Takes Off in NYC; LEED Silver for Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum; SI Covers Climate Change

It’s Day IV of GreenSportsBlog’s #EarthWeek Extravaganza! In case you missed it, here are links to our first three posts of the week. 

In today’s GSB News & Notes, we bring you, courtesy of the New York Roadrunners, our first story on plogging, a new mashup of trash pick up and jogging. Then we head west to Milwaukee where Fiserv Forum, the new home of the NBA’s Bucks, recently earned LEED Silver status. Finally, Sports Illustrated takes on climate change, with Winter Is Going: How Climate Change Is Imperiling Outdoor Sporting Heritage”

 

PLOGGING COMES TO NEW YORK ON EARTH DAY

Runners love to combine almost anything with their sport, from doing errands to taking photographs. So that’s why it’s no surprise to me that picking up trash while running is starting to catch on.

So said Michael Capiraso, president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, about plogging, a new, environmentally-friendly biathlon of sorts that first bubbled up in Sweden in 2016.

 

Michael Capiraso

Michael Capiraso (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

Fast forward to late 2018; the Road Runners’ braintrust was looking to do something fun and cool for Earth Day and plogging came to mind. The organization’s first plog came together quickly.

“We’ve been planning our plog for the last two to three months and announced it to our members only three weeks ago,” Capiraso reported. “Twenty ploggers got together Earth Day morning at our West 57th Street RUNCenter, headed west and then north into Riverside Park. Then our staff did their own plog in the afternoon rain.”

 

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Runners gather at the NYRR RUNCenter before heading out on the first-ever NYRR plogging event in celebration of Earth Day (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

The ploggers, who wore gloves during the plog, got some odd looks from passersby as they ran and then stopped — or should I say stooped — to pick up all manner of trash large and small. They deposited the plastics, coffee cups, snack bags, cigarette butts, and more into bags that they carried with them along the route.

The Road Runners feel the plog was a success on a number of levels.

“Honestly, it was a lot of fun; our ploggers were so enthusiastic,” gushed Capiraso. “Runners are always aware of their surroundings so plogging is a natural fit. And it’s a great cross-training exercise. Some did squats and lunges as they plogged. Others did push ups. One of our ploggers told me she does it on her own anyway.”

 

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Plogging, a combination of running and picking up litter, is a great way to stay fit and do good for your community (Photo credit: New York Road Runners)

 

The Earth Day plog, which was not a competitive race, was likely just the beginning for the Road Runners.

“We see plogging as something that will grow organically,” offered Capiraso. “It will appeal to our runners, staff and the community alike.”

Who knows? Someday, in the not too distant future, maybe we will see a New York City Plogathon.

 

MILWAUKEE BUCKS’ FISERV FORUM EARNS LEED SILVER STATUS

The magical Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, and the rest of the young Milwaukee Bucks, surprised most NBA fans by earning the league’s best record this season. If you want to have a fun three minutes before getting into the heart of this , story out The Greek Freak’s highlight reel.

 

 

You’re back? Good!

When the Bucks host the opening game of their second round series against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon, they will be playing their first home game since Fiserv (FĪ-serv) Forum earned LEED Silver certification.

 

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Fiserv Forum, newly-minted LEED Silver certified home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Ty Helbach)

 

Specific initiatives that contributed towards the new arena’s certification include:

  • Plants native to southeastern Wisconsin were selected to reduce outdoor water consumption as they require less water to stay healthy
  • Heat recovery technology and other efficient design practices reduce energy use by 12 percent
  • All food and drink containers are compostable, and Fiserv Forum is plastic straw-free
  • The 5th Street Parking Structure boasts EV charging stations and carpool spaces

 

“Fiserv Forum is a world-class arena in all aspects, including sustainability, and we are proud to announce our LEED Silver Certification on Earth Day,” said Fiserv Forum and Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We take to heart our role as caretakers of the community, and initiatives like bird-friendly windows, the elimination of plastic straws, and low-flow toilets demonstrate our commitment to the environment and the future of Milwaukee.”

 

Peter Feigin

Peter Feigin (Photo credit; Milwaukee Bucks)

 

The arena’s LEED Silver Certification extends a strong Green-Sports run for Milwaukee. Earlier this season, Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon launched Hoops₂O to help fund the digging of wells to bring much needed freshwater to East Africa. And Brewers pitcher Brent Suter started Strike Out Waste, an initiative designed to dramatically reduce the use of plastic water bottles by major league ballplayers.

 

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVERS CLIMATE CHANGE DURING EARTH WEEK

The negative impacts of climate change — and its shorter, warmer winters on the “sporting way of life” in Canada and the northern U.S. — was the subject of an in-depth, long-form story in Sports Illustrated’s April 22nd issue.

Stanley Kay’s “Winter Is Going: How Climate Change Is Imperiling Outdoor Sporting Heritage” is well-worth the read. He:

  • Takes us on a quick trip through the history and cultural import of outdoor and pond hockey: “Bobby Orr once called backyard rinks ‘the heart and soul of hockey.'”

 

SI Hockey Rink 2

An outdoor hockey rink lacking ice, outside of Calgary, Alberta (Photo credit: Todd Korol)

 

  • Details some of the concerning climate change statistics to outdoor hockey enthusiasts: “In the United States, average winter temperatures in every state have warmed at least 1° Fahrenheit since 1970, and in four hockey-mad states—Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin—winters have warmed by more than 5°.”
  • Notes the significant climate change-related economic fallout for the snow sports industry: “Between 2001 and ’16 the U.S. ski industry lost $1 billion and 17,400 jobs during low-snow seasons compared with an average year…As bad as the problem is in North America, it’s even worse in Europe, where half of the Alps’ glacial ice has already disappeared. The Swiss Alps’ snow season is 37 days shorter than it was in 1970.”

Thing is, the content of Kay’s story, while certainly interesting and important, is not the reason I’m writing about it.

It was the mere fact that the editors of SI — a major sports media property despite declines in circulation and some relevance over the past decade — decided to run a climate change-themed story that prompted this note.

By my reckoning, this is the first green-tinted article in the magazine since the March, 2007 issue. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis, then with the sea-level-rise-challenged Miami Marlins, graced the cover. The iconic photo shows the lefty engulfed by water up to his knees, silhouetted by the headline, “Global Warming: “As the Planet Changes, So Do the Games We Play. Time to Pay Attention.”

 

SI Cover

 

Here’s hoping the Kay’s story gets strong readership numbers so SI’s editors feel emboldened to green light other Green-Sports pieces — and that it only takes 12 weeks for the next one, not 12 years. Because, per the 2018 IPCC report, that’s how much time humanity has to cut global carbon emissions in half to avoid climate change’s most catastrophic effects.

Hey, SI, if you need some Green-Sports story ideas, let’s talk!

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes, Milwaukee Edition: Brewers Pitcher Steps Up to Plate on Climate Change; Bucks Open First Bird-Friendly Arena

Milwaukee is best known for being America’s beer capital. But, as today’s GSB News & Notes demonstrates, Wisconsin’s largest city is also an up-and-coming Green-Sports hub.

Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter recently showed himself to be an eco-athlete to be reckoned with. He wrote an OpEd in Fast Company, urging Americans to unify around finding solutions to climate change. And Fiserv Arena, the brand new home of the NBA’s Bucks, opened its doors as the world’s first bird-friendly arena.

 

BREWERS PITCHER BRENT SUTER: SPORTS UNITES US, CLIMATE CHANGE SHOULD DO THE SAME

Brent Suter is a busy man this offseason.

The 29 year-old lefty pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery^ in August that repaired a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. Since recovery from this procedure takes a full year, the hope is that Suter will be able to rejoin his teammates for their stretch run to the playoffs next summer.

And, during breaks from his rehab regimen, Suter penned a thoughtful OpEd that ran in Fast Company’s October 31st issue.

In “Fighting climate change should make Americans come together to find solutions,” Suter noted that, while his Brewers failed in their bid to reach the World Series*, “There’s a bigger test ahead for us. It requires that we come together, just like we do with sports, to address the very real threats from climate change.”

He first went local, pointing out how climate change is very relevant to Milwaukee, citing a recent study that showed drought, heatwaves, and extreme weather associated with climate change will drastically reduce crop yields of barley, a key ingredient in beer.

Suter then widened his lens beyond Milwaukee and beer: “Flooding is on the rise throughout our entire state due to torrential rains, threatening our neighborhoods and infrastructure…These threats are becoming more frequent and formidable for all of America… [Last] month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we’ve got only 12 years to avert total climate catastrophe. And each week, it seems, new scientific and economic reports highlight the growing threats to industries and regions from climate change. Amidst these dire reports, communities around the country continue to bear the brunt of climate change in the form of hurricanes, storm surges, wild fires, and flooding.”

 

Brent Suter (Photo credit: John Fischer/CSM/Shutterstock)

 

In no uncertain terms, Suter said the world needs to aggressively take on climate change…yesterday: “We can’t keep kicking the climate action can down the road. We need to come together to acknowledge climate change and work together to take real action…We know that the excessive use of fossil fuels is making the climate change at a faster and faster rate that harms our way of life and negatively impacts our health, our economy, and our security. Reducing our overall energy use, making everything more energy efficient, and transitioning to renewable energy, then, are necessary steps for us to take.”

The Brewers southpaw offered three top-line climate change solutions that go beyond renewable energy and electric vehicles:

  1. Improved urban resiliency: Invest in cities and towns so they’re “better prepared to respond to the health, economic, and security risks from floods, storms, and heat waves. They’re getting hit hard now and need our help.”
  2. Transition to sustainable agriculture: Equip farmers and ranchers “With the most sustainable practices, so they can continue to feed the world in ways that are less water, pesticide, and carbon intensive.”
  3. Wise stewardship of natural capital: “Our forests are the lungs that allow us to breathe by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, and indiscriminate deforestation is just making the planet hotter, drier, and less inhabitable. Protecting and restoring this asset, then, should be our number-one priority.”

 

GSB’s Take: I’ve often heard that the complexity of the climate change issue is main reason there are few athletes who speak out about it. With this OpEd, Brent Suter clearly knocked the complexity canard out of the ballpark. I have no idea what Suter’s post-career plans are, but perhaps he should consider transitioning from eco-athlete to eco-politician.

 

FISERV FORUM, NEW HOME OF THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS, IS WORLD’S FIRST BIRD-SAFE ARENA

Here’s something that hasn’t been said in, oh, 40 years or so: It is an exciting time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan!

Most of that energy stems from the nightly, “Holy Cow, did you see THAT?!” highlight reel moments delivered by Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak. If you don’t believe me, check this out:

 

 

And now that management has provided the Greek Freak with a young, athletic, hungry supporting cast that includes sharpshooter Khris Middleton and point guard and eco-athlete Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks fans are downright giddy about one of the NBA’s most exciting and surprising teams this season. I know, I know — it’s early, but still…

The most recent example of the Bucks’ emergence? Last night’s 134-111 rout of the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Milwaukee is 9-2 and in second place in the Eastern Conference.

 

Greek Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak, takes a free throw (with Steph Curry in the background) on the way to scoring 24 points in last night’s Bucks 134-111 road win over the Warriors (Photo credit: KABC TV San Francisco)

 

To top that off, Bucks fans get to watch their squad in the brand new Fiserv Forum, which is on track to receive LEED Silver certification. And thanks to a forward-thinking collaboration between the Bucks and Bird City Wisconsin, it is also a good time to be a bird in downtown Milwaukee.

That is because Fiserv Forum will be the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue.

The 17,500-seat arena was designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED Bird Collision Deterrence credit, which was created in partnership with American Bird Conservancy (ABC). To earn the credit, a building must address the primary reasons that birds collide with buildings: reflective and see-through glass and lighting that disorients birds during their nocturnal spring and fall migrations.

 

Fiserv Forum

Fiserv Forum, the new, bird-friendly home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Bird-friendliness was built in to Fiserv’s Forum’s design in mid-2015, when Bird City Wisconsin — a program of the Milwaukee Audubon Society — first approached the Bucks.

“Bird City Wisconsin came to us three years ago to educate us on migration and best practices,” said Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We were able to integrate many of their suggestions in the design phase of the project.”

Populous, the award-winning architectural firm that designed Fiserv Forum, was also on board, according to Senior Associate Heather Stewart: “When glass or other glass-like materials are employed in venue design, it’s vital to balance insulation and reflectivity to create an ideal environment both inside and out, for people and for local wildlife. We are proud to hear that other sports venues are looking toward Fiserv Forum as the new standard for bird-friendly design around the globe.”

Why does this matter? Because up to one billion birds die annually after colliding with glass in the United States. Scientists estimate that this likely accounts for five to ten percent of all birds in the U.S. and is a contributor to significant declines in bird populations across North America.

“The Milwaukee Bucks’ bold decision to build the world’s first bird-friendly arena speaks volumes about the ownerships’ character, concern for the environment, and desire to be a part of a green community,” said Bird City Wisconsin’s former director Bryan Lenz, who recently joined ABC as its Collisions Campaign Manager. “The Bucks stepped up for birds in a way that no sports franchise ever has.”

 

GSB’s Take: That the Bucks and Fiserv Arena stepped up on bird conservation casts in sharp relief the failure of the Minnesota Vikings to do the same. Bird conservation advocates and architects let team owner Zygi Wilf know, during the planning phase of what would become US Bank Stadium, that the building as designed would be hazardous for birds. Sadly, the team decided not to make the investment in bird collision deterrence. Not surprisingly, the stadium, which opened in 2016 and is located in a highly-trafficked portion of the Mississippi Flyway, has a significant collision problem. Click here for a link to a December, 2017 GreenSportsBlog story on the US Bank Stadium-bird collision issue.

 

 

 

^ Tommy John surgery is a procedure in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) is used to replace an arm’s torn ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.
*  The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 


 

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