GSB Eco-Scorecard #7: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders On The Field

GreenSportsBlog focuses mainly on the Green side of the equation, telling the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, venues and athletes.

But the Sports angle is important, too. Why? Because if the athletes and teams leading the Green-Sports movement do well, their green messaging will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what a long, hard slog is all about. We can relate.

GSB created the Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field to give the sports side of the equation. It is an occasional series that highlights recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes.

With that in mind, please enjoy our seventh Eco-Scorecard.

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, TAKES OVER AS THE STARTER WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS, LEADS TEAM TO LAST-MINUTE COMEBACK WIN

Josh Rosen has two unique qualities among the five rookie quarterbacks chosen in the first round — a record — of this spring’s NFL Draft.

  1. The UCLA product is the only one of the group to go on record about his concerns about climate change. “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything,” declared Rosen in a pre-draft interview with ESPN’s Sam Alipour. “I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”
  2. Chosen by the Arizona Cardinals, Rosen became the first of his four fellow quarterback draftees (Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns; Sam Darnold, New York Jets; Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills; and Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens are the others) to engineer a last minute, come-from-behind, game winning drive. He turned that trick on Sunday, leading his team back from a 15-3 deficit to a dramatic 18-15 home win over the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Josh Rosen

Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen gets off a pass in the first quarter of the Arizona Cardinals-San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday in Glendale, AZ. Rosen led the Redbirds to a dramatic 18-15 comeback win (Photo credit: Art Foxall/UPI)

 

Rosen and the Cardinals were down 15-10 and had the ball on their own 22 yard line with only 1:42 left in the game. They needed a touchdown to win. The rookie displayed the poise of the veteran as he moved his team down to the 49ers 9 yard line with 39 seconds left, hitting several clutch passes in the process.

And then THIS happened …

 

Rosen found fellow rookie Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone in between two defenders for the touchdown, and that, as they say, was that!

To be clear, his rookie season has not been a bed of roses for Rosen, nor for his fellow first round quarterback draftees. They all have shown promise at times while, at the same time, also going through the sometimes ugly growing pains that are typical of rookie signal callers. Just last week, Rosen looked dreadful for much of the game as the Denver Broncos devoured the Cardinals, 45-10.

It sounds (and is) cliche but what a difference a week makes! Rosen has his first comeback win and an even bigger platform on which to (hopefully) spread his climate change message.

 

CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, COMES UP BIG FOR PHILADELPHIA EAGLES IN BIG GAME VS. JAGUARS

The Philadelphia Eagles are dealing with the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover this season.

Going into last Sunday’s game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defending Super Bowl champions had a sluggish 3-4 record. It was not a stretch to say their season was on the line across the pond, especially with the surprising start of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles emerged from Wembley Stadium with a hard fought, 24-18 win over the Jags, thanks in part to two quarterback sacks registered by defensive end and eco-athlete Chris Long.

 

Chris Long Bortles

Chris Long (#56) of the Philadelphia Eagles sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback in Sunday’s 24-18 win at London’s Wembley Stadium (Photo credit: Young Kim, Philly.com staff photographer)

 

Long has been on the winning team in the last two Super Bowls, earning those gaudy, oversized rings in 2017 with the New England Patriots and, this February, with the Eagles (against the Pats). And he has played at a consistently high level over his 11 year career, notching 66 sacks.

But the University of Virginia product’s greatest legacy may be his strong commitment to a variety of pro-social causes:

  • This season, Long is donating a quarter of his salary to launch First Quarter for Literacy, a program meant to “put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods” and “build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising leaders.”
  • Last year, he gave his entire base salary, worth $1 million, to charity. Long said he was inspired to donate after seeing the violent protests held by white nationalists in Charlottesville, the home of his alma mater.

On the environment, Long saw the water crisis in East Africa when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

That something was the creation of Waterboys, a non-profit that funds the digging of wells (and training the locals how to do the digging and maintenance). Relying on 20 current and former players, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million that will fund the digging of 49 wells and provide water to over 193,000 people.

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS, GREENEST TEAM IN SPORTS, MAY CONTEND FOR PROMOTION TO THIRD TIER OF ENGLISH SOCCER

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands to much, much more.

Even though only about one third of the season’s matches have been played, English soccer’s League Two (aka the 4th tier^) standings are beginning to take shape. And Forest Green are showing early signs of being able to compete for promotion to 3rd tier League One, which would be a first for the 127-year-old club.

After winning two matches in a four day stretch last week, FGR finds itself sitting in 6th place in the 24 team league and only two points from 3rd place. The top three teams at the end of the season earn automatic promotion to League One. And the teams finishing in 4th-7th enter a playoff, with the winner also going up.

Riding first half goals from Reece Brown and Liam Shepherd, Forest Green knocked off visiting Tranmere 3-1 last Tuesday. Then on Saturday at third place Exeter City, Brown and Shepherd waited until the second half to each find the back of the net to power FGRs 2-1 win.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.36.38 PM

Forest Green Rovers’ Reece Brown attacks Exeter City’s defense (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Saturday, FGR steps up in class with a clash at first place Lincoln City.

With two important caveats — 1) there are many, many matches until the season ends in May and, 2) things like injuries, bad luck and more can happen — the Lincoln City match will be an important early-season measuring stick for Forest Green Rovers in its quest to be a legitimate promotion threat.

 

^ The pecking order of the top five tiers of English Soccer/Football goes like this: 1st tier: Premier League, 2nd tier: Championship, 3rd tier: League One, 4th tier: League Two, 5th tier: National

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: University of Chicago Fielded An-All Vegetarian Football Team*; Green Roof on Indiana Pacers Training Facility; Andrea Learned Pushes Bike Commuting at Global Climate Action Summit

* Back in 1907!

For real.

College Football Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the sport’s early innovators, became an unwitting #GreenSports pioneer by having his University of Chicago Maroons eat a vegetarian diet during their 1907 Western Conference championship season. Fast-forward to the present and the NBA’s sustainability efforts continue on the eve of the start of the 2018-19 season as the Indiana Pacers installed a green roof on its training facility. And Seattle-based strategic climate action communications expert Andrea Learned pressed bike commuting as an easy, low cost way to fight climate change at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. All in a multi-generational GSB News & Notes column!

 

 

U OF CHICAGO FOOTBALL STARTED #GREENSPORTS MOVEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING IT IN 1907 BY EATING A VEGETARIAN DIET

The University of Chicago now plays football at the small-college, Division III level. But the Maroons were a power back in the late 19th-early 20th century and were involved in two of the game’s most important firsts.

  1. The finest moment in the school’s football history took place in 1934 when Maroons running back Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as college football’s finest player.
  2. Twenty seven years earlier, legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg converted the team to an all-vegetarian diet, revolutionary for that time. Heck, that would be considered radical today. Coach Stagg thus unknowingly planted the seed for the Green-Sports movement about a century before it actually took root.

The latter story came to light in Tal McThenia’s fascinating “How a Football Team Became Mascots for Vegetarianism,” which appeared in the August issue of Atlas Obscura.

Here’s what I found most interesting:

  • Football was already in a period of rapid evolution in 1907. The forward pass was legalized a year earlier a way to open up the game. 
  • Coach Stagg, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, adopted vegetarianism in 1905 and brought it to his squad two years later, believing “the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh.”
  • Newspapers across the country savaged Stagg. “‘Vegetarians Only,’ sneered the Boston Globe. ‘Vegetable Football,’ quipped a wire story…The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote, ‘Dried Apples, Prunes, Nuts, and Water for Maroon Team,’ while the Tribune declared ‘Kickers to Train on Squash.'”
  • Ex-Maroon superstar quarterback turned rookie Trib sportswriter Walter “Eckie” Eckersall nicknamed his alma mater The Vegetarians.
  • Technically, vegetarianism could only be a suggestion to the team but “Stagg, who had long insisted on abstinence from smoking, drinking, and cursing, enjoyed fierce loyalty from his squad, which meant, as one paper put it, ‘his suggestions are law.'”

 

Coach Stagg and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team.

Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (top row center in hat) and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

When the season opening game arrived against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, McThenia reported that Maroons fans unveiled a new, veggie-themed cheer:

“Sweet potatoes, rutabagas, sauerkraut, squash!

Run your legs off, Cap’n De Tray^!

Sure, our milk fed men, by gosh!

Will lick ’em bad today!”

 

We’ll never know if it was the vegetarian diet — and/or the cheer — that did the trick for Chicago but they won easily over the Hoosiers, 27-6. Road victories at Illinois and Minnesota followed, and then came a home drubbing of Purdue, 56-0. Their 4-0 record earned the Maroons the championship of the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten (seasons were much shorter back then). A non-league loss at home to the Carlisle Indians did little to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the team nor Coach Stagg’s conviction that the vegetarian diet had played a positive role in Chicago’s title-winning campaign.

 

Stagg Article

A 1907 article on Coach Stagg’s “vegetable food” (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)

 

Despite the team’s success in 1907, as the 1908 season beckoned, the coach’s ardor for vegetarianism had waned somewhat, both for himself and the team. Per McThenia, Stagg “recalls going flesh-free entirely for only two years, as part of a (failed) effort to eliminate the source of chronic sciatic pain.” As for the Maroons, Stagg continued to encourage a vegetarian diet but no longer pushed it. And, always on the lookout for a new strategy, the coach brought a new “thing” to the squad that year; stimulation by oxygen.

 

GSB’s Take: Atlas Obscura, the site that ran Tal McThenia’s story on The Vegetarians, is fascinating. It is a self-described “global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.” So if you’re looking for, well, obscure places to visit, check out Atlas Obscura. 

Back to The Vegetarians…More than a century later, there are several athletes and teams who have taken the vegetarian baton from the 1907 University of Chicago Maroons, including the all-vegan English fourth division soccer team Forest Green Rovers, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” and 11 members of the 2016 Tennessee Titans who adopted a vegetarian diet. Hopefully when the sports media writes about vegetarian-vegan athletes and teams, it will pick up on the climate change-fighting aspects of veggie and vegan diets, most notably that it takes 8-10 times as much energy for meat to get to one’s plate as compared to fruit, grains and vegetables.

Finally, how ironic is it that Chicago, known for a century or a more as the meat production capital of the U.S. — one of its nicknames is “The Hog Butcher of the World” — is also the home to college football’s first/only all-vegetarian team?

 

INDIANA PACERS PLANT GREEN ROOF ON NEW TRAINING FACILITY

When Victor Oladipo and his Indiana Pacers teammates reported for training camp on September 22nd at their one year-old St. Vincent (training) Center, they did so under a new 8,500 square foot rooftop garden. About 37 percent of the garden is devoted to wildflowers, crops, and plants indigenous to Indiana.

 

Two views of the new green roof at St. Vincent Center, the new training facility of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers (Photo credits: Christopher Cason)

 

According to Christoper Cason, writing in the September 16 issue of The Score, “Architecture firm RATIO, along with the Pacers, wanted something that would…set the franchise apart from other professional sports teams. RATIO reached out to Omni Ecosystems in 2015 about installing a green-roof system that would help regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater.” Omni builds green-roof and green-wall systems that support a wide range of plants — including foods— as well as grasses and  wildflowers.

The St. Vincent Center roof grows tomatoes, basil, beets, bok choy, carrots, green beans, kale, turnips, radish, and Swiss chard. Per Cason, “Instead of soil, the garden uses an engineered growing media that includes lightweight rocks, specific nutrients, and…earthworms.” The harvested vegetables will be used this season by Levy, the Pacers’ food service provider, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team’s arena next door. Any excess produce will be donated to Second Helpings, a local hunger relief non-profit.

The garden also acts as a natural HVAC system, keeping St. Vincent Center cool in hot weather and warm in the winter. This will mean lower energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“We’ve implemented a number of measures and campaigns around sustainability and conservation,” Brent Rockwood, senior vice president of corporate, community, and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, told Cason. “… We strive to set a positive example of environmental responsibility and innovation, and the green roof that sits atop the St. Vincent Center is a big piece to that.”

GSB’s Take: The NBA is upping their green game this season, especially at their training centers. In addition to the Pacers green roof, the LA Lakers recently installed solar panels on the roof of their new UCLA Health Training Center.

 

CYCLING MUST BE A MUCH BIGGER PART OF THE URBAN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS MIX, SAYS ANDREA LEARNED OF #BIKES4CLIMATE AT GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT

Seattle-based Andrea Learned is a multi-faceted individual.

She’s a strategic climate action communications expert who is well-known for her Twitter presence and her Learned On blog. Learned has worked with NGOs and corporations on their sustainability leadership platforms. And she’s a passionate urban biking advocate, having started for purely practical reasons some twenty years ago in Portland, OR.

Learned brought all of those skillsets to last month’s Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. She had hoped to see the climate change-fighting impacts of urban cycling — and walking — get visible and loud discussion as the low-hanging climate action fruit it should be.

 

Andrea with Kate White at GCAS1

Andrea Learned, donning the “Make America Green Again” cap, with Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (Photo credit: Kate White)

 

After all, it makes too much sense.

Per Eillie Anzilotti, writing about Learned and the GCAS in the September 27 issue of Fast Companyresearch shows that if, “globally, cycling commuting rates can rise from their current level of 6 percent (only around 1 percent in the U.S.) to around 14 percent, urban carbon emissions will drop 11 percent. Boosting pedestrian commuting would have similar benefits.”

Unfortunately, GCAS chose to ignore that low-hanging climate action fruit, as there was little evidence of these human-scale endeavors on the main stage. More Anzilotti: “In the summit’s list of key challenges, sustainable transportation appeared as something of a footnote; discussion of cycling and walking was often drowned out by talk of the admittedly more futuristic and startup-friendly electric vehicles.”

Of course the scaling up of EVs is crucial and the pace must accelerate quickly. But, as Learned told Anzilotti, a hyper-focus on electrifying transportation will grant a pass to cities, particularly those in the U.S., that have failed to create safe streets and bike lanes that actively encourage walking and biking.

Urban cycling as a “thing” for mayors and other politicians faces an uphill climb. EV’s are, after all, sexy. The same goes for solar panels, bus rapid transit, storage batteries and more.

To Learned, who started, builds and curates the #Bikes4Climate hashtag, big city mayors should start climbing.

“We need mayors to visibly ditch their traditional black Suburban transportation, on occasion, and bike commute instead. That will send the clear message that they some awareness of the safety and infrastructure challenges we city bike riders and commuters face every day” Learned told GreenSportsBlog, “It would also highlight the climate action and behavior change potential in individuals. Right now, the only mega-city mayor I know of who makes a point to be seen on a bike and talks about it as a carbon emissions reduction tool is Anne Hidalgo of Paris. Imagine if she’d hosted a whole session about the topic at GCAS? But, and especially in the United States right now, we have to identify, name and fame the leaders, small town or large city, who ARE pedaling their talk. ”

There is a smattering of urban cycling-pedestrian success stories, thanks in large part to women. Anzilotti highlighted a couple of them:

  • Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau plans to double its cycling network in 2019 (she needs to move fast!), and reduce all vehicle traffic by 21 percent..
  • Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is proposing to lower speed limits, and the creation of pedestrian zones around schools.

 

To Learned, there’s an opportunity for policy makers in the climate action space (mayors, chief sustainability officers and more) who DO bike in their cities (for short trips and/or for their commutes) to learn from bike advocates, and to collaborate with those in the bikeshare and mobility sectors. “Leaders need to come together to see bicycles as climate action and transportation tools,” said Learned. “Seeing them as solely recreational toys is a huge mistake.”

GSB’s Take: Urban bike and pedestrian commuting needs to be a key part of any serious urban climate change-fighting plan, not the afterthought it appears to be most of the time. In fact, if people-friendly mobility isn’t already a priority in your city, then it’s time for a new mayor.

^ Leo DeTray served as captain of the 1907 University of Chicago football team

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Clemson Football Ends a Tradition for Green Reasons; Detroit Lions Punter Helps Bring Solar Power to Ford Field; Forest Green Rovers Becomes 1st Carbon Neutral Soccer Club

In the sports world, the dog days of August mean that the kickoffs of both American football and the European club version of futbol (aka soccer) are around the corner. Today’s GSB News and Notes column focuses on both sports: The highly ranked Clemson (South Carolina) University football team ended its 35-year tradition of releasing balloons — for environmental reasons. The NFL’s Detroit Lions add solar to Ford Field, thanks to the initiative of punter Sam Martin. And Forest Green Rovers, the fourth division English soccer club buttressed their standing as the Greenest Team in Sports by becoming the first soccer team anywhere in the world to go carbon neutral. 

 

CLEMSON FOOTBALL SAYS GOODBYE TO BALLOON LAUNCH TRADITION; ENVIRONMENTAL COST CITED

“Nothing says autumn like the color and pageantry of a college football Saturday!”

College football fans over the age of 20 can hear the distinctive tones of Keith Jackson, the late, great voice of college football on ABC and ESPN when they read that line.

And, for the past 35 seasons, college football color and pageantry at Clemson (South Carolina) University has meant the release of hundreds of thousands of mostly orange balloons as the Tigers would enter Memorial Stadium. Fans called this tradition the “Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football.”

When Clemson, projected to be a national championship contender, enters the stadium for their September 1st season opener vs. Furman, the band will play, the cheerleaders will perform and the 81,000+ in attendance will roar.

But there will be no release of balloons.

According to a July 27 story by David Hood, writing in TigerNet.com (the self-proclaimed “source for Clemson Sports Information”), the university came to this decision at least partly in response to pressure from environmental groups. Those organizations pointed out that “the balloon launch is a danger to the environment, including loggerhead turtles on the South Carolina coastline.”

For those readers unfamiliar with college football, know this: Traditions like the balloon launch at Clemson do not die easily.

Especially when, per Hood, citing clemsontigers.com, the practice earned Clemson a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records back in 1983 for, well, balloon launches (who knew?!): “Balloons were filled by 11:30 AM, and at 12:57 PM as the cannon sounded, the Tigers descended the Hill [for the 1:00 PM game vs. Maryland] while 363,729 balloons ascended to the heavens. From the press box, it was almost black, something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.”

 

Clemson balloons.png

The tradition of releasing balloons at Clemson University football games is ending (Photo credit: Tigernet.com)…

 

loggerhead turtle nwf

…thanks to their downstream effects on the loggerhead turtle (Photo credit: NWF)

 

Make no mistake: That the environment is coming out a winner over a beloved Clemson football tradition is a big deal, especially in a state —South Carolina — where acceptance of climate change is below the US average^.

 

DETROIT LIONS PUNTER HELPS BRING ON-SITE SOLAR TO FORD FIELD

Last month, the Detroit Lions became the NFL’s 12th team with on-site solar. The installations at Ford Field and the Lions’ nearby Allen Park training facility came about thanks to an assist from an unlikely source — punter Sam Martin.

Annalise Frank, writing in the July 24th issue of Crain’s Detroit Business, reported that North Carolina-based Power Home Solar “approached the Lions through a preexisting partnership with Martin, a supporter of renewable energy, and his Sam Martin Foundation.” The partnership featured Earth Day educational sessions with Detroit-area students.

 

Sam Martin Zimbio

Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin (Photo credit: Zimbio)

 

The Lions did not punt on this opportunity.

Power Home Solar will invest $1.5 million with the Lions over three years, covering panel costs and a sponsorship deal. The latter, per Frank’s story, includes “a Power Home Solar Lions pregame show, display advertisements in the stadium…[and] an outdoor pregame booth.”

According to team spokesman Ben Manges, the Lions couldn’t install solar panels within Ford Field itself. So they looked to the parking garage and training facility.

“We couldn’t seamlessly integrate them with our power grid,” Manges told Frank. “We had to install them on parts of our footprint [parking garage and training facility] that weren’t necessarily tied from a power standpoint. As the overall technology continues to get more and more sophisticated, you’ll see the potential for additional use.”

Manges added that the highly visible panels will hopefully lead fans to consider a personal move to renewable energy.

 

 

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS BECOMES FIRST SOCCER TEAM TO GO CARBON NEUTRAL

Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer team that is, without question, the Greenest Team In Sports (its all vegan concession stands, solar powered Mo-Bots to cut the lawn, EV charging stations and much more are very familiar to longtime GSB readers) is about ready to launch its 2018-19 season.

When FGR visits Grimsby Town tomorrow, it will look to show significant on-pitch improvement over last season’s 21st place finish, only two places above the dreaded relegation zone. A cache of new player signings, led by Welsh international and former Fulham F.C. attacking midfielder George Williams, has hopes running high at The New Lawn stadium.

 

George Williams Shane Healey

George Williams, formerly of Fulham, is bringing his attacking style to Forest Green Rovers (Photo credit: Shane Healey)

 

Of course every team is optimistic before opening day.

But there is a long, nine-month, 46-match slog ahead. And this is only Forest Green Rovers’ second season in the fourth tier, so they are battling a slew of opponents who are more used to this level of competition. The truth is, many variables, from injuries to luck and more, are out of a team’s control.

What FGR can control is building upon its stellar Green-Sports leadership.

Forest Green Rovers recently became the world’s first UN certified carbon-neutral soccer club by signing up for a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative called Climate Neutral Now for the new season. The team committed to:

  • Measure their greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Reduce them as much as possible; and
  • Offset those emissions which cannot be avoided by buying UN certified emission reductions (CERs) units.

CERs are generated by climate-friendly development projects, vetted by the UNFCCC, that help bring sustainable development benefits to communities in developing countries. These include improved air and water quality, improved income, improved health, reduced energy consumption and more.

“It’s a real honor to be the very first sports club in the world to be named carbon neutral by the UN,” Chairman Vince said. “We’re a small club with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic we can work together to champion the sustainability message worldwide. I’m personally looking forward to working more with the UN to help spread the word about the environment through football.”

 

FGR New Lawn

The ticket office at The New Lawn, Forest Green Rovers’ stadium in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England (Photo credit: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

 

“The beauty about Forest Green Rovers is that it’s a small organization, with not a massive budget and still it’s doing so much to address the environmental footprint,” added Miguel Naranjo at UN Climate Change. “So if FGR can do it, anyone can do it as well.”

The question is: When will another team(s) do it, Forest Green Rovers-style? I mean, I love writing about FGR but when will other clubs follow suit so I can write about them?

^ Per a 2016 study by the Yale Program on Climate Communication

 


 

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GreenSportsBlog’s Five-Year Anniversary…A Reflection

When I started GreenSportsBlog back on May 22, 2013, I had no idea what to expect.

I had never blogged before, wasn’t sure if there would be an audience for content about the intersection of Green & Sports, and didn’t know if the movers and shakers of the Green-Sports world would talk to me.

Five years and 512 posts later, I can say happily say there is consistent and growing interest — our 7,000+ monthly readers attest to that. And I have been blessed to be able to interview Green-Sports activists, corporate leaders, eco-athletes, and more. To all, I say a heartfelt thank you — and keep reading and commenting!

To commemorate GSB’s fifth anniversary, I thought you might find it interesting to read about how I came to write about Green-Sports and to see which posts have been the most well-read.

 

HOW I BECAME A GREEN-SPORTS BLOGGER

A lifelong, passionate New York-area sports fan — for those who haven’t read this blog much, the Jets, Knicks, Rutgers, and Yankees are my local favorites, along with North London’s Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. While at Rutgers, I announced football and basketball while a student at Rutgers on WRSU-FM

 

WRSU Knightline

Yours truly, 2nd from right and mustachioed in an old school Jets jersey, making what must surely have been an astute point on Knightline, the post-game sports talk show on WRSU-FM, the Rutgers student radio station back…a few years (Photo credit: WRSU-FM)

 

I tried to make a go of sportscasting as a professional, but it is a very tough way to make a living. After earning my MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, I pivoted to the sports business, where I was fortunate to spend 15 years, starting in the early 1990s through the mid 2000s, working in advertising sales and marketing. Getting paid to go to the World Series, NBA Finals, World Cup and more? How cool was that?!?!

The environment interested me — it was a factor in my voting decisions; I supported the Sierra Club and like organizations. But did my greenness match my sports fandom? Only when it came to the Jets, who wear green. Otherwise, not even close.

Until 9/11.

Working for Sports Illustrated Kids in midtown Manhattan at the time, I was very fortunate personally to not know anyone in the Twin Towers. Still, I felt like I had to do something. This was the Pearl Harbor of my generation and this was my home city.

But what to do?

It wasn’t until about four months after that horrible day that I found my answer.

In “Green Is the New Red, White & Blue,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman posited that we in the U.S. were fueling the wars on terrorism that we were fighting (we were already in Afghanistan at the time; the invasion of Iraq was a year or so away) by our insanely profligate energy use. His logic went something like this:

  1. The U.S. represented four percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its energy usage.
  2. Since 9/11 happened before the fracking-led domestic oil and gas production boom, we had to source a good chunk of our energy from places like Saudi Arabia.
  3. The Saudi royal family siphoned some of that U.S oil revenue to its Wahhabi extremists to ensure they would remain in power.
  4. And those Wahhabists funded the training of 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers.

It was like the compact fluorescent lightbulb went on above my head! Green was going to play a big part in the solutions to geopolitical problems and I would play a small role. So I “greened up” my personal life, buying a hybrid car (becoming a very early adapter; I knew more about how a hybrid worked than the salesman), changing out all my lightbulbs to compact fluorescents, and becoming an almost-vegetarian.

But that wasn’t enough.

I needed to somehow green my work life. This became even more of an imperative the more I learned about climate change.

But how to get a green job? In 2002-2003, most were technical in nature. And, let’s put it this way: You do NOT want me installing solar panels on your roof.

So I thought, “what am I good at?” Sales, marketing and story telling. The trick was how to translate that from the mature sports industry to the nascent world of green business.

I began to network like crazy, joining a gaggle of sustainable business groups in New York. But when I couldn’t find what I call green “job-jobs” for someone with a sales/marketing/communications background, I decided, in September 2005, to take a risk, leaving SI Kids and recreating myself as a sustainability-focused, business development, marketing and communications consultant.

Since then I have helped a wide array of organizations — from Fortune 500 companies to startups to nonprofits — tell their sustainability stories more powerfully, generate new revenue by selling sponsorships to green events, and garner positive media coverage for their sustainability-related accomplishments. Some of my clients whose names you’d recognize include BT (aka British Telecom), Empire State Building, Whole Foods Market and the Wildlife Conservation Society

Then, about three years into my life as a sustainability consultant, in 2008-2009, I began to wonder if there was an intersection of Green and Sports, with the idea being that I would love to marry my two passions.

So I poked around and found out there was a fellow named Dr. Allen Hershkowitz who, working with NRDC, helped the Philadelphia Eagles and minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie make sure the toilet paper at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t being sourced from eagle habitats. 

What an introduction to Green-Sports!

A year or so I discovered that a small group of pro sports teams from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver had banded together to form the Green Sports Alliance. Their goal was to share better practices on energy efficiency, waste, and more. This sounded like an organization and a movement — Green-Sports — that was poised to grow. 

And I needed to be a part of it! But again, my question was “how?”

In 2011-12, I did more digging — and noticed that the Alliance was growing well beyond its Pacific Northwest roots, and that the organizers of the London 2012 Olympics made sustainability a key strand of their DNA. 

I figured media organization must be covering this burgeoning Green-Sports field. 

No one was.

So I decided would become that media organization.

And that led to GreenSportsBlog’s birth five years ago, almost to the day.

 

Lew GSA 2

Yours truly, making what what must surely have been an astute point at the 2016 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

FIVE KEY LESSONS

I’ve learned a ton these last five years — so much so, I could write an entire post just on that topic. But, for purposes of this story, I’ll boil it down to five key lessons that have been imparted to me by you, the readers, based on your comments and which GSB posts have drawn the most traffic:

  1. Allow the People Building the Green-Sports World to Share Their Stories Directly with Readers: Based on reader comments, The GSB Interview is the most popular segment on the blog. Sharing the unfiltered insights, struggles and successes of a wide array of women and men who are responsible for greening the sports world is an honor and a pleasure.
  2. Go Beyond Major League Sports and Mega-Events: Of course, we cover the greening of major pro sports leagues in North America and Europe, as well as of mega events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. But stories like Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer club that is the Greenest Team in Sports, and the St. Paul Saints, the minor league baseball team in Minnesota which won the Greenest New Stadium of the Year in 2015, have drawn some of the site’s best traffic numbers.
  3. Write with the Voice of the Sports Fan: From reader comments back in GSB’s early days, it seems that most expected the blog to be written by someone with a cleantech, facilities management and/or “green journalism” background. Many sounded pleased that I brought a different point-of-view, that of a passionate sustainability communicator who is also a big sports fan. Understanding and loving sports — and the people who follow it — was and is important. Especially when one considers, as Allen Hershkowitz is wont to say, that 13 percent of Americans follow science, but 65-70 percent follow sports. And as Nelson Mandela offered, “Sports can change the world!”
  4. Bringing a Sense of Humor to the Table is a Good Thing: Our forays into the satirical have been well received by readers and commenters. The July 2014 story in which I imagined that LeBron James decided to leave Miami to return to Cleveland — not because he wanted to go home, but because he was afraid of climate change’s effects in South Florida — remains the blog’s most read post. In fact, every post in which I’ve included the words “LeBron” and “James” has scored well. That bodes well for this one :). Hey, the climate change fight can be a very hard slog at times, so adding a dollop of humor here and there can’t hurt.

The fifth key lesson is that Green-Sports Needs To Play the “Climate Change Fight” Game…and It Needs to Play to WIN!: Herm Edwards, now the head football coach at Arizona State University, was coaching my New York Jets back in 2002, when he famously ranted that “The great thing about sports is, you play to win the game! Hello?! You play to win the game!!!”

 

Herm Edwards’ 2002 “You play to win the game” rant

 

To me, it’s clear that Green-Sports needs to be playing the “climate change fight” game. But are we? And are we playing to win? Despite some moves in the right direction, it’s clear to me that the Green-Sports world is not there yet.

Hey, I get it: Climate change is political and sports is where people often go to get away from politics. But acknowledging those realities shouldn’t mean we abandon the fight. 

And then there are two other important realities at play here:

  1. Climate change is the most existential threat the world faces
  2. It will take consistent and unyielding passion to generate the political will to turn humanity away from the carbon train wreck we’re hurtling towards.

It says here that tapping into the passion of sports fans and the massive size of the fan base is essential to the climate change fight. I have been heartened by the many GreenSportsBlog readers who have encouraged me to continue to push the Green-Sports world and sports media (#CoverGreenSports) to engage more forthrightly on climate change. I certainly will.

 

MOST READ GREENSPORTSBLOG POSTS

Here is a list of our 10 most read posts over our first five years. Enjoy and please keep reading and sharing GreenSportsBlog!

  1. The REAL Reason LeBron Chose to Leave Miami for Cleveland: Climate Change (July 2014)
  2. The GSB Interview: Mark Teixeira of the NY Yankees; Helping to Rebuild and Green NW Atlanta (February 2016)
  3. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Super Cool, Super Green Future Home of the Falcons and Atlanta FC (November 2015)
  4. Birds Flying Into Minneapolis’ Glass-Walled US Bank Stadium Not a Good Look with Super Bowl LII Only Two Months Away (December 2017)
  5. Integral Hockey: Rebuilding Broken Hockey Sticks–and Keeping Them Out of the Landfill (October 2015)
  6. How Green is Augusta National Golf Club, Home of The Masters (April 2016)
  7. The GSB Interview: Leilani Münter, Looking to Turn on the Speed and Turn Auto Racing Fans on to a Vegan Diet at Daytona (January 2018)
  8. Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Earns Promotion Up England’s Football/Soccer Ladder (May 2017)
  9. PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim (August 2017)
  10. Green Sports Alliance Calls on Sports Fans To Take “Live Green or Die™” Challenge in Response to Trump Pulling U.S Out of Paris Climate Agreement (June 2017)

 

 


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Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Safe From Relegation, Subject of Video from “The Years Project”

It has been a great week for Forest Green Rovers — the Greenest Team in Sports.  After flirting with relegation much of the season, the club assured itself of remaining in League Two, the 4th tier of English soccer/football, with two matches to play. And FGR was the subject of a short yet powerful video from the “YEARS Project.”

 

Management of Forest Green Rovers, almost universally acknowledged as The Greenest Team in Sports —it serves only vegan food to supporters and players alike and manicures its home pitch with a solar powered MoBot, among many other great, green things — realizes that the English soccer/football club’s ability to influence other sports teams and organizations on environmental issues in the future, is directly related to its performance on the pitch. The better it does, the higher up England’s football pyramid it reaches, the more media will cover FGR’s green story (#CoverGreenSports).

After a playoff win at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium last May earned FGR promotion from England’s 5th to the 4th division — the highest level it has ever reached in 125+ years of play. That led to more media coverage of the team and its sustainability story than ever before — GreenSportsBlog had been on this story since 2014 but suddenly, the ESPNs and The Guardians of the world were paying visits to the Forest Green’s New Lawn Stadium. 

Thus, the pressure was intense to avoid going down, the fate that will be suffered by the last and next-to-last place teams in the 24 team league.

Thing is, newly-promoted teams, whether to the Premier League or to League Two, often struggle to “stay up” in their first season against much stiffer competition. FGR was no different, wallowing near the bottom of the table (standings) for much of the campaign. But a strong late season run pushed Forest Green Rovers above the drop zone and the team clinched safety with two games to go on April 24 with a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town.

 

FGR Stays Up

Members of Forest Green Rovers salute their traveling supporters after clinching safety from relegation in a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

A couple of days later the, “YEARS Project,” an outgrowth of the outstanding, if not-nearly-viewed-enough climate change-themed documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously^,” went up on Facebook and YouTube with a short form (90 seconds) video that, despite (or maybe because of?) its brevity and no-narration style, tells the Forest Green Rovers story in eye-catching, memorable fashion. Check out the YouTube video here:

 

Here’s the link to the video on the YEARS Project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving/videos/1714770931943291/

If you want to see other short-form, climate change-focused content, on a wide variety of topics, I heartily urge you to LIKE their Facebook page.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Forest Green Rovers’ Chairman Dale Vince and company continue to build the team’s quality so they can contend for promotion to 3rd tier League One in 2018-19. Which will result in even more coverage of the club’s green story.

 

^ If you haven’t watched Years of Living Dangerously, click here — it’s worth your time!

 


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Turnabout Is Fair Play: GreenSportsBlogger Interviewed for Chester Energy and Policy Blog

It was fun to be the interviewee instead of the interviewer as Matt Chester, of the Chester Energy and Policy blog, chatted with me about where Green-Sports is now and where it needs to be.

 

Thank you to Matt Chester for using his blog as a forum to promote the importance and promise of Green-Sports. It was a pleasure to talk with him about the biggest success stories of the Green-Sports world (NHL, Forest Green Rovers), the most pressing challenges (how to meaningfully reduce fan travel-related carbon emissions, getting coverage for Green-Sports issues, etc.) and where things will go next. Click here to read the interview.

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #4: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams and athletes leading the sports-greening movement. What we haven’t focused on is their work on the field, in the arena, on the track.

So in September, we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience.

But what if the eco-athletes struggle?

Hey, I’m a Jets, Knicks and Rutgers sports fan. I — and a gazillion other sports fans — certainly can relate to struggle. And those engaged in the climate change fight know it is a multi-generational slog. 

So the theme of today’s fourth Eco-Scoreboard entry is struggle and overcoming obstacles.

 

STEPHEN PISCOTTY STARTS ANEW WITH OAKLAND A’S, FIGHTS ALS ON BEHALF OF MOM

GreenSportsBlog first wrote about Piscotty last January after we learned that the then-Cardinals outfielder had majored in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering at Stanford and is keenly interested in the investment and climate change fighting possibilities in inherent in renewable energy. That Piscotty was coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in 2016 made the story all the better.

But 2017 proved to be challenging on and off the field.

On the field, Piscotty dealt with two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries along with a sophomore slump at the plate. The double whammy led to a brief demotion to Triple-A Memphis in August.

The off field news was much, much worse as Piscotty’s mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In our most recent Eco-Scorecard in January, we shared the news that Piscotty had been traded by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s, only an hour’s drive from his parents’ home. Both the Cardinals and the A’s acknowledged that Gretchen’s illness was a factor in the trade. Amazing, no?

“It says a lot about both organizations,” Piscotty said in a February 23rd interview with Martin Gallegos of The San Jose Mercury News. “Baseball is very important, but sometimes there are other things that may take priority. It’s heartwarming and humbling, and we are so grateful.”

Piscotty is projected to be the A’s starting right fielder in 2018. After a very slow start at the plate in spring training, he rebounded over the past ten days, getting his batting average up to a respectable .269 with 2 home runs. If Piscotty can stay healthy, it says here that he will provide stability and punch to the Oakland lineup, with results resembling his breakout 22 HR, 85 RBI rookie 2016 campaign rather than his difficult 2017 (9 HR, 37 RBI).

Meanwhile, the 27 year-old has decided to set up a donation page along with his family to raise funds for ALS research.

“My mom was on board with it and we felt like getting something started would be a really cool thing,” Piscotty told Gallegos. “It actually came about by one of my mom’s really good friends, who has actually been helping us a tremendous amount at the house. She is going to run a couple races and dedicate those to my mom, so we are just rallying around that to raise funding and awareness and also kind of use my platform to attack it in that sort of way. I’m pretty excited about the support we have gotten already, and we’ll keep going.”

 

 

Piscotty A's

Stephen Piscotty in his new Oakland A’s uniform (Photo credit: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

 

 

More Piscotty: “It’s one of those things that is hard to talk about, but awareness is step one and then the funding. People have to know about it before they are going to donate, and what have you. I think that is the biggest thing. The ice bucket challenge that happened a few years ago was a tremendous thing, and I think there is a jalapeno challenge that is starting to circle around, and hopefully that catches fire too. Things like that day by day and little by little will eventually get us there.”

People looking to contribute to the fund can do so by visiting www.youcaring.com/alstherapydevelopmentinstitute-1101042#mlb-oakland.

 

POW MEMBER AND U.S. CROSS COUNTRY SKIER ANDY NEWELL HOPES PYEONGCHANG 2018 IS HIS LAST OLYMPICS

Cross country skier Andy Newell is a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action. In the run up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Newell co-drafted a letter with fellow Vermonter and climate change fighter Bill McKibben — and founder of 350.org — addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. He helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City last April and has lobbied members of Congress of both parties on climate-related legislation.

Qualifying for his fourth Olympics at age 34, Newell took on the high-pressured first leg of the 4×10 km relay. After a decent start — he reached the initial 1.67 km split in 8th place in the 14-team race — Newell struggled, ending up in 12th place with a time of 26 minutes 09.7 seconds, 1.28.8 off the lead. Team USA’s difficulties continued from there as they finished in last, 9 minutes 24 seconds behind the gold medal winners from Norway.

“As expected, it was tough,” Newell told USA Today Network’s Jeff Seidel. “It’s always nerve-wracking to go out first. It’s an honor to lead off the team, but it’s also a high-pressure situation. I went out and did my best. I was dying. I actually barfed my face off at the end of the race. That’s how I know I pushed myself pretty hard.”

 

Andy Newell

Andy Newell (r) and Canada’s Len Valjas scrambling during the first leg 4×10 km cross country ski race at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics (Photo credit: Flying Point Road)

 

Newell hopes PyeongChang is his final Olympics, despite sounding like he wants to give qualifying for Beijing 2022 a go.

Wait, what? He wants to try out for another Olympics and…fail?

Well, when one considers Newell’s team-first, legacy-based ethos, his willingness to see the next generation of U.S cross country skiers beat him out four years from now starts to make some sense.

“The only thing that would make me happier than going to a…fifth Olympics would be that the U.S. team is so strong that a guy like me can’t make it,” said Newell to Seidel.“Hopefully those guys will be crushing it and they will be coming in as medal contenders…I hope that an old guy like me won’t even be able to make the team four years from now.”

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS STRUGGLING TO AVOID RELEGATION

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands.

FGR took a major step up on the pitch in 2017, earning promotion from the fifth to the fourth tier of English football — the highest rung achieved in the club’s 125-year history. The trick for FGR this season is to stay in the fourth tier and avoid relegation down from whence they came. Their task is clear: finish above the bottom two places in the 24-team league when the campaign ends in May.

Newly-promoted sides often struggle to stay “up” and FGR is no different as they’ve flirted with the “drop zone” all season. But an undefeated February (three wins and a draw) gave the club some breathing room.

Their run of good play continued as the calendar turned to March when super-sub Lee Collins scored in the 81st minute to earn a back-and-forth 3-3 draw at Newport County.

 

Lee Colins

Forest Green Rovers’ Lee Collins (#5) exults after scoring the 81st minute equalizer in their 3-3 draw at Newport County on March 3rd (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

The 81st minute came back to bite FGR at home on Saturday as it was Notts County who scored during that 60 second window to earn a 2-1 win, ending Forest Green’s six match unbeaten streak. Still, the club sits in 20th place with 37 points, seven points ahead of the drop zone with 10 matches to play.

But safety is not yet assured as the season moves to its May conclusion and the struggle continues for FGR with two road contests in four days.

First, Forest Green visits first place Accrington Stanley on Saturday. Then its a mid-week battle among two clubs eager to stay afloat when FGR heads to 19th place Crewe Alexander.

 


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