GSB News and Notes: Wind-Powered RVs at Tailgate Parties?; A Green Cactus League Partnership; Errant Golf Balls Add to Pollution of U.S. Waterways

Wind-powered recreational vehicles (RVs) could become a thing at college and pro football games. Arizona State University and the Oakland A’s launch a sustainability partnership at Hohokam Stadium. And golf balls hit into the oceans, lakes and more are a hazard for wildlife and water cleanliness. All in all, it’s a busy mid-week GSB News & Notes column.

 

WIND-POWERED RVs COULD BECOME TAILGATE PARTY STAPLES 

Drop in on the parking area of any SEC or Big Ten college football stadium on the Thursday before a big Saturday game and you will see dozens of RVs, filled with tailgaters, barbecuing, imbibing in adult beverages, playing touch football, watching TV and…promoting wind power?

OK, that last bit about wind power may be a stretch.

Or maybe not. According Michele Boyer, a retired writer and full-time RVer, mini wind turbines are now designed to be able to be mounted atop RVs.

 

RVs Penn State

A village of RVs stretch out to the horizon in the tailgate area before a Penn State University football game in State College, PA. Someday, perhaps soon, a portion of those RVs will sport wind turbines on the roof (Photo credit: visitpennstate.com)

 

Writing in the March 2nd issue of TripSavvy magazine, Boyer reports that Southwest Windpower, a subsidiary of Xzeres, a leader in the small wind turbine (45-80 feet high) market over the last 15 years, has gone even smaller, manufacturing a mini version that mounts on a large boat or RV.

The small size and rapidly declining cost has turned small wind systems into an economically viable option for RV owners, including, of course, those who tailgate. Many are now pairing small wind with small solar panel units to minimize the impacts of the intermittency problem — i.e. the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Solar and wind costs have each dropped dramatically over the last decade, with wind the cheaper option in many cases. “The cost of small wind has gone below five cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), about half the cost of solar power,” noted Boyer. “Installation and initial investment for an RVer are significantly less for a wind generator than for equivalent power-capable solar panels.”

Boyer does point out that, in addition to its intermittency, there are some drawbacks for RVers, including noise and dangers from electrical storms. 

That said, when I attend the Big Ten contest between the University of Iowa and Rutgers (the latter my alma mater) this September in Iowa City, I expect to see a windy, zip code-sized tailgate area, filled with RVs. And maybe a few will be topped by mini-wind turbines.

 

OAKLAND A’S MOVE TOWARDS ZERO-WASTE SPRING TRAINING, THANKS TO PARTNERSHIP WITH ARIZONA STATE

The Oakland A’s and Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability launched a partnership last month to help Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona move towards zero-waste during the 2019 spring training season. The goals are to increase operational efficiencies and improve the fan experience, all while moving Hohokam towards the 90 percent diversion rate threshold necessary to claim zero-waste status.

The A’s-ASU “Recycle Rally” program looks to build upon a similar program launched during spring training last year by ASU, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies — the two National League West rivals share the Salt River Fields ballpark at Talking Stick, Arizona.

 

 

Hohokam

Panoramic view of Hohokam Stadium, spring training home of the Oakland A’s in Mesa, AZ (Photo credit: Baseball Pilgrimages)

 

As part of the initiative, a group of 21 ASU students are analyzing Hohokam Stadium’s waste stream and operations to help the 10,500-seat ballpark become more sustainable during the six weeks of spring training. They are putting their detective caps on to find the most innovative, fan-friendly and cost-effective approaches that can increase recycling, reusing and composting. After the A’s ship out at the end of the month to begin the regular season, the students will produce a report that recommends the best ways to approach waste minimization for spring training 2020 and beyond.

“The A’s are proud to call Mesa our home away from home, and we want to do our part to promote sustainability and minimize our environmental impact at Hohokam Stadium,” said A’s president Dave Kaval. “We are excited to team up with Arizona State University on this initiative and learn how to reach our goal of becoming a zero waste facility.”

Colin Tetreault, a senior sustainability scholar with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, is directing the class of 21 “change agent” students as part of a capstone project. “The School of Sustainability is honored to hit a home run for sustainability and zero waste with the Oakland A’s,” Tetreault said. “This collaboration is an example of how sustainability can drive innovation, reduce costs and overhead, and increase the fan experience.”

 

GOLF BALLS CAUSE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN SOME WATERWAYS

I gave up golf about 20 years ago, in part because too many of my wayward shots found their way into water hazards. My retirement from the links took place before I became passionate about sustainability and climate change, so thoughts about the environmental hazards associated with my inability to keep the little white ball dry did not enter my mind.

My perspective has changed, thanks in part to “How Golf is Polluting Our Oceans,” a recent story by Dalmeet Singh Chawla in Medium. The scale of the problem is bigger than I thought: Per Chawla, one estimate suggests the annual number of golf balls sent to the bottom of waterways could be as high as 300 million in the United States alone.

 

Matthew Savoca

According to esitmates, hundreds of millions of golf balls are hit into the waterways of the U.S. every year (Photo credit: Matthew Savoca)

 

That’s almost one wet golf ball per person in the U.S.

Crazy, no?

From that staggering macro number, Chawla’s story zoomed in to the micro, focusing on the efforts of 18-year-old scuba diver Alex Weber to do something about the problem. Since spring 2016, she has collected around 50,000 golf balls from Carmel Bay, California, not far from the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of the 2019 U.S. Open in June. 

To keep her beloved beaches pollution-free, she frequently carries out clean-ups to remove microplastics that wash up on the beaches from large ocean swells,” wrote Chawla. “One day in May 2016, Weber and her father decided to go free diving off the coast of their local beach. ‘What we came across was the entire sea floor was covered in golf balls,’ Weber recalls. ‘There were thousands of golf balls in every crack and crevice  —  I immediately felt sick to my stomach.'”

Her concern stemmed mainly from the toxins golf balls release from the bottom of oceans, lakes or bays, and the problems that poses for aquatic life. The solid core of a golf contain zinc oxide and zinc acrylate for enhanced the durability and flexibility. But both compounds are considered toxic in aqueous environments, and have been shown to activate stress responses in fish, algae, and crustaceans. Feeling responsible for cleaning up the mess that humanity created, the Webers continued collecting golf balls whenever they dove. 

Here’s more from Chawla: “Between May 2016 and June 2018, the Webers retrieved 50,000 golf balls in total, equaling around 2.5 tons of debris, roughly equivalent to the weight of a pickup truck. The father-daughter team have now co-authored a scientific paper, recently published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, describing the scope of the problem…Now known as the ‘Plastic Pickup Team,’ Weber and her father go on dives whenever the weather conditions allow, usually about six months out of the year. Sometimes, they spend up to 10 hours collecting golf balls.”

 

Alex Weber

Eighteen-year-old Alex Weber and her dad retrieve thousands of golf balls from Carmel Bay in Northern California (Photo credit: Alex Weber)

 

According to Matthew Savoca, a marine ecologist at Stanford University who co-authored the study with the Webers, around 10 percent of the collected balls were severely worn down. By calculating how much the balls had degraded, the authors predicted that the collected golf balls have given off around 28 kilograms of fragmented synthetic material to the oceans.

 

Robert Beck.png

Golf balls, unearthed from the bottom of the sea, in various stages of degradation (Photo credit: Robert Beck)

 

That said, and despite the Webers’ prodigious underwater efforts, golf balls represent a tiny percentage of the eight million tons of plastic humans dump into the oceans every year. And, as Robert Weiss, professor emeritus of polymer engineering at the University of Connecticut, remarked to Chawla, “the risk of leakage of harmful chemicals from golf balls is relatively low, partly because golf balls degrade slowly underwater.” 

But, per Savoca, in some locales —  in Carmel Bay, for instance  —  golf balls may be the most significant contributor of marine plastic. 

So what to do?

“The solution to our ocean pollution problem is not to take the plastic out but to stop the plastic from going in,” Weber told Chawla.

The researchers, along with the Pebble Beach Company, owner of several golf courses around Carmel Bay, are working with the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary   to identify possible solutions. PBC is already notifying golfers, directly and through caddies  that intentionally hitting balls into the water is prohibited. 

Other possible remedies include adding nets to prevent balls from landing in the water, training people to shoot more accurately (I wouldn’t bet on this one), and the development of biodegradable golf balls. On the latter, Albus Golf’s ecobioball®, biodegrades within 48 hours after hitting water, exposing an inner core consisting of fish food (brilliant, it says here!). Unfortunately, they don’t yet meet the exact requirements to be considered a golf ball by the U.S. Golf Association (USGA).

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 12.55.10 PM

The biodegradable Ecobioball® from Albus Golf

 

But it’s a start.

 

 


 

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The GSB Interview with Colin Tetreault: Part I — Former Phoenix Sustainability Director Helps Arizona State Become Green-Sports Leader

Colin Tetreault of Arizona State is both a Green-Sports visionary and top-level practitioner. This was made clear when he moderated the Thought Leader panel at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June. Next up, thought leadership-wise, for Tetreault is a home game of sorts: the Sports & Sustainability Symposium at ASU this winter. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Tetreault in a two-part interview.

Part I deals with Tetreault’s pre-Green-Sports life: His passion for the environment, as well as his sustainability work at Arizona State and in the mayor’s office in Phoenix. Tomorrow’s Part II delves into Tetreault’s and ASU’s Green-Sports leadership and where he thinks the movement needs to go.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Colin, you have an impressive — and, I have to say, long job title: Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. You’ve worked with Major League Baseball, USA Triathlon and others on innovative Green-Sports initiatives. And, as I experienced first hand at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in June when you moderated the Thought Leader panel and workshop, you’re also working to push the Green-Sports movement forward faster. So I’ve been looking forward to this interview. How did you get to this place at the leading edge of Green-Sports?

Colin Tetreault: Thanks so much, Lew. Hey, I’m the proud product of a west coast business-guy dad and a Delaware Quaker mom. I grew up in the outdoors, climbed my first mountain when I was 9, learned contract negotiation at 12, did migrant refugee social work in my early teens, and gave thanks for the “return of a bull market” in high school. I have a background in capitalism and environmentalism, marketing and social work. Since my mom worked at ASU, I’ve been in that community since kindergarten. I did my undergrad and grad school work there.

GSB: You are a Sun Devil through and through! What did you study?

Colin: Well, after peaking in kindergarten I studied marketing and sociology as an undergrad. I was part of the inaugural cohort, back in 2007-08 in the sustainability graduate degree program, which emphasized the need for purpose in business.

 

Colin

Colin Tetreault, Senior Sustainability Scholar and Global Sports Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University (Photo credit: Colin Tetreault)

 

GSB: Ahead of its time…

Colin: I was very fortunate in terms of my timing, to say the least. While in grad school I started S2 Consulting. We showed corporate leadership how sustainability could drive business…How to do well while doing good. Clients included Intel, Starbucks, and PetSmart.

GSB: What did S2 Consulting do for these A-List companies?

Colin: We basically applied a sustainability lens to business consulting, showing our clients how leading on environment, as well as the social and governance aspects of sustainability, would help drive revenue, mitigate risk and drive brand image upward.

GSB: WOW! What did you do next?

Colin: I wanted to serve students, but didn’t want to go for a PhD — I didn’t want to write a dissertation that no one read, nor did I want to teach students to do the same. Instead, I wanted to help students interested in sustainability in a more practical fashion. In 2010, ASU offered a new Masters of Sustainable Solutions. It quickly became the most popular masters degree program at the School. It involved one year of studying and one year of doing.

GSB: That sounds right up your alley…

Colin: It was. I mean, if you want graduates to get hired in cool, sustainability-oriented jobs, what they needed was practical experience. So corporations would come to our program and we connected them to students, who then worked on sustainability projects that were material to the enterprise. And that set them up for jobs once they graduated

GSB: That is how a graduate school program should run. Now I understand you also got involved in politics at around that time. Talk about that…

Colin: Yes. I was a Director on the Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce. This was 2011-12. There was a mayoral election then. If memory serves, there were 11 candidates running. They had a debate on sustainability. Eight of the candidates were on stage; two of them were respectable on environmental issues. One of them actually understood that sustainability was more than trees and recycling. That was Greg Stanton. He said “if I’m elected, I will appoint Phoenix’ first full time sustainability policy director.” I said to myself, “I want this job!” I was qualified, had the subject matter expertise and was known as an honest broker in the community. So when Greg won, I went for it and — what do you know — he appointed me to his team!

 

Colin 2013 Eugene Scott Mayor Greg Stanton. Grid Bike

Colin Tetreault (l), Eugene Scott (now a Washington Post reporter) and then-Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton promote bike share in the city in 2013 (Photo credit: Grid Bike)

 

GSB: That’s AMAZING! How did ASU react?

Colin: They were great about it. The university loaned me to the city. The city was able to save cost on a director level role and the university was able to be of service to its community.

GSB: That’s quite the win-win. What did you do in the sustainability policy director role?

Colin: Well, when I came into the city government, Phoenix was known as the “Bird On Fire,” the least sustainable city in the USA…

GSB: …So there was only one way to go: UP!

Colin: I served with a great team in the writing of the city’s first sustainability plans. We made sure they were 100 percent policy driven, not a political document. That way we could get much more buy in. After two years, I’m proud to say that we were able to author one of the best sustainability turnaround stories for a city.

GSB: What were some of its key tenets?

Colin: Let me frame the situation we faced: Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation. I was tasked with serving 1.7 million people over an area that is 520 square miles. You can fit Paris, Rome, Manhattan, and San Francisco into the legal borders of Phoenix. That doesn’t include the two dozen additional cities in our region. To add to the challenge, our state-level politics and historical orientations didn’t make sustainability practice difficult, it made it outright hostile. But that didn’t stop us. We rolled up our sleeves, made our work focused on cost efficiencies to create buy-in, and set out to create positive change.

Some of the big and fun ones were energy, waste, land use, and transportation.

In energy, we built a $25 million deal – the largest in the nation – in partnership with the Department of Energy and a regional bank – to accelerate home rooftop solar deployment in the city. It only makes sense that place with the best solar capacity should empower its residents to take control of their energy bills and reduce their environmental impact in perpetuity. We specifically carved out this program to be reserved for folks of low-to-moderate income areas. We believed — and still do — that we are judged not on how we treat those with the most, but how we treat those with the least.

We also authored the most aggressive approach to waste in the history of the state. Prior, the city and region had no waste management goals. None.

GSB: How was that possible for the fifth largest city in the nation?

Colin: Crazy, right? Well, we became the first American city to partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to create a “circular economy”. We basically said there’s no such thing as trash. While setting a 100 percent Zero Waste goal, we also looked to transform “trash” into resources. We called the campaign Reimagine Phoenix, asking folks to reimagine a future with no waste…just resources and opportunities. We built, in partnership with ASU, a public-private tech accelerator to cultivate and build local companies that could address the waste stream and grow private-sector jobs. Here are a few examples: palm fronds. Yeah, those things people like to sip umbrella laden drink under…turns out that they are a pickle to compost. The fibrous nature of them precludes them from being incorporated into normal compost operations. For anyone who has been to Phoenix knows we’ve got trees in spades. The city partnered with a private enterprise to break those fronds into a material that is incorporated into an animal feedstock. Another venture takes hard to recycle plastic items and breaks the polymers into base-level monomers…the building blocks of other items. From there, they can make “stuff” and keep materials in play…not downgrading them or sending them to a landfill.

 

Reimagine Phoenix

 

GSB: That is very cool…What about land?

Colin: Land…oh boy…don’t get me started! There was a 2000 article indicating that nearly 40 percent of the Phoenix region was vacant land. Not only does that look terrible, it depresses property values, which reduces tax revenues, which means school budget cuts. It also adds to the urban heat island effect, and reduces community cohesion.

GSB: Not a good look.

Colin: Not at all. While certain land use policies are primarily the purview of the county and state, we showcased what reform could look like. We worked with Keep Phoenix Beautiful to transform 15 acres of vacant land in the heart of central Phoenix.

GSB: Fifteen acres of vacant land? Downtown?

Colin: It was the largest vacant piece of land in the heart of a downtown in the nation…and it had been that way for over 20 years. We — and a dozen community partners — built the largest and most impactful community space in the state. Refugee gardeners built and operated businesses. We hosted veterans therapy groups to help treat those with PTSD symptoms, built gathering collaboration spaces for LGBTQ youth bullied out of high school, hosted concerts and more. We called it PHX Renews. We wanted to renew our urban fabric. And we did. The fun part…everything on the site was made to be interim and moveable. Here’s the cool part…that giant piece of land…is going to be redeveloped. Our work didn’t disappear, it moved – like germinating seeds – to grow opportunities all over the Valley of the Sun.

GSB: Finally, on transportation?

Colin: We brought bike share to the city, accelerated the deployment of more light rail, and sought to create a policy of “complete streets” where thoroughfares are designed to move goods, ideas, peoples and services…not just cars. Instead of a banal streetscape that consists of 4 lanes of vehicular traffic with episodic, anemic tree or shade cover that is not just uncomfortable for, but openly hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists – in addition to vehicle operators – “complete streets” paints a more virtuous picture for all. By embracing slower vehicular speeds, with more purposeful pedestrian and non-motorized transit options and gathering spots, places and businesses flourish. Look to intersections from Manhattan to Curitiba. What were once solely car dominated areas are now bastions of commerce and culture. By the way, it also has positive environmental impacts by tailpipe emissions…so it’s got that going for it, too.

 

IN FRIDAY’S PART II: Colin discusses his return to Arizona State and how he helped it become a Green-Sports innovator.

 

 


 

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