Men’s and Women’s Final Four From a Green-Sports Perspective

After the greatest weekend of Elite Eight games ever — all four went down to the wire, with two going to overtime — the Men’s Final Four is now set. This Saturday evening in Minneapolis, Auburn takes on the University of Virginia and then Texas Tech and Michigan State will go at it.

While the ESPN’s and SI.com’s of the world will analyze the on-court matchups in detail throughout the week, GreenSportsBlog digs into each school from a Green-Sports point of view.

And, we also take a look at Green-Sports goings on at Oregon, Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn — the participants in the Women’s Final Four in Tampa.

 

AUBURN TIGERS

Charles Barkley, the greatest basketball player in Auburn history, was overcome by emotion after his alma mater’s thrilling 77-71 overtime victory over favored Kentucky sent the school to its first Final Four. He wiped back tears in the game’s immediate aftermath, calling the win “the greatest day in Auburn basketball history” on the CBS Sports postgame show.

 

 

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member would likely need to have tissues at the ready if he were to read our January story about Auburn’s growing Green-Sports résumé. In “Auburn Athletics: Green-Sports Grows in the SEC,” Barkley would learn that, per Mike Kensler, Auburn’s Director of the Office of Sustainability:

  • An energy efficiency campaign is underway at Auburn Arena, home of Tigers men’s and women’s basketball and women’s gymnastics.
  • The football team hosts an annual Green Game at 87,000 seat Jordan-Hare Stadium that features student “Trash Talkers” roaming the tailgate areas, urging fans to recycle, a video on Auburn’s greening programs that runs in-game on the video board, and a Green-Sports focused column in the game program.
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting illuminates Plainsman Park, Auburn’s baseball stadium.
  • Auburn football players, coaches, and others traveled to the Dominican Republic in May 2017 where they built and distributed water filters and solar light packets to those in need.
  • Helen Ulrich, a sophomore journalism major on the women’s equestrian team, earned her eco-athlete stripes by writing a story on the anti-plastic straw movement.

 

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Auburn football players Dontavius Russell and Daniel Carlson drain and assemble the filters before they are inserted into the buckets in the Dominican Republic in 2017 (Photo credit: Auburn University)

 

And while there’s no way of knowing if the Tigers (also, for some reason, known by the “War EAGLE” battle cry) will qualify for the 2020 Men’s Final Four at in Atlanta, there will definitely be an Auburn flavor to the event from a green point of view. Per this 2018 GreenSportsBlog interview, Carlie Bullock-Jones, CEO of sustainability consulting firm Ecoworks Studio, and an Auburn grad (“War Damn EAGLE!”), played an important role in helping Mercedes-Benz Stadium achieve Platinum status.

 

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

If you are a UVA fan, you still probably can’t get enough of seeing THIS:

 

 

It took that miraculous last millisecond bucket by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, off of that amazing whip pass from Kihei Clark, to send its Midwest Region final against the gutty Purdue Boilermakers into overtime. The top seeded Cavaliers then took care of business in the extra frame, winning the “Game of the Tournament” (so far) 80-75, earning the school its first Final Four berth since 1984.

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia Class of ’16, only made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen during his four seasons in Charlottesville. But the Milwaukee Bucks guard is making UVA alums proud through his Hoops₂O initiative. Brogdon and four other NBA players¹ are working to raise funds and awareness for clean water initiatives in East Africa. Fans donate to the program in the name of one of the players, with the players matching those contributions dollar-for-dollar. So far, Hoops₂O has raised $164,000 towards its Year One goal of $225,000. Click here to contribute.

 

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Malcolm Brogdon, founder of Hoops₂o at a Waterboys well site in East Africa (Photo credit: Clay Cook Photography)

 

Brogdon was inspired by Waterboysthe program midwifed by former Virginia football star Chris Long. The two-time Super Bowl champ and 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, along with support from more than 20 current and retired NFL players, funds the digging of wells in the area and teaches the locals how to operate and maintain them.

 

Chris Long was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia’s 2018 Commencement ceremony (Photo credit: Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

 

Since its inception in 2013, Waterboys, now officially connected to Hoops₂O, has raised more $2.6 million to fund 55 wells that will provide water to over 205,000 people.

 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Run a Google search on “Texas Tech University Athletics Sustainability” or something similar and you get several links to articles about…the University of Texas. This is to say that, so far, Red Raiders’ Athletics has not yet embraced Green-Sports.

Yet the university is a leader when it comes to climate change communications despite being located in the politically and religiously conservative West Texas city of Lubbock.

That is thanks largely to climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and arguably the world’s most powerful climate change communicator. In fact, Time Magazine named her to its “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2014.

 

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Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. (Photo credit: Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)

 

Dr. Hayhoe spoke with us in 2016 for GreenSportsBlog’s “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports” series. Here’s an excerpt that focuses on how sports can play an important role in the climate change fight (click here to read the entire interview):

GSB: You emphasize the community-religious-economy boosting nature of climate change solutions in your must-watch web series, Global Weirding. That makes total sense.

Katharine: Science is the foundation but what connects with people, what binds them together — shared values — turns out to be bigger than the science! And the pathways in our brains that are used to solve issues respond more to the shared values approach than the scientific. And community and shared values, that’s what sports is all about. Sports is part of our collective shared identity. It builds community. And this goes back millennia to Roman times and chariot races.

GSB: So how do you think sports can play an important role in building awareness and action among fans? Many times, when I ask why more athletes don’t get involved, I hear that “climate change is too complex!” But if what you’re saying is right — and I think it is — athletes don’t need to worry so much about the science. They need to emphasize the importance of the solutions to the communities where they play!

KH: Exactly. Now some sports are effected more directly and more in the present than others. Hey, I’m Canadian, so I get that hockey and other snow sports are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on their sports in the here and now. That’s why it’s great that Protect Our Winters and the National Hockey League are leading the climate change fight. Hey, we’re a skiing family so we see a shorter ski season. I’m also a sailor and so the effects of increased ocean acidification are powerful as they are obvious…But athletes in sports that don’t have as direct a link as those we mentioned can certainly get involved. Look, I often talk about the Six America’s of Global Warming. Basically, Americans fall into six groups as it relates to global warming/climate change: From most engaged to least, it goes like this:

  1. Alarmed
  2. Concerned
  3. Cautious
  4. Dis-engaged
  5. Doubtful
  6. Dismissive

I think for now at least, we’ll leave the Dismissives — they’ll be very hard to move. But I’ve found the way to communicate with the Cautious, Dis-engaged and Doubtfuls is to emphasize shared values and concerns, and then you can move them. Sports is as powerful, as passionate a platform as there is to move masses of people.

Amen, Dr. Hayhoe. AMEN!

 

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

Michigan State can lay claim to being the greenest school in this year’s Final Four on at least one metric: It is the only one of the four to have green as one of its school colors.

In addition, its Sustainability Office:

  • Manages the Be Spartan Green team of student volunteers. They monitor waste stations at Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football and Hockey games to help divert recyclable items from going to the landfill, as well as informing attendees about recycling options.
  • Published a Green Your Tailgate page on its website

The East Lansing-based school, now just two wins shy of its third national championship, also boasts a faculty member whose research has centered on sustainability issues surrounding mega-events like Olympics, World Cup and, yes, Final Fours.

GreenSportsBlog interviewed Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor, Associate Professor in Michigan State’s Global Urban Studies Program, in 2015. In this excerpt, we discuss the sustainability legacies of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

 

Eva Kassens-Noor

Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor of Michigan State University (Photo credit: Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor)

 

GSB: How did sustainability figure into London 2012?

Eva: Legacy and sustainability were central tenets of the London 2012 bid. The facilities that were built for the Games, for the most part, have found significant post Games use, often for the general public. The Olympic Stadium will become the home of West Ham United Football Club of the Premier League starting next season.

GSB: Now let’s look to Rio 2016. Plenty of media outlets have tackled the environmental problems related to the polluted waters of the sailing and rowing venues. But what about its legacy?

Eva: I’ve been very critical of Rio in terms of legacy…

GSB: Why? We wrote about the additional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines in Rio that are Olympics-related (links here and here). That should be a carbon footprint reducer, no?

EKN: You would think so but the Olympic Village and the BRT plowed through many Favelas, removing hundreds of families and businesses. The route of the BRT is also problematic — one of the routes goes from the airport to a wealthy area without going through downtown. Very ineffective.

BRT will play a significant role in transporting fans to and from this weekend’s Final Four in Minneapolis. GreenSportsBlog is heading to the Twin Cities and will report on what, arguably, is the greenest stadium and arena inventory of any metropolitan area in North America.

As far as the basketball is concerned, I picked Michigan State to beat Virginia in the championship game before the tournament began and so will stick with that².

 

WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR?

Friday night’s semifinal matchups for the 2019 Women’s Final Four in Tampa feature two-time national champion Baylor vs. Oregon, seeking its first title. The nightcap is a battle of true women’s hoops heavyweights:  Defending champion Notre Dame vs. 11-time winner UConn.

From a Green-Sports perspective, the University of Oregon looks to be the favorite, but all four schools have a story to tell.

The Eugene-based university is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, as is the PAC-12 Conference. It participates in the league’s Zero-Waste Challenge, a series of waste-reduction competitions that engage fans in sustainability, develop best practices, and provide an outlet for friendly environmental competitions. And Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks’ All America guard, took part in a PAC-12 Team Green promotional 15 second video.

 

Sabrina Ionescu

Sabrina Ionescu, University of Oregon’s 1st team All American guard (Photo credit: Sabrina Ionescu)

 

Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas, has been recycling since 2015, at McLane Stadium, the 45,100-seat home of Bears football.

Notre Dame’s Green-Sports initiatives are mainly focused on waste generated at Notre Dame Stadium, the 80,795-seat cathedral of Fighting Irish football. The Go Irish. Be Green. program features teams of volunteer students circulating through the tailgate lots, distributing blue recycle bags to fans and answering questions about single stream recycling. And they also produced this sustainability-themed video for the 2018 season.

 

 

The big question is where has this video been shown: In stadium? On Notre Dame football broadcasts? To date it has received only 64 views on YouTube.

UConn, through its EcoHusky student group, has hosted women’s and men’s Basketball Green Game Days at Gampel Pavilion over the past several years. Starting in 2017, the university’s Office of Environmental Policy purchased carbon offsets to be able to make the claim that the games were carbon-free. P.A. announcements, video board mentions, and social media posts during the events promoted the greening initiative to fans.

 

¹ In addition to Brogdon, the Hoops₂O team includes Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets), Garrett Temple (Memphis Grizzlies) and Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves)
² In case you think I’m some sort of March Madness savant, think again. This is the first year in at least a decade in which my brackets weren’t busted by the Sweet 16.

 


 

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What 2 Watch 4 in Green-Sports in 2017

Happy New Year to you, GreenSportsBlog readers! Thank you for your comments, suggestions and consistent support throughout 2016; keep ’em coming in 2017. Speaking of 2017, the climate change fight is facing some stiff headwinds in the US that were unexpected as recently as November 7, 2016. How will the increasingly high profile Green-Sports world react? With that in mind, let’s take a look at “What 2 Watch 4” in Green-Sports in 2017.

 

January 20: Inauguration of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States; Washington, DC.

What a difference a POTUS can make in Green-Sports.

Barack Obama was the first US president to engage in Green-Sports. He publicly praised the Pittsburgh Penguins for their greening initiatives at a White House ceremony in October and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted Green-Sports roundtables on his watch.

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President Obama lauds the Pittsburgh Penguins and the NHL for their sustainability leadership at the White House in October, 2016. (Photo credit: TMZ)

 

His successor, Donald J. Trump, is a climate change skeptic/denier who has nominated a climate change denier as EPA Administrator and promises to remove the United States from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.

How will the Green-Sports world react to President Trump? With the US government expected to pull back from the climate change fight, the private sector and the general public will need to, pardon the pun, pick up the green ball and run with it harder and faster than before. This is a great opportunity for leaders at the intersection of Green + Sports (commissioners, teams, sponsors, eco-athletes, non-profits) to play a pivotal role in accelerating the impetus for positive climate action.

 

 

February 7: Super Bowl LI; Houston, TX

What a difference a year makes in terms of the greenness of the Super Bowl Host Committee.

At this point last year, we were wondering whether The Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee would make good on its audacious promise to deliver “the greenest Super Bowl ever.” The answer, for the most part, was a resounding yes. Here are just a few of the Committee’s many sustainability accomplishments at Super Bowl City in San Francisco (the 9-day festival ahead of the game) and at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara:

  • Ensured, working with regional transportation agencies, there was ample public transit during Super Bowl week. Gate Ferry ridership during Super Bowl Week increased by 81 percent vs. 2015.
  • Partnered with the San Francisco Bike Coalition to establish a bike valet at Super Bowl City for the entire 9-day activation.
  • Sold tickets to a ‘Fan Express’ charter bus system for transport to Levi’s Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday from pick-up points throughout the Bay Area. The buses, from Google’s fleet, ran on Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel and removed approximately 2,000 cars from the road on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Worked with PG&E, the Official Clean Energy Partner, to run Super Bowl City on clean, temporary power. 91% of temporary power in Super Bowl City was supplied by Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel generators, which reduced emissions and improved air quality.
  • Engaged master food concessionaire Legends to serve locally-sourced (within 75 miles) and/or organic food in Super Bowl City.
  • Free water stations were provided by U.S. Pure Water and FloWater. FloWater estimated it diverted 14,580 single use plastic bottles from landfill.

Click here for more details.

The hope was that the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee would, pardon the pun, take the sustainability baton from the Bay Area folks and run with it.

This appears not to be the case.

Yes, the Houston Host Committee is working closely with the NFL Environmental team as part of the NFL’s Super Bowl LI Environmental efforts. This is a continuation of the league’s 15+ year Super Bowl greening program. In Houston, the NFL is offsetting the energy consumed at the game; the league, Host Committee, Houston Texans and Verizon are helping to plant trees.

The NFL, Houston Super Bowl Committee, Verizon and the Houston Texans team up to plan trees in advance of Super Bowl LI.

 

But, with the maturing of Green-Sports, these actions, welcome though they are, seem like the “cost of doing green business.” It is up to local Host Committees to make their Super Bowls beacons for environmental action. The Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee showed future Host Committees the way. The Houston Host Committee, unfortunately, chose not to take that baton.

Of course Houston, capital of the US oil industry, is not the eco-hub that the Bay Area is. In many precincts of the Lone Star State, climate change denial and/or skepticism is alive and well. Expecting Houston to match or surpass Super Bowl 50’s greenness was probably a stretch.
Yet, amidst the oil, Houston and Texas have a strong sustainability heritage to build upon.
That Houston Super Bowl Committee chose not to celebrate this, it says here, is an opportunity missed.

So it’s “Wait ‘Til Next Year” for Host Committee greening as we soon turn our attention to Minnesota, the Vikings  and US Bank Stadium in advance of Super Bowl LII next February.

 

February 22-23: Sustainable Innovation in Sport Conference; Munich, Germany

Following a successful launch at the historic COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris in late 2015, Sustainable Innovation in Sport will convene for a second time, bringing together an international lineup of Green-Sports leaders and influencers to discuss how best to accelerate the pace of positive environmental impacts via sport.

A sampling of confirmed speakers includes Vivianne Fraisse, Head of Sustainable Development at Roland Garros/French Open, Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability at the International Olympic Committee (IOC); Frederik Lindgren, Head of Corporate Sustainability for the European PGA Tour, and Norman Vossschulte, Director of Guest Experience with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

June 3: UEFA Champions League Final, Principality Stadium; Cardiff, Wales

The European Champions League, comprised of the best soccer clubs across the continent and the British Isles, is a 32 team competition running from September to June. The Sweet 16 commences in February with the likes of Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid battling to make it to the Super Bowl of Club Soccer at 74,500 seat Principality Stadium (formerly known as Millennium Stadium) in Cardiff, Wales.

millennium-stadium

Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales; site of the 2017 UEFA Champions League final. (Photo credit: Footballtripper.com)

 

The first Champions League final to be played in Wales will take place in Great Britain’s first ISO 2012-1 (standard for sustainable events) certified stadium and, according edie.net, a leading British sustainability-focused market research firm, one of the six greenest stadiums in the world. This is quite remarkable since Principality Stadium is not new—it opened in 1999—and was built without sustainability in mind. But things changed dramatically in 2010 when stadium owners announced their intention to significantly green operations.

  • Recycling and especially composting were far from standard operating procedure at British sporting facilities in 2010. Yet by 2012, Principality Stadium diverted 98.4 percent of its waste from landfill.
  • LED lighting and smart grid electronic systems were installed, along with water controls, leading to meaningful reductions in carbon emissions and water usage.
  • Further carbon emissions ensued as sustainability was imbued into the stadium’s supply chain processes.

 

June 27-29: Green Sports Alliance Summit; Sacramento, CA

The seventh Green Sports Alliance Summit will be held at Golden1 Center, the new, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings, recently named GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Arena of 2016.

The theme for Summit 2017 is Play Greener: Engaging Fans, Athletes & Communities. 

GSA is certainly on the right track here: The Green-Sports Movement needs more eco-athletes to speak out on behalf of positive environmental action and the climate change fight. Doing so will draw many more fans and communities to the cause.

To quickly maximize awareness of and interest in Green-Sports among fans, there is one constituency that needs to be added to the Play Greener lineup.

The Media.

There is a mutually beneficial, (Green-Sports) Movement-Media tango to be danced here.

The Movement needs the Media (sports, green, business and mass): Unless the many great Green-Sports stories told at the GSA and elsewhere are exposed to the broad audience of sports fans and thought leaders through the media megaphone, it will be difficult for the Movement to grow far beyond its current niche.

The Media needs the Movement: Actually, what the media really needs is eyeballs. And a fast-maturing Green-Sports Movement (climate change montage was featured at the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, LEED certified stadiums are expected, etc., etc.) has plenty of inspiring, forward looking content to attract lots of eyeballs.

 

 

Late June-Early July: Mercedes-Benz Stadium Opens, new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C.

The Atlanta Falcons, thanks to having the second best record in the NFC, are enjoying a week of rest before their playoff run to a potential Super Bowl LI berth begins.

Rest is not something Scott Jenkins is getting much of these days.

Jenkins is General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new LEED Platinum home of the Falcons and MLS expansion club Atlanta United F.C. that is set to open in late June or early July. It will be the first LEED Platinum stadium in the world (the aforementioned Golden1 Center in Sacramento is the first LEED platinum arena.) He also serves as Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance.

Scott Jenkins

Scott Jenkins, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the future home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, scheduled to open in 2017. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

 

Jenkins is implementing Falcons/Atlanta United F.C. owner Arthur Blank’s vision of top flight environmental performance in comprehensive fashion:

  • Light: The LED lighting system will use 60% less electricity than the metal halides at Georgia Dome, the Falcons current home. Abundant natural light will enter the concourses through energy efficient, floor-to-ceiling glass. The Oculus-style (think camera lens) retractable roof, the signature feature of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will, when open, also maximize natural light.

Open Roof Aerial 08.18.15 (1)

Artist’s rendering of the open “oculus” roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

 

  • On-site Renewables: Solar panels on top of the garage nearest the stadium will, among other things, power charging stations that provide juice for EVs parked below.
  • Green Space: The Georgia Dome will be demolished; in its place will be new, grassy open space for tailgating and non-game day community use.
  • Rainwater Collection: Rainwater will be collected and used for irrigation and cooling towers.
  • Food: Farm-to-table and organic offerings will be available throughout the building.
  • Mass Transit: The stadium will be served by 2 MARTA light rail stops.

 

September 13: 2024 Summer Olympics Host City Announced; Lima, Peru

Three cities remain in the bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics: Budapest, Los Angeles, and Paris. Paris, which hosted in 1900 and 1924 and lost out on bids in 1992, 2008 and 2012, is the betting favorite, with current odds from British online bookmaker NicerOdds.com standing at 1.6 to 1. Los Angeles, which hosted the 1932 and 1984 summer games, is 2.75 to 1. First time bidder is the long shot at 8 to 1.

With sustainability (environmental, social and financial) now deeply codified in the Olympic bid process through a series of reforms passed by the IOC known as Agenda 2020, all of the bids have green elements that would have been unimaginable 12-16 years ago:
  • The Budapest bid’s compactness stands out: Most of the events would take place within seven clusters within the city proper along the Danube. Access by boat, metro and bus will be augmented by Active Route Network (ARN), an innovative bike share program. Five of the seven clusters can be reached from the city center by bicycle in 20 minutes or less.
  • Sustainability is, arguably the Los Angeles bid’s centerpiece. Every event will be contested in an existing or temporary facility. From the Rose Bowl to the Staples Center, from the new Rams stadium to the Coliseum, the sports infrastructure is there. The Olympic Village will use existing housing.
  • The Paris 2024 committee sees the city’s status as a global sustainability leader as a major plus. After all, the 2015 global climate pact signed in The City of Lights by 195 countries is known as the Paris Agreement. And, as reported by GamesBids.com, since the signing of the agreement, Paris 2024 has launched several major green initiatives, including “700 charging stations for electric cars, the regeneration of 55,000 square meters of urban land in the [city centre] to be converted into green space, the pedestrianization of 3.3 km of the right bank of the River Seine, a promenade for walking, jogging and cycling, creating an environmental charter implemented at major events such as the EURO 2016 football championships.”

Tough choice.

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