Ken Belson and The New York Times #CoverGreenSports

About a month ago, GreenSportsBlog launched a new hashtag, #CoverGreenSports. Its goal is to encourage the mainstream media, from sports to green to news, to cover the sports greening movement. Last week, the US “paper of record,” The New York Times and lead NFL writer Ken Belsonstepped up to the #CoverGreenSports plate in a big way, with “Sports Stadiums Help Lead the Way Toward Greener Architecture”

 

The fourth week in May should be a quiet time for the lead NFL reporter at The New York TimesThe draft, which took place in April, is already old news and training camps don’t open until late July. You would think this time of year is when NFL writers should be on vacation.

But last week was a busy one for Ken Belson, proving that there is no such thing as a quiet period for the NFL.

 

Ken Belson NYT

Ken Belson of The New York Times (Photo credit: The New York Times)

 

In fact Belson, working at breakneck pace, had three stories in The Times over a 48 hour period:

  1. “The NFL and Nike Make Room for Fanatics,” detailed how the League expects revenue from merchandise sales to increase by 50 percent by 2030 through a new deal with Fanatics.
  2. In “NFL Anthem Policy Bound to Please Only the NFL,” Belson opined about the NFL’s controversial, just-announced national anthem policy. It was instituted in response to protests by some NFL players in 2016 and 2017, most notably ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the playing of the national anthem. They did so to draw attention to police brutality and other social injustice against African-Americans. But many NFL fans, including President Trump, feel that the kneeling players disrespect the flag. The new policy requires players to stand for the playing of the anthem or stay in the locker room during that time. There was no player input on this decision. Belson’s take: “It’s hard to envision the N.F.L. crafting a policy that satisfies everyone. But one that is likely to satisfy only the 32 owners hardly seems like an enlightened solution.”

But it was his third story that interested me most — and made me smile.

In Sports Stadiums Help Lead the Way Toward Greener Architecture,” Belson gave Times readers a terrific Green-Sports tutorial. 

He kicked off with Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the city’s NFL and MLS teams and the world’s first LEED Platinum certified stadium. Belson’s main insight is in sync with GreenSportsBlog’s overall ethos: “Green stadiums are shining a light on the complex and critical issue of climate change. Fans disinclined to care about the issue are exposed to things like highly efficient LED lighting or low-flush toilets, and can see that going green is not a hardship, but a choice.”

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the first to win LEED Platinum certification. (Photo credit: Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times)

 

Belson then took readers on a brief trip across the pond — “many of the innovations [in green stadiums-arenas] are being developed in Europe, where laws and regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions are stricter,” — before pivoting back to North America and the National Hockey League.

He lauded the NHL as a green leader among sports leagues for understanding the existential threat the sport faces from climate change and for taking steps to combat it: “The number of ponds that freeze over in winter has fallen dramatically in recent years, making the sport less accessible in countries like Canada, where many children first start playing the game outdoors. Going green is a way to address a long-term threat, not just save money.”

 

Lake Louise hockey

According to a study by McLeman and Robertson, published in The Canadian Geographer, the future of outdoor ice hockey on Lake Louise in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada is at risk due to the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

 

GreenSportsBlog readers are likely familiar with much of this. And the folks quoted in Belson’s piece likely ring a bell.

You probably recognize Scott Jenkins, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s general manager and the Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, as an “evangelist of all things green.” 

 

 

LEED Platinum Certification Event - from right - Rich McKay, Scott Jenkins, Arthur Blank

Scott Jenkins (c), General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, flanked by Rich McKay (l), President of the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur Blank, at the LEED Platinum announcement event (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

And you probably know of Allen Herskhowitz, ex-President of the Alliance and a founder of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), which promotes low-carbon strategies for sports teams, leagues and association. He told Belson, “Any single sporting event doesn’t really have a giant ecological footprint, whether it’s a football game or even a season for a team. But the cultural and social platform of sports is almost unparalleled in terms of its ability to reach people.”

Yes, you may recognize Scott and Allen and the many other Green-Sports luminaries who have been featured in our posts these past five years, but the thing is, most humans have no idea who they are and are unaware of the important work they are doing. 

So it is very important that The (NOT failing) New York Times, with its massive reach and prestige, has decided to #CoverGreenSports with Belson’s piece.

Does this foreshadow a trend? 

It should, especially since the millennial and GenZ readers that The Times — and for that matter, almost all media outlets — is desperate to engage, care more deeply about the environment, sustainability and climate change than do their predecessor generational cohorts. 

But it is, methinks, too early to tell. 

One potential brake on an increase in Green-Sports coverage from mainstream media outlets is that the topic crosses many areas — sports, green/environment, business, and politics, to name a few.  That means that no one department claims natural ownership of Green-Sports and so no editor will assign a beat writer to cover it. What is more likely is that the hodgepodge we see now — a rare story by a sports reporter here and another one-off story from a business reporter there — will continue.

Until, that is, a department editor — I don’t care which department — says strongly “Green-Sports is MINE!”

With that in mind, we invite any visionary Green-Sports-minded editors to go through GreenSportsBlog’s archives to find a few hundred compelling story ideas to bring to their readers.

You will be glad you did!


 

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GSB News and Notes: 49ers Take Part in UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action; Compostable Peanut Bags at KC’s Arrowhead Stadium; Sacramento Kings Put Spotlight on Sustainability for Fans

We are pleased to bring you a GSB News & Notes column full of firsts: The San Francisco 49ers represented the NFL in the first UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action. The first compostable peanut bags anywhere in the world are sold at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. And, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings host the first sustainability-themed fan engagement program at Golden 1 Center, their LEED Platinum certified arena (also a first!) 

 

49ERS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE AT UN DIALOGUE ON SPORT AND CLIMATE ACTION IN GERMANY

The San Francisco 49ers, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, represented the NFL when leaders of global sports organizations and sustainability experts convened October 30-31 in Bonn, Germany at the inaugural UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action. Its primary goal was to develop collaborative approaches by which stakeholders at the intersection of Sport & Climate Change can contribute to achieving the long-term goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The gathering was a preliminary of sorts to the main event in Bonn: The 23rd session of the global UN Conference of the Parties, or COP 23. That larger summit was held to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement, the multi-national accord which aims to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to build greater resilience to climate change.

You might have heard this is also the very agreement the United States, on the direction of President Trump, is planning to exit as of 2019. With Nicaragua and Syria having decided to join the Paris Agreement, that will leave the U.S. as the only country not to be part of the pact. Now, I’ve certainly heard of “American Exceptionalism” but this is ridiculous — along with wrongheaded and dangerous.

But, I digress.

Back to the 49ers.

The team earned its seat at the Sport and Climate Action table, thanks in large part to its LEED Gold certified Levi’s® Stadium, which opened in 2015. The Santa Clara-based stadium, which played host to Super Bowl 50 — generally regarded as the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever”^ — in 2016, is a leader among green-sports venues, as it features on-site solar, green roof, recycled water usage, composting and much more.

 

Levi's Stadium HNTB

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, LEED Gold certified home of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo credit: HNTB)

 

“Meeting with sports venues and organizations from around the world…really demonstrated that our Levi’s Stadium team is really well positioned to help lead the movement towards a more sustainable future for our industry,” said Pat Rogan, Levi’s Stadium Director of Engineering Operations, who represented the 49ers in Bonn. “The conference showed us there are many organizations as committed as we are to being environmentally responsible neighbors and that if we all work together, we can be meaningful resources for the rest of the sports industry.”

The UN Dialogue on Sports and Climate Action featured two full days of workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches focused on leveraging sport and its ability to influence fan behavior in areas like energy consumption, water conservation, and more. Group working sessions included assessments of the sports industry’s impact on climate change, the risks to sport from climate change and related potential governmental policy decisions, and the expectations of the sports industry to be climate change advocates. The groups also discussed what the sports industry can do to promote broader climate action.

Joining the 49ers and the Eagles at the UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action were a who’s who of world sport and green-sports, including:

“Rapidly halting greenhouse gas emissions and achieving a carbon-neutral economy in the next few decades requires a fundamental change from all sectors of the business world, including sports,” said Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sport Alliance, who also attended the conference. “And few sectors cross cultural boundaries in the way that sports does.”

Back in Santa Clara, the 49ers are committing to take the necessary steps that will enable them to sign and live up to the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Pledge:

  1. Measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions for an agreed-upon period of time
  2. Reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible
  3. Offset remaining emissions with UN Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)

Per a statement from the team, these commitments and acts of leadership “are designed to help inspire the growing movement of governments, companies, and individuals [to take] proactive actions to mitigate the impact of climate change, a movement that the 49ers are determined to help lead.”

 

COMPOSTABLE PEANUT BAGS AT KANSAS CITY’S ARROWHEAD STADIUM

Most of the 74,929 fans left Arrowhead Stadium in a funk on Sunday after the hometown Kansas City Chiefs’ 26-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, their fifth defeat in the last six games. Those fans were likely unaware of perhaps the best thing to happen at the game — the introduction of compostable bags of peanuts, which concessionaire Aramark says is a first for sports. The Chiefs and Aramark made the compostable bags a reality by teaming up with bag maker/Green-Sports leader BASF and Hampton Farms, which is among the country’s top peanut suppliers.

 

Compostable Peanuts Aramark

Compostable peanut bags, made of a material developed by BASF, were introduced by the Kansas City Chiefs and its concessionaire, Aramark, at Sunday’s game vs. the Buffalo Bills (Photo credit: Waste360)

 

Aramark, which sells 15,000 bags of peanuts every season at Arrowhead, said Chiefs officials approached them to find ways to comply with the team’s Extra Yard for the Environment waste reduction and diversion-from-landfill initiative.

As part of the 18-month developmental process, BASF worked with Missouri Organic Recycling in Kansas City to test packaging prototypes and ensure the final product met composting guidelines for quality and safety. The product is the first commercially available peanut bag to be made from BASF’s certified compostable ecovio biopolymer and Epotal adhesive.

The Chiefs are selling the peanuts for $5.75 per bag, the same price as the old bags made of non-compostable materials. Fans at Arrowhead can dispose of empty bags at compost bins or leave them under their seats for postgame pickup and sorting.

Paul Kearns, BASF’s business development manager, said, “We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate to snack producers and users of flexible packaging that compostable is a viable waste reduction strategy.”

“Over the past few years we have put an increased focus on our sustainability program, Extra Yard for the Environment, and have worked to find new, innovative ways to reduce our organization’s carbon footprint,” added Brandon Hamilton, Chiefs vice president of stadium operations. “We have received tremendous support from our partners, such as Aramark, and have been fortunate to work with…organizations like BASF and Hampton Farms, who are dedicated to helping us meet our goals.”

Philadelphia-based Aramark’s main objective, pending additional testing at other NFL stadia, is to expand the compostable bag concept to include all peanuts sold for all of their food clients.

 

SACRAMENTO KINGS “SPOTLIGHT” SUSTAINABILITY AT RECENT HOME GAME

On November 20, the Sacramento Kings Foundation hosted the first Spotlight Night of the 2017-18 season at Golden 1 Center, supporting regional non-profits using NBA basketball as an agent of change in the community. While the Denver Nuggets walked away with a 114-98 victory, it was Yolo Farm to Fork — a nonprofit whose work educating students on the importance of locally grown fresh food and reducing waste through school gardens — who won the night and earned its place in the “Spotlight.”

 

Spotlight Night Kings

 

“Sustainability is one of our core values, and we’re passionate about how we can continue to reduce our impact on the planet,” said Kings President of Business Operations John Rinehart. “Through our Spotlight Nights, we’re able to support the work of incredible non-profits by sharing our stage with over 17,000 fans to raise awareness.”

During Spotlight Nights, a Sacramento-area nonprofit will “take over” the arena and engage Kings fans through in-arena programming, social media, concourse activations, and more. The Spotlight on Sustainability Night was the first in this season’s three-part series with future game nights focusing on health and education.

Yolo Farm to Fork took over the arena, sharing their message at an informational table and with special farm boxes in the suites and lofts in the arena. They educated fans on best practices for growing in-season produce, composting techniques and incorporating farm-fresh food into school lunches – thus helping Sacramento area residents reduce their environmental impact.

The Kings made sure fans were engaged and entertained, with a “Veggie Race,” videos featuring farm-to-fork trivia, as well as sharing some of the team’s innovative practices that helped Golden 1 Center become the world’s first LEED platinum arena while earning GreenSportsBlog’s “Greenest New Stadium/Arena” award for 2016.

 

 

 


 

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Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Earns LEED Platinum Certification, First for Pro Stadium

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the brand-spanking-new home of the NFL’s Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United has drawn praise for several firsts in stadium design since its opening this summer. The oculus-shaped roof and the scoreboard that wraps around the perimeter of the interior of the stadium roof are but two examples. A third and, to GreenSportsBlog, most important first, came to light last week when it was announced Mercedes-Benz Stadium had earned LEED Platinum certification, the first pro stadium^ to do so.

 

88.

While we are living in the “Moneyball” era of sports, dominated by complex, advanced statistics, that simple number may be the most significant metric of the year.

You see, 88 represents the most LEED points earned to date by any sports facility in the world. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium amassed that haul to become the first pro stadium to attain LEED Platinum level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. For those keeping score at home, 80 points is the minimum threshold for LEED Platinum.

 

Mercedes Benz

Aerial view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Getting to 88 points didn’t just happen. It took an anything-is-possible vision and a consistent commitment to sustainability — from both environmental and community development points of view — from Arthur Blank, Owner and Chairman of the two teams.

“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” noted Blank. “[Our] goal was to achieve the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment and with this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry and to our fans that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size and scale.”

 

Arthur Blank LEED Platinum Certification Event

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, speaking at the LEED Platinum announcement event for Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Blank’s innovative vision was executed by Scott Jenkins, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, along with a team that included leading sports architecture firm HOK. “One of the reasons we were able to get to 88 points was that we aggressively pursued innovation credits, one of the newer elements of LEED,” offered Jenkins. “Arthur pushed the team to innovate in water, lighting, energy conservation, as well as in community development and social equity programming.” Here are some examples:

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium earned every available LEED water credit by:
    • Using 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to water-efficient fixtures and conservation infrastructure
    • Building a 1.1 million gallon, underground water vault, providing the area with much-needed flood management
    • Storing another 680,000 gallons of water for use in irrigation and the stadium’s cooling tower
    • Restoring water to the nearby Flint River#
    • Partnering with community organizations like Trees Atlanta to share captured rainwater for tree irrigation
  • The stadium’s 4,000 solar panels power the equivalent of nearly ten Falcons games or 13 Atlanta United matches with clean, renewable energy. An important feature of the installation, said Jenkins, is that “most of the panels are visible to fans, as parking lot canopies and atop an underground garage.”
  • LED lighting throughout the building will reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent
  • Three nearby MARTA light rail stations have resulted in 25-30 percent of fans taking mass transit to attend Falcons and Atlanta United games
  • Copious alternative transportation options, including a bike valet program, EV charging stations with capacity to charge up to 48 electric cars simultaneously and new pedestrian-friendly walking paths, provide more connectivity between communities

 

Bike Valet ATLUTDvsOC 091617_0043

Fans dropping off their bikes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s free bike valet at September’s Atlanta United-Orlando City match (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

 

M-B EV Charging

EV charging station adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

  • Partnerships with local organizations are training residents in the stadium’s Westside neighborhood in nursing, construction, culinary arts, IT and automotive with the goal of placing them in living wage jobs in the industry

 

The remains of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ prior home which was imploded Monday, will be handled in an environmentally sound fashion: 98 percent of its materials will be reused and thus will not end up in a landfill. One might expect a parking lot to take its place. But that was not what Blank had in mind. Instead, after the Dome’s concrete fills the hole the implosion created; after the metal and steel is salvaged, the Home Depot Backyard will open on that site next August. It will boast 13 acres of new greenspace and parkland for arts and cultural events, entertainment and community building on non-event days. Tailgaters will rule the roost on game days.

Blank’s sustainable vision extends beyond the stadium and environs. “It certainly was not lost on Arthur that, while Mercedes-Benz Stadium is situated in very close proximity to Spelman College, Martin Luther King’s childhood home and other sites of significance to the civil rights movement, it is also close to two very poor communities” shared Jenkins. “That’s a big reason why he made a significant investment in the Westside, going beyond even what was necessary to earn Platinum certification to make the stadium a focal point for new employment and community development opportunities.”

 

LEED Platinum Certification Event - from right - Rich McKay, Scott Jenkins, Arthur Blank

Scott Jenkins (c), General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, flanked by Rich McKay (l), President of the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur Blank, at the LEED Platinum announcement event (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

It must be noted that, while Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s 88 is the best LEED score ever, it’s not perfect.” Hey, I am a stickler!

So how can Blank and Co. improve on things? According to Jenkins, “we’re looking at reducing plastic usage — straws, for example — as well as increasing our vegetarian, vegan and healthy food offerings.”

These are worthy goals, indeed, and are examples of how Mercedes-Benz Stadium is taking the notion of sustainable sports venues to an entirely new level.

^ Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center is the first LEED Platinum-certified arena and the University of North Texas’ Apogee Stadium is the first collegiate stadium to earn that designation
# The Flint River is not to be confused with the city of Flint, MI, which, of course, which is living through its own serious water issue.

 


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Mercedes-Benz Stadium Goes for LEED Platinum Designation; Watch Video to See How

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the soon-to-open downtown home of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer expansion club Atlanta United FC, is raising the bar for green stadium construction and operations as it expects to attain LEED Platinum certification. That would be a first for both the NFL and MLS buildings. A new video provides an eye-popping look inside the state-of-the-green-art building as it nears completion. 

 

This message is for Atlanta Falcons fans:

You are, I am sure, still gutted three weeks or so after watching your team blow the biggest lead in Super Bowl history. This will sting for a long time; there’s no way around it. Hey, I’m a long suffering Jets fan; I know about pain.

But time—and meditation—will slowly heal the wounds. In fact, as a public service, we are providing Falcons supporters, free of charge, with two (long-ish) mantras that, if repeated twice daily, should help hasten the healing process:

  1. The Falcons are good, young and should contend for the Super Bowl next season and beyond. The team has the reigning NFL MVP, QB Matt Ryan, and, arguably, the best wide receiver in the game, Julio Jones, both still in their primes. A young, powerful, two-headed running game, working behind a solid young offensive line, is in place. A fast and—you guessed it—young defense does need some tweaks. But this is a contending team that bloody well better have a serious chip on its shoulder heading into 2017.
  2. The Falcons, along with Major League Soccer expansion club Atlanta United F.C., are moving into the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on track to become the first LEED Platinum stadium in the NFL and MLS. What an embarrassment of riches—a Super Bowl contender and a brand new soccer team that sold over 27,000 seasons tickets (a record for MLS), all playing in one of the greenest sports venues in the world.

Namaste.

Feel better?

You should.

I’ll leave the on-field Falcons (therapeutic) analysis to the gridiron experts and will instead take a deeper look at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, slated to open July 30, when Atlanta United F.C.^ takes on Orlando City F.C.

m-b-stadium

Artist’s rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Credit: Atlanta United F.C.)

 

When we interviewed Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager and Green Sports Alliance Chairman of the Board Scott Jenkins in November, 2015, the building’s breakthrough greenness was only beginning to come into focus. Now, with only five months till Opening Day, that focus is sharp and the sustainability picture is impressive. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will:

  • Feature water fixtures that use 47 percent less water than baseline standards.
  • Save 29% in energy usage vs. a typical stadium design.
  • Collect rain water in a 1,100,000 gallon storm vault and a 680,000 gallon cistern for cooling tower water and landscape irrigation. This will also keep storm water away from the adjacent residential neighborhoods.
  • Contain 4,000 PV solar panels. The 1.3 megawatts generated by the panels will be enough to power 9 Falcons home games or 13 United home matches.
  • Incorporate edible landscaping (apples and blueberries) into the site.

To get a better sense of what Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank, Jenkins and the rest of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium team will deliver, please watch the short video below.

 

Again, I ask Falcons fans: Feel better? I tell you what: I feel better, and my team’s starting quarterback isn’t even on the roster.

 


Here’s one more thing to feel good about, Falcons fan or not.

The same best-in-green-class ethos that characterizes the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is also being brought to bear on the demolition of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons home the past 25 years*.

georgia-dome

The Georgia Dome (Photo credit: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

 

Beginning towards the end of this year, the project will result in 97 percent—or 176,000+ tons—of Georgia Dome materials (concrete, steel, and non-ferrous materials, including Copper, Brass, Aluminum and more) being recycled, reused and otherwise salvaged.

 

^Atlanta United F.C. will play the early portion of its inaugural campaign at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium
* Here’s a question for a separate story to which I don’t now have an answer: How sustainable is it to tear down a stadium after only 25 years?

 

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