NBA Signs On To UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework; Who’s Got Next?

The UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Framework has gotten some serious traction from the US sports world recently. Last month, the New York Yankees became the first pro sports team to sign on to the framework. And yesterday, the NBA became the first pro league to make the commitment.

 

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced yesterday that the NBA had become the first pro sports league in the US to sign on to its Sports for Climate Action initiative.

 

NBA UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s tweet announcing that the NBA signed on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework

Launched in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

The Framework welcomes the NBA to its impressive list of A-List early adapters, including FIFA, the IOC, Fédération Française de Tennis, FFT, and the New York Yankees. Signatories commit to support Sport for Climate Action’s five core principles:

 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  2. Reduce overall climate impact
  3. Educate for climate action
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

With its massive global fan base and its particular popularity among millennials and Gen-Z’ers, the NBA is a terrific get for the Framework. According to the league:

  • The NBA has 150 million followers on social media
  • One billion people around the world have access to the NBA Finals
  • It is the most popular sports league in China, where over 300 million people play basketball
  • The NBA, in collaboration with FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, will launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 12 countries¹ in January

Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework is certainly the biggest green step taken by the league to date. Its sustainability foundation has largely been built by forward-leaning teams and a smattering of eco-athletes:

  • The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center became the world’s first arena to earn LEED Platinum certification.

 

Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings (Photo credit: Sacramento Kings)

 

  • Portland’s Trail Blazers have hosted five “Green Games” per season at the Moda Center since 2015. The club invites its fans to take an active part in its efforts to be more environmentally conscious and to help reach a set of green goals (around energy, waste, food, water, and transportation) at the arena by 2025.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals-bound Milwaukee Bucks, along with four other NBA players, launched Hoops₂O to teach East Africans to dig wells for fresh water.

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to the NBA for joining the Sports for Climate Action Framework. Given the NBA’s brand image — cool, progressive, cutting edge — GSB will explore in the coming months if this commitment will be the beginning of a full-throated approach to the climate change fight from commissioner Adam Silver, its teams, sponsors and more of its players. I may sound like a broken record but, per the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity has 12 years to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.

 

 

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA (Photo credit: NBA)

 

Beyond basketball, in the parlance of playground hoops, the question becomes “Who’s Got Next?” — as in which leagues and events will join the NBA in signing on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework. I am surprised the NHL, the only league to issue a sustainability report — it has done so twice — has not joined the Framework. Hopefully that will change soon. The US Tennis Association, which has a very strong greening track record, seems like a logical signee sometime before the US Open starts in August.

You may ask, “What about the NFL, MLB, and MLS?”

Great question. Whaddya say, commissioners Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB), and Don Garber (MLS)? 

 

¹ Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be represented in BAL

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Kunal Merchant of Lotus Advisory, Bringing Green-Sports to Sacramento, Oakland and Beyond

Kunal Merchant occupies a fascinating perch in the Green-Sports world. A member of the Green Sports Alliance board, the Bay Area-based Merchant has a background in business, politics, and social enterprise. And as co-founder of Lotus Advisory with his sister Monisha, Merchant has guided the sustainability efforts on state-of-the-art green stadium and arena projects, from Sacramento’s Golden1 Center — the first LEED Platinum indoor arena in the world — to the nascent Oakland A’s ballpark project.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Merchant about his work on Green-Sports projects, with the Alliance, and where he sees the movement heading.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Kunal, I can’t wait to dig into your story which takes place at the intersection of sports, politics, and sustainability. Nothing juicy there…

Kunal Merchant: It has been a fascinating ride to this point, Lew. I came to the sports world from the political side, working as Chief of Staff for then Sacramento Mayor and ex-NBA All Star Kevin Johnson. I served in that role during his first term, between December 2008 and June 2012, which was a dramatic time. The Mayor took office right as the national economy was entering the Great Recession. Sacramento was particularly hard hit by double-digit unemployment and a foreclosure crisis. Morale was low, and right when the town thought it couldn’t get any worse, we found out that our beloved Sacramento Kings – the one and only pro sports team in town – wanted to leave town.

The team had been struggling both on and off the court for years, including several failed attempts to build a new arena to replace what had by then become the oldest and smallest arena in the NBA. The Kings’ ownership felt that their best shot was to start over in a new city, with Seattle being the most likely destination. It was a punch to the gut for Sacramento, and in the Mayor’s office, we knew that how Sacramento responded to this challenge would have implications far beyond sports for the city’s economic and civic identity.

GSB: So how did you go about dealing with the significant headwinds?

Kunal: That’s a topic for a much longer conversation! But, oversimplified, there were three key checkboxes on our “to-do list” to save the team: (1) prove that Sacramento was a viable NBA market; (2) recruit a new ownership group willing to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento; and (3) develop a plan to build and finance a new arena. The arena was arguably the most critical – and difficult item – particularly since, for a market the size of Sacramento, some form of public investment was going to be needed.

Taxpayers were understandably skeptical about putting public money towards a basketball arena. But after studying similar situations around the country, we in the Mayor’s Office concluded that, under the right terms and structure, we could deliver a public-private partnership for a new arena that would be a win for the Kings and for Sacramento. To get there, we needed to generate transformative economic and community benefits, something that was only possible if we used the arena to anchor the broader revitalization of our blighted and long-underperforming downtown core.

In that respect, Sacramento really reminded me of the Denver of my childhood in the 1980s. At that time, Denver was perceived as a classic “flyover city” by people on the coasts. But over several years, the community and city leaders pushed through smart and strategic investments that led to a positive change in the city’s economic and cultural trajectory. Things really took off in the 1990s, in part due to the energy generated by Coors Field, the downtown ballpark built to be the home of our new Major League Baseball team, the Colorado Rockies.

 

Kumal Merchant Headshot

Kunal Merchant, co-founder of Lotus Advisory (Photo credit: Lotus Advisory)

 

GSB: I remember visiting Denver during the late 1990s and saw how Coors Field had seemingly changed a whole neighborhood. Was the ballpark built by the team, the city or some combination? The reason I ask is that there are many studies showing that public investments in sports venues are not efficient uses of the public’s money. Where do you come down on that question?

Kunal: Great question. Like a stodgy and aging arena, I think the rhetoric around public financing for sports venues is in serious need of an upgrade. There’s way too much dogma on a topic filled with nuance.

In the case of Coors Field, the project was a public-private partnership, where taxpayers made a significant investment. As a local resident who saw that area before and after Coors Field, I would argue that the taxpayers’ investment paid off handsomely in catalyzing a true economic and cultural renaissance that continues to this day.

But the success of Coors Field doesn’t vindicate all forms of public financing. The reality is that every situation is different, and plenty of sports facilities – too many I would argue – receive public funding in amounts and terms that are truly terrible deals for the public. When we were developing the Kings arena deal, we studied up on the good, bad and ugly of prior public subsidy deals. And we were determined that any arena deal we cut with the Kings would protect taxpayers and generate strong economic and community benefits.

That process in Sacramento began by fighting to locate the new arena downtown, and resist temptations by some in town to “play small” and simply refurbish or rebuild at the old arena’s suburban location.

GSB: The old Arco Arena is north of the city, kind of by itself off of I-5.

Kunal: Yes. At the time it was built in the mid-1980s, that building size and location made sense. But by the 2010s, we had different civic imperatives around sustainability and urban planning. Beyond the economic appeal of a downtown location – analysts forecasted $150 million in new annual economic activity each year – we wanted the arena project to reflect the values of a community that cared deeply about the environment. So we set – and ultimately met – incredibly ambitious goals for green design, air quality, water efficiency, energy efficiency, transit, food, waste diversion, and so on.

GSB: What was your role in the project?

Kunal: My role evolved over the course of the project. At the start, I was the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, representing the Mayor and City in almost every facet of our work with the NBA, Kings, City and community to save the team and develop the arena plan. When the NBA voted to keep the team in Sacramento in May 2013, and approve the sale of the Kings to a new ownership group, I moved over to the team side as an executive focused on making sure we followed through on our promises to the community on the arena.

That meant finalizing the public process to approve the deal, negotiating key labor and community benefit agreements, and continuing to engage the community in this truly once-in-a-generation project. It also meant championing what became the most ambitious sustainability agenda of an NBA arena to that date, anchored around achieving status as the first-ever LEED Platinum indoor sports arena.

GSB: That’s quite a transition. How did working for a sports team differ from working in municipal government?

Kunal: Well, it’s safe to say that spending a Tuesday night at an NBA game is a bit more fun than at a City Council meeting! And I used to joke with friends – only half-kidding – that I could get more done chatting with various folks at a Kings game than I could ever do in one month at City Hall. There were obvious advantages to working in a private sector context in terms of speed, agility, and efficiency. But this deal was a true public-private partnership where both bodies were integral. What’s most powerful to me is that my spirit and purpose on this project never changed regardless of what my business card said; from beginning to end, this endeavor was always about doing something really big and historic and transformative for the people of Sacramento. And both the City and Kings wholly embraced that mindset.

GSB: What did you do after the arena took shape?

Kunal: As Opening Day for the Golden 1 Center got closer, I started getting calls from other folks in sports who were impressed by what we’d done in Sacramento and wanted to see if I could help out elsewhere. To his credit, then-Team President Chris Granger was extremely supportive, and I was able to transition from being a full-time employee to a consultant able to take on other work. As part of that transition, I launched Lotus Advisory with my sister Monisha as a strategy and management consulting firm focused on driving positive change at the intersection of business, government and community. Because of my background, I ended up specializing quickly on sports-related projects, while my MIT-educated sister took on high tech clients like Airbnb. In the years since, we’ve been lucky to work with an amazing range of clients in a variety of industries and sectors.

 

Kumal Merchant at Golden 1 Center

Kunal Merchant touring construction of the Golden 1 Center and the Downtown Commons in 2015 during his time as a Sacramento Kings executive. The $1.5 billion dollar project includes a LEED Platinum NBA arena, hotel, and retail and entertainment district that has been the primary catalyst behind the new economic and cultural renaissance unfolding in Sacramento’s long-struggling downtown core (Photo credit: Lotus Advisory)

 

GSB: What are some the sports projects on which Lotus Advisory has worked?

In recent years, we’ve done a lot of work in soccer and baseball. I was the Chief Strategist for Nashville’s successful 2017 bid to join Major League Soccer, where we went from being on no one’s radar as a viable soccer city to finishing first in a twelve city race for the next expansion slot. A huge part of our success was powered by the people of Nashville – whose pride in their city is as strong as I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Similarly, I helped lead and advise Sacramento’s bid to join MLS for several years, particularly in shepherding their downtown stadium development plan through the planning, predevelopment and approval processes. The heart and soul of that bid are the supporters of Sacramento Republic, the United Soccer League (USL) Championship¹ club that took the city by storm when it launched in 2014 and has woven itself deeply into the cultural fabric of Sacramento with remarkable speed.

Currently, I’m working closely with the Oakland Athletics on their plans to revitalize the Oakland waterfront with a new privately-financed ballpark district near the Jack London Square area. It’s a really gorgeous project with a strong spirit of sustainability and environmental justice.

GSB: Very cool! What’s the status of Sacramento’s MLS bid? I know they’re looking to get to 28 teams by 2021 or 2022. Cincinnati United began play this month as the league’s 24th club, with Miami and Nashville set to join next year and Austin in ’21. So that means there’s one more slot left in the near term.

Kunal: Sacramento is one of two cities considered to be favorites for the 28th slot. I know that I’m biased, but I don’t think the competition is remotely close. Sacramento’s MLS bid stands alone as arguably the most resilient, mature, and comprehensive MLS bid in league history. Since embarking on the MLS journey in 2014, Republic FC has checked all the boxes time and again: a die-hard fan base, committed corporate support, a fully-approved and transformational downtown stadium plan; and a credible and committed ownership led by a formidable combination of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle and several local business leaders. MLS will be lucky to have Sacramento join its ranks and I’m cautiously optimistic that it will happen soon.

GSB: Good luck! When will the new stadium be ready and what are some of its green features? 

Kunal: Obviously the MLS stadium is contingent on entry into the league, but the stadium could likely be ready by either the 2021 or 2022 MLS season. As impactful as the Golden 1 Center is for Sacramento, the MLS stadium for Republic FC will be a game-changer in its own right.

The stadium will be built few blocks away from the Kings arena at a huge 240 acre site called the Sacramento Railyards that, when fully built out, will double the size of downtown Sacramento. The MLS stadium represents one of the first and largest major private investments in the Railyards in several decades, and will catalyze a historic wave of economic and community development. In terms of green features, the stadium will be another model of transit-oriented development, located a block from light rail, and a short distance by foot, bike, scooter, or rideshare from the rest of downtown. Republic FC has a terrific culture around local food and beer, so I’d expect some innovative sourcing strategies there as well.

 

Sacramento Republic MLS Stadium

Artist rendering of proposed Major League Soccer stadium in downtown Sacramento. The project will anchor an estimated $5B economic revitalization effort at Sacramento’s historic Railyards district (Credit: Sacramento Republic FC)

 

GSB: Turning to another long-running new stadium project, let’s talk about the Oakland A’s.

Kunal: The A’s have a truly visionary plan to revitalize the waterfront near Jack London Square through a new Major League Baseball ballpark. The project will be LEED Gold Certified and reflect a “ballpark within a park” theme, with an intimate 34,000 seat stadium nestled carefully into its urban surroundings. The ballpark is privately-financed and will anchor a new, vibrant waterfront district that will feature a mix of housing, including affordable housing, offices, restaurants, retail, small business space, parks and public gathering spaces. And the team is also showing tremendous leadership by leveraging the ballpark project to address longstanding environmental justice reform issues around air, soil and water quality faced by West Oakland residents for years.

 

Oakland Ballpark

Preliminary artist rendering for the proposed Oakland A’s ballpark near Jack London Square in Oakland. The project will be LEED Gold and reflect the A’s strong commitment to sustainable development and environmental justice (Credit: Oaklandballpark.com)

 

GSB: Add the A’s new ballpark to my sports bucket list. OK, before we go, let’s talk a bit about your work as a board member of the Green Sports Alliance. How did that come about?

Kunal: I’ve known and been a fan of the Green Sports Alliance since its earliest days, when Alliance leaders reached out to invite Mayor Johnson to the inaugural summit in Portland. The Alliance was hugely helpful in guiding my thinking on the Golden 1 Center, and I worked with the Alliance to help bring the Summit to Sacramento during the Golden1 Center’s inaugural season in 2017. I’ve continued to work closely with the Alliance since then, and at some point it just made sense to take on a more formal role. So, I joined the board last fall with a pretty important first project: co-leading the search for a new Executive Director. It was a fascinating process that yielded a terrific hire: Roger McClendon.

GSB: McClendon comes to the Alliance’s executive director role at a key inflection point in the Green-Sports movement. I like to say Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of the games — is now almost if not quite a given. It was a necessary and obvious first step. But Green-Sports 2.0 — engaging fans, players and more to take positive environmental action, specifically on climate change — which is where I think is starting now, is a more complicated, heavier lift. What do you think?

Kunal: I totally agree. There are fundamental questions facing the green sports movement and the broader environmentalist community at the moment. The science around climate change grows more dire by the day, with the recent IPCC report advising that humanity has really just a handful of years left to aggressively decarbonize or face catastrophic consequences. So the cost of inaction is escalating. With that as backdrop, the Alliance is asking ourselves: what are we going to do? Our ethos has been to meet people where they are. Which means that if a league, an event, a team is aggressive on climate, we’ll support them. If they’re going slowly…

GSB: …Or not even talking climate at all?

Kunal: …we’re not going to push them too far beyond their comfort zone.

GSB: But doesn’t that imply that it’s ok for sports not to go fast enough? That seems risky at best.

Kunal: Well, it’s tricky. But here is a reason to be optimistic: things are impossible until they’re not. Looking at history, there are many social movements that looked bleak for years, or even decades, right until a period of rapid change that completely upended the status quo. I’m heartened by the younger generations — Millennials and Gen Zers — who will increasingly hold all institutions, including sports teams, accountable for the issue of climate change. The Alliance needs to be ready, and I think we’re taking important steps in that direction. If there’s one thing that I’ve come to appreciate deeply in my career, it’s that, with vision and leadership, sports can be an extraordinary platform for positive change. And on issues of climate, we can’t afford for sports teams, leagues, or fans to sit on the sidelines anymore.

GSB: With some well-timed and positive pushing from organizations like the Alliance, I’ll say. To be continued, Kunal!

 

¹ The USL Championship is the second-tier of North American professional soccer, one level below MLS.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Oracle Park Goes LEED Platinum; Climate Change Forces Move of Speed Skating Race; Nike to Go 100% Renewable Energy via Partnership with Iberdrola

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training this week, it’s fitting that we lead off our GSB News & Notes column with a baseball story: Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), the home of the San Francisco Giants, just became the first LEED Platinum venue in MLB.

Elsewhere, an iconic Dutch speed skating race is moved to Austria because of the effects of climate change. And Nike continues to push on the sustainability front, pledging to generate all of its energy for its European operations from renewable sources

 

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS BALLPARK BECOMES FIRST MLB VENUE TO EARN LEED PLATINUM CERTIFICATION

Oracle Park, formerly AT&T Park and home of the San Francisco Giants since 2000, is one of the best places to watch baseball in the major leagues¹. With McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay beyond the right field bleachers and the Oakland Bay Bridge off in the distance, the vistas and atmosphere are sublime. Oh yeah, and the Gilroy Garlic Fries are simply beyond.

 

Gilroy Garlic Fries

Oracle Park’s famous and delicious Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

Less obvious to the senses — aside from the solar panels outside the right field wall — are the ballpark’s many green features. Hopefully that will begin to change as Oracle Park recently became the first venue in the big leagues to receive LEED Platinum Certification, the highest possible designation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It had earned LEED Gold status in 2015.

 

 

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels outside Oracle Park’s right field stands, overlooking McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Moving up from LEED Gold to Platinum for existing buildings is not easy. The structure must be best-in-class in every category imaginable, including water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Able Services (building maintenance) and Goby (data analytics) were key players in helping Oracle Park make the grade. Greening initiatives included:

  • Demonstrating a more than 75 percent reduction in conventional commuting trips for employees;
  • Offsetting 50 percent of its energy use through renewable energy credits;
  • Diverting more than 94 percent of waste from landfill through an aggressive recycling and composting program;
  • Instituting water-efficient landscaping – resulting in a more than 50 percent reduction in water usage from improved irrigation technology systems;
  • Installing LED Field Lights for over 55 percent energy reduction in field lighting.

“For years, the San Francisco Giants have been steadfast in their pursuit of a sustainable environment at Oracle Park,” said Paul Hanlon, Major League Baseball’s Senior Director of Ballpark Operations and Sustainability. “Through their extensive recycling and environmental efforts, which includes consistently recording waste diversion numbers of 94 percent and greater since 2012, the Giants have achieved the impressive feat of having Oracle Park receive the first LEED Platinum Certification among MLB ballparks, and thus continuing to be a leader throughout all of sports. We commend their efforts, and look forward to their continued growth.”

“We have been committed since opening this park 19 years ago to making it the most sustainable and greenest ballpark in the country,” added Jorge Costa, Giants’ Senior Vice President of Operations and Facilities for Oracle Park. “From the time we opened our gates, we have been working to achieve LEED silver, gold and now platinum certification. We will continue to refine and reevaluate our sustainability and efficiency practices to remain an environmental leader in the operation of Oracle Park,”

 

CLIMATE CHANGE FORCES MARATHON SPEEDSKATING EVENT TO MOVE FROM NETHERLANDS TO AUSTRIA

After soccer, speedskating is arguably the most popular sport in the Netherlands. And the tradition of speedskating outdoors on natural ice can be considered the Dutch equivalent of apple pie in the U.S.

So what to do when climate change results in winters so warm that the Dutch waterways don’t freeze consistently enough to make speedskating possible?

According to “Racing the Clock, and Climate Change,” a piece by Andrew Keh in the February 7 issue of The New York Times, the Dutch have adjusted to the new reality by moving the Elfstedentocht, one of Netherlands’ most iconic speedskating events — to Austria of all places.

Per Keh, the Elfstedentocht, is “a one-day, long-distance speedskating tour through 11 cities of the Friesland province. [It] has been held casually since the late 1700s and more officially since 1909…Covering a continuous route of about 200 kilometers — about 124 miles — the Elfstedentocht takes place only when the lakes and canals of Friesland develop 15 centimeters (almost six inches) or more of ice…That was once a relatively common phenomenon; lately, it has been exceedingly rare. From its [modern] inception in 1909 to 1963, the Elfstedentocht was held 12 times. Since then, there have been three, most recently in 1997.”

 

Elfstendocht

The last Elfstedentocht, the one-day distance race through 11 Dutch cities, was held in 1997. (Photo Credit: Dimitri Georganas/Associated Press)

 

Some wonder if it will ever be held there again. “The chances of an 11 Cities Tour decrease every year because of global warming,” Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, told Keh. “That should be a good incentive for the Dutch to do something about it.”

The Dutch have long led the way on renewables and energy efficiency in an effort to reverse the effects of climate change. But because the Netherlands is both low lying and exposed to the see, its people have also needed to show the way on climate adaptation. That goes for speedskating, so the Dutch figured out a work-around for the Elfstedentocht, which translates to “11 cities tour”.

“Every winter, close to 6,000 people from the Netherlands make a pilgrimage to Weissensee, Austria (population 753),” wrote Keh. “Climate migrants of the sports world, they seek the cold and the ice of this town’s enormous, asparagus-shaped lake. Known as the Alternative Elfstedentocht, the relocated race has been embraced by the Dutch, [since it launched in 1989], as the chance to skate the same, staggering 200-kilometer distance (roughly the driving distance between Los Angeles and San Diego) their ancestors did.”

The key difference, aside from location between the original and the Alternative Elfstedentocht, is that the latter snakes 16 times through a 12.5 kilometer course laid out on the lake in Weissensee, rather than running through 11 towns.

 

Alternative

The Alternative Elfstedentocht snakes, serpentine-style, on a lake in Weissensee, Austria (Photo credit: Pete Kiehart, The New York Times)

 

And while the thousands of skaters who trek to Austria are appreciative that the Alternative Elfstedentocht exists and of their hosts’ hospitality, most hope to be able participate in the original at least one more time.

Erben Wennemars, 43, and a professional speedskater, embodies that spirit.

“I’m an eight-time world champion, I won two Olympic medals, but I would throw it all away for the Elfstedentocht,” Wennemars told Keh. “There are a lot of people who have gold medals. But if you win the Elfstedentocht, you’ll be known for the rest of your life.”

 

NIKE PARTNERS WITH IBERDROLA TO REACH 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE ENERGY GOAL FOR ITS EUROPEAN OPERATIONS

Nike Just Did It.

“It”, in this case, refers to the company’s recent partnership with Iberdrola, a clean energy producer based in Spain. The goal is to accelerate Nike’s progress on sourcing 100 percent of its energy from renewables for its European operations.

According Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer Noel Kinder, the new Nike-Iberdrola team “catapult[s] us ahead of the timeline that we outlined three years ago when we joined [The Climate Group’s] RE100, a coalition of businesses pledging to source 100 percent renewable energy across all operations.”

 

Noel Kinder

Noel Kinder, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer (Photo credit: Nike)

 

Iberdrola looks to be an ideal partner for Nike.

The only European utility to be part of Dow Jones Sustainability Index since its inception in 2000 certainly talks the clean energy talk. On the hope page of its website, above the fold: “we are committed to a sustainable, safe and competitive business model which replaces polluting sources of energy with clean ones and intensifies the decarbonization and electrification required worldwide.” And it is putting its money where its mouth is, investing more than €32 billion by 2022 in the electrification of the economy.

 

¹ In order, my five top favorites of the 20 or so MLB ballparks I’ve visited are 1. PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), 2. AT&T Park, 3. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), 4. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), 5. Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

 


 

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Post-Super Bowl LIII GSB News and Notes: Eco-Athlete Chris Long Wins Man of Year Award, Budweiser Wind Power Ad 2nd Most Watched Spot Online

The New England Patriots knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in a defensive struggle to win Super Bowl LIII at Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their sixth championship of the otherworldly 18 year Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The environment played a small but, it sez here, increasingly prominent role vs. recent Super Bowls. So before the pro football world turns its attention to free agency in March, April’s NFL Draft and the race to Super Bowl LIV in Miami¹ next February, here is a quick rundown of the Green-Sports happenings that surrounded yesterday’s Super Bowl LIII

 

EAGLES’ CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, WINS WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF YEAR AWARD

While Eagles stalwart defensive end Chris Long did not win a third consecutive Super Bowl ring last night — he played important roles in Philadelphia’s championship in 2018 after winning one with the Patriots the year before — he did earn the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. It honors a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field.

Long’s — and his Chris Long Foundation’s — main charitable initiative is Waterboys, a program that has united NFL players, professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. By February 2018, Long’s goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for every NFL team, was met. Long has now set a goal of providing clean water to one million people.

“I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor,” Long said in a statement. “I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the [military] veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.”

 

Chris Long Eagles Man of Year

Chris Long, after winning the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Click here and here for GreenSportsBlog’s coverage of the Chris Long-Waterboys story.

 

BUDWEISER WIND POWER AD GETS VALUABLE ON AIR MENTION

Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, “Wind Never Felt Better,” which featured Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” to highlight the the brand’s commitment to wind power, was the second most watched ad online, with 24.3 million views during and immediately after the game. Only Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes The Cut,” drew more online eyeballs, with 33.4 million views.

 

 

 

In addition to that sizable online audience, 100 million or so people were exposed to the 45 second ad on the CBS Sports TV broadcast. And, when the ad was over and the game broadcast was about to resume, play-by-play man Jim Nantz intoned “Budweiser, powered by the wind.” That extra branding, which further cemented the mainstreaming of wind power for a massive viewership, is the cherry on top to what I thought was a solid B+ ad.

 

Nantz Wolfson Romo CBS

CBS play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz (l), flanked by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and color commentator Tony Romo (Photo credit: CBS Sports)

 

Some ad critics, like Chicago Tribune media reporter Steve Johnson, did not like “Wind Never Felt Better” as much as I did.

Per Johnson’s review, “A Dalmatian. Clydesdales. Amber waves of grain. Bob Dylan, singing about blowing wind. Budweiser trots out all the icons as the horse and dogs are revealed to be traveling through a wind farm. It’s meant to underscore the giant beer’s commitment to sustainable energy, but the message is about as clear as a hazy IPA, a type of beer Bud decidedly is not. ‘Now Brewed with Wind Power,’ says the large type in the ad. ‘Renewable electricity from wind power is one type of energy we use to brew,” says the small [type]’, which you can read if you freeze the screen.”

There is some truth to Johnson’s critique. After all, the viewer has to wait for 30 seconds or so before she/he gets clued in to the Budweiser-wind power connection and that’s too long, especially in this era of micro-attention spans.

Still, it says here that Johnson missed the big picture: An ad promoting wind power reached an audience of at least 110 million people on TV and another 24 million online. 

 

GREENSPORTSBLOGGER TALKS GREEN-SPORTS ON SUPER BOWL-THEMED PODCAST

One final Super Bowl LIII-themed note: I was pleased to talk Green-Sports with Marc de Sousa Shields on his excellent The Sustainable Century podcast a couple of days before the big game.

Marc opens the 24-minute interview by saying, “there are more sports fans than there are sustainability fans and we’ve gotta convert them!”

 

Marc de Sousa Shields

Marc de Sousa Shields, host of The Sustainable Century podcast (Photo credit: Marc de Sousa Shields)

 

I like the way Marc de Sousa Shields thinks!

Click here to listen to the podcast.

 

¹ My way-too-early pick for the Super Bowl LIV matchup is the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts.

 


 

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A-List Panel Discusses the Future of Sustainable Sports Venue Design at Gillette Stadium

The New England Patriots have been on the “Leading Edge” of pro football since 2001. After all, they are about to play in their ninth Super Bowl¹ in the 18-year Belichick-Brady era on Sunday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.

Thus, it is fitting that the first Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference was hosted by Excel Dryer and D|13 at the Pats’ Gillette Stadium last month.

The conference’s centerpiece was a discussion among a panel of Green-Sports All Stars.  They took a deep dive into the past, present and especially the future of green sports venue design and operations, with an emphasis on how to make stadiums and arenas as energy efficient and fan-friendly as possible.

 

The opportunity to earn Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits along with the chance to throw and catch passes on the same field as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were likely what drew architects — as well as contractors, property managers and more — to Gillette Stadium on a foggy January night for the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference. 

 

excel dryer gillette scoreboard

View from the field at Gillette Stadium during the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)

 

But it was the panel discussion, moderated by Joe Khirallah of Green Bear Group, on the Green-Sports movement’s past, present and future, that kept the audience’s rapt attention.

“At several points during the discussion, I looked out to the audience and noticed that no one was looking at their cell phones,” observed panelist Scott Jenkins, GM of Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Board Chair of the Green Sports Alliance. “Not one person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and I’ve been on a lot of panels.”

 

PATRIOTS, GILLETTE STADIUM: GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATORS SINCE 2002

According to conference host and panelist Jim Nolan, who as COO of Kraft Sports + Entertainment (KSE) is responsible for operating Gillette Stadium as efficiently as possible, sustainability has been a core tenet since the building opened in 2002.

“I am fortunate to work for an owner — Robert Kraft — who cares about the environment,” Nolan shared. “Our number one priority is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Second is to do as much as we can to reduce our waste stream. Every innovation we consider is examined through both financial and green lenses. We say ‘go’ on new cleantech innovations when they become economical.”

Examples of KSE’s “gos” include:

  • An on-site system that converts waste water into gray water for use in the bathrooms and elsewhere throughout Gillette Stadium and neighboring Patriot Place, the 1.3 million square foot retail, restaurant and entertainment complex
  • Energy efficient LED lighting, now illuminating the stadium and 90 percent of Patriot Place
  • On-site solar, which now powers more than half of Patriot Place

Next up for Gillette and Patriot Place is a 2.4 megawatt (mW) fuel cell, expected to be fully operational next year. “Once we’re up and running, the entire campus will be off the grid,” reported Nolan. “We will also have a food waste converter that will produce methane gas — which will then go into the fuel cell to generate additional electricity.”

 

SUSTAINABLE SPORTS VENUES ARE A MARKETABLE ASSET

To Scott Jenkins, stadium and arena owner-operators who push green innovations reap more benefits than cost reductions and efficiencies, as important as those are.

“Most sustainability investments are clear winners for stadium and arena projects,” Jenkins asserted. “They show fans and the community that the team and the owner are purpose driven, which greatly enhances brand value. And sustainability can generate incremental revenue in the form of new, ‘green-focused’ sponsors. Forward-leaning owners like the Krafts and Arthur Blank — who pushed us to build Mercedes-Benz Stadium to earn LEED Platinum certification — believe that just building to code is like being OK with being a C student. They have to be A students.”

Chris DeVolder, lead architect on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project and Managing Principal at HOK², chimed in that Blank “constantly pushed everyone who worked on the project to not only ‘think about what’s next’, but also ‘what’s next after what’s next’. Things like turning waste into energy to heat water, offering affordable vegetarian and vegan food options, and more.”

 

PATS CONNECT FANS TO SUSTAINABILITY IN GILLETTE STADIUM RESTROOMS

Panelist Summer Minchew, Managing Partner of Washington, D.C.- and Charlotte, NC-based Ecoimpact Consulting, and a veteran of several venue projects, offered that fans are a key element to the Green-Sports equation.

“It may sound obvious, but a positive fan experience at a sports venue is absolutely key,” Minchew said. “What is not always so obvious to stadium designers, managers and owners, is that sustainability, from environmental, health and wellness points-of-view, goes hand in hand with a great fan experience.”

According to Jim Nolan, the Patriots have been a bit late to the “fan engagement” party but they are making significant strides in the right direction. Working with energy partner NRG, the team communicates its solar story to fans via signage mounted on massive pillars near the stadium’s entry gates.

Once inside Gillette, fans experience the leading edge of sustainable stadium design when they dry their hands in the restrooms via a unique, high-velocity, two-phase drying process. The XLERATOR® from Excel Dryer — one of the sponsors of the Leading Edge conference — blows large water droplets off the hands in a couple of seconds in Phase 1. Then, in Phase 2, the heat evaporates a residual moisture layer that we feel but don’t see. This makes the drying process about three times faster than conventional hand dryers, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in energy usage.

But that’s not the XLERATOR’s greenest feature.

Replacing paper towels is.

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) showed that the XLERATOR was the catalyst for up to a 75 percent reduction in carbon footprint when compared to 100 percent recycled paper towels. That might seem counterintuitive but, after one-time use, paper towels go straight to the landfill. So XLERATORs help reduce paper production, transportation emissions, water usage, waste and more.

“The XLERATOR is a win-win-win-win for us,” enthused Nolan. “First, it’s clearly better for the environment. Second, it saves time and manpower as our staff spends much less time cleaning paper from the floor and refilling paper towel dispensers. Third, that allows staff to respond more quickly to other fan issues. Fourth and most importantly, the fans prefer the XLERATOR to paper, so they have a better experience.”

 

excel dryer panelists

From left, Jim Nolan, COO of KSE and host of the Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference welcomes fellow panelists Summer Minchew, Chris DeVolder, Scott Jenkins, moderator Joe Khirallah, and Bill Gagnon, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with event sponsor Excel Dryer  (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)

 

 

Guests at Gillette Stadium’s Optum Field Lounge this season got to experience another futuristic hand drying “win” with the recent installation of a next-generation sink system from Leading Edge sponsor D|13.

“The system features, from left to right, liquid soap dispenser, water faucet, and the XLERATORsync®, in one contained unit,” Nolan said. “It keeps water in the sink, which is better for the environment. Maintenance visits are reduced. It is the most sustainable, hygienic way to wash your hands. We’re excited to be the first stadium to feature the D|13 Sink System.”

 

patpatriot

Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference attendees, including Pat Patriot, had the opportunity to try out the new D|13 Sink System (Photo credit: D|13)

Will Mercedes-Benz Stadium be the second? Too early to tell. After all, Scott Jenkins and the rest of the staff are busy getting ready to sustainably welcome the Patriots, Rams and 70,000+ fans for Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.

 

¹ The nine Super Bowls of the Belichick-Brady era: 2002 (Pats over Rams), 2004 (Pats over Panthers), 2005 (Pats over Eagles), 2008 (Giants over Pats), 2012 (Giants over Pats), 2015 (Pats over Seahawks), 2017 (Pats over Falcons), 2018 (Eagles over Pats), 2019 (Pats vs. Rams)
² HOK is a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: NY Times Links Federer Upset Loss to Climate Change; Lakers Go Solar at their Training Facility; Denver Broncos Give Out 100% Recycled Rally Towels

September is, without question, the most wonderful time of the sports year in the US:

  • The final tennis grand slam tournament, the US Open, concludes;

  • Baseball’s long season comes down the home stretch;

  • The college football and NFL seasons kick off;

  • Basketball and hockey teams hit training camp;

  • The Ryder Cup takes over the golf world

GreenSportsBlog’s TGIF News & Notes reflects that full calendar, with tennis, basketball, and football on the docket.  

 

NEW YORK TIMES MAKES LINK BETWEEN FEDERER UPSET LOSS AT US OPEN AND EXTREME NIGHTTIME HEAT AND HUMIDITY

Until Serena Williams’ dispute with the chair umpire in her straight set defeat to Naomi Osaka at the US Open final became an international hot topic, excessive heat was the dominant storyline during the recently completed tournament in Queens.

  • The ATP, the governing body of the men’s pro tennis tour, took the unprecedented step of instituting a new rule, after the tournament began, that allowed players to go to the locker room for a 10 minute cooling break after the third set (women’s players already were permitted such a break after the second set).
  • With on-court temperatures reaching as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius), it was common to see players draping large ice wraps over their shoulders during one minute changeover breaks. 
  • Eventual men’s champion Novak Djokovic was almost felled in two early round matches by two implacable foes: the oppressive afternoon heat and humidity.
  • Night matches were affected: Unheralded John Millman shocked Roger Federer in the Round of 16 on a particularly hot, sticky, stuffy evening. 

 

Novak US Open

Novak Djokovic suffering from the heat and humidity during a changeover in his first round match at the 2018 US Open (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

While ESPN covered the heat/humidity story during the tournament’s fortnight — there was no way the cable-caster could avoid it. After all, players were wilting and fans stayed away from the sunny side of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center venues in droves. But ESPN did not get delve into any potential links between the extreme weather at the Open and climate change. 

And, while Federer cited heat and stuffiness as the main reason for his upset loss — “It was hot. It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air; there was no circulation at all.” — he didn’t “go there” on climate change. 

 

Federer

Roger Federer struggled on an extremely hot and humid night in the round of 16 at the US Open, losing to John Millman (Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

 

Thankfully, reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis of The New York Times’ fantastic “Climate Fwd” newsletter, did make the climate connection for millions of readers on September 4 in Roger Federer Is Tough to Beat. Global Warming Might Have Pulled an Upset.” Her particular focus was the relatively unsung trend of increasingly hot nights.

Per Pierre-Louis, “To some, the comments by Federer…may sound like sour grapes. But they also underscore a growing problem: increasing nighttime temperatures…[Global] warming is not happening evenly. Summer nights have warmed at nearly twice the rate of summer days. Average overnight low temperatures in the United States have increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit per century since 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…While daytime temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) have been a persistent problem at this U.S. Open, conditions [during the Federer-Millman night match] were not much cooler. Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, with the humidity for much of the match above 70 percent. The heat index, which combines heat and humidity to indicate a ‘feels like’ temperature, was in the 90s.”

The effects on the human body of exercising in high temperatures with high humidity can be calamitous, reported Pierre-Louis. That’s because sweating, “a key cooling mechanism,” gets stymied. When the air is excessively humid, sweat drips instead of evaporating. And that eliminates the cooling effect on the body. 

GSB’s Take: As a lifelong resident of the New York City metro area, let me tell you, a nighttime heat index in the 90s, a rarity back in the 1970s-80s, is becoming all too common in July and August. While heat and humidity played a major role in Federer’s exit from the US Open, such extreme weather is much more perilous for non-athletes. And until humanity, non-athletes and athletes alike, gets its act together on a massive decarbonizing effort to break climate change’s serve, extreme heat and humidity that makes exercise — among many other activities — risky will become the norm. I wonder if, as the effects of climate change get more severe, tournaments like the US Open and Australian Open, which are played in the heat and the humidity of the summer, will move towards more temperate times on the calendar.

 

LAKERS WELCOME LEBRON JAMES TO TRAINING CAMP WITH NEW SOLAR INSTALLATION 

When LeBron James joins the Los Angeles Lakers for his first training camp in Los Angeles later this month, he’ll be doing so at a training facility with a new rooftop solar array. 

According to a story by Kyle Field in the September 2 issue of CleanTechnica, Vaha Energy installed a 171 kW system comprised of 456 LG Solar panels on the roof of the team’s new LEED Platinum, 120,000 square foot UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.

 

The solar array at the LA Lakers new UCLA Health Training Center (Photo credit: CleanTechnica)

 

“The system is expected to save about $38,000 per year, on a rate of 16 cents per kWh,” wrote Field. Vaha Energy projects that the team should be able to pay off the system in a relatively quick four years.

Joseph McCormack, the Lakers Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance, told Field, “One of our goals as an organization is to be at the forefront of energy efficiency, and these panels further our commitment to sustainability.”

The Lakers plan to communicate their greening efforts at UCLA Health Training Center to fans — the cozy venue seats 900 — during team practices and at home games of the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers.

 

GSB’s Take: The move by the Lakers to solar-ize their new UCLA Health Training Center is, of course, welcome news. As costs of solar continue to go down, we can expect more such on-site solar installations at sports venues. It says here that the Lakers would’ve done even better to install solar panels atop car ports in the parking lot, in addition to their rooftop array. That way, fans could not miss the Lakers solar play — the panels on the roof are not easily visible to passersby. Oh yeah, it would be cooler than cool if LeBron agreed to be featured in video messaging about the Lakers’ solar installation.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS GIVE ORANGE RALLY TOWELS MADE FROM 100 PERCENT RECYCLED MATERIALS TO FANS AT HOME OPENER

A crowd of 76,000+ at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver saw the home team open their 2018 NFL season Sunday with a come-from-behind 27-24 home win over the Seattle Seahawks. Fans 21-and-older were able to urge the Broncos on by waving orange rally towels, presented by Bud Light, made from 100 percent recycled materials from earlier Broncos games. 

 

Rally Towel Broncos

The rally towel, made from 100 percent recycled materials, that was given out to Denver Broncos fans at Sunday’s home opener (Photo credit: Denver Broncos)

 

Believed to be the NFL’s first promotional giveaway made from fully recycled materials, the towels are made from plastic Coke bottles from Broncos Stadium. The 100% recycled icon is located on the lower left of the towel, clearly visible to fans.

Here’s how the Broncos Stadium bottles turn into Broncos Stadium rally towels:

  • Coke bottles get hauled from the stadium to Waste Management’s Denver Recycling Center.
  • The bottles are then delivered to a Materials Recovery Facility and sold to a plastic processing plant.
  • The processing plant breaks the bottles down into flakes or pellets and sells them to yarn manufacturers, who in turn sell the yarn to fabric weavers and knitters around the world.
  • Fabric makers sell the fabric to cut, sew and decorating plants — in this case, G&G Outfitters, a Maryland-based NFL licensee — where the towels are produced, decorated and shipped back to Denver for the game.

“The Denver Broncos and Coca-Cola are teaming up to show fans the value of recycling,” said Antoinette Williams, account executive at Coca-Cola, USA. “Recycling is the first step, but Coca-Cola and the Broncos want to create a ‘Life-Cycle’ story and make sure once the bottles are recycled they continue on a sustainable path.”

“We have never executed a promotion to this nature for any NFL team where the giveaway was made 100 percent out of certified recycled bottles collected from their own waste,” added Danny Papilion of G&G Outfitters. “To our knowledge, the Broncos are the first NFL team to do so.”

GSB’s Take: I love this promotion — a towel that is clearly marked as 100 percent recyclable given out to many thousands of fans. But how cool would it be if the Broncos encouraged fans to bring their towels every time they come to a game? Show your towel at four games and you get a free Bud Light. Or some other idea. No matter the promotion, the team would be emphasizing the important sustainability principle of reuse as well as recycling. 

 


 

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Informal GSB Poll: Atlanta United F.C. Fans Bullish About Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s Greenness

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world’s first LEED certified pro stadium, is playing host to 800 or so people at the eighth Green Sports Alliance Summit, from today through Wednesday. On Sunday, 42,500 mostly fans packed the place for the MLS match between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers. GreenSportsBlog conducted a small, informal, admittedly unscientific poll among fans before the game to gauge awareness and attitudes about the stadium’s greenness.

 

The most stunning design feature to me of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium design and architecture — and there are many from which to choose^ — is the 360-degree, “halo” scoreboard suspended from the roof.

 

MB Stadium 3

 

Clearly viewable from every seat in the house, the scoreboard constantly draws ones eyes skyward.

And during the hour before Sunday’s MLS match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers, my eyes saw messaging like this:

 

M-B Stadium

 

The first-of-its-kind scoreboard also encouraged fans to recycle while occasional public address announcements highlighted a variety of the stadium’s green features that resulted in it becoming the first professional stadium to receive LEED Platinum status. Of course, most of the messaging on the scoreboard and on its loudspeakers had to do with the game, the home team and the terrific experience (a mix of the best of the European soccer stadium experience with an authentic Atlanta feel) — which is as it should be.

And it is working.

Atlanta United, in only its second season, has become one of the cornerstone franchises in MLS:

  • The team made the playoffs in its first season and are in first place in MLS’ Eastern Conference
  • Thousands of energetic fans, in multiple supporters’ sections, stand, chant and sing throughout the entire 90 minutes.
  • Every game is a sellout. Either in the stadium’s standard 42,500 seat configuration — like Sunday’s game (the upper deck is closed and draped) — or its full 72,000 seat mode, reserved for the biggest/rivalry matches

All of the above serves as subtext to a question to which I was trying to get some answers: Has Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s consistent yet modest way of communicating its sustainability broken through with its largely youngish fan base? GreenSportsBlog conducted a small, informal survey by talking to a few of them before Sunday’s pulsating 1-1 draw between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers to begin to find out.

 


 

Evan and Paige Himebaugh from Kennesaw, about 45 minutes away, chatted with me about soccer and sustainability at Stats Brew Pub, a couple blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They are brother-and-sister season ticket holders who are helping to make Atlanta United a “thing” in the city’s sporting culture. But neither knew that Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s had achieved LEED Platinum certification. “I had no idea!,” exclaimed Paige, a local soccer coach. “But it is great for Atlanta to be leading on green building.”

 

Evan and Paige

Evan and Paige Himebaugh were excited to learn about Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED Platinum status (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Husband and wife season ticket holders Todd and Terry Barcroft of Atlanta talked and walked with me on their way to the concession stand. Both were well aware of the stadium’s green leadership. “Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED status is really a point of civic pride,” asserted Terry. “And, with ‘Atlanta’s Better Building Challenge‘, people can see that the city is a green building hub.” Todd suggested that stadium management “should incorporate more signage in the concourses” to increase awareness of its sustainable bona fides.

 

Todd and terry

Todd and Terry Barcroft (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Andre Katompa was rushing to his seat and doing his best to avoid seeing the screens in the concourse showing the Colombia-Poland FIFA World Cup match (“I’m DVRing it!”) when he stopped to talk with me. “I found out about the stadium’s LEED certification on TV — there was a story about it on the sports news, which I watch religiously,” enthused the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. “It is a great thing that the stadium is helping to fight climate change by reducing energy consumption. And that is great for Atlanta.”

 

Andre Katompa

Andre Katompa (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Up in the press box, I sat next to Atlanta area native Max Marcovitch, who was covering the match for The Oregonian. Max’s mom was his entry point into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium LEED Platinum story. “She knew someone involved with the construction of the building,” shared Marcovitch. “Every time the stadium would come up, mom would remind me, ‘it’s going to be LEED Platinum’ so I was very well aware of its greenness. I don’t think my friends [who are on the younger end of the millennial cohort] would be aware of it, but if they found out, they would think it is very cool.”

 

MY TAKE

I give the folks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a strong A- grade for the way they communicate the venue’s sustainability story. The scoreboard and public address messaging is just right; frequent enough without being over the top. I loved one subtle touch on the scoreboard: A still photo of the Atlanta skyline, shot from the stadium, with some of its 4,000 solar panels in the foreground.

If the stadium had more sustainability-focused signage in the concourses, I would have given them a solid A. Want to earn an A+? How about an interactive exhibit for fans that tells Mercedes-Bens Stadium’s LEED Platinum story, similar to the museum-style installation# at New York City’s Empire State Building that shares the impact of its energy efficiency retrofit with the 3 million people who visit the building every year?

Finally, if you are a sports fan —green or otherwise — and/or an architecture buff, schedule a trip to Atlanta to take in a game at Mercedes-Benz. I’m sure a Falcons game would be fantastic, but I’d opt for an Atlanta United match. It is an incredible experience.

 

M-B Stadium 2a

 

^ The stunning view of the city skyline from the east end of the stadium and the camera lens-like “oculus” roof are two other “that is so cool!” features of Mercedes-Benz Stadium
# Editor’s Note: Lew Blaustein worked as a marketing and communications consultant on the Empire State Building’s sustainability exhibit in 2009 and 2010

 


 

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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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