She’s had the “Green” part down pat. After all, Münter adorns her race car with vegan sponsors. She samples vegan food to ARCA series race fans. Her personal car is a Tesla that she powers with electricity generated by solar panels on her roof. And much more.
Leilani Münter (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)
But it was the “Sports” part that always held Münter back from winning GSB’s Best Green-Sports Story award. Her main problem was that she had a very difficult time getting the vegan sponsors to fund more than a one-race season.
Until 2018, that is.
She signed A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com to sponsor her ARCA car for an eight race campaign, by far her busiest season in that series. Thus the decision to give the award to Münter became relatively easy this year, especially with her record of two top ten finishes, and the 30,000 vegan Impossible Burgers that were served in her name to 30,000 racing fans at five Fan Zones.
Leilani Münter (r) with NASCAR’s Danica Patrick at Daytona International Speedway this February (Photo credit: Leilani Münter)
In accepting the award, Münter shared that it’s been a long road for her.
“I am completely honored to be recognized by GreenSportsBlog,” Münter said. “It was also an honor to be able to drive the Vegan Strong car, thanks to my partnerships with A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com. I pitched vegan sponsors for six years and am grateful they finally saw the value of reaching out to a non-traditional audience for them — auto racing fans — and getting them to try tasty vegan food in a fun atmosphere.”
Although the reaction was universally positive, even Münter was surprised about at least one racing fan who became a vegan food fan.
“So this was at the Media Day during Daytona 500 week,” Münter recalled. “Not surprisingly, the ARCA racers were ignored in favor of the NASCAR Monster Energy series (the top level of NASAR) drivers. Luckily, an AP reporter saw a tweet on Twitter saying that vegan burgers are being sampled out in the Fan Zone. So he went over there with a camera guy. When he gets there, he sees a guy in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap and an anti-PETA* t-shirt. And the guy LOVED the Impossible Burger!”
Don’t believe me? Check out this 50 second video:
GSB’s Take: Perhaps Münter is thinking too small with this whole “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car” thing. It says here that she might want to explore the idea of taking her Tesla, tasty vegan food, and pro-PETA messaging to Iowa and New Hampshire in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary season. Because maybe the best way to reach folks who are opposed to reducing their meat consumption (and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and/or deny climate change is through their stomachs.
Run, Leilani, Run! Heck, everyone else seems to be running.
* PETA = People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. So an anti-PETA t-shirt means the wearer is for unethical treatment of animals? As my Grandma Lena used to say, “It takes all kinds!”
Leilani Münter, GreenSportsBlog’s “Best Green-Sports Story of 2018” (Photo credit: Scott LePage)
Thing is, no one would have blamed Münter if she had decided to give up her career as a driver in NASCAR’s ARCA Presented by Menard developmental series before this year.
Her strong commitment to only work with brands that align with her lifestyle and the issues that animate her — most notably veganism, animal rights and the climate change fight — has limited her ability to secure the sponsors and thus the funding necessary to enter races. In some years, Münter has competed in only one race; in others none at all.
But Münter did not quit, although she came close several times. The Minnesota native kept selling the idea that auto racing fans would react positively to vegan messaging — and food. “Some of the vegan brands I called on said ‘the NASCAR fan is not the right audience for us.’ I said ‘you don’t need to talk to vegans; they’re already converted. You need to talk to people who are not already in your world.’ Auto racing fans fit that definition.”
Her logic and persistence — she pitched sponsorship of a vegan-branded car for six years — paid off in 2018 when two non-profit organizations, A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com, signed on as her lead sponsors to carry the Vegan Strong message. The deal allowed Münter to run an eight race campaign, which included an eighth place finish at the ARCA race during Daytona 500 week and a ninth place result at Michigan International Speedway.
More importantly, Münter and Vegan Strong teamed up at five of her eight races to fund the sampling of vegan Impossible Burgers in the Fan Zones to 30,000 fans. The fans ate ’em up, literally and figuratively.
“Many fans were skeptical at first and didn’t want to try the Impossible Burgers,” recalled Münter. “But once they did, they loved the taste and texture! And when you tell them it’s better for their health and for the planet, they got more excited.”
Leilani Münter takes a photo of skeptical racing fans trying Impossible Burgers at the Daytona International Speedway Fan Zone in February (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
I am excited to see what Münter will do for encore to spread her vegan, along with her animal rights and climate change-fighting messages. On the latter, she is a big advocate of electric vehicles — her personal car is a Tesla, powered by solar panels on the roof of her house.
Münter says to expect an announcement about her 2019 plans in early January.
I’m happy to say that Leilani Münter is not a lone wolf eco-athlete. She is joined by a veritable All-Star squad of sailors, skiers and more who spoke out and/or took action on the environment this year.
Jessie Diggins, who along with teammate Kikkan Randall, won the gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle race at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Diggins also found the time to engage on the climate change fight. She supports a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend program (CF&D), similar to the bill that was recently introduced with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Diggins told the New York Times, “Saving winter is something I believe in…and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it.”
U.S. Olympic cross country gold medal winner and carbon pricing advocate Jessie Diggins (Photo credit: New York Daily News)
Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen talked climate change in a March interview in ESPN The Magazine: “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”
Sam Martin, punter for the Detroit Lions and an advocate for renewable energy, helped broker a deal that resulted in new solar installations at Ford Field and the club’s nearby Allen Park training facility. North Carolina-based Power Home Solar approached the team through a preexisting partnership with Martin and his Sam Martin Foundation,
Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players announced the launch of Hoops₂O, joining the fight for access to clean water in East Africa. Staying in the Beer Capital of the U.S., Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter penned an OpEd urging action on climate in Fast Company.
GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2018
Audi Field, D.C. United
It took D.C. United a quarter century to build its own, soccer-specific stadium. Audi Field sure looks like it was worth the wait as the 20,000 seat, $500 million stadium earned LEED Gold certification when it opened in July. Five months later, it added another honor by being named GSB’s Greenest New Stadium/Arena of 2018.
Audi Field drew our attention for a number of reasons, including:
The rooftop solar panel installation that provides roughly one million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to offset nearly one third of the stadium’s electricity usage
Nearby access to D.C. Metro system’s green line train
An advanced, energy-efficient building envelope/skin
A storage vessel that collects rain water underneath the building. When it rains, water drains under the pitch into the vessel where it is slowly released so it doesn’t go into the nearby Anacostia River.
A packed Audi Field during the national anthem on opening night (Photo credit: WTOP/Noah Frank)
Fiserv Forum, the new home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, deserves honorable mention. On track to receive LEED Silver certification, the downtown arena is the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue, thanks in part to a collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy.
2017: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United
2016: Golden1 Center, Sacramento Kings
2015: CHS Field, St. Paul (MN) Saints
2014: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers
BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD OF 2018
TIE: Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LII Champions and Atlanta United F.C., Major League Soccer’s 2018 Title Winners
The Eagles checked the on-field box for their Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field Court of 2018 award when they captured the franchise’s first Super Bowl in dramatic fashion, as backup QB Nick Foles outdueled Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 41-33. Off the field, the Eagles became the first pro sports team to earn ISO 20121 certification for integrating sustainability practices into their management model. Among other things, the team:
Deployed edgy, humorous billboards that encouraged support for GO GREEN, the Eagles’ long-running fan-facing environmental program on Lincoln Financial Field’s concourses, ramps, and yes, even the restrooms.
Installed an interactive LED screen at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s practice facility down the street from “The Linc”. “It shows our employees how much energy our solar panels and wind turbines are producing every day, how much we recycle, and more,” said Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles director of fan experience.
And, just before we went to press, the Eagles announced that Lincoln Financial Field earned an upgrade from the US Green Building Council to LEED Gold status — it had qualified for LEED Silver in 2013.
Sustainability-themed signage on display at Lincoln Financial Field (Photo credits: Philadelphia Eagles)
Atlanta United secured its spot on GSB’s Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field podium by winning the MLS Cup trophy in only its second season of play. The “Five Stripes” knocked off the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Saturday night.
The team’s green cred is also championship caliber. After all, they play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world’s first LEED Platinum pro sports stadium, sharing it with the NFL’s Falcons. Stadium management uses its massive, wrap-around scoreboard to share the green story with fans, 73,019 of whom showed for MLS Cup, the largest crowd in league history.
Green messaging greets fans of Atlanta United, the newly-minted MLS Cup champion, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
2017: Golden State Warriors
2016: Cleveland Indians
2015: New England Patriots
2014: Ohio State University
GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH OF 2018
Eco-Sailor Sir Ben Ainslie Signs Title Sponsor Deal with Fracking and Chemical Company Ineos
Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympics history. As skipper of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant in the 2017 America’s Cup, he also won deserved plaudits for making environmental sustainability, in particular ocean health, a core value of his team.
One thing Sir Ben did not win was the 2017 America’s Cup, despite spending in the neighborhood $135 million over the four-year cycle. By some estimates, it will cost as much as $175 million to mount a legitimate campaign for the 2021 Cup.
So when British fracking^ and chemical company, Ineos, and its founder Jim Ratcliffe, offered Ainslie $153 million to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 Cup quest, Sir Ben had a choice: Take the money and risk being labeled a greenwasher, or keep his good name and his well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete among fans, competitors, sponsors and more.
Jim Ratcliffe (l), CEO of Ineos, with Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)
Not surprisingly, GreenSportsBlog chose Sir Ben for Green-Sports Greenwash of 2018.
And it wasn’t close for second place.
2017: Super Bowl LI, Houston*
2016: Super Bowl L, Santa Clara, Super Green But (Virtually) No One (Outside of the Green-Sports Ecosystem) Knew About It*
2015: College Athletics Departments That Talk a Good Green Game But Took Koch Brothers Sponsorship Dollars
2014: Sochi Winter Olympics
^ Fracking (also known by its more technical name, hydraulic fracturing) is a process by which large amounts of water and sand, combined with often hazardous chemicals, are injected, at high rates of pressure, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Its negative environmental and health impacts are legion, many of which would’ve concerned pre-Ineos Sir Ben. These include contamination of groundwater, large volume water use in water-challenged regions, methane pollution which exacerbates climate change, exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.
* 2017 and 2016 designation was titled “GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR”
College Football Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the sport’s early innovators, became an unwitting #GreenSports pioneer by having his University of Chicago Maroons eat a vegetarian diet during their 1907 Western Conference championship season. Fast-forward to the present and the NBA’s sustainability efforts continue on the eve of the start of the 2018-19 season as the Indiana Pacers installed a green roof on its training facility. And Seattle-based strategic climate action communications expert Andrea Learned pressed bike commuting as an easy, low cost way to fight climate change at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. All in a multi-generational GSB News & Notes column!
U OF CHICAGO FOOTBALL STARTED #GREENSPORTS MOVEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING IT IN 1907 BY EATING A VEGETARIAN DIET
The finest moment in the school’s football history took place in 1934 when Maroons running back Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as college football’s finest player.
Twenty seven years earlier, legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg converted the team to an all-vegetarian diet, revolutionary for that time. Heck, that would be considered radical today. Coach Stagg thus unknowingly planted the seed for the Green-Sports movement about a century before it actually took root.
Football was already in a period of rapid evolution in 1907. The forward pass was legalized a year earlier a way to open up the game.
Coach Stagg, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, adopted vegetarianism in 1905 and brought it to his squad two years later, believing “the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh.”
Newspapers across the country savaged Stagg. “‘Vegetarians Only,’ sneered the Boston Globe. ‘Vegetable Football,’ quipped a wire story…The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote, ‘Dried Apples, Prunes, Nuts, and Water for Maroon Team,’ while the Tribune declared ‘Kickers to Train on Squash.'”
Ex-Maroon superstar quarterback turned rookie Trib sportswriter Walter “Eckie” Eckersall nicknamed his alma mater The Vegetarians.
Technically, vegetarianism could only be a suggestion to the team but “Stagg, who had long insisted on abstinence from smoking, drinking, and cursing, enjoyed fierce loyalty from his squad, which meant, as one paper put it, ‘his suggestions are law.'”
Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (top row center in hat) and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)
When the season opening game arrived against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, McThenia reported that Maroons fans unveiled a new, veggie-themed cheer:
“Sweet potatoes, rutabagas, sauerkraut, squash!
Run your legs off, Cap’n De Tray^!
Sure, our milk fed men, by gosh!
Will lick ’em bad today!”
We’ll never know if it was the vegetarian diet — and/or the cheer — that did the trick for Chicago but they won easily over the Hoosiers, 27-6. Road victories at Illinois and Minnesota followed, and then came a home drubbing of Purdue, 56-0. Their 4-0 record earned the Maroons the championship of the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten (seasons were much shorter back then). A non-league loss at home to the Carlisle Indians did little to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the team nor Coach Stagg’s conviction that the vegetarian diet had played a positive role in Chicago’s title-winning campaign.
A 1907 article on Coach Stagg’s “vegetable food” (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)
Despite the team’s success in 1907, as the 1908 season beckoned, the coach’s ardor for vegetarianism had waned somewhat, both for himself and the team. Per McThenia, Stagg “recalls going flesh-free entirely for only two years, as part of a (failed) effort to eliminate the source of chronic sciatic pain.” As for the Maroons, Stagg continued to encourage a vegetarian diet but no longer pushed it. And, always on the lookout for a new strategy, the coach brought a new “thing” to the squad that year; stimulation by oxygen.
GSB’s Take: Atlas Obscura, the site that ran Tal McThenia’s story on The Vegetarians, is fascinating. It is a self-described “global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.” So if you’re looking for, well, obscure places to visit, check out Atlas Obscura.
Back to The Vegetarians…More than a century later, there are several athletes and teams who have taken the vegetarian baton from the 1907 University of Chicago Maroons, including the all-vegan English fourth division soccer team Forest Green Rovers, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” and 11 members of the 2016 Tennessee Titans who adopted a vegetarian diet. Hopefully when the sports media writes about vegetarian-vegan athletes and teams, it will pick up on the climate change-fighting aspects of veggie and vegan diets, most notably that it takes 8-10 times as much energy for meat to get to one’s plate as compared to fruit, grains and vegetables.
Finally, how ironic is it that Chicago, known for a century or a more as the meat production capital of the U.S. — one of its nicknames is “The Hog Butcher of the World” — is also the home to college football’s first/only all-vegetarian team?
INDIANA PACERS PLANT GREEN ROOF ON NEW TRAINING FACILITY
When Victor Oladipo and his Indiana Pacers teammates reported for training camp on September 22nd at their one year-old St. Vincent (training) Center, they did so under a new 8,500 square foot rooftop garden. About 37 percent of the garden is devoted to wildflowers, crops, and plants indigenous to Indiana.
Two views of the new green roof at St. Vincent Center, the new training facility of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers (Photo credits: Christopher Cason)
According to Christoper Cason, writing in the September 16 issue of The Score, “Architecture firm RATIO, along with the Pacers, wanted something that would…set the franchise apart from other professional sports teams. RATIO reached out to Omni Ecosystems in 2015 about installing a green-roof system that would help regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater.” Omni builds green-roof and green-wall systems that support a wide range of plants — including foods— as well as grasses and wildflowers.
The St. Vincent Center roof grows tomatoes, basil, beets, bok choy, carrots, green beans, kale, turnips, radish, and Swiss chard. Per Cason, “Instead of soil, the garden uses an engineered growing media that includes lightweight rocks, specific nutrients, and…earthworms.” The harvested vegetables will be used this season by Levy, the Pacers’ food service provider, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team’s arena next door. Any excess produce will be donated to Second Helpings, a local hunger relief non-profit.
The garden also acts as a natural HVAC system, keeping St. Vincent Center cool in hot weather and warm in the winter. This will mean lower energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“We’ve implemented a number of measures and campaigns around sustainability and conservation,” Brent Rockwood, senior vice president of corporate, community, and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, told Cason. “… We strive to set a positive example of environmental responsibility and innovation, and the green roof that sits atop the St. Vincent Center is a big piece to that.”
GSB’s Take: The NBA is upping their green game this season, especially at their training centers. In addition to the Pacers green roof, the LA Lakers recently installed solar panels on the roof of their new UCLA Health Training Center.
CYCLING MUST BE A MUCH BIGGER PART OF THE URBAN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS MIX, SAYS ANDREA LEARNED OF #BIKES4CLIMATE AT GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT
She’s a strategic climate action communications expert who is well-known for her Twitter presence and her Learned Onblog. Learned has worked with NGOs and corporations on their sustainability leadership platforms. And she’s a passionate urban biking advocate, having started for purely practical reasons some twenty years ago in Portland, OR.
Learned brought all of those skillsets to last month’s Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. She had hoped to see the climate change-fighting impacts of urban cycling — and walking — get visible and loud discussion as the low-hanging climate action fruit it should be.
Andrea Learned, donning the “Make America Green Again” cap, with Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (Photo credit: Kate White)
After all, it makes too much sense.
Per Eillie Anzilotti, writing about Learned and the GCAS in the September 27 issue of Fast Company, research shows that if, “globally, cycling commuting rates can rise from their current level of 6 percent (only around 1 percent in the U.S.) to around 14 percent, urban carbon emissions will drop 11 percent. Boosting pedestrian commuting would have similar benefits.”
Unfortunately, GCAS chose to ignore that low-hanging climate action fruit, as there was little evidence of these human-scale endeavors on the main stage. More Anzilotti: “In the summit’s list of key challenges, sustainable transportation appeared as something of a footnote; discussion of cycling and walking was often drowned out by talk of the admittedly more futuristic and startup-friendly electric vehicles.”
Of course the scaling up of EVs is crucial and the pace must accelerate quickly. But, as Learned told Anzilotti, a hyper-focus on electrifying transportation will grant a pass to cities, particularly those in the U.S., that have failed to create safe streets and bike lanes that actively encourage walking and biking.
Urban cycling as a “thing” for mayors and other politicians faces an uphill climb. EV’s are, after all, sexy. The same goes for solar panels, bus rapid transit, storage batteries and more.
To Learned, who started, builds and curates the #Bikes4Climate hashtag, big city mayors should start climbing.
“We need mayors to visibly ditch their traditional black Suburban transportation, on occasion, and bike commute instead. That will send the clear message that they some awareness of the safety and infrastructure challenges we city bike riders and commuters face every day” Learned told GreenSportsBlog, “It would also highlight the climate action and behavior change potential in individuals. Right now, the only mega-city mayor I know of who makes a point to be seen on a bike and talks about it as a carbon emissions reduction tool is Anne Hidalgo of Paris. Imagine if she’d hosted a whole session about the topic at GCAS? But, and especially in the United States right now, we have to identify, name and fame the leaders, small town or large city, who ARE pedaling their talk. ”
There is a smattering of urban cycling-pedestrian success stories, thanks in large part to women. Anzilotti highlighted a couple of them:
Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau plans to double its cycling network in 2019 (she needs to move fast!), and reduce all vehicle traffic by 21 percent..
Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is proposing to lower speed limits, and the creation of pedestrian zones around schools.
To Learned, there’s an opportunity for policy makers in the climate action space (mayors, chief sustainability officers and more) who DO bike in their cities (for short trips and/or for their commutes) to learn from bike advocates, and to collaborate with those in the bikeshare and mobility sectors. “Leaders need to come together to see bicycles as climate action and transportation tools,” said Learned. “Seeing them as solely recreational toys is a huge mistake.”
GSB’s Take: Urban bike and pedestrian commuting needs to be a key part of any serious urban climate change-fighting plan, not the afterthought it appears to be most of the time. In fact, if people-friendly mobility isn’t already a priority in your city, then it’s time for a new mayor.
^ Leo DeTray served as captain of the 1907 University of Chicago football team
Over the last couple of years, I’ve written two posts in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to my way of thinking), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular “New Rules” segment on Bill Maher’s HBO political-comedy-satire talk show, Real Time, I entitled the posts “New Rules for Green Sports.”
Maher’s show is currently on hiatus until August 3 — given the sad performance by the US President at the NATO conference and at the summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that episode should be a doozy^. With that being the case, I thought now would be the perfect time to fill that void, put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rulesfor Green Sports, Part Three.”
For those of you who don’t have HBO and have never seen Real Time with Bill Maher, the host ends each hour-long episode of his show with “New Rules,”in which Maher gives himself autocratic powers to enact his own rules for politics and life in general. Here’s a sampler from April.
Fans who travel to games via mass transit, drive EVs or hybrids get a rebate, paid for from parking revenues. Fans who come by bike or walk also qualify
Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight
Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand
Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break
OK, enough with the preliminaries; now it’s on to the third edition of “New Rules for Green-Sports”
New Green-Sports Rule #1: ESPN will give out an “Eco-Athlete of the Year” honor at the 2019 ESPY Award show. Tonight’s 2018 ESPYs show will highlight the great works of athletes and coaches in their communities. It will also honor the coaches who perished in the Parkland (FL) High School mass shooting. But ESPN, which last month won the Green Sports Alliance’s “Environmental Leadership Award,” doesn’t yet use the ESPYs to spotlight athletes engaged in environmentalism and the climate change fight. That will end with next year’s ESPY’s with the addition of the “Eco-Athlete of the Year” award.
If the ESPY’s would have had the foresight to award an Eco-Athlete of the Year for 2018, I have a great suggestion for the first honoree: Leilani Münter, the self-described eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” who is having a solid year on the track, including a fifth place finish at the Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. Off the track, her work is even more important, as Leilani supports a booth, sponsored by two non-profits, that dispenses vegan Impossible Burgers during the week of each race she enters.
Leilani Münter, eco “vegan, hippie chick with a race car” will earn a 2019 Eco-Athlete ESPY, if the GreenSportsBlogger has his way (Photo credit: Scott LePage)
New Green-Sports Rule #2: The Tour de Francewill use only EV — or at least hybrid — support vehicles. The biggest race in all of cycling has, over the past two decades, been severely tarnished by well-publicized doping scandals. One way for the Tour to improve its image would be to become a Green-Sports leader. Since cyclists use only human energy to get up and down the Alps, it already has a head start on greenness. To help nudge the Tour along its green path, our second Green-Sports “New Rule” says that, for 2019 and beyond, all team and race organizer support vehicles must be electric vehicles (EVs). If EV range is a concern, hybrids will suffice. It should be noted that the most of today’s EVs have range necessary to support the cyclists from beginning to end —the longest stage of the 2018 Tour is 143 miles.
EV and hybrid support vehicles will be a highly visible sign to the 10 to 12 million fans who annually line the route and the many millions more who watch on TV and other media platforms that the Tour de France is headed in the right, green direction.
Support vehicles at the 2014 Tour de France (Photo credit: Times of London)
New Green-Sports Rule #3: FIFA will never again award a Men’s or Women’s World Cup to a country (or group of countries) where outdoor stadiums have to be air-conditioned. Russia was not my choice to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup — I tend not to want to reward a country whose government murders journalists, invades neighboring states and interferes in US elections with the world’s most watched sports event.
The selection of Qatar was derided almost from the moment when then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced it had won the bid, with the country’s extreme heat, exacerbated by climate change, being among the top concerns for fans and players alike.
Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA in 2011, announces the selection of Qatar as host of the 2022 World Cup (Photo credit: Telegraph of London)
With June and July temperatures regularly reaching 110°F/43.3°C, FIFA decided to move the 2022 tournament to December*, when temperatures are more likely to be in the 80s Fahrenheit (27°-31° Celsius).
But, even in December, it can get bloody hot in Qatar. Organizers thus decided that all eight stadia that will be built for the World Cup will be air conditioned — despite all of them being open air buildings!
To say the least, the choice of Qatar to host the World Cup flies in the face of FIFA’s recent sustainability efforts.
But now that I’m on the case, FIFA will never again award the World Cup to a country that needs to build open air, air conditioned stadia. Not on my “New Rules” watch!
^ With two plus weeks between now and the August 3rd episode, there will likely be new reality show-style nonsense from POTUS that will make Helsinki and NATO seem like old news
* The switch to December will play havoc with domestic club league (English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Budndesliga etc.) seasons around the world but, gifting (grifting?) the World Cup to a country with no soccer tradition and no World Cup-quality stadia must be worth that small bit of trouble, right?
LEED-certified stadia and arenas increasingly dot the sports venue landscape. Zero-waste games are becoming more and more the rule rather than the exception these days. Eco-athletes can be found in most sports. What sports hasn’t had, at least to my knowledge, are Green-Sports Super Fans — fans who support and sometimes travel great distances to watch athletes and/or teams specifically because of their environmental advocacy and actions.
Until now, that is.
Natalka Lindstrom traveled last week from her home in Edmonton, Alberta to Daytona, Florida to see her favorite driver, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, eco, hippie chick with a race car,” compete in the Lucas Oil 200, the opener of the ARCA series.
GreenSportsBlog talked with Natalka both before and after her Super Fan sojourn.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 6: BEFORE LEAVING FOR DAYTONA
GreenSportsBlog: Hi Natalka! I am so happy to find a Green-Sports Super Fan, and one who is a devoted supporter of animal rights activist, plant-based diet advocate, electric vehicle (EV) devotee and climate change-fighter Leilani Münter makes it all the better. Let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from originally and what do you do when not traveling the almost 2,800 miles from Edmonton to Daytona for Leilani’s race in the Lucas Oil 200?
Natalka Lindstrom: Well, I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, moved to Regina, Saskatchewan and now am in Edmonton…
GSB: A woman of the prairie!
NL: Yes indeed. I work for the Service Alberta division of the provincial government.
GSB: Provincial government worker; that sounds like a great alter-ego for a Green-Sports Super Fan! So how did you come to follow Leilani? Were you always an auto racing fan? Or were you an animal-rights devotee and plant-based diet activist first?
NL: When I was a kid, maybe eight years old, I visited my dad in Winnipeg — my folks were divorced — and he took me to a little raceway nearby. There was this bright yellow car, which I loved. Dad even took me down to the pit! It was so cool. But then I lost interest. I mean, I’d watch auto racing if there was nothing else on TV but I got into other sports like football, softball, baseball and curling.
An 8 year-old Natalka Lindstrom during her first visit to a racetrack (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
GSB: Curling? I love curling…Even tried it one time. I will curl again, you can bank on that! So if your interest in auto racing fell by the wayside, how did you end up booking a vacation to Daytona to watch Leilani race this weekend?
NL: It goes back to my love of, and concern for dolphins and whales at the hands of humans. I believe it was in 2009 or 2010 that I first heard of Leilani when I saw the DVD of “The Cove,” a powerful documentary film about the slaughter of dolphins off the coast of Japan. I started reading her blog posts, learning more about her activism, saw “Racing Extinction,” another documentary she was in about man-made mass extinction. I just became very impressed with her dedication and willingness to advocate on behalf of animal rights. I loved that she drove a Tesla; that she was using her platform race car driver for animal rights and electric cars was amazing to me.
GSB: So then what happened?
NL: For a few years, Leilani found it tough to get enough funding to race. But I continued to follow her on social media and online and told myself that, when she gets back on the track, I’m going to be there! And so last year, when Leilani was able to race at the ARCA Series season opener at Daytona, I went down.
GSB: Had you ever followed an athlete or celebrity on the road like that?
NL: Nope; this was a first.
GSB: How was that experience?
NL: It was great! I got to meet Leilani at the driver autograph sessions as well as her team, went to the vegan food tent Leilani was running, got some great photos — I’m an amateur photographer. It was all very exciting and great, aside from the fact that Leilani got run off the track and was unable to finish. But she is a fighter and I knew she’d be back in 2018. So I saved my money and when it became clear that she would be racing at the Lucas Oil 200, the ARCA series opener at Daytona this year, I booked my trip. And then last week I received an email from Leilani’s husband Craig — everybody calls him “Kiwi” — offering me a “Pit Pass.”
GSB: You hit the jackpot!
NL: I can’t wait…
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14: BACK HOME IN EDMONTON
GSB: So, aside from it being a lot warmer in Daytona than in Edmonton, how was it??
NL: AMAZING!! On Friday, I met Leilani and used the pass to watch the qualifying runs that day for Saturday’s race from the pit. It was so cool. I was watching with Kiwi and her sister Nicolette.
GSB: How does qualifying work?
NL: So there are 40 cars in the race. Groups of four to six cars of the field of 40 race for a few laps — the track is 2.5 miles long — at speeds that sometimes top 180 miles per hour. The order of the start of Saturday’s race is decided by the racer’s time in the qualifying runs. Leilani won her group and she was in first place overall at that time. But there were several groups still to go. In the end, Leilani qualified with the fifth fastest time, a good position for her. And her Venturini Motorsports teammate Natalie Decker had the fastest time to earn the pole position. Two of the five fastest qualifying times by women drivers. How cool is THAT?!
GSB: Pretty cool, I’d say!
NL: We met Leilani back in the garage — she was very excited to get fifth. Kiwi welcomed me like I was part of the team, which was just great. And there were people from SpaceX there…
Leilani Münter and Natalka Lindstrom (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
GSB: …That’s right…SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration company, launched a rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral just a few days before the race, and Leilani drives a Tesla, a company also run by Elon Musk. That SpaceX was there makes perfect sense. So tell me about Saturday, race day!
NL: The race started at 4:30 but I got to the track at around noon and went to the vegan food tent, funded by Leilani’s sponsor, Veganstrong.com. A little while after that, the chef brought out Impossible Burgers for the fans to sample…
GSB: …I know about Impossible Burgers…they’re the vegan burgers that not only taste like beef but also have the look and feel of beef! Are they any good?
Impossible (vegan) Burgers get ready for sampling last weekend at the Veganstrong.com tent at Daytona International Speedway (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
NL: They’re delicious! I can’t wait until they come to Canada.
NL: The build up is intense. At around 4 PM, the drivers get introduced and enter the track, from last qualifier to first, back to front. Leilani, who had meditated before the race, came out looking very confident, waving to the crowd. They loved her. For me, being in the pit was incredible — I was right next to the tire changing crew!
Leilani Münter enters the track at Daytona International Speedway before the start of Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
GSB: Then the race starts…
NL: …And Leilani is right in there with the leaders for much of the race. I really think she could’ve won. But she had a couple of challenges with her tires that put her near the back of the pack. That she was able to climb back from 30-something place to eighth is something. Leilani will I’m sure judge herself critically but I think it was one of her best races. We all went back to the garage — Leilani was burning up at first as it was incredibly hot in that car — and there were hugs all around. Her Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self ended up winning the race and pole sitter Natalie Decker finished fifth, so the team was very happy.
GSB: Sounds like a strong race for Leilani, terrific publicity for Vegan Strong…
NL: …Oh yeah, for sure! On Sunday I went back to the track as there was another race…
GSB: …That’s right, Leilani and her team have been at the Vegan Strong tent most of this week leading up to Sunday’s Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl…
NL: Yes. So I hung out at the Vegan Strong tent where they were again serving Impossible Burgers.
GSB: How did the fans react?
NL: At first, most said things like “this can’t be plant-based. It’s too good!” It took awhile to convince them. One guy insisted, “I’m not gonna try it!” His friend brought him back later, he tried the Impossible Burger and loved it! And, this was really cool…there were some workers at the track who are vegans. They heard what was going on and came over to try the burgers. They could not believe how good and burger-like they were.
Leilani Münter takes a photo of skeptical racing fans trying Impossible Burgers (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)
GSB: It sure sounds like Impossible Burgers are aptly named! Did you meet or hear any detractors, climate change deniers…that sort of thing?
NL: I have to say that I did not hear or see anything like that during my time at the tent. But it is possible that people say the “right thing” but really think another. Still, as far as I could tell, nothing negative was being said.
GSB: Well, in a small way, this is progress. Which is what Leilani is aiming for. Progress.
NL: Exactly. And that’s the thing about Leilani: She won’t take no for an answer yet she’ll also listen. You will not find anyone more passionate about animal rights, plant-based diet and climate change. And that’s why I’m a fan.
GSB: Correction…that’s why you’re a Leilani Münter, Green-Sports Super Fan. Now we need to find more of you!
Leilani Münter needs to add that descriptor to her already adjective-laden tag line. Because while “Eco, Vegan, Hippie Chick with a Race Car,” is very clever and certainly stands out, it doesn’t quite do her justice.
Because she continues to hustle to find mission-driven sponsors to fund her races at Daytona and elsewhere. And because she continues to bring her vegan, plant-based diet mantra — along with food samples — to stock car racing fans, when conventional wisdom would say her efforts are being directed at the wrong audience.
OK; “Tenacious, Eco, Vegan Hippie Chick with a Race Car” is maybe a tad wordy, but you get the idea — tenacity is central to what makes Ms. Münter tick.
GreenSportsBlog caught up with Ms. Munter for a quick preview of her 2018 racing and activism schedule before she took off for Daytona in her Tesla from her Charlotte, North Carolina-area home.
GreenSportsBlog: Leilani, it’s great to reconnect. What’s new for you and your team for 2018?
Leilani Münter: We’re building on our 2017 “Vegan Powered” program. We have a new branding — Vegan Strong — with the website launching before our race at the ARCA racing series opener at Daytona on February 10. And we will have a vegan food tent with tasty samples that will be open for fans each racing day at Daytona Speedweeks, which includes the 10th, 11th and then from the 15th to the 18th, which is the day of the Daytona 500. Building on our positive experience doing this last year, our emphasis this year is going to be on the health benefits of a vegan diet.
Leilani Münter (Photo credit: Scott LePage)
GSB: How do you think racing fans at Daytona will respond?
LM: I think those who come to our tent will learn about why being vegan is good for your body — it’s the most efficient way to get nutrients — that’s one of the reasons we call our program Vegan Strong. They will also learn that vegan food tastes great! Not just good but GREAT! Last year we served vegan wings at Daytona and also at Talladega Super Speedway in Alabama that, compared to chicken, have half the fat calories, provide 100 percent of the protein and have zero cholesterol. This year we have something new up our sleeve.
Fun, must-watch video from Leilani Münter’s 2017 vegan food giveaway at Alabama’s Talladega Super Speedway (3 min 17 sec)
GSB: We look forward to hearing about it. Now I know that your on-track career, your ability to actually race, has been limited by the challenges of trying to find sponsors who are on board with your vegan, climate change mission and who are interested in reaching auto racing fans. I also know that if you are racing in 2018, you have some sponsors, including a new one. Fill us in…
LM: Getting corporations to sponsor us has been a challenge but we’ve found success with some great, mission-aligned nonprofits. In 2017, we were sponsored by A Well-Fed World and they are back again this season. We’ve also added a new nonprofit sponsor, TryVeg.com. These sponsors are essential to allowing us to race and to having our tent at Daytona Speedweeks as the costs are significant.
GSB: Congratulations on gaining the sponsorships. Why do you think they came aboard, aside from their belief in you and your mission?
LM: One big reason is that we had a successful 2017 in terms of media coverage of our efforts at Daytona and also at Talladega. Fox Sports covered us during the race and also ran features on us. That, along with other online and social media coverage, generated media exposure to the tune of 161 million impressions…
LM: Thanks. That’s really what helped us secure the funding for Daytona 2018. And we will be making an announcement at Daytona about the rest of our season schedule, so stay tuned for that.
GSB: We will for sure. Now, as you mentioned at the top, you’ll be racing in the ARCA Series event on February 10 at Daytona. Just what is the ARCA Series and how does it relate to NASCAR?
LM: Sure. ARCA stands for the Automobile Racing Club of America. It is a feeder division into the top three national series of NASCAR.
GSB: So is it fair to say ARCA is to NASCAR as Triple A minor league baseball is to Major League Baseball?
LM: That’s about right.
GSB: What will you be driving at the ARCA Daytona race?
Leilani Münter, driving her Vegan Strong Venturini car during a practice run at Daytona (Photo credit: Jim Jones)
LM: There is absolutely no reason I can’t win it this year. Last year I was running in fourth place in the final stages of the race and then with just 15 laps to go I got taken out by a competitor. As long as I have a clean race, I’m going for the win!
GSB: I wouldn’t bet against you, that’s for sure…Now, in the ARCA Series, you’re driving a standard, internal combustion engine car that consumes gasoline. I, of course, get that that’s the price for bringing your vegan, eco message to auto racing fans — an audience that is assumed to not be open to such a message. So this makes perfect sense. On the other hand, have you looked into also racing in the Formula E, electric vehicle (EV) series that is gaining lots of fan interest?
LM: Actually, I’m involved with a new EV series that’s just getting started; the Electric GT Series based in Barcelona. When it launches, we’ll all be driving Tesla Model S that has over 1,000 lbs of weight removed and many other adjustments to make it into a real race car. And it’s the first electric car to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award. I was the first American driver to sign up for the new series.
GSB: Why the Electric GT Series and not Formula E?
LM: The appeal of NASCAR is that it uses cars similar to the models driven by regular folks. Similarly, I love the fact that Electric GT will feature Tesla Model S, the car I’ve been driving since 2013 — and charging it with electricity generated by solar panels on the roof our house.
GSB:…And now Tesla’s started selling and shipping their Model 3 — priced at $35,000 range — by far their most affordable offering yet. Once they up their production run on the Model 3, many, many more people will be driving Teslas…
LM: Very cool. And competition is good but my loyalty is to Tesla because they took the risk, powered through the times when no one believed in electric cars. So the Electric GT Series and I are a perfect fit.
GSB: When will the series launch?
LM: It’s not clear just yet. Starting a new racing series is not an easy task, especially as it relates to signing sponsors.
GSB: You know that better than most…
LM: Exactly! I know they are hoping to launch the series in the second half of 2018, and there are a lot of moving parts but eventually I think it will be a fantastic racing series. Meanwhile I’ll race in the ARCA series and hopefully make the next step to NASCAR. Stock cars is where the eyeballs are and I want to do what I can to influence fans to make their next car purchase or lease an electric car. And, while I’m at it, I will work to show them that eating a plant-based diet and buying solar power are also great life decisions. The more fans I reach, the more I impact…Simple as that.
GSB: That’s so great. How has the fan reaction been?
LM: Oh, they love it! At the vegan tent, I tell them, with a plant based diet, aside from the health benefits, there’s no animal cruelty and it’s better for our environment, and the food tastes great. They’re like “How do they make chicken out of plants?” Then they taste it — the first bite is the key — and they’re hooked. It’s the same thing as with driving a Tesla — once you try it, you’re hooked.
GSB: Well, I can’t wait to taste the vegan wings. In the meantime, all the best at Daytona, Leilani!
Leilani Münter competed at Daytona in her first race in two years, spreading her Eco-Vegan message to auto racing fans. SustainU will be making t-shirts from 100 percent recycled content for all 30 MLB clubs again this season, this time with a fun twist. And the US Green Building Council (USGBC) gives a big shout out to LEED-certified sports venues for their important energy saving work. All this in a chock full GSB News & Notes column.
LEILANI MÜNTER RETURNS TO THE RACETRACK, DRIVES FAST, SPREADS ECO-VEGAN GOSPEL
Her five year sponsorship sales effort (that’s right, she sells the sponsorships, too) had borne fruit as a collection of nonprofits signed on to help her promote a plant-based diet to stock car racing fans. In a February 17 interview, Münter shared with espnW’s NASCAR writer Bob Pockrass how new lead sponsor A Well-Fed World joined the team after hearing her acceptance speech for winning the Vegan Athlete of the Year award. In addition to the car and crew, the funding also supports a tent that gave away vegan food samples on Saturday. More importantly, Münter will be educating race fans and passing out food samples from her vegan-themed tent located in the fan zone at Sunday’s Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Super Bowl.
Leilani Munter (Photo credit: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
“When I’m going to vegan festivals or clean-energy events, it’s preaching to the choir,” Münter told Pockrass. “Giving out the food will probably be the greatest impact I will have. We’re serving the kinds of foods race fans are going to find at the track. I’m not going to show up with kale. I’m showing up with vegan chicken wings and meatballs — stuff they would expect to find at the race track. … We’re not going to open minds if we’re not putting food in their mouths. That is the moment where people change.”
But before Münter dishes out vegan food this weekend, she finally got back on the track on Saturday.
Leilani, as she’s known to her fans, brought them to their feet as she moved into the top-5 during the late stages of the race after qualifying in 17th position out of a stacked 40-car starting field. Catching the lead pack at speeds approaching 200 mph, Münter drafted to catapult herself into fourth position, eyeing a career best finish. Her hopes came to an abrupt end when a trailing car made contact with her rear bumper sending her Toyota up the track and into the outside wall, spawning a multi-car crash. Münter’s crew patched up the damaged Toyota and got her back out on the track to finish the race in a more-than-respectable 19th position.
When Münter gets back on the track is anybody’s guess as her non-profit sponsors are not nearly as deep pocketed as her competitors’ traditional Fortune 1000 backers. As she told espnW’s Pockrass, “[Non-profit sponsors] don’t have multimillion-dollar budgets where they can run a full season. That comes with the territory of me being an activist and wanting my car to carry these cool messages…You work really hard, you get the car on the track, you get one race and then you’re starting over again.”
To hear/see Münter tell her story, click here for her 5 minute interview as part of FOX Sports NASCAR Race Hub’s “Women in Wheels” series.
SUSTAINU ANNOUNCES MLB “T-SHIRT CLUB” FOR 2017; MADE FROM 100% RECYCLED CONTENT
“PLAY BALL!—With t-shirts made from 100 percent recycled content!”
Last summer, Chris Yura, CEO and Founder of Morgantown, WV-based SustainU®, told GreenSportsBlog that his company’s mission is to “chang[e] the way clothes are made to improve the environment [and] reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector.”
One of the ways the young company is making good on that promise is through sports, manufacturing fan wear from 100 percent recycled content for collegiate sports programs (Notre Dame, Clemson and more), the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco, and, starting in 2016, for all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB®) clubs.
With Opening Day 2017 little more than a month away, SustainU announced an extension of its licensing partnership with MLB, with an innovative twist.
The SustainU T-shirt Club allows fans of all 30 clubs to “Wear the Season” with shipments of officially licensed apparel arriving at their doorsteps throughout the year. There are various levels of membership available through the T-shirt Club that determine the timing and quantity of shipments during the 2017 baseball season, ranging from The Lead Off (one shipment of two exclusive tees) to The Homer (four shipments of five exclusive tees, one long sleeve and one fleece item).
The SustainU® T-Shirt Club, 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs version. (Photo credit: SustainU®)
All SustainU shirts are printed with eco-friendly inks and are Made in the USA, increasing employment opportunities in places like Appalachia that have seen massive globalization-related job losses over several decades.
GreenSportsBlog loves this program—and would love it even more if SustainU could figure out a way to make fewer shipments during the season, thus reducing its carbon footprint. Ideas?
USGBC SAYS LEED CERTIFIED SPORTS VENUES MAKING A MAJOR DIFFERENCE, ENERGY- AND COST-WISE
The Orlando Magic’s Amway Center, the first NBA arena to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for new construction, saved almost $1 million a year, including about $700,000 in annual energy costs alone.
Signage at the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic, heralding its LEED Gold status. (Photo credit: Amway Center)
In Peoria, AZ, the LEED Gold Peoria Sports Complex, which serves as the spring training facility for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, saves 322,700 gallons of water and more than 1 million kilowatt hours in electricity annually. In the construction phase, the city convinced its baseball team partners to retain portions of the building frame and outer envelope, saving an estimated $1.5 million on each clubhouse and diverting 1,323 tons of construction waste from landfills. The Mariners’ Clubhouse parking lot was also converted into an impressive array of solar modules that, combined with a 320 kilowatt solar instillation, can offset up to 30% of the clubhouse’s annual reliance on fossil fuels.
Peoria (AZ) Sports Complex, the LEED Gold spring training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. (Photo credit: AZ Central)
These significant accomplishments are but two examples highlighted in a recent US Green Building Council report, LEED in Motion: Venues, which details how LEED certification benefits more than 30 venues’ triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit).
Venues that incorporate LEED into their buildings increase cost-savings, decrease annual operating costs and see a higher return on investment overall, the report says. This builds on an earlier study, the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, which estimated from 2015-2018 LEED-certified buildings in the US will have saved more than $2.1 billion in combined energy, water, maintenance and waste savings.
Sports stadiums and arenas represent some of the most iconic buildings in any community. Their size and scope—the top 200 stadiums in the US alone draw roughly 181 annual million visitors—allow them to engage, inspire and educate millions of people. They also are big energy users and waste producers—according to Waste Management, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL generate a combined 35,000 metric tons of CO2 each year from their fans’ waste. Their high profile combined with their significant room for improvement on energy usage make sports venues an ideal megaphone for Green Building/LEED.