The GSB Interview: Jason Twill, a Green Sports Alliance Founding Director, on the Organization’s Birth

The Green-Sports movement is in a transitional phase from its initial 1.0 version — the greening of the games themselves — to its 2.0 incarnation — engaging fans on environmental and climate issues.

The Green Sports Alliance, now eight years old, is also in the midst of change, as it searches for a new executive director to lead the organization firmly into the Green-Sports 2.0 era. That the Alliance is the most established Green-Sports trade association in the world may be taken for granted by many. But for those who were present at its birth, the odds of the GSA reaching its eighth birthday was by no means a certainty back in 2011. An organization dedicated to the Greening of Sports? What did that even mean?

With that in mind, we spoke with Jason Twill, one of the GSA’s Founding Directors and co-author of its bylaws. This long-form interview gets the inside story of how the Alliance came to be, the fascinating route Twill took to be — as Lin Manuel Miranda famously said in Hamilton — in the “Room Where it Happened,” and how the Alliance and other similar organizations around the world can help build a Green-Sports 2.0 world.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Jason, the story of how the Green Sports Alliance came to be is something I’ve been interested in for some time, so thank you for talking with us. Tell us about your background and how you came to be involved with the Green-Sports movement in its embryonic stages.

Jason Twill: Thanks, Lew. It has been quite a circuitous route. Toward the end of high school in Warren, NJ, a New York City suburb, I tended bar in Hoboken, which was a quick train ride away from Greenwich Village. I have this memory of emerging from the depth of the underground like I had crossed some imaginary threshold into this world of excitement — streets buzzing with energy, layered with a diversity of people and cultures that make The Village great and the antithesis of suburbia, which I hated. That’s when my passion to create better cities and communities began, and I have never looked back.

GSB: What came next?

 

Jason Twill

Jason Twill (Photo credit: Jennifer Twill)

 

Jason: I studied art and political economics at Colorado College; and I also had the privilege of studying in Florence, where the piazzas and labyrinthine grid was a very different sort of urban environment. I loved it! I then moved to New York and was interested in pursuing fashion design. Took a construction job to pay the bills while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design.

GSB: What happened to loving cities and urban architecture?

Jason: I told you it was a circuitous route! I got the fashion bug in Florence. So, back in New York, I spent my days on construction sites and evenings at fashion shows and working with designers. This confluence of construction and design is what ultimately led me back to a passion for architecture. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was visiting the Getty Center museum in L.A. I found myself looking at the buildings and landscape as art and became set — finally — on becoming an architect.

I applied to Columbia for urban studies and architecture and, while waiting to start, took a summer job in 2001 with architecture firm Mancini Duffy. Their offices were in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. I was in the building on the morning of 9/11. Escaped by just a hair, along with others from the firm, but I lost a lot of friends that day. So I postponed school and went back to the firm to help them rebuild their practice. I noticed several friends there suffering from post-traumatic stress. Having been through a lot of adversity in my life, I set up an informal 12-step-like program in which we all supported one another to get through the fear and anxiety we were experiencing.

At that time, my co-worker and future wife, Jennifer, gave me a book, “The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape,” by Jason Howard Kunstler, a fantastic, non-technical explanation of suburban sprawl in the post-World War II era. It made me reflect on my own experience growing up in the suburbs and how much the built environment shapes our social patterns and behaviors. I literally closed that book and knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: Disrupt the real estate sector through ecologically and socially conscious development models. So I pivoted from Columbia to getting a Masters in real estate development and finance at NYU.

 

GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE

 

GSB: Did that even exist in the early 2000s?

Jason: Not really. I had to advocate for NYU to introduce things like LEED certification. But there were already a lot of great experts in this space I could learn from outside of school. I essentially earned two masters, with conventional real estate courses at NYU augmented by reading tons of books^ to teach myself these other pathways. Also volunteered to help get the US Green Building Council’s New York City chapter going, worked on some of the first LEED buildings in New York, and then I was fortunate enough to meet Jonathan Rose…

GSB: The legendary New York City real estate developer and sustainability champion…

Jason: Exactly. I wrote him a letter; he invited me to his office for coffee and a talk He’s been a friend, mentor and inspiration ever since. During that time, from 2003-2007, I worked for a couple of smaller private developers, championing sustainable and equitable design. The timing was right; by 2005, the market had shifted and I was getting more traction on things like LEED certification. We also had our first son, Sullivan. He had a series of illnesses and the first case of influenza A in the city in 2007, which scared the hell out of us as new parents. We thought this might have something to do with the post 9/11 air quality in New York, so we decided to move to another city. Austin, Portland, and Seattle were on our radar because of their progressive governance and industry stars.

GSB: Where did you end up?

Jason: We chose Seattle, the epicenter of the green building movement. I was very fortunate to receive an offer from Vulcan Inc. and we relocated in 2007.

GSB: Vulcan Inc. is the business and philanthropic entity founded by Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul G. Allen.

Jason: Yes! The six years I spent at Vulcan were some of the most productive of my career. I became a practitioner of city-making as a senior project manager working on all aspects of Paul Allen’s portfolio. We looked to inspire change in areas he was most passionate about: art, science, music, technology, and sports. I supported Vulcan Real Estate on the delivery of a new community called South Lake Union, an industrial area filled with old warehouses just north of the city’s central business district.

GSB: What did it become?

Jason: Paul originally purchased the land and gifted it to the city so they could create a park. But citizens voted down a tax measure to fund construction and the city handed back the land. Paul pivoted and turned it into a mixed-use, sustainable community. Over time, it emerged as one of the first Innovation Districts in North America, now home to Amazon’s HQ1, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. At the same time I was working on South Lake Union, I started incubating what would become the Green Sports Alliance. When the financial markets crashed in 2008, things slowed down at Vulcan. My boss, Ray Colliver, got approval from Paul to apportion more of my time to embed sustainability even deeper across Vulcan’s business portfolio. Our office was across the street from CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seahawks, one of the teams Paul owned…

GSB: …The others being CenturyLink tenants — MLS’ Seattle Sounders — in which Mr. Allen’s estate has an ownership stake, and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.

Jason: Ray introduced me to Darryl Benge and Mike McFaul, who ran CenturyLink operations. They were already looking to invest in sustainability measures, so I started to support them in getting some runs on the green scoreboard.

GSB: What kind of things did you help them do?

Jason: We planned and implemented a comprehensive resource conservation plan that included the installation of nearly a megawatt of solar panels on the roof of the adjacent WaMu Theater, EV charging, LED lighting retrofit, waterless urinals, waste strategies, and more. We also started to explore how we could generate fan awareness and impact behavior through strategic branding and messaging. And then this larger dialogue started to occur around green sports.

 

Solar CenturyLink

A solar array tops the roof of the WaMu Theater adjacent to CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks Sounders (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

GSB: How so?

Jason: In 2009, I met Justin Zeulner, who worked for the Trail Blazers. He was doing terrific green stuff there, including getting Moda Center certified as one of the first LEED Gold arenas in the world. I was also introduced to some folks at the WNBA’s Seattle Storm

GSB: …the current WNBA champs!

Jason: …and the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, and became mates with green-sports pioneer Scott Jenkins, who was managing Safeco Field for the Seattle Mariners.

GSB: Scott’s now the Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance and General Manager of Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jason: With all these relationships building, we were sharing strategies and partners that could help us ‘green’ the venues, so all the proverbial kindling was there to start a fire, just waiting for the spark. It came when my boss Ray Colliver, who always pushed me take things further, sustainability-wise, with Paul’s teams, handed me a Sports Business Journal issue focused on sustainability. I noted an article by Allen Hershkowitz, then a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), leading their sports and entertainment greening platform.

Already a big fan of NRDC’s work, I called him and said, ‘Hi, I’m Jason, I work for Paul G. Allen, who owns a few sports franchises and we want to work with NRDC to drive a bigger agenda for sustainability in sports.’ We had a couple of conversations — he was incredible. I really love the guy and we were exploding with ideas from the start. Allen offered to fly out with his key staff to meet, while my colleague Dune Ives and I started to explore what we could create in this space from Vulcan’s perspective.

GSB: Dune is now executive director of the Lonely Whale Foundation, a group established by actor and activist Adrian Grenier, which is leading initiatives on ocean health and the anti-plastic straw movement.

Jason: Yes, Dune has an unbelievably beautiful mind and is a force of nature in the sustainability movement. We mapped out the mission statement, vision, and objectives for what initially became the Pacific Northwest Green Sports Alliance. Then, on February 1, 2010, using our draft work as the agenda, we hosted a workshop with Allen and his NRDC colleagues. Representatives from five of the region’s pro teams (Portland’s Trail Blazers and Seattle’s Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders and the Storm), as well as officials from the City of Seattle, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Green Building Services joined in.

From this initial group of passionate change makers, The Pacific Northwest Green Sports Alliance was born! The Vancouver Canucks joined shortly thereafter. I became its Chair to help get it going. Pretty quickly, we received interest from teams and venues beyond the region, so we dropped “Pacific Northwest” from the name. We secured a seed money grant from the Bullitt Foundation — an organization led by Dennis Hayes, founder of Earth Day, focused on environmental change in the northwest. This funding was crucial and, along with investments from NRDC, Vulcan, and each of the teams, we hired Martin Tull, a brilliant change-maker from the Portland sustainability community, as the founding executive director. He built the Alliance into a stable, sustainable non-profit organization.

GSB: So you guys basically bootstrapped the Green Sports Alliance off the ground.

Jason: We all had full-time jobs, but fueled by a passion for change, we put the time and energy into making this happen. There isn’t any one founder of the Alliance; we all worked really hard and collaboratively, playing a vital part in its success to this day. Our beginnings are quintessentially captured in this famous Margaret Meade quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

We definitely hit on something and there was a big, public launch at Safeco Field, home of the Mariners in spring 2011. By that time, I had stepped down as chair, handing the reins to Scott Jenkins, already a key figure in the movement. Since then, I’ve served as a Board executive committee member.

It’s important to acknowledge that we did not create the Green-Sports space. There was already a ton of great work and leadership happening around sports and sustainability in North America and globally. We just created a platform to bring all these leaders together to share best practices and accelerate the progress of the Green-Sports movement.

We also wouldn’t be where we are at today without the technical and financial support of the NRDC team led by Allen Hershkowitz, along with terrific scientists and technical experts like Darby Hoover and Alice Henly. With their support we were able to publish documents like the “Game Changer” report that provided case studies highlighting the amazing sustainability work happening across the pro leagues. This helped us grow from the inaugural six founding teams to a roster that includes pretty much all major league teams in North America, plus many college athletics departments and conferences.

 

Jason Twill GSA origins

A gathering of some of the key players in the founding of the Green Sports Alliance, including: FRONT ROW: Scott Jenkins (2nd from left), Dune Ives (3rd from left) and Justin Zeulner (right). MIDDLE ROW: Jason Twill (2nd from right). TOP ROW: Allen Hershkowitz (2nd from left), Martin Tull (right) (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

Jason: That growth was also driven by annual GSA summits starting with our inaugural event in Portland in 2011. Martin Tull, working with a local team, the Board, and the NRDC, miraculously put it together in just a few months.

GSB: A Herculean effort! How did it go?

Jason: It was a big hit. Over 200 people came. Ex-NBA All-Star and then-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson keynoted. People from across North America who were interested or already working in this space attended. They really appreciated a forum on sustainability solely focused on the sports industry. The next year, our Summit in Seattle attracted closer to 400 people and we knew we had hit our stride.

 

KJ at GSA 2011 Dabe Alan

Retired NBA All Star and ex-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson addressing the first Green Sports Alliance Summit in 2011 in Portland (Photo credit: Dabe Alan)

 

GSB: I went to the third Summit, in Brooklyn in 2013, and even more people came. And the rest, as they say, is history. What is your role as a board member?

Jason: I try to provide big-picture thinking and thought leadership on how to best grow the movement. We started with greening the games and the venues…

GSB: …What I call Green-Sports 1.0. I believe that’s the way it had to be. But we’re past the time to pivot to Green-Sports 2.0, engaging fans — with the important megaphone of the media — to change their environmental behaviors, including as it relates to climate change.

Jason: I agree. Even in those very early days, I would look across at CenturyLink Field and think, ‘for every Seahawks game, we have something like 10 percent of the entire population of Seattle in one room,’ which prompted me to ask, ‘How do we change the hearts and minds of billions of sports fans across the world and tell a new story of sustainability in our time?’

GSB: How is that going?

Jason: Nelson Mandela probably captured it best when he said

Sport has the power to change the world. It had the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair.

Now think about channeling that power toward addressing climate change, the defining challenge of our time. We still have a lot of work to do to realize this dream, but the Green Sports Alliance and all of our partner organizations have this opportunity before us if we work together.

GSB: Those include GSA Japan, which launched earlier this year, BASIS in Great Britain, Sports Environment Alliance (SEA) in Australia and New Zealand, along with Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) in Europe. Is this separation — some might say Balkanization — a good thing when the Green-Sports movement is relatively small?

Jason: Great question. I don’t see this as Balkanization at all. All these organizations are able to respond to their local cultures and contexts. I do see the ability for all of these groups, including Beyond Sport and others, to collaborate for maximum global impact through locally meaningful initiatives. In fact, that is one of the things I want to help foster as a GSA Board Member since I am now living and working in Australia. I am in conversation with a lot of the folks at these other incredible organizations, as many of us in the Alliance are. I think it is in all of our interests to work together, using the power of sports to ensure a safe and sustainable future for all life on our planet.

GSB: I’ll sign for that! What are you doing in Australia?

Jason: Staying true to my passion for cities, I set up Urban Apostles, my own development and consulting business. We specialize in regenerative urbanism and affordable housing models for cities. I like to say we work at the intersection of the sharing economy and art of city making.

GSB: What is regenerative urbanism?

Jason: Regenerative urbanism considers going beyond the ‘sustainable’ paradigm for cities since our current form of urbanization is not doing nearly enough to address issues like climate change and social inequity. For me, it’s a way of conceiving our cities as ‘living systems,’ and planning and developing them in a manner which creates conditions conducive for all life forms to thrive. Imagine a city that responds to the evolutionary needs of all the life within and around it. We look to shift from ‘human-centric’ urbanization models to ‘life-centric’ ones. Earlier this year, I also founded and launched City Makers’ Guild. It’s an education, advocacy, and research group promoting more equitable and inclusive cities.

GSB: Congratulations and good luck with both. And thank you for your important, visionary work that helped give birth to the Green Sports Alliance and is accelerating the move to Green-Sports 2.0.

 

^ Books on green design Twill read during his time at NYU included “Natural Capitalism,” by Amory & Hunter Lovins, with Paul Hawkens. “Ecological Design,” by Sym Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan. “The Green Real Estate Development Guide,” by William Browning and the Rocky Mountain Institute

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: New Winner of MLB’s Green Glove Award; Former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres To Co-Lead Formula E’s Advisory Board; Pollution Stops Play at Delhi Cricket Match

The highs and lows of Green-Sports are reflected in today’s GSB News & Notes: On the high side, MLB’s “Green Glove” award goes to the Seattle Mariners for the first time. And Formula E’s stature on the global sports stage continues to grow as it appoints former UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres to co-lead its Global Advisory Board. As for a down note, a major cricket match in Delhi between Sri Lanka and India was repeatedly interrupted due to excessive air pollution. 

 

SEATTLE MARINERS WIN “GREEN GLOVE” AWARD, ENDING SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS’ NINE YEAR REIGN AS MLB CLUB WITH HIGHEST WASTE DIVERSION RATE

The Seattle Mariners, a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance, were recently awarded Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) “Green Glove Award” in recognition of their sustainability efforts at Safeco Field this season, ending the nine year reign of the San Francisco Giants.

 

Safeco Field Ballparks of Baseball

Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, winners of MLB’s Green Glove Award for 2017 (Photo credit: Ballparks of Baseball)

 

According to a November 28 story on MLB.com by Greg Johns, the Mariners were recognized as the MLB club with the highest rate of waste diversion from landfill:

The M’s, who replaced concourse garbage cans with compost and recycling bins, diverted 96 percent of waste materials from the ballpark in 2017, up from 90 percent a year ago.

And the Mariners sustainability efforts go much deeper than waste diversion. The club:

  • Was the first in MLB to use energy-efficient LED lights.
  • Hired cleaning crews to separate plastics and compostable waste by hand after each game
  • Manages an urban garden which provides vegetables, herbs and radishes to concession stands and restaurants at the ballpark.
  • Work with Eco-Products to utilize compostable serviceware like soft drink, beer and coffee cups, plates, lids, and cutlery at Safeco Field
  • Participated, along with the Seahawks, Sounders and more than 100 other Seattle-based businesses, in the “Strawless in Seattle” September effort. This innovative program, developed by the Lonely Whale Foundation, worked to reduce the use of plastic straws in the fight against ocean pollution.

 

“We are thrilled to present the Seattle Mariners with the 2017 Green Glove Award,” said Paul Hanlon, senior director of ballpark operations and sustainability for Major League Baseball, in a statement. “With its 96 percent conversion rate at the top of the list, the club has done a tremendous job of promoting and instilling sustainability practices and initiatives that will positively impact our environment.”

“We have worked hard over the years to make Safeco Field one of the ‘greenest’ ballparks in pro sports,” said Mariners senior vice president of ballpark operations Trevor Gooby, in a statement. “With our hospitality partner Centerplate, and our founding sustainability partner BASF, we have been able to significantly reduce our impact on the environment.”

 

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, FORMER UN CLIMATE CHIEF, TO LEAD FORMULA E GLOBAL ADVISORY BOARD

Sam Bird of Great Britain, driving for the DS Virgin team, won the opening race of the 2017-2018 Formula E season in Hong Kong 10 days ago.

Off the race track, the increasingly popular open wheel electric vehicle (EV) street racing circuit added serious climate change chops to its Global Advisory Board when in named former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres as co-leader. She will be joined by Alain Prost, the retired 4-time Formula One world champion from France.

 

Christiana Figueres GreenBiz

Christiana Figueres, new co-leader of Formula E (Photo credit: United Nations)

 

The Formula E Global Advisory Board plays an important role in the growth of the circuit, and more broadly, EV racing and adoption. Per a November 28 article in CleanTechnica by James Ayre, the board advises relevant parties on topics relating to “sustainability, the media, and business.”

Reuters reports that Figueres and Prost will lead a board made up of motor sports and business all-stars, including “Formula E founder Alejandro Agag, chairman of Chinese telecommunications leader SINA Charles Chao, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief marketing officer Gerd Mauser, and former McLaren Formula 1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh. Brazil’s reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi and Swiss private bank Julius Baer’s head of global sponsor[ship] Marco Parroni are also on the board.”

 

I cannot think of a stronger, more important voice to help lead Formula E from post start up to maturity than Christiana Figueres.

A longtime Costa Rican diplomat, Figueres served as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She is most well known for her work helping to push 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries, across the finish line. She has been a strong, consistent voice behind the global need to rapidly move away from the use of fossil fuels and towards the widespread adoption of EVs and other types of electric-powered mobility. This is, of course, Formula E’s raison d’être.

“In order to meet the objectives set out by the Paris agreement and prevent global temperatures spiralling out of control, we must have a need for speed and react quickly,” Figueres said in a statement. “This unique forum at Formula E will allow us to bring great minds together with the same common goal, speeding-up the transition and use of electric vehicles in everyday life.”

She will help preside over a season that will feature races in three new cities (Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil and Rome), a return to the streets of Brooklyn in early July and a finale in Montreal July 28-29.

 

 

SRI LANKAN CRICKETERS BECOME ILL DUE TO POLLUTION DURING MATCH IN DELHI

My mental picture of cricket, admittedly a sport about which I know next to nothing, includes a gigantic oval field with no foul territory, players dressed in all white, somewhat formal uniforms, and those same players relaxing during a break for a spot of tea.

That vision most certainly does not include, well, vomiting.

Maybe I need a new glasses prescription.

Michael Safi reported in Sunday’s issue of The Guardian, with assistance from Agence France-Presse, that a cricket Test match# in Delhi between India and Sri Lanka “was repeatedly interrupted on Sunday with claims players were ‘continuously vomiting’ due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital.”

Airborne pollution levels 15 times the World Health Organization limits were recorded on the second day of the match at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi on Sunday. Per Safi, “as the haze worsened, many Sri Lankan players returned from lunch wearing face masks before complaining to umpires, who halted play for 20 minutes to consult with team doctors and match officials.”

Announcers said it was the first recorded instance of an international cricket match being halted due to the toxic smog that reaches hazardous levels in northern India during the winter months.

The match resumed but was interrupted twice more as Sri Lankan players Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal left the field with breathing difficulties.

“We had players coming off the field and vomiting,” Sri Lanka coach Nick Pothas told reporters. “There were oxygen cylinders in the [locker] room. It’s not normal for players to suffer in that way while playing the game…I think it’s the first time that everybody has come across [the vomiting] situation.”

 

A paramedic speaks to Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Gamage after he complained of shortness of breath.
A paramedic speaks to Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Gamage after he complained of shortness of breath (Photo credit: Altaf Qadri/AP)

 

CK Khanna, acting president of India’s cricket board, said the Sri Lankans were making much ado about nothing: “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have problems and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why the Sri Lankan team made a big fuss?” The crowd agreed, showering boos upon Sri Lanka’s batsmen.

 

Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal fields in a mask.
 Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal fields in a mask (Photo credit: Altaf Qadri/AP)

 

The effects of the city’s polluted air were not limited to cricket: Schools were shut and doctors declared a public health emergency in Delhi last month as pollution levels spiked to an unimaginable 40 times the WHO safe limits, which is equivalent to smoking at least 50 cigarettes per day.

Delhi officials have been accused of not preparing for what has become an annual crisis each winter, while the Indian government has downplayed the urgency and health risks associated with the problem.

The city’s extremely poor air quality is the result of a combination of road dust, open fires, vehicle exhaust fumes, industrial emissions and the burning of crop residues in neighbouring states. Indian weather agencies also blame dust storms that originate in the Persian Gulf to the country’s west.

 

# Test cricket is the longest form of of the sport and is considered its highest level. Test matches can last as long as five days.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Seattle Seahawks and Sounders Sell Potatoes Grown from Their Own Compost; EV Charging at Chicago’s United Center; Golf Course Bogeys Chance to Score on Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog’s News & Notes is back with Three for Thursday: CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks and Sounders, built on its already strong green-sports record by sourcing potatoes grown from its own compost. Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks, is bringing free electric vehicle (EV) charging to its parking lots. And a golf course near Portland, OR swings and misses on a chance to make a statement on climate change. 

 

 

POTATOES GROWN FROM COMPOST SOLD AT SEATTLE’S CENTURYLINK FIELD

CenturyLink Field’s reputation as one of the greenest sports venues in the U.S. is well-deserved. From on-site solar to diverting over 97 percent of its waste from landfill this season to its stellar public transit offerings that bring 35 percent of all attendees to and from Seahawks and Sounders games, CenturyLink gets it done. And, this September, the venue  went straw-free by taking part in “Strawless in Seattle,” an initiative of the Lonely Whale Foundation.

How could CenturyLink Field top all that?

By changing the way they source potatoes, that’s how!

You see, all of the french fries served at the Seahawks thrilling 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans on October 29 and the Sounders 2-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS playoff game on November 2 came from Sound Sustainable Farms, which used compost from the stadium’s food waste to grow its produce.

The Seahawks and Sounders are partnering with Cedar Grove Composting, which owns Sound Sustainable Farms, to offer locally sourced, organic and eco-friendly foods.

Cedar Grove collects about 16 tons of compost after every Seahawks game, according to a team statement. That compost served as the growing environment which yielded approximately 6,000 pounds of cut potatoes for the Seahawks-Texans game.

Cedar Grove says it brought its compost to a dormant farm in Redmond, WA earlier this year where the soil was restored for farming. And, voilà, Sound Sustainable Farms was born and CenturyLink Field had french fries made from their own compost.

 

CenturyLink Potatoes

Potatoes, growing in soil from compost collected at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, will ultimately become french fries at…CenturyLink Field (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

“This fully integrated, closed-loop cycle takes composting to its highest and best use by returning the finished compost to growing food for local consumption,” said J. Stephan Banchero, III, vice president of Cedar Grove.

 

UNITED CENTER GETS NEW JUICE FROM VOLTA EV CHARGING

So far this season, both tenants of Chicago’s United Center — the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks — can use jolts of energy. The once-legendary Bulls now reside near the Eastern Conference bottom with a 2-9 record. The Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups this decade, are in better shape than their hoops co-tenants but are lumbering along at a “meh” 8-8-2 mark.

But, there is hope.

Volta Charging, the leader in free electric vehicle (EV) charging, recently began deploying EV charging stations near the South and East entrances of the United Center in Chicago, as part of a 10-year agreement with the venue.

Through Volta’s nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, the largest indoor arena in the U.S., will offer visitors free charging facilities, supporting the United Center’s mission to reduce its environmental impact.

 

Volta Charging Greentech Media

A Volta charging station. The company recently signed a 10-year deal to deploy similar stations at Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks (Photo credit: GreenTech Media)

 

Four open-access universal charging stations will be installed, operated and maintained at no cost to the United Center or its customers through Volta’s ad-supported network model. The stations will be equipped with digital-hybrid advertising display units that will be placed in prime locations near venue entrances. This will ensure sponsor/advertiser messages reach fans entering and exiting the arena, while facilitating easy access for drivers.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an executive order committing  the city to work towards the scientific guidelines put forth in the Paris climate agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. As city departments work to find ways to reduce emissions, United Center is raising awareness about its own commitment to sustainability through its partnership with Volta.

“With over 2.5 million visitors annually, we are excited to be partnering with Volta to bring its [charging] stations to our arena and provide visitors with a convenient and easy way to charge their vehicles,” said Joe Myra, VP of Business Affairs at the United Center. “Volta’s model aligns perfectly with our plan to work towards sustainability and enables our patrons to take a personal stake in a viable future.”

Since its founding 2010, Volta reports it has delivered over 15 million electric miles, saving 136,000 gallons of gas and offsetting 6.6 million pounds of CO₂ in the process.

 

WASHINGTON STATE’S BEACON ROCK GOLF COURSE DOESN’T QUITE GET GREEN-SPORTS

Have you seen this photo? It received quite a bit of media attention back in early September.

 

Golf Fire

Photo credit: Beacon Rock Golf Course

 

It was taken on September 7 at Beacon Rock Golf Course on the Washington side of the border with Oregon.

In the background, you see the Eagle Creek fire, a 31,000-acre blaze burning all the way to the Portland area, about 45 miles away. Even though it was encroaching on the golf course, play went on.

Of course, it must be noted that the Columbia River forms the border between the two states at that point so there was little chance of the fire moving on to the first tee. And, it’s worth mentioning that many golfers have the “play through” ethos, meaning that the elements will not stop them.

I get it.

But what I don’t get are the reactions of the folks who run Beacon Rock Golf Course.

They posted the photo above to Facebook with the caption “Our golfers are committed to finishing the round!” That’s simply callous and tone deaf.

But later on, they posted this more menacing photo with a sober, much more appropriate caption:

 

Golf Fire 2

 

Yet, to me, this was an opportunity lost.

If I was asked to write this caption, it would have read something like this:

“View from the Clubhouse. A fire of this magnitude makes us 1) thankful no lives have been lost so far, 2) think of the many people who will be affected for many months, and 3) urge business as well as government leaders in Washington, Oregon and at the federal level to take serious, immediate action on climate change.” 

OK, maybe it could be a tad tighter, but you get my drift.

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since May 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams, athletes and events that are helping to lead the sports-greening movement. We haven’t focused on how they’re doing on the field. Until last month, that is. That’s when we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting the recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience. Also, it’s fun. And if there’s one thing the climate change/environmental world can use more of — including the Green-Sports niche — is fun. 

 

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 

The star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks joined the ranks of eco-athletes when he helped promote “Strawless in Seattle September,” the Lonely Whale Foundation’s (LWF) campaign to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage.

Wilson was challenged by actor and LWF co-founder Adrian Grenier on Instagram to #stopsucking — i.e. stop using straws — at least in September. He accepted and then challenged the “12s” — aka rabid Seahawks fans — to do the same: “I accept [Grenier’s] challenge to #stopsucking. Now I’m challenging you 12s! It’s going to take teamwork to save our ocean from plastic pollution.”

The 12s responded, as did many other Seattleites. According to Lonely Whale, in September alone, 2.3 million single-use plastic straws were removed from the city. In fact, the Seahawks, baseball’s Mariners and Major League Soccer’s Sounders all refrained from giving out straws to fans last month.

Yet, Wilson’s impressive success as a #stopsucking pitch man was outdone by his otherworldly performance on the field during Sunday’s thrilling, 41-38 instant classic win over the Houston Texans and their stellar rookie QB DeShaun Watson. While his stat line is phenomenal — a career-high 452 yards passing including 4 touchdowns (TDs) — it was the way Wilson led the Seahawks back, time and again, after Watson would put Houston ahead. He saved his best for last, driving Seattle 80 yards in just three plays with 1:39 left and no timeouts remaining.

 

Wilson Bleacher Report

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson prepares to pass during Sunday’s epic 41-38 win over the Houston Texans in Seattle (Photo credit: Bleacher Report)

 

The Seahawks, now 5-2 and in a first place tie with the LA Rams in the NFC West, host the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing Wins First Ocean Leg of Volvo Ocean Race

Is GreenSportsBlog a good luck charm, or what?

We shared Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s groundbreaking sustainable sailing story just this past Friday and then what happens?

Saturday, the team, led by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, won the first leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which traveled from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, in wire-to-wire fashion, by several hours. They stayed ahead of the other seven boats through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the island of Porto Santo, and north to Lisbon.

“Can’t argue with the results,” said skipper Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”

 

Leg 01, Alicante to Lisbon, day xx,  on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Photo by James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race. 27 October, 2017

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, racing through the Strait of Gibraltar to its way to a  first place finish in Lisbon in the initial leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing lived its sustainability ethos on the water just as it does on land. On the first day at sea, the crew partook in Meatless Monday, an international campaign to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment. “We are enjoying Mediterranean veggie pasta,” said team director and co-founder Mark Towill. “It is one simple way of lowering our carbon footprint and is part of our commitment to sustainability.”

The team will remain in Lisbon for one week, sharing their commitment to sustainability   with local fans at their interactive Exploration Zone, all the while preparing for the 7,000-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa, which starts November 6th.

 

Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers FC (FGR) was finding life in League Two (aka the fourth tier) of English football to be challenging after being promoted from the fifth tier for the first time in their 125+ year history in May.  The Greenest Team in Sports — it has earned that distinction in a myriad of ways, from solar panels on its stadium roof to solar powered “Mo-Bots” used to mow the organic pitch to all vegan-only concession stands — found itself in the dreaded “relegation zone” after an embarrassing 4-0 home drubbing by Newport County AFC on October 14th. The relegation zone means FGR was in one of the bottom two places in the 24-team league standings and, if it ended up there at season’s end in May, it would be relegated back down to the fifth tier.

Good thing for Forest Green Rovers is that, at that point, it had only played 13 of its 46 regular season matches. So there was plenty of time for a turnaround.

That turnaround started in strong fashion on the 17th when FGR won a taut 1-0 struggle on the road at 6th place Coventry City. Even more impressive was the comeback win at Stevenage FC on the 21st. Down 1-0 at halftime, FGR netted two goals within 12 minutes to secure the 2-1 win. The Green Devils extended their run of strong play with a third straight win on Saturday, this one a tidy 2-0 home decision over current relegation zone resident Morecambe FC.

 

FGR Morecambe

Keanu Marsh-Brown (upper right in green and black) scores for Forest Green Rovers in their 2-0 home win over Morecambe FC (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers FC)

 

The three game winning streak moved Forest Green Rovers from 23rd to 20th place. While hardly safe — there are 30 matches left and FGR is only one point above 23rd — 17th place is only two points away. Next up is an away test at Crawley Town FC on Saturday.

 

Oregon State Beavers 

Oregon State University became a green-sports leader last year with the launch of BAST — the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team — the first student-athlete run sustainability organization at a Division I school. The now-graduated Samantha Lewis (cross-country) and Jesikah Cavanaugh (swimming) helped steer the group through its infancy and led the establishment of its 3-pronged mission:

  1. Encourage and implement sustainable ideas within the athletic department
  2. Educate our fellow student-athletes about sustainability and environmental issues
  3. Work to engage with the rest of campus and the broader Corvallis community

BAST’s Year One programs included pom-pom and light stick return stations at OSU football games, recycling education tabling at men’s and women’s basketball games, and clear recycling bins — which resulted in increased recycling rates — at baseball games.

According to Cavanaugh, the BAST leadership baton, now in the possession of Marie Guelich (women’s basketball), Sam McKinnon (women’s cross country and track) and Mimi Grosselius (women’s rowing), is “in good hands.”

So how are the Beavers doing on the field/court?

If you’re looking for an on-field/court success story in Corvallis this fall, look no further than the women’s volleyball team. Its 16-8 record includes wins over 14th ranked Washington and 12th ranked Utah. The cross-country team had some early season success, with a second place finish at the Sundogger Invitational in Seattle.

 

OSU volleyball

The Oregon State University women’s volleyball team celebrates their upset over 12th ranked Utah (Photo credit: Mark Hoffman)

 

On the men’s side, the football team is suffering through a 1-7 season and are languishing at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Things are only slightly better for the men’s soccer team, which sits at 6-11 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12. The men’s team enjoying the best season thus far this fall is rowing, which earned a strong third place finish at the famed Head of the Charles regatta in Boston.

 


 

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Lonely Whale Foundation and Adrian Grenier Partner with Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks on “Strawless in Seattle” September

The Lonely Whale Foundation, co-founded by Adrian Grenier of HBO’s Entourage fame, is working with Seattle’s pro sports teams (Major League Baseball’s Mariners, the NFL’s Seahawks and the Sounders of Major League Soccer) to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage. 

 

ADRIAN GRENIER PITCHES STRAWLESS IN SEATTLE PROGRAM

When Adrian Grenier took the mound at Seattle’s Safeco Field on September 1st, he wasn’t an out-of-left-field starting pitching choice for the American League wild card contending Mariners. No, the star of HBO’s Entourage threw out the first pitch for a different team — The Lonely Whale Foundation, the nonprofit he co-founded in 2015 with film producer Lucy Sumner — to help kickoff (sorry for the mixed sports metaphor there) Strawless in Seattle September, a new phase of their “#StopSucking” campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

StrawlessInSeattle-FullLogo_ (002)

 

“We are living during a critical turning point for our ocean, and that’s why I’m excited to celebrate the city of Seattle as a true ocean health leader,” said Grenier. “Alongside Lonely Whale Foundation, Seattle’s citywide commitment demonstrates our collective strength to create measurable impact and address the global ocean plastic pollution crisis. We are starting in Seattle with the plastic straw and see no limits if we combine forces to solve this global issue.”

CenturyLink Field is taking the Strawless in Seattle September baton from Safeco Field and the Mariners. The home of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL has already switched to 100 percent paper straws — and they are only given out by request. During all September home games, those straws, made by Aardvark Straws, display the Strawless Ocean brand. The Sounders gave out those straws at their game vs. the LA Galaxy this past Sunday and will do so again when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town on the 27th. The NFL’s Seahawks will go with the Strawless Ocean branding at their lone September home game — this Sunday’s home opener vs. the San Francisco 49ers. From the beginning of October through the end of the 2017 season and beyond, all straws at Seahawks home games, also made by Aardvark, will display the team’s logo.

 

Ocean + Strawless Straws

“Strawless Ocean”-branded paper straws are being given out all September long at Seattle Seahawks and Sounders home games at CenturyLink Field as well as at all Mariners September home contests at Safeco Field (Photo credit: Aardvark Straws)

 

Strawless in Seattle represents Phase III of Lonely Whale’s #StopSucking campaign. The idea, according to Dune Ives, the nonprofit’s executive director, “is to focus on one city, Seattle, where there already is a strong ‘healthy living’ ethos, to drive a comprehensive, monthlong campaign.” Sports is a key venue for the campaign; entertainment,  bars, and restaurants are three others.

 

Dune Ives_Executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation

Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation (Photo credit: Lonely Whale Foundation)

 

Adrian Grenier challenged Russell Wilson, the Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback, to get involved with Strawless in Seattle and #StopSucking. Wilson accepted and then challenged Seahawks fans (aka “the 12s” — for “12th man”) to do the same.

 

 

This builds upon a fun, #StopSucking-themed, celebrity-laden public service announcement (PSA) campaign, also from Lonely Whale Foundation. And ‘Hawks fans will also get into the “talk the strawless talk” act when they visit the #StopSucking photo booth at CenturyLink. I am sure there will be some, shall we say, colorful fan entries, depending on how the games are going.

 

#StopSucking PSA from the Lonely Whale Foundation is running as part of Strawless in Seattle campaign.

 

Phase I of the campaign focused on spreading the #StopSucking videos virally. “Sucker Punch,” an earlier humorous video under the #StopSucking umbrella, premiered at February’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. “The ‘super slow motion’ visuals of celebrities from Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Sports Illustrated swimsuit models having their straws slapped out of their mouths by the tail of an ocean creature got a great response at South By Southwest and beyond,” said Ms. Ives.

 

The 1-minute long “Sucker Punch” video from The Lonely Whale Foundation, which premiered at SXSW this February.

 

The #StopSucking social media campaign, which constitutes Phase II, is, per Ms. Ives, “going gangbusters.”

It will take much more than the powerful, multi-phase #StopSucking campaign to make a significant dent in the massive, global plastic ocean waste problem. How significant? Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day.

You read that right: we use 500 million plastic straws every day. Right now there are “only” 327 million American humans.

Many of these plastic straws end up in the oceans, polluting the water and harming sea life. If we continue on our current path, plastics in the oceans, of which straws are a small but significant part, will outweigh all fish by 2050.

This is why there are many straw reduction, strawless, and switch-from-plastic-straw efforts. GreenSportsBlog featured one earlier this year, the powerful OneLessStraw campaign from the high school students/sister and brother tandem, Olivia and Carter Ries, co-founders of nonprofit OneMoreGeneration (OMG!)

Ms. Ives welcomes the company: “We have 50 NGO partners globally, all of whom do great, important work. We believe Lonely Whale fills in a key missing element: A powerful umbrella platform, which includes the right social media engagement tools, the right venues and the right celebrities to catalyze and grow the movement.”

As noted earlier, restaurants and bars are key venues for #StopSucking, but sports will always have a primary role. “It is inspiring to see our stadiums and teams taking a leadership position with the Strawless Ocean challenge,” enthused Ms. Ives. “Very few outlets exist that reach and influence so many individuals at one time and through their commitment, our teams are taking steps to significantly reduce their use of single-use plastics by starting first with the straw.”

And Seattle-based teams and athletes are not the only sports figures to join in. Grenier challenged Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to join the campaign in August and Karlsson accepted. Maybe Lonely Whale should look north of the border for their next campaign.

After all, “Strawless with the (Ottawa) Sens” has a nice ring to it.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Sustainability Effort for Tokyo 2020 Builds on Past Games; Aardvark Paper Straws at Stadiums and Arenas; Philadelphia Eagles Amp Up Green Efforts

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are still more than three years away but sustainability planning is in high gear. GSB spoke with Takeo Tanaka, the man leading Tokyo 2020’s greening efforts. Aardvark brings its straws made from paper to sports stadiums and arenas, lessening the amount of plastic ocean waste in the process. And the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the early Green-Sports adapters, take their waste management to the next level with the installation of an Eco-Safe food digester.

 

TOKYO 2020 LOOKS TO TAKE OLYMPIC SUSTAINABILITY TO NEXT LEVEL

Takeo Tanaka, the Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has some audacious greening goals for the Games that begin on July 24, 2020.

“We are building a substantive, five-pillar approach to sustainability,” said Mr. Tanaka. “The five pillars—Climate change, resource management, natural environment and biodiversity, human rights, labor and fair business practices, and involvement, cooperation and communications—are the framework that will earn us ISO 20121 certification* and allow us to take the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 sustainability to its highest level.”

 

Tokyo 2020 SUS team

Takeo Tanaka (center, front), Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the sustainability team. (Photo credit: Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)

 

Three years out, the pillars are taking shape:

  • Tokyo 2020’s Olympic Stadium, as well as all new permanent indoor venues, a big indoor temporary venue — the Olympic Gymnastic Centre — along with the Olympic and Paralympic Village, were all designed and are being built with the expectation of achieving CASBEE^ certification,
  • Energy efficient, low emission vehicles (hybrids and EVs) will be used throughout the Games.
  • The Organising Committee is pursuing CO2 emission reductions in the distribution process by procuring seasonal foods and other goods that are produced close to Tokyo.
  • The sustainability team is working closely with the communications group on an innovative program that encourages Japanese citizens in all 47 prefectures (states) to donate old mobile phones and small electric devices in collection boxes. 100 percent of the two tons of gold, silver and bronze for the more than 5,000 medals that will be awarded at the 2020 Games will be made from the transformed e-waste. “Unfortunately, not many people in Japan know about the richness and the potential of ‘urban mines,’ said Mr. Tanaka. “I believe that this project will raise awareness of the existence and the value of useful metals buried in the urban environment. People will hopefully become aware of the usefulness of recycling and this will leave a positive legacy for society.”
    • The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project Towards an Innovative Future for All is being promoted to the public via a popular TV program and a public service announcement campaign from the governors of Tokyo.

 

Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Artist’s rendering of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, expected to receive CASBEE green building certification. (Credit: Dezeen.com)

 

The Tokyo 2020 Sustainability Communications plan — to the media and the public — is still taking shape. Suffice to say, Mr. Tanaka and his team took notes on what their Rio 2016 counterparts did, from the “sustainability booth” at the Media Press Center, to sustainability-themed venue tours for the media, to the climate change vignette that was featured during the Opening Ceremonies.

According to Mr. Tanaka, the five pillars approach ensures that sustainability will always be a core component of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games DNA: “Not only is every division of the Organising Committee being trained on the sustainability initiatives, top management is involved as well. Sustainability is an agenda item at every Senior Directors meeting and sustainability-themed blogs have been posted to build awareness and interest among Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games employees and ultimately, volunteers.”

What about corporate sponsors, you ask? The Organising Committee created a Corporate Sustainability Network for Tokyo 2020 corporate sponsors, both local and worldwide. So far 37 of the 55 local sponsors have joined the network, which aims to engage corporate stakeholders, from employees to customers to management in sustainable initiatives surrounding the Games.

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know about Mr. Tanaka. Before leading the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games sustainability charge, he had a 30-year career at Tokyo’s electric company, where he worked on environmental issues and the preservation of Japan’s national parks. He’s also worked with the Nature Conservancy and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on climate change and biodiversity issues.

Suffice to say, sustainability is in good hands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

AARDVARK PAPER STRAWS HELP GREEN STADIUMS AND ARENAS

This Green-Sports story goes back aways, to 1888.

It was then a man named Marvin Stone invented the original paper straw and patented his idea. That patent became the foundation for Precision Products Group, Inc.  — the same company that manufactures Aardvark®, The Original Paper Straw, today.

Over time, as cheaper plastic straws came to dominate the category, the paper straw fell by the wayside. And, while straws are low interest items for consumers, the environmental costs add up. Consider that there are 1 billion plastic straws used each day, 500 million alone in North America. After their brief, one-time-use lives are over, where do they end up?  Either in landfills or oceans.

In 2007, in response to a growing anti-plastic movement, the main buyers of plastic straws in the U.S. — restaurants, hospitals, and other industries, including sports — began to look for more sustainable, eco-friendly options.

As a leading U.S. manufacturer of small-size cylindrical tubing solutions, Precision Products Group looked to create a straw that was less environmentally toxic. The answer was in their archives: Marvin Stone’s original 1888 patent for the first paper straw. Putting a modern spin on Stone’s original concept, Aardvark created a straw using 100 percent sustainable and renewable papers that was more sustainable and durable than any other paper straw ever made.  According to David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager, initially, “Aardvark was the only paper straw being made, but cheap and inferior China straws that get soggy and fall apart quickly entered into the market. Today, Aardvark remains the only quality and safe paper straw and the only [one that’s] Made in the USA.”

 

David Rhodes

David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager (Photo credit: David Rhodes)

 

The sports industry is of great interest to Aardvark, with its high profile, passionate, and thirsty fan bases. The company has made some impressive inroads over the past two years. “We work with ‘Party Goods’ retailers like Amscan and Creative Converting to offer paper straws with team logos emblazoned on them,” related Mr. Rhodes. “Right now, they have licenses with all 32 NFL teams and most of the schools in the Power 5 conferences. This is an ideal product for tailgaters. Fans can buy packages of, say, Green Bay Packers Aardvark straws at Packer retail stores and via Amazon. And, because fan loyalty is so strong, the margins also can be strong for the retailer.”

Jets straws

New York Jets paper straws from Aardvark (Photo credit: Aardvark)

 

But sports retail is a much smaller potential market for Aardvark than the concessions stands and restaurants at a ballpark or arena — as the latter represents 99 percent of straw usage. Cost has been a drag on Aardvark’s ability to crack that market. “Plastic straws cost about 0.5¢ each, whereas Aardvark paper straws cost 1.5¢ without printing on them and 2.0¢ with printing,” said Mr. Rhodes. “Looking at sports stadiums and arenas, since concessionaires give straws away, going to our product simply adds cost.”

Mr. Rhodes sees a potentially elegant solution to the thorny cost problem: Selling a combined, retail-concession paper straw combination to teams: “We can show teams that the profit they will realize from selling Aardvark straws at retail will offset the increased costs from giving our straws away at concession stands. And with retail-concession being a wash, we make the case that reductions in trash transportation costs and enhanced branding from going green make Aardvark a clear winner.”

According to Mr. Rhodes, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the about-to-open home of the Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C, and CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and MLS’ Seattle Sounders, are dueling to be the first facility to offer Aardvark straws at the concession stand.

Finally, GreenSportsBlog readers may recall our March 2017 interview with Olivia and Carter Ries, the teenage founders of nonprofit One More Generation (OMG!) and its One Less Straw campaign, designed to dramatically reduce the number of straws used and thus lessen plastic ocean waste. I asked Mr. Rhodes if he saw OMG as a competitor or potential partner.

Not surprisingly, he chose the latter: “We partner with and support OMG and other [plastic ocean waste] advocate groups, including Lonely Whale Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, The Last Plastic Straw, 5 Gyres, Hannah 4 Change, Surfrider Foundation, Sailors for the Sea, etc. Our long term goal is to assist in reducing the overall amount of straw usage by 50 percent and then converting at least 10 percent of the remaining straws to paper. [Thus,] we suggest restaurant owners and employees only offer a straw [and a paper one at that] if a customer specifically requests one.”

Aardvark found that restaurants that offer straws only on demand see reductions in straw consumption of up to 50 percent, diminishing the increased cost of switching to paper straws and allowing restaurants to save money while saving the planet.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES EXPAND GO GREEN EFFORTS WITH INSTALLATION OF ECO-SAFE DIGESTER®

The Philadelphia Eagles, a green-sports early adapter, recently announced they will team up with environmental partner, Delaware-based Waste Masters Solutions (WMS), on the installation of a BioHiTech Global Eco-Safe Digester®, a food waste digester and data analytics platform at Lincoln Financial Field. The unit uses a proprietary bacteria formula to break down pre- and post-consumer food scraps via aerobic digestion and send them through sewer systems with no residual solids.

 

BioHiTech Eco-Safe

BioHiTech Global’s Eco-Safe Digesters will be installed Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and will be managed and maintained by Waste Master Solutions. (Photo credit: BioHiTech Global)

 

This move builds upon the September 2016 installation of a waste digester at the team’s NovaCare Complex practice facility to help decompose pre-consumer food waste. Since then, more than nine tons (18,100 pounds) of food waste has been decomposed and, thus, diverted from landfills.

Cleantech leader BioHiTech Global – which develops and deploys innovative and disruptive waste management technologies like the Eco-Safe Digester – will handle, in collaboration with WMS, the design, construction and operation of the analytics platform.

Eagles minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie helped spearhead the team’s Go Green program in 2003 with the opening of an environmentally forward (especially for that time) Lincoln Financial Field. The club’s partnership with WMS is just the latest element of its comprehensive environmental program that also features on-site solar and small scale wind (eagle talon-shaped turbines spin atop the stadium), recycling and composting, energy and water conservation, reforestation and sustainability partnerships, as well as fan education programs.

 

Christina Weiss Lurie

Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo credit: Christina Weiss Lurie)

 

* ISO 2012-1 is the global standard for sustainable events.
^ CASBEE is the Japanese green building certification that is somewhat akin to LEED.

 

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