“Sustainability at the 2019 Final Fours” — Part II: Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis

The 2019 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Fours both featured Green Teams, squads of volunteers that helped educate fans about environmentally friendly behaviors and to direct them to place their food waste in the proper receptacles. 

Aside from that, the two events were about as different as the host cities, Tampa for the women and Minneapolis for the men.

Wednesday, GreenSportsBlog shared the experiences of Madeleine “Maddy” Orr and her students from Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada as they ventured to Tampa, becoming the first Green Team at a Women’s Final Four.

Today we turn to Minneapolis and the story of how Tiffany Richardson brought her deep Green Team management experience — honed at several Major League Baseball All-Star Games — to the Men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium.

 

Tiffany Richardson had three key things going for her as she worked to pull together and manage the green team for the 2019 Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis. Richardson:

  1. Was based in the Twin Cities, where she is owner of Elevate Sports Consulting and a former lecturer at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Kinesiology’s Sport Management area and an Educator at the Institute on the Environment (IOE). OK, she moved to Amsterdam about six months before the Final Four, but was able to handle things remotely in a smooth fashion thanks to a strong team back home.
  2. Had successfully managed Green Teams at four Major League Baseball All-Star Games, starting with the 2014 edition at Minneapolis’ Target Field.
  3. Reached out to the Minneapolis local organizing committee about a Green Team two years before the Final Four, giving her the necessary time to sell management on her vision.

Upon meeting Richardson for the first time at a Minneapolis cafe the morning of the semifinals doubleheader, one thing became crystal clear to me: Green team members would execute her vision to the best of their abilities.

 

“I WANTED TO DO IT!”

“My ears perked up as soon as I heard that Minneapolis was going to host the 2019 Men’s Final Four,” Richardson recalled. “They needed to have a sustainability effort and I knew how to make it work. And I wanted to do it! So in early 2017, I got in touch with Kate Mortenson, president of the local organizing committee. She knew my reputation in Green-Sports and asked me to be the sustainability chair. And she gave me a blank canvas on which to create the sustainability programming, which was fantastic.”

 

Tiffany Richardson

Tiffany Richardson (Photo credit: Tiffany Richardson)

 

Richardson consulted with Colin Tetreault, who managed the sustainability effort for the 2017 Men’s Final Four in Phoenix about how best to fill the canvas.

“Colin drove home the point that we needed to establish a sustainability legacy for the Minneapolis Final Four,” said Richardson. “Water was the legacy for Phoenix. We decided to go with mass transit. Our message: Fans don’t need to rent cars; use mass transit.”

A plan was developed to encourage fans coming in to Minneapolis for the tournament to take light rail from the airport to downtown. I saw this firsthand as I attended the tournament. It could not have been more convenient. Fans could easily get to US Bank Stadium via light rail, bus, commuter rail and on foot.

 

IT’S GO (GREEN) TIME

And, while Phoenix didn’t have a Green-Team in 2017 — the NCAA thought it would be too intrusive for fans — Richardson was determined to show the powers that be that this would not be the case in Minneapolis.

“We sent a ‘sizzle video’ of our Green-Team’s work at the 2017 All-Star Game at Marlins Park in Miami to JoAn Scott, the NCAA’s managing director for the Division I men’s basketball championship in the fall,” recounted Richardson. “I told her and her colleagues that the only difference between All-Star and Final Four was innings versus time outs. They LOVED the video! Fast-forward to late 2017-early 2018. We presented our full vision for the Green-Team to JoAnne and her team. They aired their concerns — ‘don’t be disruptive’ and ‘don’t chastise’. We came to a meeting of the minds and the Green-Team was a GO!”

Speaking of GO, Richardson decided to go — as in move —  to Amsterdam in late summer 2018 to pursue an MBA at the University of Amsterdam. She also lectured on Sports Ethics at The Hague University in their International Sport Management department.

Big problem, right?

You don’t know Tiffany Richardson.

“I asked the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) to appoint a top-notch former student, Nicole Petschow, to run things in Minneapolis while I was away, including managing the recruiting of green team members,” Richardson said. “I would be on all conference calls and then would fly in for the Final Four. It worked out really well.”

 

Nicole Petschow

Nicole Petschow (Photo credit: Nicole Petschow)

 

As the calendar turned to 2019, the pace of the Final Four sustainability effort kicked into high gear:

  • A strong recruitment effort netted 70-plus green team members. They came from the University of Minnesota, The University of St. Thomas (another local school), and the University of Louisville.
  • Background checks were conducted in January on all of the volunteers (Richardson: “Security around the Men’s Final Four is much tighter than at the Women’s, a big difference.”)
  • Volunteer training took place in February. Per Richardson, “The volunteers helped out at Minnesota Wild NHL games to get experience and assist in the Wild’s efforts because they have a robust sustainability program themselves.”
  • Richardson and team worked with the MLOC to help the Men’s Final Four earn certification as a sustainable event from the Council for Responsible Sport (level still pending.)

 

GREEN TEAMERS DELIVER SOLID RESULTS

Since this was far from Richardson’s first Green-Team rodeo, she and her leadership team were well prepared heading into the Saturday semifinals at US Bank Stadium.

Still, the massive size of the building posed some challenges.

“This was basketball being played in a football stadium,” Richardson noted. “Instead of 17,000 for hockey or 43,000 for a baseball All-Star Game we had 72,000 fans! Our plans had to be fluid. What if the crowd filed in slowly? What if it rained and everyone wanted to get in early? What if fans loitered near the entrances? We had to be ready for every eventuality and we were.”

 

US Bank Stadium Jeff Thurn

72,711 fans shoehorned into US Bank Stadium for the Men’s Final Four semifinals (Photo credit: Jeff Thurn)

 

When fans started entering the Stadium at 2:45 PM for the 5 PM first game between Auburn and Virginia, the Green-Teamers were there. Unobtrusive and pleasant, they collected plastics and aluminum cans on the concourses. I saw them trudge up and down the very long, steep aisles of the upper deck, taking empty items with a smile — great guest service.

Per Richardson, “Kudos go to students from the University of Minnesota, St. Thomas and The University of Louisville. They brought great energy, never complained and understood this was about the bigger vision — one less bottle in the landfill — and they GOT IT DONE!”

 

Men's Final Four Green Team

2019 Men’s Final Four Green Team in Minneapolis (Photo credit: Tiffany Richardson)

 

Approximately 62 percent of the 144,000 pounds of waste collected over the two nights of the Final Four was diverted, with about half of the diverted waste going to recycling and the other half to compost¹.

Why didn’t they get in the 80-90 percent diversion range?

“We had a few Back-of-House — i.e. kitchen — issues that were beyond our control,” Richardson acknowledged. “I’m confident that the next time US Bank Stadium hosts a mega-event, those problems will have been ironed out and the diversion rates would approach the 90 percent Zero-Waste threshold.”

 

WHAT COULD’VE GONE BETTER/HOW TO MAKE FUTURE FINAL FOURS GREENER

“We had a really great event: The Green Team, folks from US Bank Stadium and the local organizing committee came together beautifully,” Richardson said. “But it could’ve gone much better, with a stronger commitment to fan-facing sustainability by the NCAA and sponsors like Coke.”

According to Richardson, here’s where the NCAA and Coca-Cola, a corporate sponsor with a strong green initiative, missed the mark:

  • Coke failed to promote their World Without Waste sustainability campaign (“They leveraged their new Orange-Vanilla flavor everywhere. World Without Waste? Not so much.”)
  • There were no recycling or compost receptacles on the Fan Fest streets that were closed to traffic
  • The public transit initiative fell a bit short as Richardson’s and company’s request to provide free mass transit rides to fans bearing game tickets was rejected (volunteers and coaches did get that benefit)

How can Men’s Final Fours go greener in the future, starting with the 2020 edition in Atlanta at LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

“The NCAA needs its own ‘sustainability charter’ for mega-events like the Final Fours and College Football Playoff National Championship, and that charter needs to have some real teeth,” recommended Richardson. “Corporate sponsors need to buy in. Sponsor-funded carbon offsets for every fan, Zero-Waste Games. Students will volunteer in great numbers; they don’t have to worry about that. There can’t be a greenwash; the NCAA can’t use half-measures because they don’t need to. They are the NCAA after all.”

 

 

¹ Actual amounts diverted: RECYCLED: 43,440 lbs.; COMPOST: 42,860 lbs.; DONATED FOOD: 6,427 lbs.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Rick Fedrizzi, Chairman, International Well Building Institute

If there were a Green-Sports Hall of Fame (hey, that’s an idea!), Rick Fedrizzi would be an inductee. As one of the founders of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its CEO for 14 years, Fedrizzi was instrumental in LEED becoming the certification standard for the built environment, including the sports world. During his tenure, LEED-certified stadia and arenas became the rule rather than the exception; permanent, high profile exemplars of the greening of the sports world. You’d think that would be enough. But, rather than retiring, Fedrizzi has chosen to start an important second act, as Chairman and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which administers the WELL Building Standard, a new standard that looks at how to use buildings to improve and enhance human performance and comfort. In a wide-ranging GSB Interview, Fedrizzi shared his vision for IWBI and how it can positively impact the sports world in general, and Green-Sports in particular.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Rick, thank you so much for chatting with us. I can’t wait to discuss your work at the International WELL Building Institute—IWBI—and how the WELL standard can accelerate the sports sustainability movement. But, before we get there, how did you get there?

Rick Fedrizzi: My pleasure, Lew. Going back a ways, I started out in accounting at Carrier Corporation right after graduating from LeMoyne College in Syracuse. Found out I didn’t much care for accounting, nor auditing. I much preferred marketing so I angled my way in that direction. Moved to South Florida with the company and was later pegged by the CEO to lead a unit that was tasked with greening the air conditioning business. So I became the Director of Environmental Marketing…

GSB: Did you have a real interest in environmental marketing before this job?

RF: Not specifically. But as I got into the job, I really got into it. In a year’s time, we delivered an entire platform for environmental marketing in the air conditioning arena, including dramatic improvements in packaging and refrigerants. We created, in essence, an internal ratings system…energy, sound, air quality…

 

Fedrizzi Michael Dambrosia

Rick Fedrizzi, chairman and CEO, International WELL Building Institute (Photo credit: Michael Dambrosia)

 

GSB: Sounds like part Energy Star, part LEED.

RF: Exactly…When I was asked to lead the team at U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) temporarily, I saw the possibilities and ended up signing on for 14 years as the full time CEO. We started the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED certification program, which first focused on environmental performance of new and existing commercial buildings, and later expanded to pretty much every building type – schools, retail, healthcare. It was my mission—I cared deeply about an organization that linked environmentalism, capitalism, and business—so it was the right place for me to be.

GSB: LEED has become standard operating procedure for new and upgrades to existing commercial buildings, including stadia and arenas. So congratulations are in order!

RF: Thank you…

GSB: So you decided to leave USGBC, and then a new opportunity came your way…

RF: With the International WELL Building Institute or IWBI…

 

IWBI

GSB: What is IWBI?

RF: IWBI is an organization at the intersection of building science, business metrics and health science. We look at, measure and certify, through the WELL Building Standard, what goes on inside a building and how it affects the people in the same way LEED looks at, measures and certifies mainly for external environmental impacts. LEED’s main targets are to protect the environment, reduce carbon emissions, environmental toxicity, and more. In terms of inside buildings, LEED does provide credit for human health related measures like air quality, water quality and light. But it represents only about 22-24 percent of LEED credits. WELL picks up where LEED leaves off, focusing on how human beings interact with the built environment.

GSB: What kinds of buildings can receive WELL certification?

RF: Right now, we work primarily with large scale commercial buildings and interiors – new and existing — which includes stadia and arenas, and large scale, high rise residential. But we have an “all buildings in” effort underway, and we’re beginning to register smaller scale building, affordable housing and later this summer, communities. With WELL we’re looking to change mindsets. In real estate, we want to the industry to move from simply building buildings that are functional and, yes, environmentally efficient, to one that builds buildings that inspire, attract and nurture, all with improved human performance in mind.

GSB: WELL basically sounds like a natural evolution from LEED…

RF: We hope so! LEED had to come first but now WELL gives us the opportunity to add health and wellness to the definition of sustainability of buildings. I call it the “second wave” of sustainability.

GSB: Where do sports fit in? I mean it’s clear how LEED fits—teams and venue owners want to build or renovate in an environmentally friendly way: It saves money—owners really like that—and it’s better for the environment.

RF: Great question, Lew. By looking at and measuring for air, light, but also acoustics and ergonomics, among others things WELL will help improve a player’s performance just like LEED will improve a stadium’s performance. Some Major League Baseball clubs have—or will have soon—high-end comfort pods at their stadiums. Players can read, relax, even sleep there. Putting your players in the best environment gives them the best chance to succeed on the court, on the field.

GSB: When did the IWBI and WELL get started?

RF: About seven years ago. Paul Scialla, CEO of Delos, a company focused on sustainable design, health and wellness real estate, really got the ball rolling. He saw the need for a collaboration between architects, engineers, sustainability executives—the key players in LEED—and doctors, public health officials, athletic trainers, dietitians, and more. It took awhile, but the WELL Building Standard finally went to market in late 2014, and I was brought in last November.

 

Delos Paul Scialla

Paul Scialla, CEO of Delos (Photo credit: Delos)

 

GSB: Is WELL only a North American thing?

RF: That’s our home base but we’ve got WELL Certified projects in more than 30 countries and a growing supporting infrastructure in key growth markets – China, India, UK, Europe, Canada. WELL was “prepped” for it by LEED.

GSB: So let’s get into the WELL Building Standard credits a bit. What do they look like?

RF: Let’s look at air: I’ve read a great deal and heard many stories about indoor air quality and its effects on the human body and human performance. There is a significant body of research that shows that human performance suffers when people are not properly ventilated, if it’s too dry or wet, too hot or cold. If CO2 is too high in a room, people can yawn, get fatigued, and/or suffer from headaches. WELL features tackle these issues: They include air quality performance and balance, material selection, filtration, moisture control, ventilation, construction processes, maintenance and operations, and more.

GSB: I did not know that about indoor CO2; never thought about it. What about lighting and water?

RF: Lighting is a complex topic. An office worker may be lucky enough to have a window nearby, indoor overhead lighting, a local desktop light and light from the computer. The optic nerve and brain try to process all four light sources to give you the best chance to perform. But the odds are that the mix of those light sources are not optimal which can lead to eye fatigue and overall sluggishness, and can disrupt your sleep patterns.

GSB: Which hurts productivity, I imagine.

RF: That’s right. So we measure light balance, as well as access to natural light, indoor light quality and more. On water, we are concerned with more than how clean it is—of course we measure that—but access to water inside a building is also very important as is how a company goes about encouraging hydration.

GSB: Talk to me about some of the areas that are unique to WELL as compared to LEED.

RF: WELL measures nourishment—things like access to healthy, organic food. Balanced meals. How clean the food is. Fitness is a very interesting area. Think about the old office building model: You sit at your desk and take the elevator. The new model, favored by millennials and I’m sure their successors, includes standing work stations, fitness rooms, shower access, bike commuting, and stairs inviting enough to use.

GSB: So how is WELL doing so far.

RF: I’ll tell you, Lew, with LEED we had to push, push, PUSH at the beginning to gain acceptance from developers, architects, engineers and more. It was really hard. With the WELL Building Standard, it’s still early days but it’s been just the opposite: People want this. WELL is in the realm of the personal, in the realm of health, especially the health of the people we care about – our families, our colleagues and employees.

GSB: That makes perfect sense. How does WELL deal with climate change? Or is that more of an issue for LEED?

RF: Great question, Lew. In “Thoughtful Living,” Thomas Blakenhor talks about how if we have access to healthy food, healthy buildings and a healthy lifestyle, concern about climate change will become more obvious, more ingrained. That healthy lifestyle will, of course, include more walking and cycling and less driving. When companies encourage this among their employees, they can apply for WELL credits via an “Alternative Adherence Path”…

GSB: Sounds like the WELL equivalent of “Independent Study” credits…

RF: You got it. The carbon reductions from encouraging employees to shift from driving to walking or cycling to work can be a WELL credit opportunity.

GSB: I really like the flexibility you’ve built into WELL. The more I think about it, the more I think that sports stadium and arena architects, engineers and construction managers need to jump on it for every new project and renovation.

RF: There are 345 stadiums and arenas that have or are applying for some level of LEED certification. Of those, 20-30 have indicated a very strong interest in WELL. So I think we’re off to a good start.

GSB: I’ll say!

RF: You know, with a LEED certified stadium or arena, a team is making a strong ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) type of sustainability statement. When you add WELL, you’re investing in the improved performance of your players, and you show your fans and community that you care about health and wellness of all stakeholders. If players feel good and proud of being in that type of environment, that’ll inspire fans to think “I too can be healthy.”

GSB: That will depend on strong messaging about WELL to fans…And one thing I’m concerned about in the Green-Sports world is that teams and leagues seem loathe to talk about their sustainability efforts directly to fans, which ironically limits the reach and potential impact of Green-Sports.

RF: I think teams and leagues will want to talk about how WELL is helping make their players perform better and fans enjoy their experience at the stadium or arena better. But it’s more than just spectator sports—participatory sports are getting into the act as well. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Airports and other big, high profile buildings will be designed with WELL certification in mind. And imagine this future: A worker is wearing her FitBit-type device to work. The FitBit signals to the building that the wearer didn’t sleep well the night before; her pulse is off a bit. In response, the building drops its temperature by 1° and increases its fresh air intake slightly. Lights around her work space are brightened a smidge. By lunchtime, the worker is feeling good, not craving a sugar hit. She enjoys a lunch featuring slightly more fruit and vegetables than is typical. And when she gets home, she is destined for a good night’s sleep. So with WELL, buildings, including stadiums and arenas, will start to actually take care of humans. And that’s a big win for all of us.

 


 

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