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.
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:
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.
Had successfully managed Green Teams at four Major League Baseball All-Star Games, starting with the 2014 edition at Minneapolis’ Target Field.
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.”
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 (Photo credit: Nicole Petschow)
As the calendar turned to 2019, the pace of the Final Four sustainability effort kicked into high gear:
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.”
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!”
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.”
The 2019 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Fours both had sustainability initiatives. And 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.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with the leaders of the Green Teams about what they and their teams experienced.
On Friday, we will visit the Twin Cities to look at the Men’s Final Four. But today, our focus is on Tampa and the first Women’s Final Four to feature a Green Team.
“Sustainability is not really a thing in the Tampa area.”
Tampa’s lack of recycling infrastructure was certainly a challenge.
“It seems like recycling is not a priority in the Tampa area,” Orr noted. “Only two people in Tampa city government had responsibility for promoting and overseeing recycling. They do their best but are resource-challenged and also fight an uphill battle against what seems like public apathy about sustainability. The local recycling plant can’t accept recyclable cups. Composting? Nowhere to be found.”
The local organizing committee, which, per Orr “did a great job on social sustainability — the event was accessible, inclusive, there were free community events” — had little experience with environmental sustainability, especially for a big event like the Women’s Final Four.
And Orr only had 90 days to organize the Green Team and to support the rudimentary environmental sustainability that was led by Coca-Cola, an NCAA corporate partner.
Hey, no one said organizing the first-ever Green Team for a Women’s Final Four would be easy.
But Maddy Orr doesn’t flinch when she believes in an idea and Tampa, there was only one way to go, green-wise, and that was up. So she went to her boss, Tony Church, in early January with a proposal to take a (green) team of Laurentian students down to Tampa.
“Before getting approval, I secured a block of hotel rooms on my personal credit card — with free cancelation of course,” Orr recalled with a laugh. “Professor Church said the department couldn’t help unless we got a critical mass of students to go. Now bear in mind that Canadians really don’t get college basketball, women’s basketball in particular. I talked with 80 students across two classes, with a goal of getting 30 to sign up. Even 20 would’ve been okay. We had 50 volunteers. I had to give a women’s basketball quiz to cull the group down to 30 second-year undergrads.”
GREEN TEAM SCORES WITH RECYCLING MESSAGE AT FAN FEST
Aside from the very welcome early spring Florida weather, the first thing the all-Canadian Green Team noticed when they arrived in Tampa was the lack of recycling bins…anywhere.
Maddy Orr (kneeling at far right, front) and some of her Laurentian University Green Teamers in Tampa during the 2019 Women’s Final Four (Photo credit: Mykelti Stephens)
“The students were shocked and needed a pep talk,” Orr said. “Recycling bins are ubiquitous in Canada. So when we arrived on the Thursday before the Friday night semifinals, we put on shorts and went to Curtis Hixon Park on the waterfront, one of the central locations for fans to congregate. Coke had put out recycling bins. We branded them for the Final Four and arrayed them through the park.”
Despite Tampa being a recycling laggard, the Green Team had a good day at Friday’s “Tourney Town” Fan Fest inside the city’s convention center.
“First of all the place was crowded, especially with local school children, so we had access to a bunch of ten year-olds, and ten year-olds get recycling and much more regarding the environment,” Orr recalled. “One Green Team member badgered the DJ to make announcements about recycling, and it worked! And the team did a great job of reminding people as they waited in long lines to do the Pizza Hut Three Point Challenge. Outside on the plaza, our team became everyone’s photographer, urging people to recycle as they snapped pictures. The key was to be upbeat and they were.”
As the players for the Baylor Bears and the Oregon Ducks began their early warmups for Friday’s first semifinal, the Green Team was also getting ready. Sam Carr, Amalie Arena’s director of facilities and analysis, prepared them to perform at a championship level.
“Sam gave me hope for Amalie Arena as he is very passionate about sustainability,” offered Orr. “He’s trying to make it a much bigger initiative there.”
Laurentian University Green Teamers engage Women’s Final Four fans about sustainability outside of Amalie Arena in Tampa (Photo credit: Maya Spence)
Training complete, the Green Team was deployed throughout the arena. They collected recycling all night long — some were stationed by the condiments stand, acting as “garbage goalies” by directing fans to dispose of their waste in the proper bins; others walked up and down the aisles, taking cans from fans and providing recycling education in an unobtrusive, positive fashion.
Sunday’s championship final, in which Baylor nipped Notre Dame 82-81, was basically a repeat of the semifinal from a Green Team perspective: Educate (upbeat!), collect recycling up and down aisles, garbage goalie-ing.
FEEDBACK: TAMPA READY TO UP GREEN-SPORTS GAME?
The Green Team was a big hit in Tampa, especially among out-of-town fans.
“Oregon and UConn fans were particularly enthusiastic about recycling and the Green Team,” reported Orr. “Unfortunately, local fans were less engaged but given the lack of recycling in the area, that was only mildly surprising. Kids, no matter where they were from, were really into it.”
And maybe, just maybe, Orr and the Green Team planted some important Green-Sports seeds that will bear fruit in Tampa, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Green Team members return to the concourse after an “aisle pick” (Photo credit: Maya Spence)
“Sam Carr and Katie Kicklighter, from the Tampa Sports Commission, were both super positive,” Orr said. “Tampa will host the Super Bowl LV in 2021 and we talked about the possibility of working together then. And Jeff Rossi, head of the New Orleans Sports Commission — the 2020 Women’s Final Four will take place there — was very impressed and is interested in looking into having a Green Team.”
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Welcome to Day III of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Week extravaganza!
Click here for Monday’s brainstorm among Green-Sports luminaries to find big, “Moon Shot” ways for sports to impact the climate change fight. And click here for Tuesday’s story about the New York Yankees’ strong climate change statement.
Today we turn to Major League Soccer, which just completed its “Greener Goals Week of Service.”
MLS’ efforts surrounding sustainability earned it the title of No. 1 most responsible football league in the world according to ResponsiBALL, an annual report ranking the most prominent soccer leagues based on actions related to community and environment.
GSB believes MLS is perfectly positioned to lead on Green-Sports. Its fan base is the youngest of the five North American major professional men’s sports leagues. Young people “get green” at far higher percentages than their older counterparts.
We spoke with JoAnn Neale, MLS President and Chief Administrative Officer, about the league’s sustainability efforts, including what’s new this season. Before that, we delved into how Neale came to her unique role as one of the most senior female executives across all major professional sports leagues.
GreenSportsBlog: JoAnn, I have so many things to get to — the history of Major League Soccer and its Greener Goals program, how the league can leverage green more powerfully than it has to this point, where climate change fits into the league’s green messaging. But first, how did you come to run MLS’ greening initiatives?
JoAnn Neale: I grew up on Long Island and started playing soccer when I was five years old. Playing soccer and being an athlete was a big part of my identity. I also always had a dream of being a lawyer and an intention of going into litigation.
GSB: …Saying “I object!” and “May I approach the bench?” always sounded exciting to me! Was it?
JoAnn: While at NYU Law School, I had an internship in a firm’s litigation division and realized it wasn’t for me. The idea of going to court was exciting, but the reality was most cases take years before they get to court and a heavy focus is on research.
JoAnn Neale (Photo credit: Major League Soccer)
GSB: So what did you do?
JoAnn: After law school, I was fortunate to land a job at Latham & Watkins. I did transactional work and realized my love for negotiating and working with clients in a collaborative way. The concept of getting alignment from both parties and overcoming obstacles to have the same end goal was always intriguing. It was really fulfilling work.
GSB: How and when did soccer come into the picture?
JoAnn: While studying for the bar exam in law school during the summer of 1994, my friends and I would take breaks and watch the World Cup games that took place in the USA that year. It was then that the formation of Major League Soccer was announced. I recall thinking it would be interesting to be part of the creation of the league. Ultimately, two lawyers at Latham & Watkins were involved with the founding of MLS. Fast forward a couple years and a friend of mine had gone to work at the league. Two months later, she said there was an opening in the law department and I joined in 1998.
GSB: What did your friends and family say? Going from a big firm to a new soccer league?
JoAnn: People said, “You’re crazy!” and ‘Why would you want to do THAT?!’ But it felt right and it was.
GSB: It must’ve been very exciting being at what was essentially a startup. What was your role in those early days?
JoAnn: The first four-to-six years I primarily did legal work. After that, I expanded into other areas like Human Resources and projects like spearheading a team responsible for all the logistics of moving MLS to our current headquarters in Manhattan.
In 2006, the executive team discussed the need for creating a social responsibility platform. We believed it was important to give back to the communities in which we live and play our games, as well as to our fans. I raised my hand and said I would like to lead the charge in developing the platform. MLS WORKS launched in 2007.
GSB: Congratulations! What is MLS WORKS’ mission?
JoAnn: MLS is dedicated to using soccer as a vehicle for positive social change. Through MLS WORKS, MLS and its clubs seek to enrich the lives of those in need across the United States and Canada.
From executing national programs and legacy projects, to charitable giving campaigns, MLS creates sustainable communities and promotes inclusion at all levels of the game. MLS WORKS has a strategic four-pillar approach to corporate social responsibility.
Soccer For All – This signifies that everyone is welcome to MLS, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.
Youth Enrichment – This includes our work with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build soccer pitches in inner cities.
Kick Childhood Cancer – The league “goes gold” throughout the month as part of the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign to raise awareness and funds for Children’s Oncology Group.
Greener Goals – The initiative kicks off this week with the Fourth Annual Greener Goals Week of Service leading into Earth Day weekend.
GSB: Not surprisingly, I’d like to hear more about Greener Goals. What kinds of programs are under that heading?
JoAnn: MLS has committed to measure, reduce and offset the league’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote healthy, sustainable communities throughout the United States and Canada, and areas in need throughout the rest of the world. Our clubs activate in different ways. Some have been heavily focusing on reducing food waste, others on raising awareness around plastic pollution, others on recycling, etc.
GSB: Can you share some examples?
JoAnn: Of course! On food waste, Sporting Kansas City provides fans with easy-to-implement tips on reducing food waste. Orlando City SC is partnering with the city of Orlando to deliver food waste to an energy/fertilizer plant at Walt Disney World. Seattle Sounders FC use compost from CenturyLink Field to grow vegetables at a nearby farm. On plastic waste, FC Cincinnati…
GSB: …The league’s newest expansion team…
JoAnn: That’s right. The club worked with Newport Aquarium to drive awareness, attention and action around Earth Day. Fans bring single-use plastic bags to the team’s matches and the Newport Aquarium where collections will be taken on-site. On Earth Day, a special event was hosted to demonstrate the impact the bag collection will have on local Cincinnati-area waterways and its wildlife, and at a larger scale in oceans. Students at local schools and after-school programs will help repurpose the bags into useful items, including sleeping mats for the area’s homeless community.
FC Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma (l) and Greg Garza show off their new reusable bags created using recycled plastic bags at the Newport Aquarium (Photo credit: FC Cincinnati)
On energy, Real Salt Lakehas a 2020-kilowatt (kWh) solar panel system at Rio Tinto Stadium which offsets approximately 73 percent of the organization’s total annual stadium power needs.
GSB: I knew about their solar installation but I didn’t know it offset such a high percentage. That’s great news. The Seattle Sounders recently committed to go carbon neutral. What does that mean exactly?
JoAnn: You’re right. The Sounders are the first professional soccer team in North America to go carbon neutral. The club worked with Seattle-based Sustainable Business Consulting to calculate its greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce its impacts where possible. For sources unable to be eliminated – such as team travel for matches, scouting and other business – Sounders FC is offsetting the club’s emissions through the Evergreen Carbon Capture (ECC) program of Forterra, a nonprofit that works for regional sustainability. Using the club’s contribution to ECC, Forterra and its partner DIRT Corps are joining with the team and its fans to plant hundreds of trees in a part of the region that needs added tree cover.
GSB: That’s impressive, JoAnn. I know the league is also involved in carbon offsetting as part of Greener Goals. What emissions is MLS offsetting and what kind of offsets did the league purchase?
GSB: …Environmental Science Advisor for the New York Yankees…
JoAnn: …and also Doug Behar, VP of Operations with the Yankees. They shared the offset program the Yanks embarked upon and we said, “MLS has to be involved!” So we started by offsetting emissions, including executive travel, surrounding the MLS All-Star Game. It was fitting that the 2018 All-Star Game was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a venue that is LEED Platinum. In 2018 MLS compensated 5,400 tons of CO2 equivalent associated with hotel accommodations, ground transportation, staff, player, executive and MLS guest travel, and stadium operations as part of MLS All-Star Week and MLS Cup in Atlanta, in addition to player travel during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
To date, MLS’ investment has created tangible, constructive impacts for local communities that were generated by the distribution of 4,407 improved cook stoves in rural communities in Kenya. As of October 2018, the use of these cook stoves are estimated to have positively impacted the lives and wellbeing of 15,000 women and children.
Mercedes Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum football stadium in the USA, hosted 60 Marietta Middle School students for the stadium’s first sustainability tour in which the students learned about the venue’s greenness. In conjunction with the tour, Atlanta United’s players helped educate students about sustainable food choices, healthy eating and the environmental impact of locally sourced foods, followed by a taste test competition. Here Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann serves up some of the tasty dish he cooked up (Photo credit: Atlanta United)
GSB: That’s important work. How did you communicate the Greener Goals expansion to MLS fans? Did you air PSAs in stadium and/or on TV broadcasts?
JoAnn: Social media was big for us — Facebook and Twitter in particular. Our Greener Goals messaging focuses on what MLS and our clubs are doing in or near the stadiums and in the communities that our teams play. Our Greener Goals PSAs focus on what we’re doing in or near the stadiums from an environmental perspective.
GSB: Really? I think the carbon-offsets-cookstoves project would make for a great PSA. Beyond the offsets, how else has MLS expanded Greener Goals?
JoAnn: All 24 MLS clubs wore special adidas-Parley eco-friendly kits over Earth Day weekend. These innovative uniforms are made with Climalite technology and built of technical yarns created with Parley Ocean Plastic™, made from up-cycled marine plastic waste, as a part of the global adidas x Parley initiative. The collaboration with adidas to support Parley for the Oceans also serves to encourage fans to decrease their use of single-use plastics and reinforcing the importance of changing human attitude and behavior towards plastic pollution.
The Portland Timbers version of the adidas Parley for the Oceans eco-friendly jerseys worn by all MLS players over Earth Day weekend (Photo credit: MLS)
GSB: Love that program — but why only use the Parley uniforms during Earth Week? Couldn’t all teams use Parley unis all the time?
JoAnn: Great question, Lew. We’re exploring that option.
GSB: Good to hear. I have one last question: Does MLS include climate change in its Greener Goals messaging?
JoAnn: Not yet. MLS does not want to get into a political debate on climate change. Rather, we want to focus our efforts on improving lives by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing recycling, and more.
GSB: I think MLS is missing an opportunity by not directly talking about climate change with its fans. As discussed earlier, the demographic groups that make up the MLS fan base — Millennials, Gen-Zers, Hispanics — are also demanding real action on climate. My bet is that MLS fans would reward the league for linking its Greener Goals program to the climate change fight.
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After the greatest weekend of Elite Eight games ever — all four went down to the wire, with two going to overtime — the Men’s Final Four is now set. This Saturday evening in Minneapolis, Auburn takes on the University of Virginia and then Texas Tech and Michigan State will go at it.
While the ESPN’s and SI.com’s of the world will analyze the on-court matchups in detail throughout the week, GreenSportsBlog digs into each school from a Green-Sports point of view.
And, we also take a look at Green-Sports goings on at Oregon, Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn — the participants in the Women’s Final Four in Tampa.
Charles Barkley, the greatest basketball player in Auburn history, was overcome by emotion after his alma mater’s thrilling 77-71 overtime victory over favored Kentucky sent the school to its first Final Four. He wiped back tears in the game’s immediate aftermath, calling the win “the greatest day in Auburn basketball history” on the CBS Sports postgame show.
An energy efficiency campaign is underway at Auburn Arena, home of Tigers men’s and women’s basketball and women’s gymnastics.
The football team hosts an annual Green Game at 87,000 seat Jordan-Hare Stadium that features student “Trash Talkers” roaming the tailgate areas, urging fans to recycle, a video on Auburn’s greening programs that runs in-game on the video board, and a Green-Sports focused column in the game program.
Energy-efficient LED lighting illuminates Plainsman Park, Auburn’s baseball stadium.
Auburn football players, coaches, and others traveled to the Dominican Republic in May 2017 where they built and distributed water filters and solar light packets to those in need.
Helen Ulrich, a sophomore journalism major on the women’s equestrian team, earned her eco-athlete stripes by writing a story on the anti-plastic straw movement.
Auburn football players Dontavius Russell and Daniel Carlson drain and assemble the filters before they are inserted into the buckets in the Dominican Republic in 2017 (Photo credit: Auburn University)
And while there’s no way of knowing if the Tigers (also, for some reason, known by the “War EAGLE” battle cry) will qualify for the 2020 Men’s Final Four at in Atlanta, there will definitely be an Auburn flavor to the event from a green point of view. Per this 2018 GreenSportsBlog interview, Carlie Bullock-Jones, CEO of sustainability consulting firm Ecoworks Studio, and an Auburn grad (“War Damn EAGLE!”), played an important role in helping Mercedes-Benz Stadium achieve Platinum status.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
If you are a UVA fan, you still probably can’t get enough of seeing THIS:
It took that miraculous last millisecond bucket by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, off of that amazing whip pass from Kihei Clark, to send its Midwest Region final against the gutty Purdue Boilermakers into overtime. The top seeded Cavaliers then took care of business in the extra frame, winning the “Game of the Tournament” (so far) 80-75, earning the school its first Final Four berth since 1984.
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia Class of ’16, only made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen during his four seasons in Charlottesville. But the Milwaukee Bucks guard is making UVA alums proud through his Hoops₂Oinitiative. Brogdon and four other NBA players¹ are working to raise funds and awareness for clean water initiatives in East Africa. Fans donate to the program in the name of one of the players, with the players matching those contributions dollar-for-dollar. So far, Hoops₂O has raised $164,000 towards its Year One goal of $225,000. Click here to contribute.
Malcolm Brogdon, founder of Hoops₂o at a Waterboys well site in East Africa (Photo credit: Clay Cook Photography)
Brogdon was inspired by Waterboys, the program midwifed by former Virginia football star Chris Long. The two-time Super Bowl champ and 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, along with support from more than 20 current and retired NFL players, funds the digging of wells in the area and teaches the locals how to operate and maintain them.
Chris Long was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia’s 2018 Commencement ceremony (Photo credit: Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)
Since its inception in 2013, Waterboys, now officially connected to Hoops₂O, has raised more $2.6 million to fund 55 wells that will provide water to over 205,000 people.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Run a Google search on “Texas Tech University Athletics Sustainability” or something similar and you get several links to articles about…the University of Texas. This is to say that, so far, Red Raiders’ Athletics has not yet embraced Green-Sports.
Yet the university is a leader when it comes to climate change communications despite being located in the politically and religiously conservative West Texas city of Lubbock.
That is thanks largely to climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and arguably the world’s most powerful climate change communicator. In fact, Time Magazine named her to its “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2014.
Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. (Photo credit: Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)
Dr. Hayhoe spoke with us in 2016 for GreenSportsBlog’s “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports” series. Here’s an excerpt that focuses on how sports can play an important role in the climate change fight (click here to read the entire interview):
GSB: You emphasize the community-religious-economy boosting nature of climate change solutions in your must-watch web series, Global Weirding. That makes total sense.
Katharine: Science is the foundation but what connects with people, what binds them together — shared values — turns out to be bigger than the science! And the pathways in our brains that are used to solve issues respond more to the shared values approach than the scientific. And community and shared values, that’s what sports is all about. Sports is part of our collective shared identity. It builds community. And this goes back millennia to Roman times and chariot races.
GSB: So how do you think sports can play an important role in building awareness and action among fans? Many times, when I ask why more athletes don’t get involved, I hear that “climate change is too complex!” But if what you’re saying is right — and I think it is — athletes don’t need to worry so much about the science. They need to emphasize the importance of the solutions to the communities where they play!
KH: Exactly. Now some sports are effected more directly and more in the present than others. Hey, I’m Canadian, so I get that hockey and other snow sports are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on their sports in the here and now. That’s why it’s great that Protect Our Winters and the National Hockey League are leading the climate change fight. Hey, we’re a skiing family so we see a shorter ski season. I’m also a sailor and so the effects of increased ocean acidification are powerful as they are obvious…But athletes in sports that don’t have as direct a link as those we mentioned can certainly get involved. Look, I often talk about the Six America’s of Global Warming. Basically, Americans fall into six groups as it relates to global warming/climate change: From most engaged to least, it goes like this:
I think for now at least, we’ll leave the Dismissives — they’ll be very hard to move. But I’ve found the way to communicate with the Cautious, Dis-engaged and Doubtfuls is to emphasize shared values and concerns, and then you can move them. Sports is as powerful, as passionate a platform as there is to move masses of people.
Amen, Dr. Hayhoe. AMEN!
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Michigan State can lay claim to being the greenest school in this year’s Final Four on at least one metric: It is the only one of the four to have green as one of its school colors.
In addition, its Sustainability Office:
Manages the Be Spartan Green team of student volunteers. They monitor waste stations at Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football and Hockey games to help divert recyclable items from going to the landfill, as well as informing attendees about recycling options.
The East Lansing-based school, now just two wins shy of its third national championship, also boasts a faculty member whose research has centered on sustainability issues surrounding mega-events like Olympics, World Cup and, yes, Final Fours.
GSB: Now let’s look to Rio 2016. Plenty of media outlets have tackled the environmental problems related to the polluted waters of the sailing and rowing venues. But what about its legacy?
Eva: I’ve been very critical of Rio in terms of legacy…
GSB: Why? We wrote about the additional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines in Rio that are Olympics-related (links here and here). That should be a carbon footprint reducer, no?
EKN: You would think so but the Olympic Village and the BRT plowed through many Favelas, removing hundreds of families and businesses. The route of the BRT is also problematic — one of the routes goes from the airport to a wealthy area without going through downtown. Very ineffective.
BRT will play a significant role in transporting fans to and from this weekend’s Final Four in Minneapolis. GreenSportsBlog is heading to the Twin Cities and will report on what, arguably, is the greenest stadium and arena inventory of any metropolitan area in North America.
As far as the basketball is concerned, I picked Michigan State to beat Virginia in the championship game before the tournament began and so will stick with that².
WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR?
Friday night’s semifinal matchups for the 2019 Women’s Final Four in Tampa feature two-time national champion Baylor vs. Oregon, seeking its first title. The nightcap is a battle of true women’s hoops heavyweights: Defending champion Notre Dame vs. 11-time winner UConn.
From a Green-Sports perspective, the University of Oregon looks to be the favorite, but all four schools have a story to tell.
The Eugene-based university is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, as is the PAC-12 Conference. It participates in the league’s Zero-Waste Challenge, a series of waste-reduction competitions that engage fans in sustainability, develop best practices, and provide an outlet for friendly environmental competitions. And Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks’ All America guard, took part in a PAC-12 Team Green promotional 15 second video.
Sabrina Ionescu, University of Oregon’s 1st team All American guard (Photo credit: Sabrina Ionescu)
Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas, has been recycling since 2015, at McLane Stadium, the 45,100-seat home of Bears football.
Notre Dame’s Green-Sports initiatives are mainly focused on waste generated at Notre Dame Stadium, the 80,795-seat cathedral of Fighting Irish football. The Go Irish. Be Green. program features teams of volunteer students circulating through the tailgate lots, distributing blue recycle bags to fans and answering questions about single stream recycling. And they also produced this sustainability-themed video for the 2018 season.
The big question is where has this video been shown: In stadium? On Notre Dame football broadcasts? To date it has received only 64 views on YouTube.
UConn, through its EcoHusky student group, has hosted women’s and men’s Basketball Green Game Days at Gampel Pavilion over the past several years. Starting in 2017, the university’s Office of Environmental Policy purchased carbon offsets to be able to make the claim that the games were carbon-free. P.A. announcements, video board mentions, and social media posts during the events promoted the greening initiative to fans.
¹ In addition to Brogdon, the Hoops₂O team includes Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets), Garrett Temple (Memphis Grizzlies) and Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves)
² In case you think I’m some sort of March Madness savant, think again. This is the first year in at least a decade in which my brackets weren’t busted by the Sweet 16.
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The New England Patriots knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in a defensive struggle to win Super Bowl LIII at Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their sixth championship of the otherworldly 18 year Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The environment played a small but, it sez here, increasingly prominent role vs. recent Super Bowls. So before the pro football world turns its attention to free agency in March, April’s NFL Draft and the race to Super Bowl LIV in Miami¹ next February, here is a quick rundown of the Green-Sports happenings that surrounded yesterday’s Super Bowl LIII
EAGLES’ CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, WINS WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF YEAR AWARD
While Eagles stalwart defensive end Chris Long did not win a third consecutive Super Bowl ring last night — he played important roles in Philadelphia’s championship in 2018 after winning one with the Patriots the year before — he did earn the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. It honors a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field.
Long’s — and his Chris Long Foundation’s — main charitable initiative is Waterboys, a program that has united NFL players, professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. By February 2018, Long’s goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for every NFL team, was met. Long has now set a goal of providing clean water to one million people.
“I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor,” Long said in a statement. “I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the [military] veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.”
Chris Long, after winning the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)
Click here and here for GreenSportsBlog’s coverage of the Chris Long-Waterboys story.
BUDWEISER WIND POWER AD GETS VALUABLE ON AIR MENTION
Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, “Wind Never Felt Better,” which featured Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” to highlight the the brand’s commitment to wind power, was the second most watched ad online, with 24.3 million views during and immediately after the game. Only Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes The Cut,” drew more online eyeballs, with 33.4 million views.
In addition to that sizable online audience, 100 million or so people were exposed to the 45 second ad on the CBS Sports TV broadcast. And, when the ad was over and the game broadcast was about to resume, play-by-play man Jim Nantz intoned “Budweiser, powered by the wind.” That extra branding, which further cemented the mainstreaming of wind power for a massive viewership, is the cherry on top to what I thought was a solid B+ ad.
CBS play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz (l), flanked by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and color commentator Tony Romo (Photo credit: CBS Sports)
Some ad critics, like Chicago Tribunemedia reporter Steve Johnson, did not like “Wind Never Felt Better” as much as I did.
Per Johnson’s review, “A Dalmatian. Clydesdales. Amber waves of grain. Bob Dylan, singing about blowing wind. Budweiser trots out all the icons as the horse and dogs are revealed to be traveling through a wind farm. It’s meant to underscore the giant beer’s commitment to sustainable energy, but the message is about as clear as a hazy IPA, a type of beer Bud decidedly is not. ‘Now Brewed with Wind Power,’ says the large type in the ad. ‘Renewable electricity from wind power is one type of energy we use to brew,” says the small [type]’, which you can read if you freeze the screen.”
There is some truth to Johnson’s critique. After all, the viewer has to wait for 30 seconds or so before she/he gets clued in to the Budweiser-wind power connection and that’s too long, especially in this era of micro-attention spans.
Still, it says here that Johnson missed the big picture: An ad promoting wind power reached an audience of at least 110 million people on TV and another 24 million online.
GREENSPORTSBLOGGER TALKS GREEN-SPORTS ON SUPER BOWL-THEMED PODCAST
One final Super Bowl LIII-themed note: I was pleased to talk Green-Sports with Marc de Sousa Shields on his excellent The Sustainable Century podcast a couple of days before the big game.
Marc opens the 24-minute interview by saying, “there are more sports fans than there are sustainability fans and we’ve gotta convert them!”
Marc de Sousa Shields, host of The Sustainable Century podcast (Photo credit: Marc de Sousa Shields)
The New England Patriots have been on the “Leading Edge” of pro football since 2001. After all, they are about to play in their ninth Super Bowl¹ in the 18-year Belichick-Brady era on Sunday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.
Thus, it is fitting that the first Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference was hosted by Excel Dryer and D|13 at the Pats’ Gillette Stadium last month.
The conference’s centerpiece was a discussion among a panel of Green-Sports All Stars. They took a deep dive into the past, present and especially the future of green sports venue design and operations, with an emphasis on how to make stadiums and arenas as energy efficient and fan-friendly as possible.
The opportunity to earn Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits along with the chance to throw and catch passes on the same field as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were likely what drew architects — as well as contractors, property managers and more — to Gillette Stadium on a foggy January night for the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference.
View from the field at Gillette Stadium during the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)
But it was the panel discussion, moderated by Joe Khirallah of Green Bear Group, on the Green-Sports movement’s past, present and future, that kept the audience’s rapt attention.
“At several points during the discussion, I looked out to the audience and noticed that no one was looking at their cell phones,” observed panelist Scott Jenkins, GM of Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Board Chair of the Green Sports Alliance. “Not one person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and I’ve been on a lot of panels.”
PATRIOTS, GILLETTE STADIUM: GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATORS SINCE 2002
According to conference host and panelist Jim Nolan, who as COO of Kraft Sports + Entertainment (KSE) is responsible for operating Gillette Stadium as efficiently as possible, sustainability has been a core tenet since the building opened in 2002.
“I am fortunate to work for an owner — Robert Kraft — who cares about the environment,” Nolan shared. “Our number one priority is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Second is to do as much as we can to reduce our waste stream. Every innovation we consider is examined through both financial and green lenses. We say ‘go’ on new cleantech innovations when they become economical.”
Examples of KSE’s “gos” include:
An on-site system that converts waste water into gray water for use in the bathrooms and elsewhere throughout Gillette Stadium and neighboring Patriot Place, the 1.3 million square foot retail, restaurant and entertainment complex
Energy efficient LED lighting, now illuminating the stadium and 90 percent of Patriot Place
On-site solar, which now powers more than half of Patriot Place
Next up for Gillette and Patriot Place is a 2.4 megawatt (mW) fuel cell, expected to be fully operational next year. “Once we’re up and running, the entire campus will be off the grid,” reported Nolan. “We will also have a food waste converter that will produce methane gas — which will then go into the fuel cell to generate additional electricity.”
SUSTAINABLE SPORTS VENUES ARE A MARKETABLE ASSET
To Scott Jenkins, stadium and arena owner-operators who push green innovations reap more benefits than cost reductions and efficiencies, as important as those are.
“Most sustainability investments are clear winners for stadium and arena projects,” Jenkins asserted. “They show fans and the community that the team and the owner are purpose driven, which greatly enhances brand value. And sustainability can generate incremental revenue in the form of new, ‘green-focused’ sponsors. Forward-leaning owners like the Krafts and Arthur Blank — who pushed us to build Mercedes-Benz Stadium to earn LEED Platinum certification — believe that just building to code is like being OK with being a C student. They have to be A students.”
Chris DeVolder, lead architect on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project and Managing Principal at HOK², chimed in that Blank “constantly pushed everyone who worked on the project to not only ‘think about what’s next’, but also ‘what’s next after what’s next’. Things like turning waste into energy to heat water, offering affordable vegetarian and vegan food options, and more.”
PATS CONNECT FANS TO SUSTAINABILITY IN GILLETTE STADIUM RESTROOMS
Panelist Summer Minchew, Managing Partner of Washington, D.C.- and Charlotte, NC-based Ecoimpact Consulting, and a veteran of several venue projects, offered that fans are a key element to the Green-Sports equation.
“It may sound obvious, but a positive fan experience at a sports venue is absolutely key,” Minchew said. “What is not always so obvious to stadium designers, managers and owners, is that sustainability, from environmental, health and wellness points-of-view, goes hand in hand with a great fan experience.”
According to Jim Nolan, the Patriots have been a bit late to the “fan engagement” party but they are making significant strides in the right direction. Working with energy partner NRG, the team communicates its solar story to fans via signage mounted on massive pillars near the stadium’s entry gates.
Once inside Gillette, fans experience the leading edge of sustainable stadium design when they dry their hands in the restrooms via a unique, high-velocity, two-phase drying process. The XLERATOR® from Excel Dryer — one of the sponsors of the Leading Edge conference — blows large water droplets off the hands in a couple of seconds in Phase 1. Then, in Phase 2, the heat evaporates a residual moisture layer that we feel but don’t see. This makes the drying process about three times faster than conventional hand dryers, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in energy usage.
But that’s not the XLERATOR’s greenest feature.
Replacing paper towels is.
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) showed that the XLERATOR was the catalyst for up to a 75 percent reduction in carbon footprint when compared to 100 percent recycled paper towels. That might seem counterintuitive but, after one-time use, paper towels go straight to the landfill. So XLERATORs help reduce paper production, transportation emissions, water usage, waste and more.
“The XLERATOR is a win-win-win-win for us,” enthused Nolan. “First, it’s clearly better for the environment. Second, it saves time and manpower as our staff spends much less time cleaning paper from the floor and refilling paper towel dispensers. Third, that allows staff to respond more quickly to other fan issues. Fourth and most importantly, the fans prefer the XLERATOR to paper, so they have a better experience.”
From left, Jim Nolan, COO of KSE and host of the Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference welcomes fellow panelists Summer Minchew, Chris DeVolder, Scott Jenkins, moderator Joe Khirallah, and Bill Gagnon, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with event sponsor Excel Dryer (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)
Guests at Gillette Stadium’s Optum Field Lounge this season got to experience another futuristic hand drying “win” with the recent installation of a next-generation sink system from Leading Edge sponsor D|13.
“The system features, from left to right, liquid soap dispenser, water faucet, and the XLERATORsync®, in one contained unit,” Nolan said. “It keeps water in the sink, which is better for the environment. Maintenance visits are reduced. It is the most sustainable, hygienic way to wash your hands. We’re excited to be the first stadium to feature the D|13 Sink System.”
Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference attendees, including Pat Patriot, had the opportunity to try out the new D|13 Sink System (Photo credit: D|13)
Will Mercedes-Benz Stadium be the second? Too early to tell. After all, Scott Jenkins and the rest of the staff are busy getting ready to sustainably welcome the Patriots, Rams and 70,000+ fans for Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.
¹ The nine Super Bowls of the Belichick-Brady era: 2002 (Pats over Rams), 2004 (Pats over Panthers), 2005 (Pats over Eagles), 2008 (Giants over Pats), 2012 (Giants over Pats), 2015 (Pats over Seahawks), 2017 (Pats over Falcons), 2018 (Eagles over Pats), 2019 (Pats vs. Rams)
² HOK is a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm
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Super Bowl LIII Week is in full swing in Atlanta, complete with red carpet galas, fan-fests, and Media Day, all leading up to Sunday night’s battle between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
From a sustainability perspective, Atlanta has a leg up on other host cities since the game will be played inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium in North America.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Tim Trefzer, the Atlanta Super Bowl LIII Host Committee’s Sustainability Chair, to see what is going on green-wise beyond the stadium.
Tim Trefzer: My pleasure. And yes, it’s been busy, really going back to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, as I handled a similar sustainability role for that event as well. And we, along with Georgia Tech, will play host to the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four so we’ve got more mega-events coming down the pike!
Tim Trefzer, sustainability chair of the Atlanta Super Bowl 53 Host Committee (Photo credit: Tim Trefzer)
GSB: That is not a surprise, what with Mercedes-Benz being the state of the art in stadium design across all metrics, including sustainability through its LEED Platinum status. So with that as backdrop, how has the Atlanta Super Bowl LIII Host Committee approached the event through a green lens?
Tim: We are working closely with Jack Groh of the NFL — he’s managed the league’s Super Bowl greening efforts for over two decades — to make the most of the league’s four sustainability pillars. Number one is Material and Resource Recovery. We are working with local Atlanta organizations on food, textile, and other material donations that will come from the game, the many ancillary events, and participating hotels. Our partners include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity. We also assisted Verizon, an NFL environmental sponsor, with their annual E-waste recycling event in the run up to the Super Bowl. Ours was at Zoo Atlanta and it was a big success as 42,446 lbs. of electronics were collected, the most ever from this event!
Some of the electronic waste collected as part of Verizon’s e-waste recycling event at Zoo Atlanta on January 19 (Photo credit: Fox 5 Atlanta)
GSB: Congratulations! What about pillar number two?
Tim: Urban Forestry. This is more than a tree planting effort. In collaboration with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience and Trees Atlanta, we are supporting 13 projects, including community gardens, a 7.1-acre food forest with fruit trees and vegetable plantings, and even pollinator projects. Pillar number three is Super Kids, Super Sharing…
GSB: That’s been around for some time…
Tim: This is its 20th anniversary — it started in Atlanta, by the way. The program’s essence is a used sports equipment and school supply exchange that keeps footballs, soccer balls and more out of landfills and gives them a second life. Kids from donor schools bring their equipment to a facility where it is sorted; then receiving schools come in. It gets kids thinking about the circular economy at a young age and exposes them to other kids in the Atlanta area from different walks of life. Over 100 schools committed to take part. Last year, the folks at the Minneapolis’ Super Bowl LII Host Committee collected 46,000 items — we’re hoping to beat that when all is said and done.
Two minute video showing highlights from Atlanta’s Super Kids Super Sharing event
GSB: Good luck. Finally, what’s the fourth pillar?
Tim: Pillar number four is renewable energy. The NFL buys renewable energy credits to offset all of the electricity used at the stadium and everything surrounding it. That includes the host hotels, the Georgia World Congress Center…
GSB: …The convention center campus adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium where you are the sustainability director.
Tim: Exactly… Also, it’s not by accident that Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia World Congress Center, and many hotels are a short walk from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, In fact, of the 15 major NFL events taking place during Super Bowl, 13 are taking place in or adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s downtown Atlanta campus (which includes the stadium, convention center, and Centennial Olympic Park). Of recent Super Bowls, the most taking place in the same vicinity has been seven.
GSB: Those are four strong pillars that the NFL and the Host Committee are building. Going beyond the NFL’s green work, at the Bay Area’s Super Bowl 50 in 2016, the local Host Committee made the environment the prime focus of their work, which is why I call it the Greenest Super Bowl Ever. That was not the case with Super Bowls LI (Houston, which did nothing as far as I could tell on the environment) and LII (Minnesota, which had a 91 percent waste diversion rate at the game among other local efforts, but they were focused mainly on health care, in part due to the sterling reputation of the Mayo Clinic). What is the Host Committee doing, from an environmental perspective, beyond the four pillars?
Tim: Great question, Lew. One main theme of the Atlanta Super Bowl LIII Host Committee’s work is civil rights and social justice, given the movement’s tremendous history in the city, from Martin Luther King Jr. to HBCUs^ like Morehouse College and much, much more. From public forums to public arts projects, Atlanta’s civil rights heritage has been on display in the run-up to Super Bowl LIII. That said, the Committee and our Sustainability Advisory Council — made up of leaders from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, top local corporations like Delta Airlines, nonprofits like Trees Atlanta, Scott Jenkins, GM of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Board Chairman of Green Sports Alliance, and more — have been working for the better part of the past year on a variety of initiatives, including pushing the sustainability story surrounding Super Bowl LIII and Atlanta.
GSB: Communicating sustainability to fans? Music to my ears!
Tim: A video about recycling at the Airport is being shown around the city. On game day, there will be a full-page, sustainability-themed ad in the game program and we will have ambassadors on the concourses at Mercedes-Benz talking to fans about our sustainability efforts and encouraging recycling. But another reason that these large events keep choosing to come to Atlanta, in addition to the great venues and close proximity, is the fact that they’re LEED certified. In addition to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Georgia World Congress Center is the largest LEED Gold certified convention center in the world and many of the other event venues are also certified. Arguably, Atlanta is one of the greenest places for conventions, sports, and events anywhere.
GSB: Will there be sustainability-themed scoreboard messaging and/or video shown in-stadium before or during the game? And will CBS Sports and/or CBS Sports Network air that kind of video during the almost endless pregame coverage? That last question is really for the NFL but I thought you might have some inside information.
Tim: Discussions about video board messaging were still ongoing as of a couple of weeks ago. No firm word yet has come across my transom. And you’re right about airing environmental PSAs — that’s the purview of the NFL and CBS. For our part, we will be tracking recycling and waste diversion rates; the Host Committee communications team is working with the NFL and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to spread the word to the massive amount of media who will be here.
Sustainability-focused messaging on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium video board during an Atlanta United MLS match in June. Will similar messaging greet Super Bowl LIII fans on Sunday? Stay tuned (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)
GSB: Will the Host Committee track media pick up of Super Bowl LIII sustainability stories or is that the purview of the NFL?
Tim: I’m sure this is something we could do on social media and include in a report following the event.
GSB: We will take you up on that, Tim. In the meantime, enjoy the game.
^ HBCUs = Historically Black Colleges and Universities
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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”
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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 (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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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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June’s Green Sports Alliance Summit took place at Atlanta’s LEED Platinum jewel, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Forward thinking and acting Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and Atlanta United, directed the people who designed and built the stadium to do whatever it took to get the country’s first Platinum designation for a pro sports stadium.
The community-minded Blank also made sure that the stadium would serve the adjacent West Side neighborhood: Local residents helped build and are helping to operate Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And, in the case of a natural disaster or other type of emergency, the stadium will be transformed into a resilient community center.
But what if an owner is not as committed to the environment and/or the community as Mr. Blank, and/or doesn’t have as deep pockets?
Enter the innovative investment platform, Dynamic Energy Networks (DEN), backed by the Carlyle Group, along with its powerful global technology partner, Schneider Electric.
DEN brings deep experience in energy infrastructure investment and design, especially as it relates to distributed energy resources and Microgrid solutions. DEN/Carlyle has the experience and long-term vision to take on complex infrastructure projects such as stadia and arenas.
Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation and has deep experience in energy efficiency upgrades at sports venues across the world.
As long-term investors, DEN stands behind these solutions, taking on the financial risk on behalf of owners, venues, and other sports organizations.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Karen Morgan, President and CEO of DEN, to get a sense of the “Art of the Possible” as it relates to the delivery of resilient, reliable, secure and sustainable solutions at stadia and arenas.
Karen Morgan: I’ve been in renewable energy in the United States for the past 12 years. Prior to that, I explored energy efficiency and renewable generation solutions in Central Europe. But my introduction to renewables came back in 1995, when we started a company that evolved from a data driven network to a trading platform for commodity chemicals.
Karen Morgan, President and CEO of Dynamic Energy Networks (Photo credit: Dynamic Energy Networks)
GSB: Commodity chemicals trading? That seems like an unusual way in to the renewables world…
KM: That’s how most people react but we became a “Poster Child for Renewables” of sorts. Because, when you think about it, solar panels turn solar power into electricity because of…
GSB: So what parts of the renewable energy business have you been in?
KM: I started on the development side, then we put together various financing structures to fund projects, providing advisory and development services. We focused on the commercial & industrial (C&I), municipality, educational and other markets. Eventually we co-founded an investment platform — RET Capital five years ago — which owned and operated utility scale solar and wind assets.
GSB: What was that like?
KM: We were located in California, and it was like the Wild, Wild West out there with solar. Of course, the industry grew up in no time and it is quite amazing to see how rapidly markets have evolved in and around renewable energy and adjacent utility-like services.
GSB: What led you to form Dynamic Energy Networks and what does the company do?
KM: Well, we formed DEN to address a MASSIVE macro-problem: The vulnerability of the existing centralized electricity grid to extreme weather and other natural disasters, as well as terrorism, cyberattacks and more. Working with our partners, we offer the expertise, capital and technical capabilities to design, build, own and operate decentralized microgrids at scale. Densely populated urban centers, university campuses and more are our targets. DEN/Carlyle quarterbacks the microgrid development process from concept to operation by bringing experienced, sophisticated and flexible capital solutions. And Schneider Electric adds essential state-of-the-art digital technology know how, with hundreds of microgrids already built and installed, to allow all aspects of our microgrids to communicate seamlessly with each other.
Karen Morgan speaks on a panel with Mark Feasel (l), VP Smart Grid at Schneider Electric andAndrew Marino (r), Managing Director at The Carlyle Group (Photo credit: Microgrid Knowledge)
GSB: Sounds like you’ve put together a microgrid All-Star team with DEN. Can you give an example of a project DEN is working on?
KM: Sure! We are working with a coalition of partners to integrate a large-scale series of microgrids, which include electric vehicle infrastructure and distributed energy resources, to meet sustainability goals set by the governor of the state. While working within the framework of a multi-billion dollar redevelopment project with over 30 different companies involved, DEN and Schneider Electric will ensure the avoidance of a SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE and provide for a resilient, reliable, decentralized, and secure energy system to this critical infrastructure.
GSB:…That is a BIG DEAL! So is it fair to say that solar panels on the roof of a home or a solar powered car port in the parking lot of a stadium would be examples of decentralized or distributed generation as compared to the centralized power plant-sub-station model?
KM: That’s right. Now with intelligent control systems, like those developed by Schneider Electric, various renewable and traditional energy generation systems can be distributed throughout a localized site, such as a mixed-use stadium complex or a college campus. Within these sites, energy assets such as, solar, wind, energy storage, fuel cells, and combined heat and power (CHP), can be networked to support each other and deliver electricity to the customer in the case of a grid outage or the failure of a single, centralized source. Schneider Electric’s Ecostruxure controls harden microgrids against cyber security breaches and mitigate the risk of a cyber-attack on the centralized grid, ensuring an uninterrupted power supply for the customer.
GSB: This sounds like DEN is involved in the early days of a powerful and important mega-trend towards decentralized generation and microgrids. Where do sports venues fit in?
KM: In many industry sectors, including sports, the opportunity to “island” away from the grid in the case of an outage or security breach or storm, and achieve resilience, did not truly exist until recently. That is, where some of the technology may have been available, the economics did not make sense and the optimization tools were not commercially available. In addition, the size and complexity of such systems were not attractive to third party capital. As advanced technology has become increasingly available, and costs continue to decline, third party capital is becoming more interested in decentralized, “two way” flexible energy solutions. DEN is well suited to lead the charge here as Carlyle wrote the playbook on flexible long-term contracts for infrastructure globally. DEN is able to leverage thirty years of experience, knowing how to transfer risk away from owners by providing predictable long-term service agreements, eliminating the capital expense associated with completing large, infrastructure projects. So we operate the microgrid; the venue owner simply pays for the electricity they use and for resilience services.
GSB: What do you mean by resilience?
KM: Resilience in this case means providing reliable, clean and ongoing generation so the venue performs at peak whenever necessary, especially during unexpected outages. Venues become a safe haven for people to seek refuge when there is a local, regional or national emergency. The benefit of integrating microgrid and distributed energy resource solutions is having the ability to operate the stadium at an appropriate level for a prescribed period of time, independent of the utility grid. This is essential, in terms of business continuity, safety for fans, employees and the broader community
GSB: So you don’t have a tragedy as was suffered by the people of New Orleans at the Superdome during Katrina in 2005…
KM: That’s right. This is particularly relevant in the face of increasing intensity of extreme weather events like storms, wildfires and droughts. Resilience also means that sports organizations can trust that they will have a reliable source of energy when bidding for mega-events like the Super Bowl or the FIFA World Cup.
GSB: That has to be crucial for organizations like the IOC and FIFA. Going back to something you said earlier…what do you mean by experienced or sophisticated capital?
KM: DEN and the Carlyle Group have decades of experience working on critical infrastructure investments, in particular complex projects with long sales cycles that involve the C-suite.
GSB: So the capital is not only experienced and sophisticated, it is also patient.
KM: Exactly. Carlyle’s initial commitment of $500 million of flexible capital with no cap is a great launch pad to build out a multi-billion dollar energy infrastructure portfolio. And we’re hitting the market at the right time. The cost of renewable energy generation, energy storage, and other advanced resilient infrastructure technologies, continues to decline precipitously.
GSB: Which all sounds ideal for sports venues…
KM: Absolutely. As mentioned earlier, sports venues are part of a community’s critical infrastructure. They matter! For the most part, they’re centrally located. They’re tied to a region’s transportation infrastructure. When there’s an emergency, that’s where people go for toilets, cots, and much more. We saw what happens when this critical infrastructure failed back in 2005 with the Superdome and Katrina. Contrast that with how well stadiums and arenas performed last summer in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. Major improvements have already been made and we’re working to accelerate the pace in what we see as an underserved market. The stadium or arena as a sports venue on game day, as a resilience center during emergencies and potentially, as a source of electricity to the grid or surrounding other critical infrastructure on non-game days…
Thousands of evacuees lived under squalled conditions inside the Superdome while they waited to be evacuated after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August, 2005. Microgrids, of the sort developed by Dynamic Energy Networks, can turn large venues into places where the public finds relief from natural and other disasters (Photo credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr.)
GSB: ….Meaning that, depending on the regulatory environment, if a stadium or arena has on-site solar, on non-game days, it can sell the electricity coming from the panels to the grid — or to homes and businesses in the immediate area if they are connected via microgrid. Does Dynamic Energy Networks have any sports venue clients yet?
KM: Not yet. We and Schneider Electric made a strategic decision to reach out to the sports industry, starting by attending the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta. Our friends Dusty Baker and Bernard King…
KM: …who spoke at the Summit have both been involved in the solar business since their playing days. We look forward to working with both Dusty and Bernard, both sustainability leaders!
GSB: Phenomenal! Especially since Bernard King is a hero of mine as I am die-hard Knicks fan — which means I’ve been dying hard for two decades! I look forward to a follow up GSB interview with you about DEN’s first sports projects.
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