The UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Framework has gotten some serious traction from the US sports world recently. Last month, the New York Yankees became the first pro sports team to sign on to the framework. And yesterday, the NBA became the first pro league to make the commitment.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced yesterday that the NBA had become the first pro sports league in the US to sign on to its Sports for Climate Action initiative.
The UNFCCC’s tweet announcing that the NBA signed on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework
Launched in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.
The Framework welcomes the NBA to its impressive list of A-List early adapters, including FIFA, the IOC, Fédération Française de Tennis, FFT, and the New York Yankees. Signatories commit to support Sport for Climate Action’s five core principles:
Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
Reduce overall climate impact
Educate for climate action
Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
Advocate for climate action through communication
With its massive global fan base and its particular popularity among millennials and Gen-Z’ers, the NBA is a terrific get for the Framework. According to the league:
The NBA has 150 million followers on social media
One billion people around the world have access to the NBA Finals
It is the most popular sports league in China, where over 300 million people play basketball
The NBA, in collaboration with FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, will launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 12 countries¹ in January
Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework is certainly the biggest green step taken by the league to date. Its sustainability foundation has largely been built by forward-leaning teams and a smattering of eco-athletes:
The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center became the world’s first arena to earn LEED Platinum certification.
Golden 1 Center, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings (Photo credit: Sacramento Kings)
Portland’s Trail Blazers have hosted five “Green Games” per season at the Moda Center since 2015. The club invites its fans to take an active part in its efforts to be more environmentally conscious and to help reach a set of green goals (around energy, waste, food, water, and transportation) at the arena by 2025.
Malcolm Brogdon, of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals-bound Milwaukee Bucks, along with four other NBA players, launched Hoops₂O to teach East Africans to dig wells for fresh water.
GSB’s Take: Kudos to the NBA for joining the Sports for Climate Action Framework. Given the NBA’s brand image — cool, progressive, cutting edge — GSB will explore in the coming months if this commitment will be the beginning of a full-throated approach to the climate change fight from commissioner Adam Silver, its teams, sponsors and more of its players. I may sound like a broken record but, per the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity has 12 years to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.
Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA (Photo credit: NBA)
Beyond basketball, in the parlance of playground hoops, the question becomes “Who’s Got Next?” — as in which leagues and events will join the NBA in signing on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework. I am surprised the NHL, the only league to issue a sustainability report — it has done so twice — has not joined the Framework. Hopefully that will change soon. The US Tennis Association, which has a very strong greening track record, seems like a logical signee sometime before the US Open starts in August.
You may ask, “What about the NFL, MLB, and MLS?”
Great question. Whaddya say, commissioners Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB), and Don Garber (MLS)?
¹ Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be represented in BAL
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Summer Minchew, Managing Partner of Ecoimpact Consulting, has worked on several stadium and arena projects, helping them through the LEED certification process and much more.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Minchew about Ecoimpact Consulting’s innovative approach to sustainability that combines environment and efficiency with human health and wellness.
GreenSportsBlog: How did you get in to the sports venue sustainability space?
Summer Minchew: Well, Lew, I’m a bit of a rarity in this business in that I have stadium design in my blood. I grew up in Kansas City and my dad happened to be a lead project sports architect…
GSB: No WAY!
Summer: Yes WAY!! My dad worked on the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers; the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs; and Bankers Life Arena, where the Indiana Pacers call home, along with many more. I grew up around sports architecture. Funny thing, though: I’m not a sports fan. But even as kid I loved drawing designs for buildings…
GSB: …Funny thing is, when I was a kid I used to draw stadiums. Only thing was, I had no drawing talent. You clearly had it. So what did you do?
GSB: Manhattan, Kansas, the “Little Apple.” I’ve never been.
Summer Minchew (Photo credit: Melissa Key)
Summer: It’s a great place. I went to the College of Architecture Planning and Design. During my college internships, I worked for a few of the sport architecture firms in Kansas City …
GSB: …Kansas City is basically the hub for sports architecture, right?
Summer: That’s right. So when I graduated from college I moved to Charlotte and worked for a firm that was the associate architect on the Spectrum Center, home of the NBA’s Hornets. This experience became my foundation in sports architecture. From there, I moved to working mostly on interiors for corporate office space.
GSB: What do you mean by “interiors”?
Summer: Interior architecture and design. I love its focus on how humans interact with a space and how that space impacts humans. Consider that Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. That connection is what drew me to sustainability: Green design is good design, it’s good for people, good for the planet.
GSB: That’s…good! What happened next?
Summer: I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2008 and worked for a firm called Envision Design, which has since merged with Perkins & Will. In 2006, the District passed the D.C. Green Building Act — all new non-residential public buildings were now required to pursue LEED certification. I was in the right city at the right time — and fortunately my mentors already had incredible sustainability ethos’, so it was a great place to be. One of my favorite projects while I was in D.C. was working on the design team for the US Green Building Council’s headquarters. Not surprisingly they wanted their space to be LEED Platinum. It was so great working on a project where the sustainability charge was client and mission driven, it really pushed the team to maximize the project’s performance. This was a phenomenal experience.
Interior shot of US Green Building Council’s Washington, D.C. LEED Platinum-certified headquarters (Photo credit: Eric Laignel)
GSB: Sounds amazing. What did you do with that experience?
Summer: Having discovered my love for, and gaining expertise in the green building certification process, I began working with Ecoimpact Consulting in 2010. Quickly I came to manage all of the firm’s green building certification projects.
I worked with Penny Bonda, one of the firm’s founders, and eventually became her partner. She is truly incredible, an active participant in the green building industry since its very early stages. Penny pioneered the development of the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system and co-authored Sustainable Commercial Interiors. I was contributing author on the second edition of the same book, published by Wiley and Sons in 2014. Penny retired in 2017 — but still serves as a trusted advisor to the firm.
GSB: Sounds like you and Penny were — and still are — a great team. What does Ecoimpact Consulting do?
Summer: The bulk of our work is management for green building project certifications, often supplementing a project team that needs to bolster their expertise in LEED.
From a LEED perspective, a sports venue can be a challenging building type. The prescriptive requirements in the LEED rating system can be difficult to adapt to sports projects, especially open-air venues.
GSB: What are prescriptive requirements?
Summer: With venues you have fluctuating operating hours and occupant densities, untraditional floor plans and less defined indoor and outdoor spaces than other building types. You have to know the rating system well in order to interpret the requirements and make sure you are meeting your intended goals. But it can also present some great opportunities to push the envelope and I’ll tell you, the challenge is worth it.
I don’t need to tell your readers that sports architecture is a very high-profile building type. Venues are meant to draw attention, attract fans and create a sense of place. Stadiums and arenas are more than just buildings, they are the physical embodiment of the brand. Increasingly the brand is not only about the league and the franchise but also about sustainability, community outreach, social and economic responsibility; and these building types have an amazing platform to reflect those values.
You can see the immediate impact in outcomes like a LEED certification and then hopefully a ripple effect in the influence of sustainable design and operations choices. I love the work!
GSB: Sounds like it. When you look at sports venues from human and sustainability perspective, what are you looking for?
Summer: We look at sustainable strategies not only from an efficiency perspective but also from human health and wellness points of view. For example, a venue with access to public transit not only reduces transit related greenhouse gas emissions and hardscape related heat island and stormwater management issues, it provides fans with increased opportunities to be physically active and better air quality for the surrounding neighborhoods. Access to natural light not only reduces overhead lighting costs but studies also show that access to daylight and views in the built environment positively impacts the health and productivity of building occupants. You get the idea. In any building, and sports venues are no exception, one of the most critical measures of building performance is occupant satisfaction.
GSB: No doubt about it. While you are a LEED AP and have been talking about LEED, it sure sounds like your work is more focused on the WELL standard.
Summer: Not necessarily. If you look at the point allocation of LEED, credits related to climate change represent the largest percentage of available points but coming in at a close second are credits related to human health. LEED does not simply evaluate energy, water and waste reduction, an integral component is the indoor environment including occupant comfort. WELL takes the human health and wellbeing baton to the next level, focusing on nutrition, fitness, mood and even sleep patterns of building occupants…
GSB: So it sounds like your work takes into account LEED, along with using WELL-type principles. Can you give an example of a stadium or arena project that is an example of the Ecoimpact Consulting approach?
Summer: We served as sustainability consultant on Audi Field, the home of D.C. United of Major League Soccer that opened last summer. We worked with Michael Marshall Design, the associate architect for the project supporting Populous. It’s a great venue, from its location to its design, its energy efficiency, on-site renewables and operational waste reduction strategies. Audi Field sits on what was a brownfield site — it had been a scrapyard before. It’s in the Southwest Waterfront area of Washington, which is making a comeback, close to the D.C. Metro’s Green line.
Exterior of Audi Field, home of D.C. United (Photo credit: Ecoimpact Consulting)
GSB: That’s right. Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals and the first LEED certified MLB stadium, is nearby and was an important anchor for the area’s revitalization. I haven’t been there yet but Audi Field is high up on my newly created Green-Sports Venue Bucket List. Talk more about Ecoimpact’s involvement with the project…
Summer: Well, we helped shepherd the project through LEED certification — Audi Field ultimately earned LEED Gold certification…
Summer: Thank you. The project earned 64 points. One of the most visible sustainability features is their prominent bike valet which includes 190 spaces for cyclists. The team also found ways to dramatically reduce water use, ultimately achieving reductions in the 40 percent range. Another focus for D.C. United was on community benefits.
GSB: What do you mean by community benefits?
Summer: There are significant opportunities to promote socially responsible practices in the design, construction and operation of buildings. Engaging in labor agreements will help to ensure that construction workers are paid prevailing wages and are provided workforce development opportunities. Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) help to ensure that the needs of the surrounding community are being met. And of course, these types of considerations can help a project achieve LEED points as well.
For D.C. United it meant looking at the stadium design, construction and operations through the lens of social equity in the local community…or, put another way, by linking up the stadium project with the needs of the community. D.C. United developed a CBA that lays the groundwork for a lasting relationship between the team and the residents of the neighboring community. In addition to their youth programs; a successful soccer club and scholarship program for D.C. United summer camps, D.C. United will connect the new stadium to the community by making the facility and meeting rooms available for community use, participating in a summer job program, and engaging in local outreach for employment. In the end, adhering to the CBA enhances the club’s brand.
GSB: It’s almost like D.C. United is mirroring the neighborhood approach of English soccer clubs, as well as those from other European countries. By that I mean that, soccer fans across the pond are often tied to the teams of their local neighborhood and vice versa. Smart.
Summer: Smart indeed. D.C. United gets it. Another sports venue project that is serious about social equity, just across the Anacostia River in the Southeast section of D.C., is the Washington D.C. Entertainment & Sports Arena developed by Events DC and Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The new, 4,200-seat home of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, Capital City Go-Go of the NBA’s developmental G League, and the training center for the NBA’s Washington Wizards sits on the revitalized St. Elizabeths East campus. Similar to Audi Field, we worked with the associate architect, Michael Marshall Design, in support of Rossetti, the lead architect to manage the LEED certification process — the final certification from USGBC is still being finalized at this point but Silver is anticipated.
The project features green roof areas, onsite stormwater retention systems and energy efficient systems. And, like Audi Field, this project has a great community outreach and engagement story. Events DC developed a CBA in partnership with neighboring residents that supports educational opportunities for youth, creates local business opportunities, and creates community enrichment activities. Touted by D.C. officials as “bigger than basketball” the project is estimated to generate 300 permanent and 600 construction jobs, and is part of an ongoing redevelopment that will transform the 180-acre St. Elizabeths campus into a thriving mixed-use community.
Washington D.C. Entertainment & Sports Arena (Photo credit: Kelly Soong)
GSB: Very cool, Summer. I guess I need to add the D.C. E&SA to my bucket list, too!
¹ RISE = Resources to Inspire Students and Educators
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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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Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, died Monday due to complications from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was 65.
Allen, who owned the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, played an important role in the early days of the Green-Sports movement.
Paul G. Allen, a creator and visionary of the highest order, died Monday at 65 of complications from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He is most well-known for helping to usher in the personal computing age when, along with Bill Gates, he co-founded Microsoft in 1975 at age 22. Allen left the company in 1982 during his first bout with cancer.
Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, owner of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, and an early Green-Sports pioneer, in 2014. (Photo credit: Béatrice de Géa/The New York Times)
SPORTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT PLAYED A BIG ROLE IN ALLEN’S POST-MICROSOFT LIFE
Developing some of the first LEED certified buildings in the U.S.
PAUL ALLEN AND THE BEGINNINGS OF THE GREEN-SPORTS MOVEMENT
Allen’s environmentalism and innovativeness led him and his company, Vulcan, Inc., to take some significant Green-Sports steps during the early days of his ownership of the Trail Blazers and Seahawks.
“When Paul bought the Trail Blazers in 1988, it was clear the team needed a new arena,” recalled Justin Zeulner, who worked for Allen at Vulcan starting in 1999 and served as Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance from 2014-2018. “It was important to Paul to show fans, sponsors and the media that Portland was a leader in technology, energy efficiency, and innovation. So when planning for what would become the Moda Center began in 1991-92, he directed the team to design a green building before green building was even a thing!”
Allen felt even more passionate about Seattle — he directed a good chunk of his enormous fortune (estimated at $26.1 billion at his passing) towards transforming the city into a cultural hub. So when the new Seahawks (and later Sounders) stadium, now known as CenturyLink Field, opened in 2002, Allen made sure it was a green leader for that time.
The use of recycled concrete and steel — now an expected feature at most new stadium and arenas — is one example of how Allen and Vulcan paved the Green-Sports way with the new venue. Over the next decade, CenturyLink Field upped its green game, with the installation of solar panels at the stadium and on the roof of the neighboring Event Center, as well as recycling and composting, encouraging bike travel to games, and much more.
A solar array, the largest in the state of Washington, tops the roof of the Event Center adjacent to CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)
AN IMPORTANT BEHIND-THE-SCENES PLAYER AT THE BIRTH OF THE GREEN SPORTS ALLIANCE
During a brief meeting several years after the Moda Center opened, Allen asked then-Trail Blazers President Larry Miller a simple question: “How do we scale the way we greened the Blazers beyond Portland?”
Paul Allen, left, at a Portland Trail Blazers game with general manager Neil Olshey in 2016 (Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press)
That, according to Zeulner, was an important spark that ultimately led to the formation of the Green Sports Alliance. “Sometime after that conversation, Miller grabbed me and my colleague Jason Twill and gave us the task of broadening the Greening of Sports,” Zeulner remembered. “Soon after that, Allen Hershkowitz at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who was doing great sustainability work with the Philadelphia Eagles and others, joined our efforts. We engaged the Seattle Mariners and Vancouver Canucks in the discussion with the Blazers, Seahawks and Sounders and that group ultimately became the core of the Pacific Northwest Green Sports Alliance, the precursor to the GSA.”
And once Paul Allen provided a spark, those working at Vulcan knew what to do.
“Working under Paul’s leadership, you couldn’t help but feel you were always held to the highest expectations, no matter what you worked on,” reflected Jason Twill, a Senior Project Manager at Vulcan from 2007 to 2013. “This expectation was not only for our organization, but for how we positively impacted humanity as well. His belief in human potential was infectious and inspired us to seek transformation in areas he was most passionate about and where scaled impact could happen; science, technology, music, art and sports. I know that sounds grandiose but you could feel it. It was an incredibly electrifying place to work. We just knew what he expected of us.”
What did that mean in terms of Green-Sports, which was in its embryonic stages in 2007-2008?
“Investing in green building was just something you did because Paul Allen expected it,” said Twill, now the Director of Urban Apostles, a Sydney, Australia-based consulting services business specializing in urban regenerative development. “Paul’s combined passion for sports and the environment led to a group of staff members within Vulcan and the sports teams to initiate the Green Sports Alliance, in partnership with the NRDC. All we tried to do was take Paul’s early Green-Sports leadership and expand upon it.”
Allen who, dating back to his Microsoft days, preferred to stay largely in the background, played a crucial if “silent partner” role in the Alliance’s early days. He provided financial support, organizational development as well as pro bono labor. The latter took the form of lending the time and efforts of Vulcan executives Zeulner, Twill and 15 or so others to the cause. “Paul’s funding, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with the financial support of the NRDC and other founding partners were critical,” asserted Zeulner. “It allowed the Alliance to get off the ground and ensured that the first two annual Summits, in Portland and Seattle, respectively, were successful.”
Twill summed up Allen’s role in the birth of the Alliance this way: “Simply put, Paul’s commitment to world change, his leadership and his organizations were the launching pad that enabled the Green Sports Alliance to come into existence.”
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