Sustainability at the 2019 NCAA Final Fours — Part I: The Women in Tampa

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.”

So observed Madeleine “Maddy” Orr, faculty member in Sport Administration at Ontario’s Laurentian University, and a founder of Sportecology.org, a new platform that connects people working in Green-Sports with research that can help propel their efforts forward.

 

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Madeleine “Maddy” Orr (Photo credit: Katya Moussatova)

 

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.

 

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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.”

 

GAME TIME!

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.”

 

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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.

 

Amalie Green Team

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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The GSB Interview: Emily Davis, Sustainability Director at DHL North America, on Logistics, Formula-E

DHL is the largest logistics and express delivery company in the world (yes, they are bigger than FedEx and UPS). Given the German-based company’s size and the businesses they’re in, it’s not surprising that their carbon emissions are massive. But those emissions have declined substantively as compared to nine years ago and those reductions will be tiny compared to what DHL will achieve over the next three to 33 years, if their aggressive projections are realized. GreenSportsBlog spoke to Emily Davis, Sustainability Program Manager at DHL North America’s Supply Chain unit, to understand how the largest logistics company in the world will go about achieving its net zero emissions goal by 2050 and how sports fits into those plans. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: I did not realize DHL was the biggest logistics company in the world. With that being the case, I am fascinated by the commitment of a company that big to get to “net zero” on carbon emissions by 2050. Before we get to the particulars of what DHL might do to get from here to there and where sports fits in, I’d like to find out how you got to DHL and its sustainability team.

Emily Davis: I have a scientific background, specifically the biological sciences. Even though I went to Notre Dame, don’t tell anybody but I’m not that big of a sports fan.

 

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Emily Davis, Sustainability Program Manager at DHL North America’s Supply Chain unit (Photo credit: Summer Safrit)

 

GSB: Oh, your secret is safe with me!

ED: I won’t hold my breath on that one. I’m more of an outdoor sports person—caving, mountaineering, paddling, that sort of thing. I started my career in the clinical medicine space and decided to make the transition to sustainability while out in Denver.

 

Emily spelunking new cave passage

Emily Davis, exploring virgin passage of a cave in Tennessee (Photo credit: Elliot Stahl)

 

GSB: Great place for outdoor sports…

ED: Exactly…And I could blend my dual passions for the environment and biology. I went back to school, getting my MBA from Vanderbilt in Nashville in environmental management to build a new skill set in this area.

GSB: What was the coursework like for an environmental management MBA?

ED: Good question. Some of it involved things like the business of forest certification standards and marketing. And that, in part, led to my getting a job at International Paper in forest resources in Savannah and then with their sustainability department in Memphis.

GSB: What was it like to work in corporate sustainability there back in the mid-to-late 2000s?

ED: Sustainability was important to a paper and packaging company as trees, the main raw material input, are a very finite resource if not appropriately managed. But not too many companies were talking about sustainability, ESG, life cycle assessment and climate change in those days. Even though sustainability was important to the culture at International Paper, I still wanted to make more of a difference. So I took a sabbatical and traveled. At some point, I decided that I needed to work for a company that believed in environmental protection at the top of the food chain and that had size and scale such that, when environmental improvements were made, the impacts would be significant.

GSB: And that company was…DHL? A company that ships stuff all over the world and, thus, must have a, sorry, yuuuugge carbon footprint?

ED: Yes, DHL North America it was. In 2011, they were looking for someone to run their North American supply chain and sustainability departments. And yes, we have a massive footprint. But that means, with a strong commitment, they—and I—could make a difference. At the time, I didn’t know much about the company. They were/are based overseas—headquartered in Germany. But I came to find out that they had ambitious sustainability goals. They believe deeply in environmental protection—it’s core to their DNA. And I thought to myself, “this is a company that has a chance to really make a positive impact on climate change.”

GSB: So what did your job entail?

ED: Many things. Meeting the company’s energy and fuel efficiency goals. Which meant accounting for and improving the efficiency of warehousing, heavy-duty trucking, aviation, express shipping and supply chain operations.

GSB: That is a BIG JOB. Seems to me like express delivery, which is what I thought was DHL’s main business, plays a smaller part in the US. So let’s go to a big part—supply chain. How does the company handle supply chain from a sustainability point of view?

ED: DHL, which tracks Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, is the first logistics company to report CO2 emissions and to set targets, with 2007 as the base year. Our primary goal was to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020. We achieved this in 2016, almost four years early, which we announced on March 8 of this year.

 

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Environmental protection is core to DHL’s DNA, according to Emily Davis (Photo credit: DHL)

 

GSB: Somehow I don’t imagine you and DHL are going to rest on your laurels…

ED: You’re right. We announced a new goal and that is to be a Zero Emissions Logistics company by 2050.

GSB: That seems impossible for a company that depends on flying and driving for a good chunk of its business. There have to be some assumptions of some serious technological advances over the next 30 or so years in terms of Zero Emissions fuels…

ED: It’s a huge target, no doubt about it. I mean, we’re committing to making no contribution to climate change by 2050. So, yes, we are assuming there will be wide adoption of Zero Emission fuels and equipment by that time and DHL is working on that right now.

GSB: Are there any interim targets? I mean 2050 seems like it’s a long way away—although I know, in terms of climate change, it really isn’t—but it feels like a company could put a commitment like that out there and then let things slide a bit, you know?

ED: I hear you. And we do have four interim sub-targets for 2025: 1. Make a 50 percent improvement on CO2 efficiency over the 2007 base. 2. Improve local quality of life…that will involve delivering 70% of our own first and last mile services with clean pick-up and delivery solutions like EVs. 3. An economic target: 50 percent of DHL sales will incorporate “Green Solutions,” including carbon neutral parcel delivery.

GSB: What is that percentage now?

ED: About 10 percent. Finally, #4 is a “people target.” DHL is one of the largest employers in the world, with approximately 454,000, including about 29,000 in North America. By 2025 we commit to having trained and certified 80 percent of our employees worldwide to be GoGreen specialists. Every division has a program, from express delivery to supply chain. And we have a target to plant 1 million trees each year by 2025. We’ve found, by the way, that our GoGreen initiative helps with employee retention.

GSB: I always believed that would be the case. DHL’s current sustainability and climate change actions are exemplary; its future plans even more so. My only nagging doubt is this: Many corporations take incredible sustainable actions but, when it comes to lobbying and political actions—i.e. lobbying for a price on carbon—they’re silent or in opposition. DHL is walking the climate/green walk. Is it talking the talk where it counts?

ED: It’s both. DHL is certainly talking the talk, sharing how we’re using scientific targets to do our part to keep global temperature increase to 2°C or less vs. pre-industrial levels, we report our emissions to CDP, have been a longstanding partner of the UN and promoter of Sustainable Development Goals, part of the UNEP and vigorously support the Paris Climate Agreement.

GSB: OK, let’s talk Green-Sports, specifically DHL’s involvement with Formula-E, the EV racing series.

ED: DHL has been the Official Logistics Provider for Formula 1 since 2012 and for Formula-E since its 2014 launch. Among other things, we are responsible for getting the vehicles and tires to the race venues in a timely, economical, environmentally responsible fashion. Formula-E is a perfect fit for us, especially with our push on “E-mobility” and electric vehicles (EVs). And, to be clear, our push is not limited to electric cars. We’re working on electric trucks within our own operations…

 

DHL Form-E

DHL has been a sponsor of Formula-E, the EV racing circuit, since its founding in 2014. (Photo credit: DHL)

 

GSB: Not surprising…

ED: And also electric vans, electric scooters. So promoting the electrification of racing is a natural fit. To our way of thinking, eventually—say before 2050—we hope that F-1 will move transition towards all-electric…

GSB: And so Formula E would no longer need to exist.

ED: That is our goal. And, also in the sporting world, I should tell you that one of our customers in Brazil was a sponsor of the Rio Olympics in 2016—we weren’t but they were. Anyway our EVs were used by the sponsor at the Olympics—they were one of the first ever EVs to be used at an Olympics and certainly a pioneering event for Brazil.

GSB: And, if DHL has anything to say about it, not the last.

 

 


 

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