The GSB Interview: Viviane Fraisse, Helping to Make the Already-Green Roland Garros Even Greener

Viviane Fraisse is not close to being satisfied.

Not at all.

One could excuse the head of sustainability at Roland Garros — the Paris home of the French Open — as well as for the French Tennis Federation (FFT) if she rested on the strong green laurels her organization and the world’s lone clay court Grand Slam championship have earned over the past eight years.

But my refreshing conversation with Fraisse revealed her laser-like focus on — and a sense of urgency about — how she and her team could do better, from greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the tournament to fan engagement to tennis ball recycling to much more.

So with the 2019 French Open now underway, here is our interview with Viviane Fraisse.

GreenSportsBlog: Viviane, the FFT and Roland Garros have great Green-Sports stories. Before we get to them, how did you get involved with the organization and with sustainability?

Viviane Fraisse: Well, Lew, I’ve enjoyed sports from when I was a young girl and played tennis for fun. Then in 1991, I saw France defeat the United States in the Davis Cup final in Lyon and it was then that I knew that I wanted to work in sports.

 

Viviane Fraisse Sust Innovation Sport

Viviane Fraisse (Photo credit: Sustainable Innovation in Sports)

 

GSB: For those who don’t follow tennis, the Davis Cup is the most important tournament between national teams in men’s game. I unfortunately remember the ’91 Final. Somehow a US team with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi approaching their primes lost to Guy Forget (fore-ZHAY) and Henri Leconte. Don’t worry, I’m over it. 

Viviane: It is a very pleasant memory for me. Anyway, I’ve been fortunate to work with with FFT and Roland Garros for many years. I was a law student and got to work in FFT’s legal department. Then I studied at the French Institute of Press and switched over to publishing, eventually become in charge of the department. Basically we handled everything the FFT published, for our tennis club operators all over France, for our athletic trainers. And at Roland Garros, we handled all of the match programs plus all other publishing during the tournament.

GSB: What a big and fun job! How did you end up running sustainability?

Viviane: Well, in around 2010 I was ready leave the publishing department. I had done pretty much everything I wanted to do there. While I was in publishing, I worked on a tennis ball recycling program on my own time and was really into it. The FFT were in the process of creating a CSR department; I decided I wanted to run it. And, in 2012, that’s exactly what happened.

GSB: That sounds like a huge challenge. How did you create a CSR department and, more specifically, an environmental sustainability effort from basically nothing?

Viviane: I was fortunate to start in 2012. That was the year London hosted the Summer Olympics and the host committee made huge strides forward on sustainability versus what had existed before. We followed their leadership in many areas. One was doing what was needed to earn ISO 20121 certification for Roland Garros as a sustainable event. Another was deploying our first Green Teams at the Open. And our commitment went far beyond the tournament. We also decided to take a similarly strong approach from 2012 on sustainability with our headquarters and with our tennis leagues around the country.

At the league and club level, we pushed an aggressive tennis ball recycling program — it some respects, it’s been the most important thing we’ve done. All the leagues across the 13 regions that make up France participate. To date we’ve recycled more than 12 million tennis balls. The clubs collect them and then our recyclers grind them up into granulate and felt.

The granulate has been used to construct over 1,200 square meters of playgrounds and tracks in areas of need, for schools and hospitals in the Paris area. The felt is trickier. First of all, the felt on our tennis balls is already recycled and it can’t be recycled more than once. So for now, we burn the felt and turn it into energy. We’re looking for a new partner to improve the process.

 

Equipe Verte, Roland Garros 2019, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Members of the Roland Garros Green Team, or équipe verte (Photo credit: Corinne DuBreuil/FFT)

 

GSB: Well done, Viviane. What have you done to green the FFT’s/Roland Garros’ headquarters?

Viviane: At headquarters, we focus on sustainable transport for our 360 employees, recycling and sustainable procurement. On the latter, we look to apply a sustainability lens to everything we buy. Right now, all contracts over €100,000 are governed by our sustainable procurement policy, which represents about 85 percent of all of our procurement. Alas, the last 15 percent, the small contracts, are proving to be a challenge. We have a long way to go but we will get there.

GSB: I can imagine how the small contracts and companies would be the hardest to push on sustainability. Talk about your efforts at Roland Garros. It clearly has the highest profile of all of your areas of endeavor.

Viviane: You’re right about that, Lew. In 2019, our big goal is to raise public and fan awareness of sustainability.

GSB: That’s music to my ears…Say more…

Viviane: We are an original member of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework. In a certain sense, we look at the Framework as the UN asking us to do more than we have on fan engagement on climate, regarding fan use of public transportation, waste diversion and more.

We’ve been tracking fan use of public transport since 2011. Back then, 55 percent of fans used it. Last year 60 percent used mass transit and another 12 percent walked or took their bikes. And only 1.6 percent came by themselves by automobile. So we’re headed in the right direction but there still is room to grow. With that in mind, we have a new bicycle parking area at Roland Garros this year. And that will lead in to a much more comprehensive bicycle plan in 2020.

On waste sorting, we’ve had Green Teams at Roland Garros since 2012 showing fans where to dispose of recyclables, compostables, and the rest. Messaging on waste sorting runs on video boards on the concourses. In 2015 we started a contest in which Green Teamers quiz fans about our sustainability efforts, including our climate impacts. The winner gets a pass for two to the following year’s tournament.

GSB: What a great approach! What kind of waste diversion rates do you have at the French Open and how much goes to landfill? 

Viviane: Nothing goes to landfill, Lew. That is the law for the entire Paris region. Last year, 45 percent gets recycled and composted. Of the remaining 55 percent, 85 percent is converted into biogas and 15 percent is burned as electricity.

GSB: That is of course terrific, Viviane. Congratulations. I guess I still wonder how you are making the connection between your waste reduction mass transit to climate change?

Viviane: Great question, Lew. And this is of course very important. We weren’t talking about it as much as we could have before Sports for Climate Action. That is changing. For starters, we are hosting our first climate conference during the tournament on June 5, with a great lineup, including the Deputy Mayor of Paris, IOC, Paris 2024, the World Cup of Rugby 2023. Also our sponsors Lavazza and ENGIE.

Messaging about climate, including the conference, will run on screens, on our website, in the match programs. And there will be environmentally themed videos featuring players. Last year, Novak Djokovic, the world number one on the men’s side, did a video for us.

 

Novak Djokovic screen shot

Novak Djokovic, the world’s #1 tennis player, in FFT’s green-themed video (Photo credit: FFT)

 

GSB: What about on French TV? Of course it’s great to communicate on the environment and climate at Roland Garros but millions more watch the tournament on TV.

Viviane: Our environmental messages run a few times on TV but we need to do better there. We’re very strong via our social media channels.

GSB: We will keep up with you on progress on the TV front. What is happening regarding the expansion and renovations at Roland Gross from a green perspective?

Viviane: Our new Philippe-Chatrier Stadium, our #1 venue, will open in 2021 with a retractable roof. We are going for BREEAM¹ certification for sure. And we are working with ENGIE on a new way to do solar at a sports venue: This year we will be testing mobile solar on campus with the goal of a bigger deployment down the road.

 

Philippe-Chatrier

Rendering of the renovated Philippe-Chatrier Stadium which will open in 2021 with a retractable roof and a likely BREEAM certification (Credit: Roland Garros)

 

GSB: Very cool, Viviane. That’s the first I’ve heard of mobile solar at a sports venue. I have to say, you, the FFT and Roland Garros have done an amazing job on the environment and things are looking up on climate. But, as you say, you need to do more. With that in mind, what keeps you up at night, sustainability-wise?

Viviane: We need to do a better job of getting our sponsors fully on board regarding environment and climate. Some are doing great things but we can’t really have the effect we need on innovation, communications and more without more sponsor support. We believe Sport for Climate Action and the Climate Conference on June 5 will help. And our collaboration with Paris 2024, which is a daily thing, should help with sponsors.

 

¹ BREEAM = Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, an alternative certification protocol to LEED. The Building Research Establishment is based in Watford, England.

 

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GSB News and Notes: NY Times Links Federer Upset Loss to Climate Change; Lakers Go Solar at their Training Facility; Denver Broncos Give Out 100% Recycled Rally Towels

September is, without question, the most wonderful time of the sports year in the US:

  • The final tennis grand slam tournament, the US Open, concludes;

  • Baseball’s long season comes down the home stretch;

  • The college football and NFL seasons kick off;

  • Basketball and hockey teams hit training camp;

  • The Ryder Cup takes over the golf world

GreenSportsBlog’s TGIF News & Notes reflects that full calendar, with tennis, basketball, and football on the docket.  

 

NEW YORK TIMES MAKES LINK BETWEEN FEDERER UPSET LOSS AT US OPEN AND EXTREME NIGHTTIME HEAT AND HUMIDITY

Until Serena Williams’ dispute with the chair umpire in her straight set defeat to Naomi Osaka at the US Open final became an international hot topic, excessive heat was the dominant storyline during the recently completed tournament in Queens.

  • The ATP, the governing body of the men’s pro tennis tour, took the unprecedented step of instituting a new rule, after the tournament began, that allowed players to go to the locker room for a 10 minute cooling break after the third set (women’s players already were permitted such a break after the second set).
  • With on-court temperatures reaching as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius), it was common to see players draping large ice wraps over their shoulders during one minute changeover breaks. 
  • Eventual men’s champion Novak Djokovic was almost felled in two early round matches by two implacable foes: the oppressive afternoon heat and humidity.
  • Night matches were affected: Unheralded John Millman shocked Roger Federer in the Round of 16 on a particularly hot, sticky, stuffy evening. 

 

Novak US Open

Novak Djokovic suffering from the heat and humidity during a changeover in his first round match at the 2018 US Open (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

While ESPN covered the heat/humidity story during the tournament’s fortnight — there was no way the cable-caster could avoid it. After all, players were wilting and fans stayed away from the sunny side of Billie Jean King National Tennis Center venues in droves. But ESPN did not get delve into any potential links between the extreme weather at the Open and climate change. 

And, while Federer cited heat and stuffiness as the main reason for his upset loss — “It was hot. It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air; there was no circulation at all.” — he didn’t “go there” on climate change. 

 

Federer

Roger Federer struggled on an extremely hot and humid night in the round of 16 at the US Open, losing to John Millman (Photo credit: Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

 

Thankfully, reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis of The New York Times’ fantastic “Climate Fwd” newsletter, did make the climate connection for millions of readers on September 4 in Roger Federer Is Tough to Beat. Global Warming Might Have Pulled an Upset.” Her particular focus was the relatively unsung trend of increasingly hot nights.

Per Pierre-Louis, “To some, the comments by Federer…may sound like sour grapes. But they also underscore a growing problem: increasing nighttime temperatures…[Global] warming is not happening evenly. Summer nights have warmed at nearly twice the rate of summer days. Average overnight low temperatures in the United States have increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit per century since 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…While daytime temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) have been a persistent problem at this U.S. Open, conditions [during the Federer-Millman night match] were not much cooler. Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, with the humidity for much of the match above 70 percent. The heat index, which combines heat and humidity to indicate a ‘feels like’ temperature, was in the 90s.”

The effects on the human body of exercising in high temperatures with high humidity can be calamitous, reported Pierre-Louis. That’s because sweating, “a key cooling mechanism,” gets stymied. When the air is excessively humid, sweat drips instead of evaporating. And that eliminates the cooling effect on the body. 

GSB’s Take: As a lifelong resident of the New York City metro area, let me tell you, a nighttime heat index in the 90s, a rarity back in the 1970s-80s, is becoming all too common in July and August. While heat and humidity played a major role in Federer’s exit from the US Open, such extreme weather is much more perilous for non-athletes. And until humanity, non-athletes and athletes alike, gets its act together on a massive decarbonizing effort to break climate change’s serve, extreme heat and humidity that makes exercise — among many other activities — risky will become the norm. I wonder if, as the effects of climate change get more severe, tournaments like the US Open and Australian Open, which are played in the heat and the humidity of the summer, will move towards more temperate times on the calendar.

 

LAKERS WELCOME LEBRON JAMES TO TRAINING CAMP WITH NEW SOLAR INSTALLATION 

When LeBron James joins the Los Angeles Lakers for his first training camp in Los Angeles later this month, he’ll be doing so at a training facility with a new rooftop solar array. 

According to a story by Kyle Field in the September 2 issue of CleanTechnica, Vaha Energy installed a 171 kW system comprised of 456 LG Solar panels on the roof of the team’s new LEED Platinum, 120,000 square foot UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo.

 

The solar array at the LA Lakers new UCLA Health Training Center (Photo credit: CleanTechnica)

 

“The system is expected to save about $38,000 per year, on a rate of 16 cents per kWh,” wrote Field. Vaha Energy projects that the team should be able to pay off the system in a relatively quick four years.

Joseph McCormack, the Lakers Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Finance, told Field, “One of our goals as an organization is to be at the forefront of energy efficiency, and these panels further our commitment to sustainability.”

The Lakers plan to communicate their greening efforts at UCLA Health Training Center to fans — the cozy venue seats 900 — during team practices and at home games of the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers.

 

GSB’s Take: The move by the Lakers to solar-ize their new UCLA Health Training Center is, of course, welcome news. As costs of solar continue to go down, we can expect more such on-site solar installations at sports venues. It says here that the Lakers would’ve done even better to install solar panels atop car ports in the parking lot, in addition to their rooftop array. That way, fans could not miss the Lakers solar play — the panels on the roof are not easily visible to passersby. Oh yeah, it would be cooler than cool if LeBron agreed to be featured in video messaging about the Lakers’ solar installation.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS GIVE ORANGE RALLY TOWELS MADE FROM 100 PERCENT RECYCLED MATERIALS TO FANS AT HOME OPENER

A crowd of 76,000+ at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver saw the home team open their 2018 NFL season Sunday with a come-from-behind 27-24 home win over the Seattle Seahawks. Fans 21-and-older were able to urge the Broncos on by waving orange rally towels, presented by Bud Light, made from 100 percent recycled materials from earlier Broncos games. 

 

Rally Towel Broncos

The rally towel, made from 100 percent recycled materials, that was given out to Denver Broncos fans at Sunday’s home opener (Photo credit: Denver Broncos)

 

Believed to be the NFL’s first promotional giveaway made from fully recycled materials, the towels are made from plastic Coke bottles from Broncos Stadium. The 100% recycled icon is located on the lower left of the towel, clearly visible to fans.

Here’s how the Broncos Stadium bottles turn into Broncos Stadium rally towels:

  • Coke bottles get hauled from the stadium to Waste Management’s Denver Recycling Center.
  • The bottles are then delivered to a Materials Recovery Facility and sold to a plastic processing plant.
  • The processing plant breaks the bottles down into flakes or pellets and sells them to yarn manufacturers, who in turn sell the yarn to fabric weavers and knitters around the world.
  • Fabric makers sell the fabric to cut, sew and decorating plants — in this case, G&G Outfitters, a Maryland-based NFL licensee — where the towels are produced, decorated and shipped back to Denver for the game.

“The Denver Broncos and Coca-Cola are teaming up to show fans the value of recycling,” said Antoinette Williams, account executive at Coca-Cola, USA. “Recycling is the first step, but Coca-Cola and the Broncos want to create a ‘Life-Cycle’ story and make sure once the bottles are recycled they continue on a sustainable path.”

“We have never executed a promotion to this nature for any NFL team where the giveaway was made 100 percent out of certified recycled bottles collected from their own waste,” added Danny Papilion of G&G Outfitters. “To our knowledge, the Broncos are the first NFL team to do so.”

GSB’s Take: I love this promotion — a towel that is clearly marked as 100 percent recyclable given out to many thousands of fans. But how cool would it be if the Broncos encouraged fans to bring their towels every time they come to a game? Show your towel at four games and you get a free Bud Light. Or some other idea. No matter the promotion, the team would be emphasizing the important sustainability principle of reuse as well as recycling. 

 


 

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