GSB News and Notes: Sustainability Effort for Tokyo 2020 Builds on Past Games; Aardvark Paper Straws at Stadiums and Arenas; Philadelphia Eagles Amp Up Green Efforts

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are still more than three years away but sustainability planning is in high gear. GSB spoke with Takeo Tanaka, the man leading Tokyo 2020’s greening efforts. Aardvark brings its straws made from paper to sports stadiums and arenas, lessening the amount of plastic ocean waste in the process. And the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the early Green-Sports adapters, take their waste management to the next level with the installation of an Eco-Safe food digester.

 

TOKYO 2020 LOOKS TO TAKE OLYMPIC SUSTAINABILITY TO NEXT LEVEL

Takeo Tanaka, the Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has some audacious greening goals for the Games that begin on July 24, 2020.

“We are building a substantive, five-pillar approach to sustainability,” said Mr. Tanaka. “The five pillars—Climate change, resource management, natural environment and biodiversity, human rights, labor and fair business practices, and involvement, cooperation and communications—are the framework that will earn us ISO 20121 certification* and allow us to take the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 sustainability to its highest level.”

 

Tokyo 2020 SUS team

Takeo Tanaka (center, front), Senior Director of Sustainability for the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the sustainability team. (Photo credit: Organising Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games)

 

Three years out, the pillars are taking shape:

  • Tokyo 2020’s Olympic Stadium, as well as all new permanent indoor venues, a big indoor temporary venue — the Olympic Gymnastic Centre — along with the Olympic and Paralympic Village, were all designed and are being built with the expectation of achieving CASBEE^ certification,
  • Energy efficient, low emission vehicles (hybrids and EVs) will be used throughout the Games.
  • The Organising Committee is pursuing CO2 emission reductions in the distribution process by procuring seasonal foods and other goods that are produced close to Tokyo.
  • The sustainability team is working closely with the communications group on an innovative program that encourages Japanese citizens in all 47 prefectures (states) to donate old mobile phones and small electric devices in collection boxes. 100 percent of the two tons of gold, silver and bronze for the more than 5,000 medals that will be awarded at the 2020 Games will be made from the transformed e-waste. “Unfortunately, not many people in Japan know about the richness and the potential of ‘urban mines,’ said Mr. Tanaka. “I believe that this project will raise awareness of the existence and the value of useful metals buried in the urban environment. People will hopefully become aware of the usefulness of recycling and this will leave a positive legacy for society.”
    • The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project Towards an Innovative Future for All is being promoted to the public via a popular TV program and a public service announcement campaign from the governors of Tokyo.

 

Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Artist’s rendering of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, expected to receive CASBEE green building certification. (Credit: Dezeen.com)

 

The Tokyo 2020 Sustainability Communications plan — to the media and the public — is still taking shape. Suffice to say, Mr. Tanaka and his team took notes on what their Rio 2016 counterparts did, from the “sustainability booth” at the Media Press Center, to sustainability-themed venue tours for the media, to the climate change vignette that was featured during the Opening Ceremonies.

According to Mr. Tanaka, the five pillars approach ensures that sustainability will always be a core component of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games DNA: “Not only is every division of the Organising Committee being trained on the sustainability initiatives, top management is involved as well. Sustainability is an agenda item at every Senior Directors meeting and sustainability-themed blogs have been posted to build awareness and interest among Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games employees and ultimately, volunteers.”

What about corporate sponsors, you ask? The Organising Committee created a Corporate Sustainability Network for Tokyo 2020 corporate sponsors, both local and worldwide. So far 37 of the 55 local sponsors have joined the network, which aims to engage corporate stakeholders, from employees to customers to management in sustainable initiatives surrounding the Games.

Oh, there’s one more thing you should know about Mr. Tanaka. Before leading the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games sustainability charge, he had a 30-year career at Tokyo’s electric company, where he worked on environmental issues and the preservation of Japan’s national parks. He’s also worked with the Nature Conservancy and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on climate change and biodiversity issues.

Suffice to say, sustainability is in good hands at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

AARDVARK PAPER STRAWS HELP GREEN STADIUMS AND ARENAS

This Green-Sports story goes back aways, to 1888.

It was then a man named Marvin Stone invented the original paper straw and patented his idea. That patent became the foundation for Precision Products Group, Inc.  — the same company that manufactures Aardvark®, The Original Paper Straw, today.

Over time, as cheaper plastic straws came to dominate the category, the paper straw fell by the wayside. And, while straws are low interest items for consumers, the environmental costs add up. Consider that there are 1 billion plastic straws used each day, 500 million alone in North America. After their brief, one-time-use lives are over, where do they end up?  Either in landfills or oceans.

In 2007, in response to a growing anti-plastic movement, the main buyers of plastic straws in the U.S. — restaurants, hospitals, and other industries, including sports — began to look for more sustainable, eco-friendly options.

As a leading U.S. manufacturer of small-size cylindrical tubing solutions, Precision Products Group looked to create a straw that was less environmentally toxic. The answer was in their archives: Marvin Stone’s original 1888 patent for the first paper straw. Putting a modern spin on Stone’s original concept, Aardvark created a straw using 100 percent sustainable and renewable papers that was more sustainable and durable than any other paper straw ever made.  According to David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager, initially, “Aardvark was the only paper straw being made, but cheap and inferior China straws that get soggy and fall apart quickly entered into the market. Today, Aardvark remains the only quality and safe paper straw and the only [one that’s] Made in the USA.”

 

David Rhodes

David Rhodes, Aardvark’s Global Business Manager (Photo credit: David Rhodes)

 

The sports industry is of great interest to Aardvark, with its high profile, passionate, and thirsty fan bases. The company has made some impressive inroads over the past two years. “We work with ‘Party Goods’ retailers like Amscan and Creative Converting to offer paper straws with team logos emblazoned on them,” related Mr. Rhodes. “Right now, they have licenses with all 32 NFL teams and most of the schools in the Power 5 conferences. This is an ideal product for tailgaters. Fans can buy packages of, say, Green Bay Packers Aardvark straws at Packer retail stores and via Amazon. And, because fan loyalty is so strong, the margins also can be strong for the retailer.”

Jets straws

New York Jets paper straws from Aardvark (Photo credit: Aardvark)

 

But sports retail is a much smaller potential market for Aardvark than the concessions stands and restaurants at a ballpark or arena — as the latter represents 99 percent of straw usage. Cost has been a drag on Aardvark’s ability to crack that market. “Plastic straws cost about 0.5¢ each, whereas Aardvark paper straws cost 1.5¢ without printing on them and 2.0¢ with printing,” said Mr. Rhodes. “Looking at sports stadiums and arenas, since concessionaires give straws away, going to our product simply adds cost.”

Mr. Rhodes sees a potentially elegant solution to the thorny cost problem: Selling a combined, retail-concession paper straw combination to teams: “We can show teams that the profit they will realize from selling Aardvark straws at retail will offset the increased costs from giving our straws away at concession stands. And with retail-concession being a wash, we make the case that reductions in trash transportation costs and enhanced branding from going green make Aardvark a clear winner.”

According to Mr. Rhodes, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the about-to-open home of the Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C, and CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks and MLS’ Seattle Sounders, are dueling to be the first facility to offer Aardvark straws at the concession stand.

Finally, GreenSportsBlog readers may recall our March 2017 interview with Olivia and Carter Ries, the teenage founders of nonprofit One More Generation (OMG!) and its One Less Straw campaign, designed to dramatically reduce the number of straws used and thus lessen plastic ocean waste. I asked Mr. Rhodes if he saw OMG as a competitor or potential partner.

Not surprisingly, he chose the latter: “We partner with and support OMG and other [plastic ocean waste] advocate groups, including Lonely Whale Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, The Last Plastic Straw, 5 Gyres, Hannah 4 Change, Surfrider Foundation, Sailors for the Sea, etc. Our long term goal is to assist in reducing the overall amount of straw usage by 50 percent and then converting at least 10 percent of the remaining straws to paper. [Thus,] we suggest restaurant owners and employees only offer a straw [and a paper one at that] if a customer specifically requests one.”

Aardvark found that restaurants that offer straws only on demand see reductions in straw consumption of up to 50 percent, diminishing the increased cost of switching to paper straws and allowing restaurants to save money while saving the planet.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES EXPAND GO GREEN EFFORTS WITH INSTALLATION OF ECO-SAFE DIGESTER®

The Philadelphia Eagles, a green-sports early adapter, recently announced they will team up with environmental partner, Delaware-based Waste Masters Solutions (WMS), on the installation of a BioHiTech Global Eco-Safe Digester®, a food waste digester and data analytics platform at Lincoln Financial Field. The unit uses a proprietary bacteria formula to break down pre- and post-consumer food scraps via aerobic digestion and send them through sewer systems with no residual solids.

 

BioHiTech Eco-Safe

BioHiTech Global’s Eco-Safe Digesters will be installed Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and will be managed and maintained by Waste Master Solutions. (Photo credit: BioHiTech Global)

 

This move builds upon the September 2016 installation of a waste digester at the team’s NovaCare Complex practice facility to help decompose pre-consumer food waste. Since then, more than nine tons (18,100 pounds) of food waste has been decomposed and, thus, diverted from landfills.

Cleantech leader BioHiTech Global – which develops and deploys innovative and disruptive waste management technologies like the Eco-Safe Digester – will handle, in collaboration with WMS, the design, construction and operation of the analytics platform.

Eagles minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie helped spearhead the team’s Go Green program in 2003 with the opening of an environmentally forward (especially for that time) Lincoln Financial Field. The club’s partnership with WMS is just the latest element of its comprehensive environmental program that also features on-site solar and small scale wind (eagle talon-shaped turbines spin atop the stadium), recycling and composting, energy and water conservation, reforestation and sustainability partnerships, as well as fan education programs.

 

Christina Weiss Lurie

Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo credit: Christina Weiss Lurie)

 

* ISO 2012-1 is the global standard for sustainable events.
^ CASBEE is the Japanese green building certification that is somewhat akin to LEED.

 

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Olivia and Carter Ries: Greening Sports, Saving Wildlife, and Taking on Plastic Ocean Waste; All While Doing Their Homework

14 year-old Olivia Ries and her 16 year-old brother, Carter, are like most kids in some respects. They participate in sports (lacrosse and soccer, respectively) in the Atlanta suburb of Fayetteville, play instruments, do their homework and “OMG!” is part of their lexicon. OK, they’re not like most kids in one important way: That’s because OMG is the acronym for One More Generation, the non-profit they started seven years ago, that works to protect animals and the environment for the next generation, the one after that, and the one after that. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Olivia, Carter, and their dad Jim, about OMG, and how sports can help it realize its goals. OMG, indeed!

 

When Carter and Olivia Ries were 8 1/2 and 7 years old, respectively, their aunt visited South Africa and brought each of them back a certificate stating they were adoptive parents of cheetahs who are at risk of extinction due to massive habitat loss and persecution by farmers. When a crestfallen Olivia asked her dad, Jim, why animals even needed to be adopted, he replied that if there were not agencies like the one with which they were working, there may not be cheetahs left in the wild for her children to see.

Olivia did not like this answer and pressed Jim about what she and Carter could do to save animals. At first, Jim admits he tried desperately to get out of doing anything but the kids persisted and eventually he said they could start a nonprofit that would protect animals and the environment they—and we—inhabit.

Two weeks later, Olivia and Carter had their first board meeting and One More Generation—OMG!—was born. The nonprofit’s initial goal was to educate children and adults about the plight of endangered species. The kids’ long-term intention is to preserve all species for at least One More Generation…and far beyond.

Carter and Olivia

Carter and Olivia Ries (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

Not long after OMG’s founding, Carter and Olivia were horrified to watch on CNN as the devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico spilled right into their living room. In what would become their pattern, instead of wallowing, they sprang into action. “For four months straight, we collected all sorts of supplies,” said Olivia. “Then, on my 8th birthday, dad drove us 11 and a half hours down to the Gulf where we donated the supplies to a marine mammal rescue center. We saw sharks, sea turtles, birds and dolphins, all sickened by oil pollution. It was tragic.”

You might think that would’ve been enough for Carter and Olivia. After all, there was school, music lessons, sports and all the rest.

But this was just the beginning.

In fact, Jim, who, at the time OMG was founded, worked for fitness equipment manufacturer Precor, soon became full-time CEO. The OMG C-suite is an all-in-the-family affair as mom Lauren, who works for Ivantis, a company dedicated to the development of innovative solutions for glaucoma, fills the CFO role.

Jim’s and Lauren’s commitment to OMG allowed the kids to be able to balance (sort of) their home and school lives while expanding OMG’s letter writing, public speaking and other grass roots campaigns in three verticals:

Endangered Species: Letter-writing plays a big part here as the kids, among many other examples:

  • Spearheaded an effort to save rhinos that resulted in 10,000 letters being written from kids all over the world. The kids then presented the letters to authorities in South Africa.
  • Led another letter writing effort, this one on behalf of sea turtles, which led to an invitation to the White House last June.

Carter Olivia White House Sea Turtles

Carter and Olivia Ries outside of the White House as part of their mission to save Sea Turtles. (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

Youth Empowerment: Carter and Olivia believe children must stand up, be heard, and make a difference, no matter what their passion may be. They’ve shown how it’s done via TEDx Youth Talks.

 

Carter and Olivia’s 2016 TEDx Youth Talk (14:51)

 

And Carter was one of only two youth representatives who spoke this Friday at the UN’s 2017 World Wildlife Day. Carter commanded the attention of the entire room when he pleaded for the adults to “take responsibility to preserve wildlife for the next generation. Because if you don’t, you’ll be teaching us, the youth of the world, that protecting wildlife isn’t that important. And then we’ll teach our kids that same lesson. But if you change, that will inspire us.”

Carter at UN

Carter Ries, speaking at World Wildlife Day at the UN on March 3. (Photo credit: OneMoreGeneration.org)

 

They also launched We’ve Got You Covered, a program that empowers kids to collect donated materials, including blankets, and have them delivered to homeless kids.

 

Environmental Conservation: The BP-Deepwater Horizon spill was the spark here. In fact, the kids learned quickly enough that, as Olivia put it, “Cleaning up the animals is one thing but, if we don’t protect the environment that they’d be going back into once they become healthy, then our efforts are largely wasted.”

This led the kids to plastics; specifically, the plastics that end up as waste in the oceans.

In 2012-2013, Carter and Olivia created an award-winning plastic ocean waste awareness and recycling curriculum that is being used by K-6 teachers nationwide. The response by students was positive, according to Olivia, but “some of the teachers reacted a bit ‘strangely’ to having kids teach.” To date, thousands of students and dozens of schools here in the US have already completed the weeklong curriculum and the program is currently being tested in the UK and soon in Australia. Olivia and Carter are working with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Ocean First Institute on having their curriculum converted to an online format that will dramatically expand its availability.

Then they turned their attention to straws, many of which end up in the oceans. How many?

When Jim quizzed me about how many straws are used each day in the US, I guessed 50 million (out of a population of 327 million). “You’re a little low there, Lew” Jim replied. “Over 500 million straws are used daily in the US! That is 1.6 straws for every man, woman and child living in this country and none ever get recycled”

Talk about OMG!!

So Carter and Olivia went to work, designing and deploying the One Less Straw Pledge Campaign, in which children, adults, schools, restaurants and other businesses commit to not using a plastic straw for 30 days. If a kid catches a parent using a straw, the parent gives 25¢ to the kids’ school.

It’s early days, but so far, 15+ schools have already signed-on to the campaign and the kids’ have received thousands of individual “I’m going strawless” pledges via their website from people in over 30 countries around the world.

Now, I rarely drink out of a straw so it seemed like a very easy behavioral change to effect but, as Carter put it, it isn’t that easy: “People say they don’t want to drink directly out of a glass. This makes no sense to me. You eat off of plates, why not drink from a glass?? Especially when 90 percent of people surveyed said they don’t need to drink out of straws.”

 

SPORTS AND ONE LESS STRAW

At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “What Carter and Olivia are doing is incredible, but what does it have to do with Green-Sports?”

Potentially, a lot.

Jim, Carter and Olivia realized that a marriage of One Less Straw with sports venues and teams was a no brainer: Sports venues use massive amounts of straws and the pop-culture power of sports would provide a program like One Less Straw with unmatched awareness. In the kids’ own backyard of Atlanta, they’ve made initial contacts with Phillips’ Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and with Georgia Tech University. And, now that the finishing touches are being put on Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the dazzling, first ever LEED Platinum facility in the NFL and MLS, which opens on July 30, it made sense for the kids to meet with Scott Jenkins, its General Manager and Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance.

Making the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C. straw-free right off the bat might be a bridge too far, thought Jim, Carter, and Olivia. So, when they met with Jenkins, their ask was to make straws a request-only item. “It is expected that a ‘request only’ policy would result in a reduction in straw usage of up to 70 percent!,” enthused Jim. “Those savings go right to the stadium’s bottom line and means fewer straws in the oceans.” Obviously, Jenkins and his team are laser-focused on getting the stadium ready for its late July opening. That said, I hope that, at some point in the next year or two, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will hop on board the One Less Straw train. And if that happens, other stadiums and arenas will no doubt follow suit.

Participatory sports are another outlet for One Less Straw. Olivia reported that many school districts use thousands of sports packs—including fruit, juice and a straw, between lunch and sports—every day. One Less Straw is working on a program to get straws out of sports packs, protecting the oceans and saving schools and taxpayers 0.5¢/straw.

Somehow, I have a strong feeling we will be writing a lot more about Carter, Olivia, One More Generation and sports in the months and years to come.

 

If your school, sports team or community organization is interested in getting involved in the work Olivia and Carter are doing, we encourage you to reach out to them via email at info@onemoregeneration.org

 

 

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