The Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2017

The Green-Sports world saw some important firsts in 2017: The first UN Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action in Germany, the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference in Sacramento, and the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium in the US are but three examples.

Beyond the firsts, eco-athletes, from sailors to snowboarders, used their sizable platforms to promote ocean health and the climate change fight. Some even lobbied members of Congress. 

But in this Age of Trump and with the ascendancy of climate change deniers and do-nothings in the upper reaches of the US Government, the Green-Sports world needed to go much bigger, move much faster.

Against that backdrop, we bring you the BEST AND WORST OF GREEN-SPORTS, 2017.


 

BEST GREEN SPORTS STORY OF 2017

Protect Our Winters (POW) and Winter Sports Athletes

 

POW Athletes at Capitol Credit Forest Woodward

Photo credit: Protect Our Winters

 

The photo above is the perfect visualization as to why Protect Our Winters (POW), the organization of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for substantive action on climate change, is the winner of GSB’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2017.

You see, the 21 folks captured in front of the US Capitol made up most of the 25-person delegation of active and retired skiers, snowboarders and more, who, along with staffers, descended on Washington this fall to lobby 22 members of Congress and their staffs. Topics included carbon pricing, solar energy and electrifying transportation.

That winter sports athletes are more concerned about climate change than any other group of athletes I can think of makes sense since they can see the negative effects of warming temperatures on their playing fields (i.e. ski slopes, snowboard courses, frozen ponds) in real time.

That they have built POW into the only climate change action advocacy group led by athletes, Olympians and world champions among them, is the amazing thing.

In recent months, GreenSportsBlog interviewed retired Olympic silver medal winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler and Olympic cross country skier Andy Newell, about their involvement with POW.

Bleiler takes part in “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes” school assembly programs, which helps  make “climate change engaging, more relatable, and more personal for students.” She spoke at COP21, the global climate conference in Paris in November 2015 that led to the Paris Climate Agreement. Newell helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April and has written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014.

Both were part of the POW 2017 DC fall lobby team; their firsthand experiences — and those of their colleagues — with the effects of climate change are powerful aspects of their presentations to Congress.

Here’s Bleiler: “[I share] my own experiences as a professional snowboarder who’s traveled around the world chasing snow! Reduced snow pack, warmer temperatures and shorter winters all mean a hit to the sports we love, but these changes also impact the economies of all the mountain town communities where I compete and train. This has all been happening in my lifetime…”

Given that the vast majority of the Republican-led Congress, the head of the EPA, as well as the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, are virulently opposed to fighting climate change, POW’s 2017 legislative efforts did not bear immediate fruit.

But, in the climate change fight, POW is all in for a marathon.

It is a race cross country skier Andy Newell has no doubt POW and, well, we — as in the American people — will win: “If we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy, the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community.”

Certain House members and Senators will hear from POW in 2018. The group’s main goal for the next year is to, in the words of Lindsay Bourgoine, manager of advocacy and campaigns, “get down and dirty in the midterm elections in November…We have identified ten ‘battleground elections’ where we feel it is really important to elect a climate friendly leader, whether Democrat or Republican.”

Honorable Mention: Land Rover BAR, Great Britain’s Entry in 2017 America’s Cup; Most Sustainable Olympics Bids Ever Earn Paris and LA the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games.

 

GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OR EVENT OF 2017

US Open Tennis/US Tennis Association

Formerly titled the Greenest Sports League award, this year the category expanded to include mega-sports events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, the Masters, and the US Open. The latter is GSB’s choice for the GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OR EVENT OF 2017. 

The Open —which draws over 700,000 fans over two weeks in late August/early September at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, NY — earned the award not only for its stellar sustainability performance at this year’s tournament but for its decade of green-sports leadership. 

King was there at the beginning of the US Open’s/USTA’s greening efforts in 2008. And she wanted to go BIG.

“Billie…wanted to make the US Open the most environmentally responsible tennis event in the world,” shared Dr. Allen Hershkowitz^, then a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the nonprofit that would manage the sustainability project. “I told Billie that doing so would take years. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.'”

 

 

Billie Jean and Allen

Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)

 

Ten years on, the fruits of King’s and Hershkowitz’ vision can be seen in virtually every nook and cranny of the National Tennis Center. The event:

  • Is zero-waste, meaning 90 percent or more of food waste is diverted from the landfill, thanks to a sophisticated composting and recycling operation
  • Powers itself solely by renewable energy
  • Uses the tournament’s daily draw sheet (schedule of play) to share “eco-tips” with fans
  • Promotes mass transit use and the fans have responded: More than 55 percent arrived by subway, Long Island Railroad or bus, making the US Open the most transit-friendly professional sporting event in the country
  • Collects and recycles over 17,000 tennis ball cans
  • Boasts two LEED certified structures; the two year-old, 8,000 seat Grandstand Court and the upgraded transportation center.

 

Grandstand Court Brian Friedman USTA

The LEED certified Grandstand Court rocked during the dramatic comeback win by Juan Martin del Potro over Dominic Thiem on Labor Day (Photo credit: Brian Friedman/USTA)

 

2018 will bring a big sustainability advance as the new, 10,000 seat Louis Armstrong Stadium will open as the world’s first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof.

Honorable Mention: National Hockey League, Pac-12 Conference, Waste Management Phoenix Open (golf)

 

GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2017

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C.

When Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C., announced in November that it had earned LEED Platinum certification, it became the first pro stadium in the U.S. to achieve such a designation. Just one month later, it won GreenSportsBlog’s GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2017.

“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” noted Arthur Blank, owner and chairman of the two teams, at the LEED Platinum announcement. “[Our] goal was to achieve the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment.”

 

 

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosts the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 9, and Super Bowl LIII in February 2019, compiled 88 LEED points — blowing by the 80 point threshold needed for Platinum status — in a myriad of ways, including by:

  • Using 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to water-efficient fixtures and conservation infrastructure
  • Storing water in a 1.1 million gallon, underground water vault, providing the area with crucial flood management, as well as an additional 680,000 gallons of water for use in irrigation and the stadium’s cooling tower
  • Installing 4,000 solar panels to power the equivalent of nearly ten Falcons games or 13 Atlanta United matches with clean, renewable energy.
  • Featuring LED lighting that will reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent
  • Encouraging fans to take MARTA light rail to three nearby stations, resulting in 25-30 percent of fans ditching their cars to go to and from Falcons and United games.

Honorable Mention: Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit (home of NBA’s Pistons and NHL’s Red Wings), currently seeking LEED certification

 

BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT OF 2017

Golden State Warriors, NBA Champions

The Golden State Warriors cemented their status as the gold standard of the NBA’s current era when they defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, four games to one, to win their second title in the last three seasons. A sustainability leader off the court, the Warriors also earned the BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD  award for 2017.

On the court, head coach Steve Kerr seamlessly managed the addition of Kevin Durant to their championship core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. This made the Dubs even more fun to watch and much harder to play against. As a result, Golden State methodically avenged its shocking 2016 Finals loss to the Cavs.

 

KD Steph

Kevin Durant (l) and Steph Curry of the 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors — and winner of GSB’s BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT award (Photo credit: USA Today)

 

This fall, the Warriors started the 2017-18 campaign slowly —for them — they’re “only” 23-6 at this writing. Curry and Green are injured for now. And the Houston Rockets look ready to mount a serious challenge in the West. Despite all that, Golden State is still the team to beat.

Off the court, the Warriors reflect the strong environmental ethos of the Bay Area, earning strong sustainability grades for:

  • Powering their practice facility with solar panels
  • Reducing energy use at Oracle Arena through a smart energy management system
  • Introducing a rainwater recapture system that uses the harvested H₂O to feed the plants and vegetation surrounding the arena.
  • Partnering with a local vendor who turns oils from concessions into bio-diesel,
  • Implementing ORBIO Sc-5000 which utilizes water, salt and electricity to create an eco-friendly cleaning solution
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of, and the waste produced by the food service. In partnership with Levy Restaurants, the club uses compostable cutlery and flatware and composts food waste.

It wasn’t only GreenSportsBlog who noticed the Warriors sustainability efforts: Oracle Arena earned LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in September.

“Ensuring that we have a positive impact on the Oakland/Alameda County community and our environment is extremely important to us” said Krystle von Puschendorf, Sustainability Programs Manager for Oracle Arena, “We are proud to have achieved LEED certification and are dedicated to running an environmentally friendly operation here in Oakland.”

If the Warriors stay at the top of their game on the court, the club will likely be in the running for the 2019 award because it will have moved into the new Chase Center in San Francisco — an arena expected to seek LEED Gold certification.

Given the Warriors incredibly high standards, I am surprised — and a bit disappointed — they’re not going for LEED Platinum. But there’s still time for Golden State to up its green game even further.

 

Chase Arena

Artist’s rendering of Chase Center, future home of the Warriors. Scheduled to open in 2019, the arena seeks LEED Gold certification (Credit: Stok)

 

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots, NFL — the Pats might have won the award but they were hurt by the strong support for climate disaster Donald Trump by owner Robert Kraft; Seattle Sounders, MLS

 

GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF 2017

Super Bowl LI in Houston

Super Bowl 50, the Greenest Super Bowl of All Time, was played in the Bay Area, one of the most environmentally engaged areas in the country. Super Bowl LI took place in Houston, not exactly a green hotbed. Many would say it is not realistic to expect a Super Bowl taking place in the Oil Capital of the US to be as green as one contested in Northern California.

I agree.

But while it’s one thing to fall short of the Super Bowl 50 standard, it’s quite another thing for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to do nothing from a sustainability point of view.

Or, to be fair, almost nothing: The Houston Host Committee did work with NFL Environmental, the Houston Texans, Verizon and local partners to help plant trees, but that seems to be it.

 

Trees for Houston

Trees For Houston and Marathon Oil helped plant 50 new trees at Crespo Elementary in advance of Super Bowl LI (Photo credit: Trees For Houston)

Tree planting is well and good but the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee missed a Texas-sized opportunity regarding sustainability.

This is the case especially when one considers that there is a sustainable business infrastructure and a green subculture taking root in the US’ fourth biggest city and in the Lone Star State more broadly:

Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings and MSFA deciding not to upgrade the glass exterior of US Bank Stadium to reduce its bird kill problem.

 


 

We close with some end-of-year thank-you and a remembrance:

To our guests/interviewees: Your time, commitment and insights are much appreciated. You are helping to green the sports world in important ways. I always come away from GreenSportsBlog interviews feeling inspired.

To our readers: Thank you for making 2017 a year of significant growth: Our subscriber base grew by a third. On Twitter, our retweets and mentions nearly doubled. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe (it’s FREE!) and comment on the blog. Follow us on Twitter (@GreenSportsBlog) and friend us on Facebook (http://faceboook.com/greensportsblog).

A remembrance: Earlier this month, Ryan Yanoshak, formerly managing director of marketing communications with the Pocono International Raceway, passed away at 42 following a battle with cancer. Ryan played an important role in telling Pocono’s forward-leaning sustainability story. He will be missed.

Looking ahead, I expect the green-sports world will continue to grow in 2018, especially on the green building/venue side. But will meaningful fan engagement programs ramp up? Will we find new eco-athletes who can become the Colin Kaepernicks of green-sports? Will POW’s lobbying efforts help bring more climate change-fighters to Congress? No matter the results, you can be certain that GreenSportsBlog will remain your source for news, features and commentary on the increasingly busy intersection of Green + Sports.

Here’s to a healthy, happy Holiday Season to you and yours!

 

^ Dr. Hershkowitz later served as President of the Green Sports Alliance and is currently founding director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI)

 


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Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 2: Andy Newell, U.S. Olympic Cross Country Skier, Climate Change Advocate for Protect Our Winters (POW)

GreenSportsBlog does not often get to write about eco-athletes. And we’ve never been able to write about a married couple who are both involved in environmental activism.

Until now, that is.

Last week, in the first edition of GSB’s new occasional series, Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, we featured the story of Erika Flowers Newell, an American cross country skier who is pushing to make her first US Olympic team in 2018. She also works for Carol Cone On Purpose, an agency that helps companies do well by doing good. And, for Erika, doing good means taking positive action on the environment.

Today, in Part 2, we talk with her husband, Andy Newell, a three-time Olympian in cross country skiing about to start his campaign to qualify for the fourth time. He’s also a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Your wife’s story starts out in Big Sky country, Montana. Are you from that part of the world, too?

Andy Newell: Nope. I grew up in Shastbury, VT, near Bennington and started skiing as early as I could walk.

 

Andy Newell Young Red Cap

Young Andy Newell (middle, red cap), skiing with his family in Vermont (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: When I think of Vermont as far as skiing is concerned, I think of downhill and the other alpine events. Was it unusual for you to gravitate towards cross country?

AN: Not at all. Our area in particular is great for cross country. It’s a blue collar region and, as compared to alpine, cross country is more of a blue collar sport — alpine is much more expensive. I’ve been into it forever; I started racing when I was 5 years old.

GSB: Holy COW! So were you on an “elite” track from those early years?

AN: It turned out that way. I competed all the way through my teen years and attended Stratton Mountain High School, about 40 minutes from home. It’s a specialty school designed for skiers and snowboarders with an academy and a private ski school for kids in grades 8-12. It is tiny —there were 25 kids in my graduating class.

GSB: It sounds like the way many European countries handle top young athletes — by putting them in special sports academies — for top soccer and tennis players. Similar also to IMG Academy down in Florida. I didn’t know there was such a thing for winter sports here.

AN: I got a lot out of it. It was great preparation for my career as a pro skier, especially where time management was concerned. And the education was top quality. It was like I got a college education in a high school setting because I had to juggle academics and a full time training and racing schedule.

GSB: So I imagine you competed at a high level while at Stratton Mountain School…

AN: It was great. I got to travel in high school as part of the US Ski Team as I was named to the developmental squad when I was a senior.

GSB: Where did you ski in college?

AN: I never went to college, deciding to pursue professional skiing as a career. This is not unheard of. I jumped to the A-team in 2003 when I was 19.

GSB: Congratulations! That’s young for a cross country skier, I believe. The US was never a cross country power — I remember that Bill Koch of Vermont was the only Olympic medal winner and that was back in 1976…How did you deal with that?

AN: Well, things were starting to look up for the USA when I came of age. It’s a long process as cross country takes training, hard work, top coaching, along with strong athletes, patience and funding. In the mid 2000s, we started to have success as a team and I did as an individual, in the sprints. I was the first American male to make the medal platform at a World Cup race in 2006, taking third place in Changchun, China. I followed that up with a 5th place at the 2007 World Championships. And then, on the women’s side, Kikkan Randall made the podium in 2008, on her way to even greater success down the road at the Olympics. It was a fun, exciting time.

GSB: It sounds like you were on track to be on Olympian yourself…

AN: I went to my first Olympics in 2006 in Torino Italy. 4 years later at the Vancouver Games I was in the best shape of my life! I was a medal hopeful for sure but I crashed out of my sprint…

GSB: YIKES!

AN: Well, they say those kind of things are “character builders”…So I trained and worked…

GSB: …And built some character…

AN: Hopefully… It taught me a lot about the process of being an athlete. That there is a whole lot more to success than just winning medals, it’s about enjoying the process and also giving back. That perspective has a lot to do with why I got involved in environmentalism and later made the Olympic team in 2014 in Sochi.

 

Andy Newell Sochi

Andy Newell at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: You mean the Olympics that were held in a tropical zone?

AN: The very same. But this time, I wasn’t in my best form, I didn’t stand out. So now we’re in 2017. I’ve done well in World Cup seasons, have made it to several podiums but I haven’t put it together in Olympic years. So I’m giving it another go for Pyeongchang 2018 — just like Erika is — to see if I can do my best at the highest profile event in my sport.

GSB: And, as a member of Protect Our Winters or POW, doing well at the Olympics will raise the profile of your environmental advocacy. When did that begin?

AN: Early on — during my high school days and into my early 20s, the environment was not something I focused on. At all. Now, when I speak to school audiences for POW, I show a picture of me in my 1990 Chevy Blazer which got 10 miles per gallon. As I say, I didn’t care about the environment, so it’s important to communicate to school kids that you can learn, you can change — at any age. I wish politicians could admit to, in fact, honor the idea that they can change. It’s very important.

GSB: So when did your change to environmentalism take place?

AN: Bill McKibben, the founder and driving force of the climate change fighting nonprofit, 350.org, is a big cross country skier who lives near Middlebury, VT. My older brother was also a Middlebury skier so I heard of Bill through him as well.. I had met Bill at some of the local ski races and really admired his work and writing, and his excitement for activisim. So around 2010 was when I got started volunteering for a few 350.org projects. Between 2010 and 2014 I got more and more involved and started working with Protect Our Winters. In advance of the Sochi Olympics I communicated with Bill and he voiced his concerns over the negative environmental impacts of the Olympics and the importance of the upcoming Paris Climate talks and how we could rally support internationally.

GSB: Oh it was bad alright — we’ve written about the environmental disaster that was Sochi 2014.

AN: You got that right. It was an awful decision by the IOC to give Sochi the Winter Olympics. The development there devastated the wetlands…they clear cut national forests. So, I spoke up about this in the run up to the 2014 Olympics. And, Bill and I drafted a letter for a group of snow sports athletes called Athletes for Action and that letter was addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.

GSB: …Which was signed in December 2015, about a year and a half after Sochi. Congratulations! Of course, the current U.S. President is planning to pull us out of the agreement. Regardless, it seems to me that you’re a natural advocate.

AN: For me, becoming an activist was a smooth transition. I like to say what I think, to take a stand. I’m definitely not afraid. In fact I tried to recruit other athletes to join Athletes for Action, to get athletes from other countries who might be able to impact political decisions in their countries.

GSB: How did that go?

AN: It went OK, not great. We got some Canadian, Finnish and Swiss athletes to join. Russians? Not so much. Since then, I’ve become much more involved with POW, which really fits my lifestyle…

GSB: That’s FANTASTIC! What has that activism looked like?

AN: Well, I helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April; one of many marches I’ve done. I’ve written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014. I’m also one of the more active members of POW’s Ski and Riders Alliance.

GSB: What will POW’s presence be in Pyeongchang in February?

AN: Good question. They’ll have some presence, I’m just not sure what it will look like. The way I can be most effective will be to make the Olympic team, so that’s my focus heading into the qualifying season which starts in December.

GSB: All the best, of course. What do you plan on doing after your pro skiing career is over? And will environmental activism be a part of it?

AN: Well, I’m going to continue with pro skiing for as long as I can. And, for sure, my activism with POW will continue, especially on the grassroots level…making presentations, recruiting more athletes, lobbying members of Congress and other politicians on climate. On the recruiting, I figure if I, as a non-college graduate, can do this work, can lobby on Capitol Hill, so can many other winter sports athletes.

GSB: Have you lobbied Vermont’s two US senators?

AN: Absolutely…I’ve lobbied and talked with both Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who are great. I also had a one-on-one meeting with Todd Stern, President Obama’s lead negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks. My position was that we as the winter sports community need you negotiate an agreement with real teeth. He heard me for sure.

 

Andy Newell with Bernie Sanders

Andy Newell (l), with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Also pictured, Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent, both of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

Andy Newell w: Todd Stern

Andy Newell (l), with Todd Stern, the U.S. chief negotiator at the Paris Climate Talks in 2015, and Alex Deibold, also of POW (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: Unfortunately, as mentioned above, our current President plans to pull the U.S. out of Paris.

AN: Well, it’s not a done deal yet. One of my favorite quotes from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie about climate change, Before the Flood, is “we can create elected followers, not elected leaders.” Meaning if we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community as to why staying in Paris is the only sane way to go.

GSB: I feel a bit better about it all now, I have to say.

 

Andy Newell & Erika

Andy and Erika (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 


 

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NBA and WNBA March in NYC Gay Pride Parade; GSB Imagines When Leagues March for Climate, Science

The NBA and WNBA, for the second consecutive year, sponsored a float in the Gay Pride Parade in New York City. When will the NBA and WNBA — and, for that matter, other sports leagues, have floats and/or some other sort of presence at a climate change and/or science march? GreenSportsBlog imagines such a future.

 

North American sports leagues and teams have, for the most part, shied away from taking overtly public stands on issues of the day, even ones that have broad public support.

When asked by GreenSportsBlog, not one North American professional sports league would comment on President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. We asked executives at Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL and the NHL and all either said “no comment” or declined to respond at all. This, despite survey data from the Huffington Post/YouGov poll showing that 61 percent of Americans support staying in Paris.

So I was very happy to see that the NBA and WNBA co-sponsored a float in last Sunday’s Pride Parade in New York City for the second straight year. Commissioners Adam Silver and Lisa Borders were on board, enjoying the day, waving and throwing balled-up, NBA- and WNBA-branded towels to the crowd, estimated to be in the one million range. 

Media recognized that this was a BIG DEAL: The New York Times gave it front page-of-the-sports section treatment. Bleacher Report, the New York Daily News and numerous other outlets covered it as well.

So that got me to thinking: What if the NBA, WNBA and the other sports leagues that are aggressively greening and use science in every aspect of their operations, including to abet their sustainability efforts, had decided to lend similar support to the April 22nd March for Science and the People’s Climate March a week later?  

So that got me to conjuring a series of conversations that imagined Mr. Silver, Ms. Borders, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, ESPN’s John Brenkus and others having participated in one or both marches.

 

APRIL 30, 2017, Edmonton, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

For the second consecutive Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on Washington, D.C., New York City and other cities throughout the United States, Canada and beyond.

Yesterday, the People’s Climate March took center stage, with an estimated 300,000 Americans taking to the streets to advocate for meaningful climate action, along with clean energy jobs, and against the Trump administration’s anti-environmental and anti-climate executive actions and plans. Only a week earlier, on Earth Day, 1.3 million people marched in the U.S and beyond to defend the role of science — including climate science— in policy and society through the March for Science.

That many marchers took part in both events is no surprise as the climate change fight and many aspects of science are under attack from the Trump Administration and many of its supporters.

What may have surprised many is that the NBA and WNBA, along with Major League Baseball, ESPN, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer all participated in both marches. The NFL sent representatives to the March for Science but chose not to take part in The People’s Climate March, citing a conflict with Day 3 of its annual draft. They did release a vague statement that supported “the goals of the Climate March.”

Politics averse sports leagues, participating in marches? What the heck is happening?

“The NBA, its teams, players and staff are not averse to politics,” asserted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “That’s a myth. Because we in the NBA are U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, we encourage our players, coaches and staff to voice their opinions. And they have, on a wide range of relevant issues, including on science and climate change. And, when we believe something is important, we march!”

The marches supporting science and the climate change fight must be very important to Silver and the NBA since they took place at the beginning of the playoffs, the most highly-watched games of the season.

Thus some fans—and not only those in the anti-science, climate-skeptical corners of the political spectrum—might question why the NBA marched the last two Saturdays while playoff games were being played.

To Commissioner Silver, they need not wonder at all: “First of all, we can walk-march and chew gum—i.e. play playoff games—at the same time. That’s why we joined the People’s Climate March today. And then tomorrow I will be in Boston for Game 1 of the Celtics-Wizards series. Science is intrinsic to the entire operation of NBA basketball, from state-of-the-art training centers and arenas to advanced nutrition to advanced statistical metrics to equipment. On climate change, my predecessor, David Stern, said in 2013, that ‘climate change is just about number one on [our agenda for] the future of the planet.’ At the same time, we invited Congress to promote effective standards and incentives designed to help our nation mobilize in time and at the scale needed to address the risks of climate change…The logical place to start is with standards to reduce the carbon pollution from electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution. The environmental executive actions and policy plans of the current administration in Washington show they are moving in the opposite direction. So here we are.”

This isn’t the first time professional basketball has played a significant role in a political march. As WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders noted, “last June, the NBA and WNBA became the first sports leagues to have a float in a parade when we took part in New York City’s annual Pride Parade. In fact, Adam (Silver) and I walked alongside and on the float. It was fantastic. And I have to tell you, I got a similar feeling at the March for Science and The People’s Climate March. Both were great.”

 

NBA Float

WNBA legend Sue Wicks, WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and former NBA player Jason Collins on NBA float at the 2016 Pride Parade in New York City (Photo credit: Outsports)

 

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who took part in New York City’s March for Science with a group of staffers, interns and fans, before heading out to Citi Field for the late afternoon Nationals-Mets contest, likened investments in science to a team’s investments in its farm systems. “We cannot attack science. Just the opposite: we need to fund science consistently and aggressively; that way society can absorb the occasional failure with the fruits of science’s many successes” said Mr. Manfred, “Just like when MLB clubs aggressively and consistently invest in their farm system, the odds are the successes are going to far outweigh the failures.”

John Brenkus, host of ESPN’s popular Sport Science series, joined by thousands of fellow travelers in the Los Angeles People’s Climate March, offered that “Our show is really about the physics of sports—the exit velocity of an Aaron Judge home run, measuring the agility of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette, that sort of thing. Well, climate change is ultimately about physics—how the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses by humans impact the climate. The physics is clear and is not in humanity’s favor right now unless we make changes towards cleaner energy.”

 

John Brenkus

John Brenkus, host of ESPN’s Sport Science. (Photo credit: Sport Techie)

 

Ex-Boston Bruin and Edmonton Oiler, and current cleantech/green agriculture venture capitalist Andrew Ference, joined a gaggle of hearty Edmontonians at the Alberta city’s cold but friendly People’s Climate March. Not surprisingly from someone who is betting on green businesses, Ference was bullish about the climate change fight in general and the power of athletes to help: “There are athletes who do get it and want to lead, whether they are on field/on ice superstars. We need to provide them with the education and tools they need to engage teammates, sponsors, and fans.”

Leave it to NBA Hall of Famer, announcer, Grateful Deadhead, and environmentalist Bill Walton, who walked in both marches in San Diego, to provide the exclamation point on the intersection between sports, science and climate change: “When I was marching through the glorious streets of San Diego the last two Saturdays, I saw the hope of mankind displayed as many thousands supported scientists and then climate change. As (legendary UCLA basketball) Coach (John) Wooden often said ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ Well these marchers showed they are preparing to fight for science, for curiosity, for learning and for the planet. They are preparing to succeed, no matter what goes on in Washington. Live Green or Die, man!”

 

Walton

Bill “Live Free or Die” Walton (Photo credit: Awful Announcing)

 

Have a great Independence Day weekend. GreenSportsBlog is taking the week off—unless there is breaking Green-Sports news. Then we will be there to cover it.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Protect Our Winters Founder Testifies Before Congress on Climate Change; San Francisco Giants Divert 95% of Waste; U of Tennessee Football Commits to Zero-Waste by 2020

Protect Our Winters (POW), the Boulder, CO-based environmental advocacy group made up of elite winter sports athletes, again stepped up to the climate change fighting plate when its founder, Jeremy Jones, testified in front of the US Congress, about climate change and its effects on the outdoor recreation economy. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, reached a 95 percent waste diversion rate last season. Given the greenness of the Bay Area, this may not be surprising. Perhaps surprising to some, University of Tennessee football has committed to going Zero-Waste by the 2020 season. Welcome to a chock-full GSB News & Notes.

 

POW PACKS A GREEN-SPORTS WALLOP AT HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

That Protect Our Winters (POW) is a mega GreenSportsBlog fave should not be a mystery to any reader. After all, it is the only group or association of North American athletes I know of that advocates and lobbies for climate change solutions. Think about what it would mean if, say, the Major League Baseball Players Association had, a la POW, slammed President Trump’s anti-climate change executive actions. That would be bigly from big leaguers, right? Hopefully, POW’s stellar and consistent example will inspire its players’ association cousins in the major team sports to follow suit. A pipe dream? Maybe, at least for now.

In the meantime, GreenSportsBlog will continue to highlight POW’s #ClimateAction leadership. It was on full display April 27 when founder Jeremy Jones testified in front of the US House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the impacts climate change is having on the outdoor recreation economy. Why should Congress be interested? One good reason is that the snow sports industry generates $72 billion annually and supports 695,000 jobs, 70,000 more American jobs than our country’s extractive industries—coal, oil and natural gas—combined^.

Mr. Jones’ drove that point home, along with several others, with his testimony:

  • In the United States, average winter temperatures have warmed almost two degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and that rate of warming has more than tripled since 1970. The strongest winter warming trends have occurred in the northern half of the United States, where snow is an integral part of the economy.
  • US ski resorts have lost over one billion dollars in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years in the last decade. The corresponding impact on employment has been a loss of up to 27,000 jobs. These values directly reflect the fact that in low snowfall years, states see up to 36 percent fewer skier visits. In recent seasons, 50 percent of resorts have been opening late and closing early#.
  • Beyond the economic impacts, Mr. Jones noted that the “diminishing snowpack will not be sufficient to keep stream temperatures low, and warmer rivers will diminish fish habitat, making fishing difficult. Our rivers will have less water, reducing stream flow and making waters harder to navigate for kayaks and canoes.”

 

Testimony to the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the vast impact of the Great Outdoors. Included in this 1 hour 44 minute session are the remarks of Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (POW).

 

Two days after Mr. Jones’ turn on the panel, he and other POWers took part in the People’s Climate March. To get POW’s perspective on the march, click here. And to get POW’s almost daily take on the environmental issues of the day, follow them on twitter at @ProtectWinters.

 

AT&T PARK ACHIEVES ZERO-WASTE

San Francisco’s AT&T Park is not only one of the most spectacular places to watch a game in all of Major League Baseball (McCovey Cove, aka San Francisco Bay, just beyond the right field wall, makes for a great vista and a phenomenal landing spot for home runs)—and, especially during some night games, one of the coldest—it is also one of the greenest. In fact, according to a story by Carolina Arauz in the May 8 issue The Skyline View, the student news site of Skyline College in nearby San Bruno, AT&T Park is the only MLB stadium to have won the Green Glove Award, given to recognize a ballpark’s recycling efforts, every single year since it was created in 2008.

Aside: I’d never heard of the Green Glove Award before this story. If GreenSportsBlog is unaware that Major League Baseball offers a Green-Sports award, it’s not a stretch to say that MLB needs to publicize the Green Glove Award more. OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post.

Last season, the LEED Gold ballpark’s landfill diversion rate was 95 percent, allowing the Giants to claim Zero-Waste status. Ten years ago, through a partnership with PG&E, the club installed Sharp solar panels on a canopy by McCovey Cove, over the Willie Mays Ramp, and on the roof of the Giants offices. Per Ms. Arauz, over the last decade, the solar system has provided enough energy to power over 5,200 homes, avoiding the emission of over 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels from PG&E outside AT&T Park, overlooking McCovey Cove (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s one thing to help power the AT&T Park with solar power, but what about their legendary Gilroy Garlic Fries??? Are they made sustainably?

You bet they are, thanks to the Giants and the good folks working the garlic fries stand by Section 119.

The stand’s LED lights and ballast lamp starters use 36.5 percent less electricity than than standard incandescents. Signage is made of 100 percent biodegradable and recyclable materials. Carry trays are compostable and the cups are recyclable. And the green paint used is environmentally-friendly.

Gilroy Garlic Fries

AT&T Park’s famous Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

So, if you’re in San Francisco when the Giants are home, enjoy beautiful, sustainable AT&T Park—especially the garlic fries. Just go to a day game if possible—or bring your parka!

 

ON WAY TO ZERO-WASTE STATUS BY 2020, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE FOOTBALL SAVES MONEY

Neyland Stadium, the iconic home of University of Tennessee football since 1921, holds 102,451 fans, making it the fifth biggest college football palace in the US*. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a game there—if you find yourself in the Knoxville, TN area when the Volunteers are in town, do yourself a favor, buy a ticket and head down to the stadium on the Tennessee River.

Neyland Stadium

A packed and jammed Neyland Stadium, 102,000+ strong, will be Zero-Waste by 2020. (Photo credit: The Tennessean)

 

If you do go, you will be inside the latest big time college football stadium to be on the road to Zero-Waste status, with that goal expected to be reached during the 2020 season, according to a May 2 story in the Knoxville News Sentinel by Cortney Roark.

That Zero-Waste football is coming to Al Gore’s home state is a great thing on two important levels:

  • Aggressive environmental action, as exemplified by UT’s Zero-Waste football games, stands in sharp contrast to the climate change denialism espoused by John Duncan, Knoxville’s Republican representative in the US House (TN-02).
  • Significantly reducing waste at Tennessee football games is saving the university real money and is part of a campus-wide effort to recycle more.

Roark’s piece details this point: 18 tons of garbage was hauled out of Neyland Stadium and recycled during the 2007 football season. The same amount of waste was recycled during a single game in the 2016 season, with some games reaching as much as 25 tons of waste diverted from landfills through a mix of recycling, composting, as well as donating unused food. Waste reduction on this scale has saved the university approximately $500,000 annually.

UT Recycling Manager Jay Price told Roark that Neyland’s race to Zero-Waste begins outside the stadium. Staff members and volunteers set up recycling bins in the heavily trafficked tailgating areas and hand out recycling bag in other areas. Price said the staff strategically plans where material is most likely to be tossed in a recycling bin.

“We go in front of the gates, because everyone has to drop what they’re carrying (when they enter the stadium),” Price remarked to Roark. “We’ve discovered that basically everything they’re carrying is recyclable, because it’s almost always beverage containers.” Inside the stadium, trash cans have, in some cases, been replaced by recycling and compost bins.

The skyboxes at Neyland are getting into the sustainability act this year, as the food service will use 100 percent compostable materials. That means compostable food, napkins, utensils, cups and, most interestingly, the plates. Made from the lignin (an organic substance binding the cells, fibers and vessels which constitute wood and the lignified elements of plants, as in straw. After cellulose, it is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth) of East Tennessee switchgrass means that plates will remain in the region throughout the entirety of their life cycle.

 

 

^ According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
# Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report
* The four college football stadiums with capacities bigger than Neyland are 1. Michigan Stadium (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor): 107,601; 2. Beaver Stadium (Penn State University, State College), 106,572; 3. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State University, Columbus), and 4. Kyle Field (Texas A&M University, College Station, TX).

 


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