The GSB Interview: Roger McClendon, New Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance

Roger McClendon was named Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance on January 15. The former Chief Sustainability Officer of Yum! Brands took a break from the whirlwind of his first six weeks weeks on the job to talk with GreenSportsBlog about his path to the Alliance and his early thoughts on where the organization needs to go.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Congratulations, Roger! I’m sure you’re being pulled in a million directions, so let’s get into it. When did your interest in sustainability and sustainable business begin?

Roger McClendon: Thank you, Lew, for the opportunity to talk to GreenSportsBlog readers. I’m an engineer by academic training and a graduate from the University of Cincinnati. Early in my professional career I studied and worked on automating manufacturing processes in a paper mill using control theory and algorithms to improve production efficiency. I also worked on wastewater treatment and power generation systems. Those projects focused on important questions like how do you reduce waste and improve the process as well as save money?

So it was that mindset that drew me to sustainability, technology, and innovation. Of course this work became the foundation of my environmental sustainability experience and background. And, as time went on, I became interested in the social and governance sides of the sustainability equation as well. Things like diversity, how workers are treated, human trafficking, public policy, shareholder proposals, etc. These are, I think, undervalued aspects of the sustainability world, and was something I pushed in my role as Chief Sustainability Officer at Yum! Brands.

 

roger mcclendon gsa

Roger McClendon, the new executive director of the Green Sports Alliance (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GSB: Speaking of the CSO job, that didn’t exist before you took it on in 2010. How did you come to create it? And how did Yum! Brands management react?

Roger: Sustainability was not really on top management’s radar screen when I brought it to them in 2009-10. But you have to understand David Novak, the founder of the company, which was a spinoff of the restaurant brands KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell from PepsiCo was a passionate values-driven leader. His management style recognized that, by putting people first, profits would follow, not the other way around. Before the Yum! Brands spinoff, I had worked my way up through the engineering ranks at KFC and, in so doing, had seen that prioritizing sustainability would grow profits and drive new business.

So after the spinoff, I saw that the new company had a Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR function but there was a big gap: Sustainability was not included. I saw this as a huge opportunity for the company. I conducted some benchmarking studies internally to see how applying a sustainability lens — efficiency, innovation, environment — could improve our best practices. Then I looked outside the company to see how corporations like GE and P&G were treating sustainability. Eventually, I made a presentation to top management about how sustainability could be a powerful business driver. They loved it! David did ask ‘Why should I make you CSO?’ I said ‘Because I’m already doing the job!’ And that was that.

 

David Novak Yum!

David Novak (Photo credit: Yum! Brands)

 

GSB: Great story! Was there any pushback from management and/or the rank-and-file at Yum! Brands about sustainability? Did some say things like ‘Why are we doing this tree hugger, Berkeley stuff?’

Roger: There was some of that cultural stuff but the broader challenge was that big change is difficult, especially in a penny-profit business like restaurant chains. I mean, we worried about each napkin that we bought. Getting 16, 17 year-old employees and franchisees to implement programs and promotions was always a heavy lift.

GSB: How did you overcome that?

Roger: Well we always looked to show all stakeholders how sustainability aligned with value creation. And we emphasized, especially with millennial and GenZ employees, that we were transforming Yum! Brands into triple bottom line company — People, Planet, Profit. And now the company is well on its way to living those values.

GSB: Aside from the very important transition on corporate values, what were some of Yum! Brands biggest sustainability wins during your tenure as CSO?

Roger: Thanks for asking. We helped drive energy efficiency initiatives that have resulted in an estimated savings of 4.3 megawatt hours (mWh) of electricity globally. Yum! Brands also created Blueline, a sustainable restaurant design, build, operational, and maintenance standard that uses key restaurant-relevant aspects of LEED, paired with proven, actionable solutions in areas such as lighting and optimized hood exhaust and ventilation systems.

These initiatives and more resulted in Yum! Brands being named to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America index in 2017 and 2018. We also earned Top 100 Best Corporate Citizens status by Corporate Responsibility Magazine, also in 2017 and 2018.

GSB: Have any of the major Yum! Brands messaged sustainability to consumers?

Roger: Consumer messaging really has been centered on the local level rather than through national ads. KFC in Australia did a local campaign around its switch to canola oil. That screams sustainability and health without actually saying it. And the folks got it.

GSB: Which is great. I understand you retired from Yum! Brands last spring but you’re way too young to be fully retired. Was Green-Sports and the Alliance on your radar at the time?

Roger: Not really. I mean, I was well aware of the sports greening movement, especially since KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell sponsor all manner of sports. And I’d been at conferences at which folks from the Alliance spoke. So I knew Green-Sports was a growing and good thing but I wasn’t looking at it as a landing spot when I retired from Yum! Brands.

Instead I worked with the Aspire Basketball Foundation in Louisville where my family lives. It teaches life skills, leadership, and personal development to high school students and those in a gap year before college, all through the prism of basketball, which I played at the University of Cincinnati and love. That’s what I was doing when I heard about the opening at the Alliance. I reached out to Scott Jenkins, the Board Chair at the GSA and we talked about the job, how I would be able to magnify the impact of Green-Sports at a high level. I thought, ‘this sounds like a great fit’ so I went for it.

 

roger mcclendon uc hoops

Roger McClendon, while a member of the  University of Cincinnati Bearcats, launches a jump shot over Virginia Tech’s Dell Curry, aka Steph Curry’s dad (Photo credit: University of Cincinnati Athletics)

 

GSB: And you got it!

Roger: I’m very thankful and realize that, as I take this position, I realize I stand on the shoulders of giants who created the Green-Sports movement like Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and their Go Green initiative, the late Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, and an early funder of the GSA, and Allen Hershkowitz, one of the true Green-Sports visionaries.

GSB: Indeed. And, as you take the helm at the Alliance, you do so as the movement is at what I see as a pivot point, from a Green-Sports 1.0 world, in which the focus is on greening the games and venues, to the Green-Sports 2.0 world, in which the emphasis shifts to engaging fans, both those who attend games and those who consume sports via media. I know it’s early days, but with that backdrop, what do you see as the top two or three items on your agenda?

Roger: That’s a great way to frame it, Lew. And you’re right, it’s early days. So my first order of business is engaging the Board, teams and venues, and the media to get a great sense of the state-of-play in Green-Sports. At the same time, I think we need to take a look at what’s next — Green-Sports 2.0 as you call it — and then what comes after that.

GSB: Green-Sports 3.0?

Roger: That’s right.

GSB: What do Green-Sports 2.0 and 3.0 look like to you right now?

Roger: First, it’s important to note that the sports world has done an admirable job on Green-Sports 1.0, greening the venues…

GSB: Thanks certainly go to the Alliance for its part in 1.0.

Roger: I wasn’t here for that work, obviously, but I’ll accept that thanks on behalf of the people who were. The greening of stadiums, arenas, and training centers needs to continue. And then we need to go forward on not only fan engagement, but also on helping our member teams, venues, leagues and more take on environmental and social issues in ways that have measurable impacts. The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs can serve as great metrics for us.

GSB: Absolutely. Of course seven of the 17 SDGs focus on the environment¹. Going forward, will the Alliance work mainly on helping its members on those seven green SDGs? Or will it look to put as much weight on the social and governance aspects of sustainability, as it does on the environment?

Roger: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is one framework that I think the Alliance can leverage with our key stakeholders and determine where we should focus and prioritize. It can help us focus on what has the most material impact to our partners, members, fans, and communities as a whole.

There is a process of engagement, alignment, strategy development and execution planning that the Alliance will facilitate with our partners, members, and other key stakeholders. I anticipate that the Alliance and our partners will focus primarily on social and environmental sustainability issues and less on governance.

GSB: Finally, I want to get your take on climate change. I think it’s fair to say that the sports world at large and the Alliance to this point have, for the most part, stayed away from the topic. How do you want to take it on?

Roger: Well this gets into what problems do we want to help solve. Can we impact things like access to clean drinking water, dealing with drought, wildfires, and more? I say yes and we need to get involved in a strategic, focused way to do that sooner rather than later. But do we need to get into the politics of climate change? I think we should stay away but, at the same time, focus on doing what we can to help venues and teams to reduce their emissions.

GSB: Understood. Thing is, I think it will be much harder to stay away from climate change and the politics surrounding it with the recent introduction in Congress of the Green New Deal proposal. How might the Alliance’s alter its approach to climate change in a Green New Deal world?

Roger: We don’t have to debate climate change as the science is evident. We do have to act as a responsible citizen, business, community, city and country. We need to focus on improving sustainable operations and supply chains as well as partnering and investing in smart city infrastructure and develop social and environmental awareness and engagement movements to engage future generations.

GSB: Sounds good, Roger. I look forward to our future conversations to see the types of Green-Sports 2.0 initiatives the Alliance undertakes under your leadership, particularly on fan engagement and climate change. In the meantime, all the best.

 

¹ Seven SDGs that focus on the environment are Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land. The rest of the SDGs are: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry/Innovation/Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Peace and Justice, Partnerships to Achieve the Goals

 

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Post-Super Bowl LIII GSB News and Notes: Eco-Athlete Chris Long Wins Man of Year Award, Budweiser Wind Power Ad 2nd Most Watched Spot Online

The New England Patriots knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in a defensive struggle to win Super Bowl LIII at Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their sixth championship of the otherworldly 18 year Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The environment played a small but, it sez here, increasingly prominent role vs. recent Super Bowls. So before the pro football world turns its attention to free agency in March, April’s NFL Draft and the race to Super Bowl LIV in Miami¹ next February, here is a quick rundown of the Green-Sports happenings that surrounded yesterday’s Super Bowl LIII

 

EAGLES’ CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, WINS WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF YEAR AWARD

While Eagles stalwart defensive end Chris Long did not win a third consecutive Super Bowl ring last night — he played important roles in Philadelphia’s championship in 2018 after winning one with the Patriots the year before — he did earn the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. It honors a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field.

Long’s — and his Chris Long Foundation’s — main charitable initiative is Waterboys, a program that has united NFL players, professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. By February 2018, Long’s goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for every NFL team, was met. Long has now set a goal of providing clean water to one million people.

“I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor,” Long said in a statement. “I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the [military] veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.”

 

Chris Long Eagles Man of Year

Chris Long, after winning the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Click here and here for GreenSportsBlog’s coverage of the Chris Long-Waterboys story.

 

BUDWEISER WIND POWER AD GETS VALUABLE ON AIR MENTION

Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, “Wind Never Felt Better,” which featured Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” to highlight the the brand’s commitment to wind power, was the second most watched ad online, with 24.3 million views during and immediately after the game. Only Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes The Cut,” drew more online eyeballs, with 33.4 million views.

 

 

 

In addition to that sizable online audience, 100 million or so people were exposed to the 45 second ad on the CBS Sports TV broadcast. And, when the ad was over and the game broadcast was about to resume, play-by-play man Jim Nantz intoned “Budweiser, powered by the wind.” That extra branding, which further cemented the mainstreaming of wind power for a massive viewership, is the cherry on top to what I thought was a solid B+ ad.

 

Nantz Wolfson Romo CBS

CBS play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz (l), flanked by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and color commentator Tony Romo (Photo credit: CBS Sports)

 

Some ad critics, like Chicago Tribune media reporter Steve Johnson, did not like “Wind Never Felt Better” as much as I did.

Per Johnson’s review, “A Dalmatian. Clydesdales. Amber waves of grain. Bob Dylan, singing about blowing wind. Budweiser trots out all the icons as the horse and dogs are revealed to be traveling through a wind farm. It’s meant to underscore the giant beer’s commitment to sustainable energy, but the message is about as clear as a hazy IPA, a type of beer Bud decidedly is not. ‘Now Brewed with Wind Power,’ says the large type in the ad. ‘Renewable electricity from wind power is one type of energy we use to brew,” says the small [type]’, which you can read if you freeze the screen.”

There is some truth to Johnson’s critique. After all, the viewer has to wait for 30 seconds or so before she/he gets clued in to the Budweiser-wind power connection and that’s too long, especially in this era of micro-attention spans.

Still, it says here that Johnson missed the big picture: An ad promoting wind power reached an audience of at least 110 million people on TV and another 24 million online. 

 

GREENSPORTSBLOGGER TALKS GREEN-SPORTS ON SUPER BOWL-THEMED PODCAST

One final Super Bowl LIII-themed note: I was pleased to talk Green-Sports with Marc de Sousa Shields on his excellent The Sustainable Century podcast a couple of days before the big game.

Marc opens the 24-minute interview by saying, “there are more sports fans than there are sustainability fans and we’ve gotta convert them!”

 

Marc de Sousa Shields

Marc de Sousa Shields, host of The Sustainable Century podcast (Photo credit: Marc de Sousa Shields)

 

I like the way Marc de Sousa Shields thinks!

Click here to listen to the podcast.

 

¹ My way-too-early pick for the Super Bowl LIV matchup is the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts.

 


 

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Allen Hershkowitz Named New York Yankees Environmental Science Advisor

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz was named by the New York Yankees as its first Environmental Science Advisor yesterday. The longtime NRDC Senior Scientist, ex-President of the Green Sports Alliance and Founding Director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) becomes the first person to hold such a title in team sports history. Already a major advance in the Green-Sports movement, the Yankees’ move has the chance to be a true game changer.

 

The New York Yankees have an almost century-old tradition of firsts: Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, was the first three-tiered sports venue in the world. The team was the first to put numbers on players’ uniforms. And the Bronx Bombers are the first and only Major League Baseball club to win five World Series titles in a row (from 1949-53).

Another first took place on Tuesday when the Yankees announced that Dr. Allen Hershkowitz had signed on as the team’s Environmental Science Advisor, a position that’s new to the world of professional sports. His work will also support Major League Soccer’s NYCFC, a joint venture between the Yankees and City Football Group¹, which plays its home games at Yankee Stadium.

“Being appointed as the Yankees’ Environmental Science Advisor is a unique honor and responsibility,” said Hershkowitz, a native New Yorker, offered in a statement. “I applaud the team’s leadership for breaking new ground in the sports industry by being the first team to create this important position.”

 

Allen Hershkowitz J. Henry Fair

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, the new Environmental Science Advisor with the New York Yankees (Photo credit: J. Henry Fair)

 

It makes perfect sense that the Yankees chose Hershkowitz for this position. He has, over a decades-long career, staked out a unique role as a visionary at the intersection of the environment, science and sports. As Senior Scientist at the NRDC, Hershkowitz showed  leaders across the sports world that leading on the environment made business sense and was the right thing to do. This goes back to his formative Green-Sports work in the mid-2000s with then-Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the US Tennis Association, among others. He Co-Founded and served as President of the Green Sports Alliance and is a Founding Director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI).

While Hershkowitz is arguable a no-brainer pick, what might shock some people is that the 27-time world champions created the Environmental Science Advisor position in the first place.

But dig a little deeper and the appointment should surprise no one.

That’s because the Yankees have been at the forefront of the Green-Sports movement since they moved into the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, often with Hershkowitz’ counsel as a consultant. Sustainability initiatives include:

  • Diverting 85 percent of waste from landfill by recycling and composting, very close to the 90 percent threshold required to claim Zero-Waste status
  • Innovating on energy efficiency through the introduction of LED lighting and more
  • Measuring, reducing and offsetting the team’s greenhouse gas emissions impacts The latter includes the distribution of thousands of life-saving, high-efficiency cookstoves to women in Africa

 

Cookstoves

The Yankees, through their carbon offset investments, have funded the distribution of life-saving, high-efficiency cookstoves in Africa (Photo credit: South Pole Group)

 

Per a club press release, Hershkowitz will work “to expand existing promotion of responsible environmental stewardship among essential members of the Yankees family, including suppliers, sponsors, fans and the local community.” His primary focus will be on energy use, waste management, water conservation, and food services.

“The Yankees have always been devoted to supporting the best interests of our community, our fans and our players, and we believe effective eco-friendly initiatives are a key element of our interactions,” said Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner and managing general partner, in a statement. “We have made significant strides throughout the years, and as such, Yankee Stadium is proud to promote a zero-waste economy, and stand as one of the most successful recycling and composting venues in all of sports…We look forward to even more improvement under Allen’s guidance.”

In a statement, John Adams, Founding Director and former President of NRDC, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 for his environmental leadership, emphasized the significance of Hershkowitz’s new position: “This is a very smart move by the Yankees. One of greatest sports organizations in the world has chosen to use its visibility to promote environmental literacy in a critically important way. I congratulate Allen for becoming the Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees, the most influential team in the history of sports.”

 

GSB’s Take: The mere creation of the Environmental Science Advisor position by the New York Yankees is already an important advance for the sports greening movement. By choosing Hershkowitz for the job, the Yankees — already near the top of the Green-Sports sports standings — have shifted into a higher gear, telling the world that the environment — and environmental science — is integral to its business.

It says here that, for the Yankees’ appointment of Hershkowitz as Environmental Science Advisor to fulfill its promise and become a Green-Sports game-changer, these two things need to happen:

1. Climate change, not spoken of much by the Yankees to this point, must consistently and clearly be communicated as a prime focus of the Yankees’ environmental efforts, and,

2. Engage fans — those who attend games and the larger number who follow the team on TV, online and elsewhere — to take positive environmental actions.

Do those two things and the Yankees and Hershkowitz will have teamed up to become Green-Sports Hall of Famers. Watch this space.

 

¹ City Football Group is led by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan, a member of the royal family ofAbu Dhabi. In addition to its stake in NYCFC, it owns Manchester City, current champions of the English Premier League, and four other football/soccer clubs around the world.

 


 

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Philadelphia Eagles On Winning 1/2 of GSB’s “Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field” Award for 2018

2018 was a banner year for the Philadelphia Eagles, on the field and off.

The team won its first Super Bowl, knocking off the heavily favored New England Patriots, 41-33 in an “instant classic.” 

Off the field, the Eagles further burnished their reputation as Green-Sports pioneers by earning ISO 20121 (sustainable events) and LEED Gold certifications. 

For those reasons, Philadelphia earned GreenSportsBlog’s BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD designation for 2018, sharing it with MLS champions Atlanta United. Eagles Team President Don Smolenski offered a reaction.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles are true Green-Sports Founding Fathers, having launched their Go Green! sustainability initiative way back in 2003 when they moved into Lincoln Financial Field. Since then, club management has often led the way on a myriad of Green-Sports innovations, including:

  • Highly-visible renewable energy: Fans cannot miss The Linc’s 11,000+ solar panels, many of which adorn the highly visible east wall of the stadium adjacent to I-95, and the 14 wind turbines, shaped like Eagles talons, atop the stadium roof. Around four megawatts of clean energy is generated per year, accounting for roughly 33 percent of the stadium’s annual energy usage. The remaining energy is covered by the purchase of renewable energy credits, allowing the organization to be completely “off the grid.”
  • Recycling and composting: Since 2003, the Eagles’ recycling and composting programs have diverted close to 4,000 tons of waste from landfills. These include the installation of two bio-digesters to help decompose pre-consumer food waste.
  • Water conservation: Management installed 15 water filtration fountains at both Lincoln Financial Field and the nearby NovaCare (training) Complex, eliminating the use of more than 154,000 water bottles since 2015.
  • Reforestation: In partnership with The Conservation Fund, 100 percent of all team travel is offset through the “Go Zero” program, which is focused on tree planting and reforestation funding. Since 2007, the team has planted more than 5,900 trees, including at the 6.5 acre “Eagles Forest” in Bensalem, PA.

 

IMG_1937

Solar array, topped by Eagle talon-shaped wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

This year, the team was rewarded three times for its stellar for green performance.

In June, the Eagles became the first professional sports team to achieve ISO 20121 certification, an international standard designed to help organizations in the events and hospitality industry integrate sustainability into management practices and processes. The Linc followed that up in December with an upgrade from LEED Silver to LEED Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council.

And last week, GreenSportsBlog added the BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD award to the Eagles trophy case. It honors the team for its Super Bowl LII win as well as its sustainability excellence. They share the award with Atlanta United, winners of the 2018 MLS Cup.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Green Sports Blog for our commitment to sustainability,” said Don Smolenski, Philadelphia Eagles President. “We have always been proactive and deliberate in our efforts to serve as proud environmental stewards. This award represents not just our team’s accomplishments, but also that of our amazing partners who diligently support our year-round Go Green efforts. We would also like to congratulate Atlanta United who we share this award with. World champions working in parallel to serve the greater good is something we strongly support.”

 

Philadelphia Eagles Portraits

Don Smolenski, President of the Philadelphia Eagles (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)

 


 

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The Best and Worst of Green-Sports, 2018

Eco-athletes became more of a thing in 2018 — and that’s a very good thing.

This statement is not data-based. I haven’t seen data on the number of athletes who engage on environmental issues.

Yet anecdotally, I can say that I spoke to more eco-athletes in 2018 than in any other year since starting GreenSportsBlog in 2013.

Given the dire climate news coming out of recent UN and U.S. government reports, the world needs this year’s eco-athlete “thing” to become a wave in 2019. But that is for another day.

Today, we bring you an eco-athlete-infused BEST AND WORST OF GREEN-SPORTS, 2018.

 

BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2018

Leilani Münter, The “Vegan, Hippy Chick with a Race Car”

There are three great reasons why Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippy chick with a race car,” is GreenSportsBlog’s Best Green-Sports Story of 2018. Münter…

  1. Signed A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com to sponsor her ARCA series car for an eight race campaign
  2. Earned two top ten finishes
  3. Sampled vegan Impossible Burgers to 30,000 racing fans (they loved ’em!)

 

Leilani Munter Scott LePage

Leilani Münter, GreenSportsBlog’s “Best Green-Sports Story of 2018” (Photo credit: Scott LePage)

 

Thing is, no one would have blamed Münter if she had decided to give up her career as a driver in NASCAR’s ARCA Presented by Menard developmental series before this year.

Her strong commitment to only work with brands that align with her lifestyle and the issues that animate her — most notably veganism, animal rights and the climate change fight — has limited her ability to secure the sponsors and thus the funding necessary to enter races. In some years, Münter has competed in only one race; in others none at all.

But Münter did not quit, although she came close several times. The Minnesota native kept selling the idea that auto racing fans would react positively to vegan messaging — and food. “Some of the vegan brands I called on said ‘the NASCAR fan is not the right audience for us.’ I said ‘you don’t need to talk to vegans; they’re already converted. You need to talk to people who are not already in your world.’ Auto racing fans fit that definition.”

Her logic and persistence — she pitched sponsorship of a vegan-branded car for six years — paid off in 2018 when two non-profit organizations, A Well-Fed World and TryVeg.com, signed on as her lead sponsors to carry the Vegan Strong message. The deal allowed Münter to run an eight race campaign, which included an eighth place finish at the ARCA race during Daytona 500 week and a ninth place result at Michigan International Speedway.

More importantly, Münter and Vegan Strong teamed up at five of her eight races to fund the sampling of vegan Impossible Burgers in the Fan Zones to 30,000 fans. The fans ate ’em up, literally and figuratively.

“Many fans were skeptical at first and didn’t want to try the Impossible Burgers,” recalled Münter. “But once they did, they loved the taste and texture! And when you tell them it’s better for their health and for the planet, they got more excited.”

 

Leilani at Tent

Leilani Münter takes a photo of skeptical racing fans trying Impossible Burgers at the Daytona International Speedway Fan Zone in February (Photo credit: Natalka Lindstrom)

 

I am excited to see what Münter will do for encore to spread her vegan, along with her animal rights and climate change-fighting messages. On the latter, she is a big advocate of electric vehicles — her personal car is a Tesla, powered by solar panels on the roof of her house.

Münter says to expect an announcement about her 2019 plans in early January.

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: The Athletes of Protect Our Winters (POW)

2016: The Rio “Climate Change” Olympics Opening Ceremony vignette

2015: Pac-12 Conference

2014: Forest Green Rovers

 

MORE ECO-ATHLETES WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE IN 2018

I’m happy to say that Leilani Münter is not a lone wolf eco-athlete. She is joined by a veritable All-Star squad of sailors, skiers and more who spoke out and/or took action on the environment this year.

Team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright led the Vestas 11th Hour Racing Crew to a fifth place finish in the ’round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race. Sustainability is a core element of the team’s DNA. They communicated their ethos of a cleaner, healthier environment to thousands of fans at race stops via an interactive Exploration Zone.

Jessie Diggins, who along with teammate Kikkan Randall, won the gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle race at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Diggins also found the time to engage on the climate change fight. She supports a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend program (CF&D), similar to the bill that was recently introduced with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Diggins told the New York Times, “Saving winter is something I believe in…and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it.” 

 

Jessie Diggins NYDN

U.S. Olympic cross country gold medal winner and carbon pricing advocate Jessie Diggins (Photo credit: New York Daily News)

 

Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen talked climate change in a March interview in ESPN The Magazine: “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”

Sam Martin, punter for the Detroit Lions and an advocate for renewable energy, helped broker a deal that resulted in new solar installations at Ford Field and the club’s nearby Allen Park training facility. North Carolina-based Power Home Solar approached the team through a preexisting partnership with Martin and his Sam Martin Foundation,

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players announced the launch of Hoops₂Ojoining the fight for access to clean water in East Africa. Staying in the Beer Capital of the U.S., Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter penned an OpEd urging action on climate in Fast Company. 

 

GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2018

Audi Field, D.C. United

It took D.C. United a quarter century to build its own, soccer-specific stadium. Audi Field sure looks like it was worth the wait as the 20,000 seat, $500 million stadium earned LEED Gold certification when it opened in July. Five months later, it added another honor by being named GSB’s Greenest New Stadium/Arena of 2018.

Audi Field drew our attention for a number of reasons, including:

  • The rooftop solar panel installation that provides roughly one million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to offset nearly one third of the stadium’s electricity usage
  • Nearby access to D.C. Metro system’s green line train
  • An advanced, energy-efficient building envelope/skin
  • A storage vessel that collects rain water underneath the building. When it rains, water drains under the pitch into the vessel where it is slowly released so it doesn’t go into the nearby Anacostia River.

 

Audi Field

A packed Audi Field during the national anthem on opening night (Photo credit: WTOP/Noah Frank)

 

Fiserv Forum, the new home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, deserves honorable mention. On track to receive LEED Silver certification, the downtown arena is the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue, thanks in part to a collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy.

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United

2016: Golden1 Center, Sacramento Kings

2015: CHS Field, St. Paul (MN) Saints

2014: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers

 

BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD OF 2018

TIE: Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl LII Champions and Atlanta United F.C., Major League Soccer’s 2018 Title Winners 

The Eagles checked the on-field box for their Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field Court of 2018 award when they captured the franchise’s first Super Bowl in dramatic fashion, as backup QB Nick Foles outdueled Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 41-33. Off the field, the Eagles became the first pro sports team to earn ISO 20121 certification for integrating sustainability practices into their management model. Among other things, the team:

  • Deployed edgy, humorous billboards that encouraged support for GO GREEN, the Eagles’ long-running fan-facing environmental program on Lincoln Financial Field’s concourses, ramps, and yes, even the restrooms.
  • Installed an interactive LED screen at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s practice facility down the street from “The Linc”. “It shows our employees how much energy our solar panels and wind turbines are producing every day, how much we recycle, and more,” said Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles director of fan experience.

And, just before we went to press, the Eagles announced that Lincoln Financial Field earned an upgrade from the US Green Building Council to LEED Gold status — it had qualified for LEED Silver in 2013.

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Sustainability-themed signage on display at Lincoln Financial Field (Photo credits: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

 

Atlanta United secured its spot on GSB’s Best Team On/Greenest Team Off Field podium by winning the MLS Cup trophy in only its second season of play. The “Five Stripes” knocked off the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Saturday night.

The team’s green cred is also championship caliber. After all, they play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world’s first LEED Platinum pro sports stadium, sharing it with the NFL’s Falcons. Stadium management uses its massive, wrap-around scoreboard to share the green story with fans, 73,019 of whom showed for MLS Cup, the largest crowd in league history.

 

M-B Stadium

Green messaging greets fans of Atlanta United, the newly-minted MLS Cup champion, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

PAST WINNERS

2017: Golden State Warriors

2016: Cleveland Indians

2015: New England Patriots

2014: Ohio State University

 

GREEN-SPORTS GREENWASH OF 2018

Eco-Sailor Sir Ben Ainslie Signs Title Sponsor Deal with Fracking and Chemical Company Ineos

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympics history. As skipper of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant in the 2017 America’s Cup, he also won deserved plaudits for making environmental sustainability, in particular ocean health, a core value of his team.

One thing Sir Ben did not win was the 2017 America’s Cup, despite spending in the neighborhood $135 million over the four-year cycle. By some estimates, it will cost as much as $175 million to mount a legitimate campaign for the 2021 Cup.

So when British fracking^ and chemical company, Ineos, and its founder Jim Ratcliffe, offered Ainslie $153 million to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 Cup quest, Sir Ben had a choice: Take the money and risk being labeled a greenwasher, or keep his good name and his well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete among fans, competitors, sponsors and more.

He chose Ratcliffe’s fracking money.

 

Ainslie Ratcliffe

Jim Ratcliffe (l), CEO of Ineos, with Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)

 

Not surprisingly, GreenSportsBlog chose Sir Ben for Green-Sports Greenwash of 2018.  

And it wasn’t close for second place.

 

PAST “WINNERS”

2017: Super Bowl LI, Houston*

2016: Super Bowl L, Santa Clara, Super Green But (Virtually) No One (Outside of the Green-Sports Ecosystem) Knew About It*

2015: College Athletics Departments That Talk a Good Green Game But Took Koch Brothers Sponsorship Dollars

2014: Sochi Winter Olympics

 

Fracking (also known by its more technical name, hydraulic fracturing) is a process by which large amounts of water and sand, combined with often hazardous chemicals, are injected, at high rates of pressure, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Its negative environmental and health impacts are legion, many of which would’ve concerned pre-Ineos Sir Ben. These include contamination of groundwater, large volume water use in water-challenged regions, methane pollution which exacerbates climate change, exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.
* 2017 and 2016 designation was titled “GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF THE YEAR”

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Scottish Footballer Goes Green, FOX Kids TV Show Features Eco-Athletes, Patagonia To Donate Millions in Savings from Trump Tax Cut to Green Charities

Happy Friday! In a TGIF GreenSportsBlog News & Notes, we feature a diverse trio of stories:

Russell Martin, currently player-coach for Walsall F.C. in the third tier of English football, recently made waves by announcing he’s switched his political affiliation to the Green Party. “Awesome Planet,” a part of the Xploration Station three-hour block of science-focused television shows airing on FOX stations, recently aired an episode featuring eco-athletes. And Patagonia, the über-green outdoor clothing and gear company, announced it will donate the $10 million it saved as a result of the 2017 Trump/GOP tax cuts to environmental non-profits. 

 

RUSSELL MARTIN TAKES A POLITICAL STAND AS ECO-ATHLETE 

Russell Martin has earned fame as an international footballer, playing for the Scottish National Team as well as for Norwich City F.C. when it was a member of the English Premier League^.

Now the player-coach at Walsall F.C., which currently plays in England’s third tier, Martin’s notoriety will likely jump up a notch or two, thanks to his recent announcement that he’s joined the U.K.’s Green Party.

 

Russell Martin
Russell Martin (#4 in blue), in action for Scotland against Germany in 2015 (Photo credit: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

 

“I’ve voted Labour all my life,” Martin told Stuart James in the November 23rd issue of The Guardian. “But knowing…what the [Green] Party represents, I just thought this aligns with my values and morals.”

Those values and morals include water conservation and veganism.

On water, “I used to get peppered at Norwich because I was always saying: ‘Turn the tap off’ when the lads brushed their teeth in the changing room,” Martin related to James.

Regarding his eating habits, Martin shared with James that he’s “been a vegan for four years, plant-based, so that awakens you socially to become a lot more conscious about things. I’ll be honest, that wasn’t for ethical reasons at first, it was purely health. I was struggling with ulcerative colitis and I did a lot of research into diet and what could help. But then when you become involved in that it raises your awareness of the ethical side. You actually look at it and think: ‘This makes sense.’”

Martin put his money where his mouth is when he became part-owner of Erpingham House, the largest vegan restaurant in Great Britain. He also owns an EV and promotes sustainability and environmental awareness to the children who pass through his Russell Martin Foundation, based in his home town of Brighton, which started as a football academy but is now a registered charity.

 

Russell Martin II

Russell Martin (Photo credit: Jonny Weeks, The Guardian)

 

Despite the time and energy that the dual player-coach roles demand, Martin is happy to take on the environment and climate change. “There’s stuff we can’t control – the Brexit madness – but there’s stuff that we can have an influence on and help future generations,” he told James. “I’ve got three young kids and I want it to look as good as possible for them by the time they hit my age.”

GSB’s Take: Russell Martin is one of a small but growing number of athletes who are speaking out on environmental issues, including climate change. He seems unfazed by any potential backlash. Martin told James that he’s “past the point of worrying what others think. It’s not like: ‘Is it going to harm my employment opportunities because of where I vote and what I stand for?’ If it did, I wouldn’t want to work for those people anyway.”

Given Martin’s willingness to speak out on environmental and climate issues, his top level playing pedigree, and his newfound coaching experience, it would not surprise me one bit to see him coaching for Forest Green Rovers, the world’s Greenest Team in Sports. Currently FGR resides in England’s fourth tier, one level below Walsall.

 

GREEN-SPORTS FEATURED ON FOX NETWORK’S “AWESOME PLANET” SATURDAY MORNING TV SHOW

Explorer Phillippe Cousteau, Jr. has, for the past five seasons, taken young viewers on adventures all over the world on “Awesome Planet.” The show is part of the three-hour Xploration Station block of science-based programming that airs on FOX stations across the U.S.

 

Phillippe Cousteau

“Planet Awesome” host Phillippe Cousteau, Jr. and his wife Ashlan prepare for a dive off the coast of the Marshall Islands (Photo credit: Phillippe Cousteau, Jr.)

 

In October, the grandson of the legendary aquatic conservationist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau devoted an entire half-hour episode to three eco-athletes:

  • GreenSportsBlog fave and Olympic silver medal-winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, advocating for action on climate to ensure that snow sports can continue to thrive in her native Colorado
  • Surfer Zane Schweitzer, who showed kids how plastic ocean waste is impacting the beaches of Hawaii
  • Boxer Jose Ramirez, fighting for access to fresh water in California as a member of the Latino Water Coalition

 

Surfer Zane Schweitzer’s segment on “Planet Awesome” (5 mins 7 secs)

 

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles also made an appearance, as they were lauded for their leadership role in bringing highly visible solar installations to stadiums.

Awesome Planet draws an average weekly audience of 750,000 viewers.

GSB’s Take: Every survey I’ve seen shows that American 16-23 year-olds, the older half of Gen-Z*, favor substantive action on climate change. Thus it’s not surprising that Awesome Planet would feature athletes and teams who are engaged in the climate change fight and other environmental issues. Concern about climate change polls over 50 percent among all age groups, across the political spectrum, with the exception of the most conservative Republicans. That tells me that programming highlighting eco-athletes targeted to a general audience would go over well. Hint to CBS Sports: How about a Green-Sports segment during the many hours of your Super Bowl LIII pregame coverage?

 

PATAGONIA TO GIVE ITS ENTIRE TRUMP TAX CUT WINDFALL TO ENVIRONMENTAL CHARITIES

Patagonia said last month that it will donate the $10 million it saved from recent tax cuts to environmental protection groups. In a withering letter, CEO Rose Marcario called the Trump- and GOP-backed tax cuts “irresponsible.” Changes to the corporate tax rate went into effect in 2018, giving corporations a massive boost by dropping their tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

 

Rose Marcario

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario (Photo credit: Patagonia)

 

“Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet,” Marcario wrote in the statement. “Our home planet needs it more than we do.”

The company said the donations would be incremental to its existing “One Percent for the Planet” pledge through which it has donated one percent of its sales each year since 1985 for “preservation and restoration of the natural environment.” According to Forbes, Patagonia revenue topped $750 million in 2017.

According to Ryan Miller, writing in USA Today on November, 29th, the company plans to give the $10 million to “groups committed to protecting air, land and water and finding solutions to the climate crisis.”

The company’s announcement came less than a week after a Trump administration report warned of the dire threat that human-caused climate change poses to the United States and its citizens. President Trump told reporters “I don’t believe it,” when asked about the study’s conclusions.

GSB’s Take: I yield the floor here to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard for his take on the tax cut and the Trump administration’s approach to climate change: In a companion statement to CEO Marcario’s, Chouinard said, “Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis. It is pure evil.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

* Gen-Z is made up of people born from 1995-2012

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #7: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders On The Field

GreenSportsBlog focuses mainly on the Green side of the equation, telling the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, venues and athletes.

But the Sports angle is important, too. Why? Because if the athletes and teams leading the Green-Sports movement do well, their green messaging will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what a long, hard slog is all about. We can relate.

GSB created the Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field to give the sports side of the equation. It is an occasional series that highlights recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes.

With that in mind, please enjoy our seventh Eco-Scorecard.

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, TAKES OVER AS THE STARTER WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS, LEADS TEAM TO LAST-MINUTE COMEBACK WIN

Josh Rosen has two unique qualities among the five rookie quarterbacks chosen in the first round — a record — of this spring’s NFL Draft.

  1. The UCLA product is the only one of the group to go on record about his concerns about climate change. “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything,” declared Rosen in a pre-draft interview with ESPN’s Sam Alipour. “I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”
  2. Chosen by the Arizona Cardinals, Rosen became the first of his four fellow quarterback draftees (Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns; Sam Darnold, New York Jets; Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills; and Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens are the others) to engineer a last minute, come-from-behind, game winning drive. He turned that trick on Sunday, leading his team back from a 15-3 deficit to a dramatic 18-15 home win over the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Josh Rosen

Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen gets off a pass in the first quarter of the Arizona Cardinals-San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday in Glendale, AZ. Rosen led the Redbirds to a dramatic 18-15 comeback win (Photo credit: Art Foxall/UPI)

 

Rosen and the Cardinals were down 15-10 and had the ball on their own 22 yard line with only 1:42 left in the game. They needed a touchdown to win. The rookie displayed the poise of the veteran as he moved his team down to the 49ers 9 yard line with 39 seconds left, hitting several clutch passes in the process.

And then THIS happened …

 

Rosen found fellow rookie Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone in between two defenders for the touchdown, and that, as they say, was that!

To be clear, his rookie season has not been a bed of roses for Rosen, nor for his fellow first round quarterback draftees. They all have shown promise at times while, at the same time, also going through the sometimes ugly growing pains that are typical of rookie signal callers. Just last week, Rosen looked dreadful for much of the game as the Denver Broncos devoured the Cardinals, 45-10.

It sounds (and is) cliche but what a difference a week makes! Rosen has his first comeback win and an even bigger platform on which to (hopefully) spread his climate change message.

 

CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, COMES UP BIG FOR PHILADELPHIA EAGLES IN BIG GAME VS. JAGUARS

The Philadelphia Eagles are dealing with the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover this season.

Going into last Sunday’s game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defending Super Bowl champions had a sluggish 3-4 record. It was not a stretch to say their season was on the line across the pond, especially with the surprising start of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles emerged from Wembley Stadium with a hard fought, 24-18 win over the Jags, thanks in part to two quarterback sacks registered by defensive end and eco-athlete Chris Long.

 

Chris Long Bortles

Chris Long (#56) of the Philadelphia Eagles sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback in Sunday’s 24-18 win at London’s Wembley Stadium (Photo credit: Young Kim, Philly.com staff photographer)

 

Long has been on the winning team in the last two Super Bowls, earning those gaudy, oversized rings in 2017 with the New England Patriots and, this February, with the Eagles (against the Pats). And he has played at a consistently high level over his 11 year career, notching 66 sacks.

But the University of Virginia product’s greatest legacy may be his strong commitment to a variety of pro-social causes:

  • This season, Long is donating a quarter of his salary to launch First Quarter for Literacy, a program meant to “put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods” and “build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising leaders.”
  • Last year, he gave his entire base salary, worth $1 million, to charity. Long said he was inspired to donate after seeing the violent protests held by white nationalists in Charlottesville, the home of his alma mater.

On the environment, Long saw the water crisis in East Africa when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

That something was the creation of Waterboys, a non-profit that funds the digging of wells (and training the locals how to do the digging and maintenance). Relying on 20 current and former players, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million that will fund the digging of 49 wells and provide water to over 193,000 people.

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS, GREENEST TEAM IN SPORTS, MAY CONTEND FOR PROMOTION TO THIRD TIER OF ENGLISH SOCCER

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands to much, much more.

Even though only about one third of the season’s matches have been played, English soccer’s League Two (aka the 4th tier^) standings are beginning to take shape. And Forest Green are showing early signs of being able to compete for promotion to 3rd tier League One, which would be a first for the 127-year-old club.

After winning two matches in a four day stretch last week, FGR finds itself sitting in 6th place in the 24 team league and only two points from 3rd place. The top three teams at the end of the season earn automatic promotion to League One. And the teams finishing in 4th-7th enter a playoff, with the winner also going up.

Riding first half goals from Reece Brown and Liam Shepherd, Forest Green knocked off visiting Tranmere 3-1 last Tuesday. Then on Saturday at third place Exeter City, Brown and Shepherd waited until the second half to each find the back of the net to power FGRs 2-1 win.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.36.38 PM

Forest Green Rovers’ Reece Brown attacks Exeter City’s defense (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Saturday, FGR steps up in class with a clash at first place Lincoln City.

With two important caveats — 1) there are many, many matches until the season ends in May and, 2) things like injuries, bad luck and more can happen — the Lincoln City match will be an important early-season measuring stick for Forest Green Rovers in its quest to be a legitimate promotion threat.

 

^ The pecking order of the top five tiers of English Soccer/Football goes like this: 1st tier: Premier League, 2nd tier: Championship, 3rd tier: League One, 4th tier: League Two, 5th tier: National

 


 

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