Green-Sports News and Notes, Winter Olympics — and Climate Change — Style

The Olympic flame is set to be doused in PyeongChang Sunday night in South Korea (the closing ceremonies will air on NBC starting at 6 AM ET Sunday).  With that being the case, what better time than now for an Olympics-themed News & Notes column in which all three stories focus on climate change? We highlight the historic cross country skiing gold medal won by climate change fighter Jessie Diggins, dig in to Toyota’s powerful climate change ad that has been running during NBC Sports’ Olympics coverage, and feature Protect Our Winters’ chairman and big mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones and his recent New York Times OpEd that makes the link between climate change fight and jobs.

 

JESSIE DIGGINS: CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHTER, CARBON PRICING ADVOCATE AND OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER

Olympic cross country skier Jessie Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall set two important firsts for the United States when they won the gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle race on Wednesday. The pair became the first U.S. women to ever medal in an Olympic cross country skiing event, and the first Americans, men or women, to win cross country gold.

 

Jessie Diggins Lars Baron Getty

Jessie Diggins exults as she crosses the finish line to win gold in the team sprint freestyle relay (Photo credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

 

And how’s this for another first: Diggins, from tiny Afton, MN, is the first U.S. cross country skier to win gold while also being very public with her climate change and carbon pricing advocacy.

As we noted in an earlier post, Diggins supports a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend program (CF&D), like that proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby^. Carbon fee & dividend differs from a carbon tax in that the revenues raised by CF&D at the mine, well or border are passed directly on to all U.S. households rather than to the U.S. treasury department. CCL designed the program this way for two main reasons:

  1. The direct-to-citizen dividend approach is the only way that Republicans in Congress could possibly support it. “Tax,” to the GOP, is a 4-letter word — they clearly have counting issues.
  2. It is progressive — the monthly dividend amount sent to each household will be the same but higher income folks consume much more carbon (multiple cars, bigger homes, etc.) than those in the lower income demographics and so will, on a net basis, pay more than they get back in the dividend. Lower earners will, in the main, spend less than they get back.

Diggins is not shy about her passion for the climate change fight — she was quoted in a New York Times article at the start of the Games as saying, “you need to be able to stand up for things you believe in, and saving winter is something I believe in. It just breaks my heart because this is such a cool sport, and winter is so amazing and beautiful and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it. And I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where they’ve never experienced snow because we weren’t responsible enough.”

The newly-minted gold medal winner joined three other U.S. cross-country Olympians —Simi Hamilton, Andy Newell, Liz Stephen — in the video below that calls on all skiers to take action on climate change, specifically to ask their members of Congress to support CCL and its CF&D proposal.

 

TOYOTA ADVERTISES THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING THE WINTER IN WINTER

NBC Sports announcers commenting on events at the outdoor venues at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics have not made one mention of climate change, at least when I’ve been watching. This, despite the fact skiing and snowboarding are clearly being contested on manmade snow — in the rare instances when the camera gives a wide angle view of an outdoor venue, the viewer clearly sees wide swaths of snow-free land.

But Toyota is picking up climate change the slack with “Frozen,” a stunning 60 second ad produced by creative agency heavyweights Saatchi & Saatchi and Dentsu that emphasizes the automaker’s renewed “commitment to hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles…to help keep our winters winter.”

Check it out here:

 

 

Toyota is certainly not shy about telling its greener mobility story — “Frozen” has run throughout the Olympics fortnight on NBC and NBCSN, including during high profile/high viewership events like figure skating and alpine skiing. And they’re paying a pretty penny to do so: 60 second spots average $1.19 million during primetime Olympics coverage.

At some point, sports announcers will routinely highlight environmental and climate change-fighting actions taken by the teams and athletes they cover in the same way they talk about domestic violence and cancer.

We’re not there yet, unfortunately.

But, for now, advertisers like Toyota — or, Budweiser and Stella Artois in the case of the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago — will have to do the heavy green lifting.

Which is much better than nothing.

 

POW CHAIRMAN JEREMY JONES: FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE MEANS SAVING JOBS

Jeremy Jones believes that taking on climate change is an economic as well as environmental imperative.

Jones has experienced the effects of climate change up close as a big mountain snowboarder. And he’s also in the center of the action in the climate change fight in his role as chairman of Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization made up of elite winter and snow sports athletes, including several 2018 Olympians, who advocate in Congress for meaningful action on climate. POW and winter sports athletes won GreenSportsBlog’s “Best Green-Sports Story of 2017.”

 

Jeremy Jones

Jeremy Jones, chairman of Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

So it was with great interest that I read “Saving Winter Is About More Than Snow. It’s About Jobs,” Jones New York Times OpEd that ran smack dab in the middle of the Olympics. He highlighted key data points from a soon-to-be released report from POW on the economic risks to mountain areas and towns and the winter sports industry of climate change and its effects:

  • Winter sports are popular: “About 20 million [Americans] participate in winter sports every year.”
  • The mountain/winter sports economy is significant: “the 191,000 jobs supported by snow sports in the 2015-16 winter season generated $6.9 billion in wages, while adding $11.3 billion in economic value to the national economy.”
  • Low snow years are devastating: “causing a combined annual revenue loss of $1 billion and 17,400 fewer jobs.”

What to do? Once the Olympics are over, Jones and his POW teammates will continue taking the mountain/winter sports climate-jobs fight to Capitol Hill:

“Senators in states with vital mountain economies love to talk about jobs. These people include Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Dean Heller of Nevada, both Republicans, along with representatives of congressional districts that include mountain towns, like Greg Walden of Oregon, Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman of Colorado, and my district’s representative, Tom McClintock — Republicans as well.

But when the time comes to choose, these elected officials vote for legislation that will increase greenhouse gas emissions while ignoring the real threat to jobs in their own backyards — climate change. (Senator Gardner has a lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters of 11 percent; Senator Heller’s score is 13 percent. The top score among the representatives was 9 percent.)”

Looking for a glimmer of hope? The jobs of Messers Gardner, Heller, Walden, Tipton, Coffman and McClintock are under threat. Because a lot of those 20 million winter sports participants Jones mentioned in his Times OpEd vote.

 

 

^ I am a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby

 

 


 

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Will NBC Cover the Eco-Athlete Story at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies?

A TV audience of at least 15 million is expected to tune into this evening’s delayed tape coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies on NBC. Hosts Mike Tirico and Katie Couric will no doubt wax poetic about the otherworldly achievements of, and the superhuman obstacles overcome by, a gaggle of (mostly) American Olympians. But will Katie and Mike mention the impressive eco-exploits of some of American athletes? They sure would have a lot to talk about. So I got to imagining what it would be like if they went the eco-athlete route…

 

 

Mike Tirico: As you know Katie, all teams are entering the stadium in alphabetical order in the host country’s language, of course in this case, Korean. The United States, pronounced “Mi Guk” in Korean, will come in 26th following Malta and Mongolia and just before our friends in the ever-rising Atlantic, Bermuda. So we’re getting close!

 

PyeongChang Olympic Stadium

Aerial view of PyeongChang’s Olympic Stadium in advance of the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Games (Photo credit: Time Inc.)

 

Katie Couric: 고맙습니다 Gomabseubnida or Thank you! And you’re right: Here comes tiny Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. With that location, it’s no surprise that its Winter Olympics history is also tiny. In fact, its flag bearer, alpine skier Elise Pellegrin, is the entire Malta team. And, at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, Elise became the first ever athlete to represent Malta in a Winter Olympics.

MT: Fitting perhaps that an athlete would be the first Winter Olympics athlete from a country near the equator at a Winter Olympics held in a tropical climate — impacted heavily by global warming, I might add — like Sochi. Now here comes Mongolia or Mong Gol…

KC: …That’s an easy one to pronounce…

MT: …Indeed. Like Malta, Mongolia has a very small delegation — just two cross country skiers — including flag-bearer Achbadrakh Batmunkh. Unlike Malta, it does have a long Winter Olympics history, dating back to the Innsbruck, Austria Games of 1964. Their heritage has been in the Nordic sports of cross-country skiing and biathlon…

KC: …But that heritage has been under threat due to extensive drought in parts of that landlocked land. Wait, I see in the tunnel…It’s gonna be I believe…YES! Here comes the USA!

MT: Leading the 244-member squad into the stadium is luger Erin Hamlin…

KC: …Erin is a fitting flag bearer. This is her fourth Olympics and she is the first Amercian luger to ever earn an Olympic medal, taking bronze at Sochi in 2014. LOOK AT THE SPIRIT OF THE AMERICANS!! It’s INFECTIOUS!!!

KC: …And there is women’s cross country skiing medal hopeful Jessie Diggins!!

MT: Cross country skiing has been a vast Winter Olympics wasteland for Uncle Sam, with Bill Koch’s silver in 1976 the only medal the country has ever won. But Diggins hopes to double that total in the women’s 1.2 km sprint. She seems to have the tenacity necessary to get to the medal stand. Look no further than her work on the climate change fight. A supporter of a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend, like that proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Jessie was quoted in a New York Times article earlier this week saying, “you need to be able to stand up for things you believe in, and saving winter is something I believe in. It just breaks my heart because this is such a cool sport, and winter is so amazing and beautiful and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it. And I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where they’ve never experienced snow because we weren’t responsible enough.”

 

Jessie Diggins NYDN

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

 

KC: Amen to that!

MT: You got that right, Katie! Moving from cross-country to alpine skiing, there is Lindsey Vonn, one of Team USA’s biggest stars and brightest medal hopes!! Wow, Lindsey sure looks relaxed!

KC: Vonn, as has been well-documented, has survived a laundry list of career-threatening injuries and yet here she is again, ready to take on all comers in the downhill. The 33-year old won gold in the downhill and bronze in the Super-G at Vancouver 2010. And she looks in top form coming into PyeongChang.

MT: While she is looking for a smooth trip at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, Vonn’s off-slope approach to life sometimes invites some bumpy controversy. Lindsey recently stated she is representing the United States and not the President here in PyeongChang and that she will not visit the White House should she win a Gold Medal.

KC: Vonn was certainly not happy when the President pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, saying in an Instagram post that “climate change is REAL and I watch the glaciers I love melt more every year…We can’t change the opinions of others but if we are all conscious and make small changes, we can make a big difference. Let’s try to save our planet!”

 

Lindsey Vonn Zimbio

Lindsey Vonn (Photo credit Zimbio.com)

 

MT: Speaking of saving our planet, there are women’s halfpipe medal hopeful Kelly Clark and 4-time Olympic cross country skier Andy Newell. Both devote a good amount of their precious spare time to climate advocacy. In fact, last fall Andy, along with several other elite winter sports athletes, went to Capitol Hill to educate and lobby Members of Congress…

KC: …of both parties

MT: …of both parties, yes, about the effects of climate change in winter sports states like Utah and Colorado and in favor of action to help to curtail it.

 

Andy Newell Sochi

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

 

KC: …That’s right, Mike. And his climate advocacy work is not a new thing. Last fall, in an interview with GreenSportsBlog, Newell shared how he and Bill McKibben…

MT: …Bill McKibben of grassroots climate activist group 350.org fame?

KC: …That’s the one…How he and McKibben “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.”

MT: An agreement that ultimately was ratified by over 200 countries, including the United States. As we stated earlier, the Trump Administration has decided to pull the U.S. out of Paris. We shall see how that goes. But our South Korean hosts have stayed in Paris and they’ve done some good things from a sustainability point of view with the PyeongChang Olympics.

KC: That’s right, Mike. Hyeona Kim, a senior project manager responsible for sustainability at the PyeongChang Organizing Committee or POCOG, reported that POCOG “is funding wind farms that will produce more than the minimum amount of electricity need to power the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

 

Hyeona Kim

Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager, POCOG. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

MT: Great to hear, Katie. Now, we will back with the entrance of the Bermuda delegation — where sea level rise is indeed a big concern — after this word from our sponsors.

 

Hey, a GreenSportsBlogger can dream, can’t he?

 

 

 


 

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Guest Blog Post: Eco-Athlete Erika Flowers-Newell on Her “Dream Endured”

Back in November, GreenSportsBlog interviewed cross country skier, purpose-driven marketer, and environmental advocate Erika Flowers-Newell as she was about to embark upon what would likely be her last attempt to qualify for a U.S. Olympic team.

Erika’s 2018 Olympic qualifying campaign came down to the U.S. Cross Country Ski National Championships in Anchorage, AK two weeks ago. 

I planned to report on how Erika fared until I read “A Dream Endured,” her powerful post on her blog, Klister^ And Cookies: Living Life Out of Suitcase and Ski Bag, about her experience in Anchorage, and much more.

What a great read! Here is Erika’s post in its unedited entirety. 

 

“A Dream Endured”

by Erika Flowers-Newell

 

 

The most common way to leave Alaska is under the cover of total darkness. The large majority of flights leaving Anchorage depart around midnight (in order to make connections in the Lower 48), an hour when most people are fast asleep. In the winter, this means your farewell can easily go unnoticed save for the flashing light of the plane that children sometimes confuse for a shooting star. As we departed Alaska last week, I was, for once, grateful for the long night.

 

Sunset in Anchorage (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

I traveled to Alaska before the New Year with a single goal. Over four years ago I scribbled it at the top of my training plan. Since then, I’ve written it in the upper left hand corner of every single page in a half dozen journals I’ve carried with me at one point or another. I’ve drawn it at the top of goal pyramids and training plans and visualized it too many times to count. My goal was not to make the Olympics. My goal was to win the 10km skate at U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships. I’ve never stood atop a Championship podium but even four years ago I believed I could. I LOVE the 10km skate, I’ve had success in it before and I knew that if I sunk all my teeth into that dream, I could make it happen.

 

Racing the 10km Skate at U.S Nationals (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

Yes, I also really wanted to make the Olympic team, a dream I’d thought about since I first stood on skinny skis. I knew that if I could win that 10km skate at Nationals I would put myself in the running. But I also recognized that the Olympics are not the be-all end-all for skiing success-at the end of the day, its just another race (with a bit more press and free clothes). Instead, I planned to show up stronger, fitter and better prepared than I have ever been for U.S National Championships and I wanted to prove that to myself by winning the National Title. If I’m being 100 percent honest, I think a part of me also wanted to prove it to everyone else. A nod for the Olympics would have been the cherry on top.

 

Solo skate intervals this summer with an eye on U.S. Nationals (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

Perhaps that burden of proof was my achilles heel. Over the years I’ve had coaches tell me I’m good at skiing, just not quite good enough. Others have dismissed my racing as fun hobby, feigning interest but never taking my aspirations seriously.  On the flip side,  I’ve had people like my mom, who told me “you can do anything you set your mind to.” I’ve also had the unquestioned support of many, both financially and otherwise, to help me pursue racing at the highest level. I wanted so badly to prove the doubters wrong, to show them that I can in fact be great at this sport. And I wanted to show my friends, family, sponsors and most importantly myself that I could, in fact, do anything I set my mind to. I wanted to prove my mom right.

 

 

One of my first “races” on skinny skis. It appears I may have taken a wrong turn. My mom would braid my hair before the races. At this point in my ski career I was psyched to just bring home a participation ribbon (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

 

In short, I came up short. I finished 5th for Americans in the 10km skate — a good race but well over a minute from the top of the podium and a far cry from the race I’d visualized and prepared for. Over the next three races at U.S. Nationals I finished well, but again, not great… A mediocre skate sprint in 14th (11th American), a decent classic 20km in 10th (6th American), and a personal best but otherwise unremarkable 10th in the classic sprint (7th American). I finished the week deflated, like a helium balloon that had lost its lift.

 

Photo credit: James R. Evans

 

I don’t write this blog for sympathy and I don’t aim to tell a sob story — I just hope to tell a true story. While we often sugar coat the harder parts of this sport I *think* (or at least I hope) there is something to be gained by sharing a less curated version. Going into the last race of the week, a fellow athlete and I shared a brief exchange. I could see the same look of disappointment in her eyes. Muscles and mind exhausted after a long week of racing, she said aloud and, to know one in particular, “I’m just so tired of caring.” And in that moment I could relate. It is freakin’ exhausting to care that much about something! You invest your entire soul into something every single day, foregoing money, stability, a home and even people you love to devote your entire life to something you love. You live and breathe your sport, willing every cell in your body to go when you say go, to rest when you need to rest and refocus again and again and again and again. When it doesn’t work out, it hurts like hell.

 

 

Trying to find some perspective while cooling down after the races (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

BUT! And there is a big “but” in there, I think that THAT might also be the most rewarding part of skiing and the part I hope never goes away. If you take away the Olympics and the Championships, the Junior Nationals and first place ribbons, anyone who does this sport, especially at the elite level, must truly love it. To care about something that deeply and to pursue it with that much passion is worth gold. It’s also the thing that scares me the most about life after skiing. I don’t fear the end of my race career. I fear never finding another thing that I care about so damn much. People say ski racing is like a roller coaster whereas real life is more like a merry-go-round. On a roller coaster, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. As much as those lows really suck sometimes, I’ve still always liked the thrill of the coaster the most. To dream big is to endure both the wild successes and the trying failures along the way and to come out the other side richer for both.

 

Lucky to have my sister and dad in Anchorage to cheer me on! (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

They completely surprised me, showing up unexpectedly and dressed as narwhals! (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

Squished against the airplane window among fellow economy class passengers, I was grateful for the dimmed cabin lights as we departed Anchorage. I needed a few moments of darkness to clear the saltwater from my cheeks. I took stock of the last year, the last four years, the last ten…wondering what I might have done differently, what I may have missed in training or otherwise. I racked my brain reviewing the back-to-back uphill run tests in the heat of August, the strength sessions that left me curled up in a ball on the floor, the post-workout snacks and dry clothes that I diligently packed for every workout, the exercises with mental strength coaches and planning meetings with ski coaches, the on-snow camps, the lactate testing and hill bounding and double pole pain trains. Soon the yellow glow of Anchorage disappeared from view and my window showed only the small blinking light of the airplane wing. It looked nothing like a shooting star up close. Still, I’m glad I wished on one as a kid.

 

Not the Path to Pyeongchang I’d hoped for…but beautiful nonetheless (Photo credit: Erika Flowers-Newell)

 

^ According to Dictionary.com, klister is a sticky wax for use on skis. According to Erika Flowers-Newell, it is also shorthand for “struggle”

 


 

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What 2 Watch 4 in Green-Sports in 2018

Happy New Year to you, GreenSportsBlog readers! I hope you had a great holiday season. Thank you for your comments, suggestions and consistent support throughout 2017; keep it coming in 2018.

Speaking of 2018, the way GSB sees it, the Green-Sports world will continue its necessary transition from Version 1.0, which focused mainly on the greening of games at the stadia and arenas, to Version 2.0, which emphasizes athlete and fan engagement, both at the game, and even more importantly, beyond the stadium/arena — after all, that’s where the bulk of the sports fans can be found. With that in mind, let’s take a look at What 2 Watch 4 in Green-Sports for 2018. 

 

January 9: College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Monday’s College Football Playoff (CFP) championship game between Georgia and Alabama, will take place in Atlanta’s brand new LEED Platinum showplace, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Looked at through a Green-Sports 1.0 lens, the stadium is already a champion, from its state-of-the-art water efficiency efficiency systems to its 4,000 solar panels to its LED lighting throughout the building.

 

Mercedes Benz

Aerial view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

But how will the championship game fare from a Green-Sports 2.0 perspective?

CFP’s Playoff Green initiative ran a semester-long tree planting campaign in the Atlanta area — public service announcements are scheduled to promote it to the 71,000 fans in attendance.

But will ESPN, with its multiple channels (I put the over/under at five) airing the game, share the story of the greenness of the stadium and of Playoff Green, with the 25 or so million people watching?

I bet the answer is no; I hope I will be proven wrong.

 

 

February 4: Super Bowl LII; US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

It is safe to say Super Bowl LII will be a more sustainable event than its predecessor in Houston last February. After all the bar is set extremely low: the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee did next to nothing of note, green-wise.

What is noteworthy are the solid, green actions taken by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. These include:

  • Granting a portion of its $4 million Legacy Fund to environmental charities. One grantee is the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Native American tribe — the funds helped build a community garden, supplying healthy food in an area where access is lacking.
  • The collection of over 42,000 pounds of TVs, computers and cell phones at the Minnesota Zoo as part of an October E-Waste drive, in partnership with NFL sponsor Verizon.
  • Working with Verizon and Minneapolis-based Andersen Corporation to fund 14 habitat restoration and urban forestry projects across the state, resulting in the planting of thousands of trees and native species.

 

MN UrbanForestryPosterHorizontal

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, in partnership with the NFL, Verizon and Andersen Windows have planted more than 700 trees as part of their Urban Forestry Initiative for Super Bowl LII (Infographic Credit: Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee)

 

There is one environmental concern surrounding US Bank Stadium and thus, by extension, Super Bowl LII, that, to be fair to the Host Committee, predated its existence: The problem of birds killing themselves by crashing into the largely glass exterior of the stadium that opened in 2016. The Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority were made aware of this issue during the stadium’s design phase and chose to do nothing about it.

Neither Audubon Minnesota nor Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis plan to organize protests tied to Super Bowl LII. And without protests, the likelihood that the media covers the “old news” bird kill issue is slim.

And, it says here, that NBC Sports will not devote air time to the Super Bowl LII “solid but not groundbreaking” sustainability story.

Hey, I never said this Green-Sports 2.0 thing would be easy. Maybe the Winter Olympics will provide a better platform?

 

 

February 9-25: XXIII Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, South Korea

The myriad of issues surrounding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will no doubt garner the lion’s share of NBC Sports’ non-sports coverage during the Winter Olympics. And that is at should be.

Will there be enough non-sports oxygen for the environment and climate change?

Even though the organizers will not feature a climate change-themed vignette in the Opening Ceremonies, as did Rio 2016,  I say there is at least a 50-50 chance that the Peacock Network features the environment and climate in its countless sidebar stories — and that Green-Sports 2.0 will be be a winner at PyeongChang 2018.

After all, there are great sustainability tales to tell:

  • PyeongChang 2018 will generate more clean electricity than total electricity consumed during the Games. You read that right: PyeongChang 2018, together with  host provincial government Gangwon, funded wind farms that will produce 45 percent more electricity than will be needed to power the Games.
  • Six of the newly constructed competition venues feature either solar or geothermal power.
  • Several of the venues will be G-SEED certified, the Korean green building equivalent of LEED.

 

POCOG Wind farm 1

Wind turbines in Gangwon Province, part of the developments funded by PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) that will, in total, generate 45 percent more energy than the Games will use. (Photo credit: POCOG)

 

Most importantly, it is likely that Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization made up of current and retired elite winter sports athletes which advocates for legislative action on climate change, will have several articulate, charismatic members on the U.S. team.

Will NBC Sports interview POW athletes about their activism as well as their athleticism?

I say YES!

 

Spring: NHL Issues Its Second Sustainability Report

In 2014, the National Hockey League became the first professional sports league in North America to issue a sustainability report. Among other things, the league disclosed its direct carbon footprint and that of its sizable supply chain.

That the league will be issuing its second such report this spring before any of its counterparts (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL) produce their first demonstrates 1) the NHL’s consistent, substantive Green-Sports leadership, and 2) the need for the other leagues to step up their green games.

Regarding the upcoming report, I look forward to see 1) how the league has progressed on emissions reductions since 2014, and 2) if emissions from fan travel to and from games will be added.

 

April 29: Opening, Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles

This is a classic Green-Sports 1.0 story about a new, LEED certified stadium — and 1.0 stories are still good things.

Banc of California Stadium, the 22,000 seat home of Major League Soccer expansion team LAFC will open this spring with LEED Silver level certification. Sustainability features include:

  • Easy metro accessibility via the Expo Line at nearby Expo Park/USC station
  • EV charging stations for 5 percent of vehicles, and that number will increase
  • 140,000 sq. ft. of additional public open space
  • 440 bicycle parking spaces and a bike path that feeds into Los Angeles’ My Figueroa path system

 

 

Banc of California

Artist rendering of Banc of California Stadium (Credit: LAFC)

 

Banc of California Stadium will serve as an appetizer on the LA new stadium scene. The main course? The projected 2020 opening of LA Stadium at Hollywood Park, the new home of the NFL’s Chargers and Rams. Early reports say LEED certification is being considered.

 

June 14-July 15: FIFA Men’s World Cup, 11 cities in Russia

GSB has low exceptions, Green-Sports-wise, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the world’s most followed sporting event..

FIFA did issue “A More Sustainable World Cup,” a 15-page, Russia 2018 progress report which asserted that:

  • At least six of the 12 stadiums hosting World Cup matches will be BREEAM certified: Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, site of the final match; Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Samara Stadium, Spartak Stadium, and Volgograd Arena.

 

Samara Stadium Guardian

Workers play soccer adjacent to the under-construction and BREEAM-certified Samara Stadium (Photo credit: The Guardian)

 

Volvograd Arena Guardian

The BREEAM-certified Volgograd Arena (Photo credit: The Guardian)

 

  • The South Pole Group, a carbon management consulting firm, is working with FIFA to estimate the carbon footprint of Russia 2018.
  • FIFA plans to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions related to the event.

This is fine from a 1.0 POV, but there is much more to the story.

Remember, the organizers of Sochi, Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics promised the “cleanest Olympics ever.”

The reality was far different.

According to a piece in the February 21, 2014 issue of Earth Island Journal by Zoe Loftus-Farren:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has a stunning disregard for environmental laws: “Environmental laws can be pesky, and Putin’s government amended several laws to make way for Olympic glory: In 2006, the Russia government amended a ban on holding large sporting events in National Parks, in 2007 it eliminated compulsory environmental assessment for construction projects, and in 2009 the legislature [weakened] the Forest Code.” 
  • On Sochi 2014-related environmental wrongs: “Large illegal waste dumps have cropped up around the region, including within Sochi National Park. More than 3,000 hectares of forest have been logged, including regions with rare plant species. Large swaths of previously protected wetlands now lay underneath the Olympic Village.”

Aside from the BREEAM-certified stadia, it is fair to assume that, from an environmental perspective, the Sochi 2014 past is prologue for Russia 2018.

It would be great if Fox Sports undertakes some award-winning investigative journalism into the Russia 2018 environmental story during its coverage of the tournament.

I’m not holding my breath.

 

 

June 26-27: Green Sports Alliance Summit; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta’s LEED Gold Mercedes-Benz Stadium will occupy the Green-Sports center stage for the second time in 2018, this time as host of the eighth Green Sports Alliance (GSA) Summit.

According to the GSA’s website, Summit 2018 will feature “more networking opportunities and [will] focus on hands-on workshops for attendees to work through challenges, share lessons learned, and gather valuable take-aways to implement in their communities.”

Speakers and panels have yet to be announced so stay tuned.

 

 

August 27-September 9: US Open Tennis, Bille Jean King National Tennis Center, Queens, NY

After a decade of Green-Sports leadership paid off with the US Open winning GSB’s “Greenest Sports League/Event” award for 2017, what can the USTA do for an encore?

From a Green-Sports 1.0 perspective, the answer is clear: The opening of Louis Armstrong Stadium 2.0.

The 10,000 seat stadium will likely achieve LEED certification by the start of the tournament. Here are three reasons why:

  • 95 percent of the waste from the demolition of the original Armstrong Stadium was recycled
  • Landscaping around the new stadium has been designed to use 55 percent less water
  • The new Armstrong Stadium will be the first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof in the world.

Methinks this last point is so cool that it will warrant attention from ESPN during its tournament coverage, which would mean a nice Green-Sports 2.0 win.

 

One minute, time lapse photography video of the demolition of the old Louis Armstrong Stadium and the building of the new one. The latter will be the first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof.

 

November 6: Midterm Elections, United States

What do the midterm elections in the United States, in which the control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate are up for grabs, have to do with Green-Sports?

Well, the aforementioned Protect Our Winters (POW) won GSB’s 2017 “Best Green-Sports Story of the Year” award in large part due to its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and its willingness to get involved in electoral politics.

When asked about POW’s goals for 2018, manager of advocacy and campaigns Lindsay Bourgoine said: “Our main goal in 2018 is to 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.”

 

Lindsay Bourgoine POW

Lindsay Bourgoine, manager of advocacy and campaigns for Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

Bourgoine also said that POW is not “working to help the Democrats take the House.” While I understand completely POW’s desire to help the climate-friendly Democrats and Republicans, I will be doing my small part as a volunteer to help flip the House.

In the meantime, I look forward to sharing powerful Green-Sports stories — of both the Version 1.0 and 2.0 varieties — wherever I find them!

 


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Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 4: The POWer of Protect Our Winters

The Winter Sports world plays an outsized role in the Green-Sports movement. This makes sense, when one considers climate change is responsible for shortened outdoor pond hockey seasons, canceled ski races, and more. GreenSportsBlog is taking an in-depth look at the intersection of Green & Winter Sports with an occasional series, “Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports.”

In the first three installments, we highlighted winter sports athletes who are also environmental activists: Cross country skiers Erika Flowers-Newell (Part 1) and Andy Newell (Part 2) (yes, they’re married to each other) as well as Olympic silver medal winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler (Part 3).

Today, we take a different path with “The POWer of Protect Our Winters.” In it, we look at Protect Our Winters, or POW, an amazing organization of elite winter sports athletes, including Andy Newell and Gretchen Bleiler, which advocates for substantive action on climate, especially as it relates to mountain and snow sports. 

 

 

Protect Our Winters (POW) is, without doubt, one of the most impactful organizations in the Green-Sports world.

It may also be the most important athlete activist group in the world.

The only climate change action advocacy group led by athletes, POW’s Riders Alliance is made up over 100 current and retired professional skiers, snowboarders and more. They give talks on climate change to student groups and take part in climate marches. Most impressively, it says here, POW lobbies members of Congress and other elected officials on climate change-related legislation.

Are there other like groups of activist athletes in other sports? I don’t know of any.

We got a sense of the POW from the athlete point of view in recent interviews with cross country skier Andy Newell and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. Today, we are pleased to give you a different perspective — that of the POW staff — as we talk with Lindsay Bourgoine, manager of advocacy and campaigns, and senior brand manager Barbara Weber.

 


 

GreenSportsBlog: How did both of you end up at POW?

Lindsay Bourgoine: Well, I come from Maine and grew up outdoors, climbing mountains and skiing — I love downhill and back country. I got into policy end of things and worked in that arena for the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Outdoor Industry Association. I’ve always strived to find opportunities as the intersection of environmental advocacy and the outdoor industry. We have such an incredible opportunity to leverage our impact to better the planet. Once I found out about POW, I fell in love with it. I mean, the impact of our athletes is so authentic and effective.

 

Lindsay Bourgoine POW

Lindsay Bourgoine, Protect Our Winters’ manager of advocacy and campaigns for (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

Barbara Weber: I’m from Northern Michigan and started skiing when I was three; we got a ton of lake effect snow. At 12, I went to the “dark side,” aka snowboarding. Eventually, I went to Michigan State…

GSB: Sparty!

Barbara: Go Sparty! In school I studied advertising. I’m fascinated with what motivates people psychologically. But when I moved to Chicago to pursue a “Big Girl Ad Agency” job, I knew after my first interview that it wasn’t the world I wanted to be in. I found myself working in the local Patagonia shop while I “figured things out” and they really laid the foundation for the path I’d find myself on for the next 10 years.

 

Barbara Weber POW

Barbara Weber, POW’s senior brand manager (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

GSB: What a fantastic turn of events! Patagonia is beyond great.

Barbara: Indeed. I worked for a local Patagonia store in Vail before moving on to a marketing position with Ski.com, essentially selling ski vacations. It was while I was working at that Patagonia store when I first found out about POW. I think that was around 2009-2010.

GSB: You were busy!

Barbara: For sure. While at ski.com, I was also serving a two-year term on a non-profit board in Aspen (where I had relocated) called Spring Board. POW had stuck with me and I had been trying to find an intersection between my personal desire to give back and make an impact for the benefit of our environment, and with my professional career. For three years at Ski.com I pushed to get them involved with POW. After all, there won’t be many ski vacations in the future if we don’t tackle this issue.

GSB: So true…

Barbara: I left ski.com in 2013 and after a bit of travel, a series of fateful events led me to landing my current role with POW when they were based in Los Angeles. I’ve been with POW since June 2014.

GSB: An odd place for something called Protect Our Winters but, OK…So you were at POW in LA…What was it like?

Barbara: It was a lot of work — but the best kind. I found a fire in me that had been waiting to be lit. It felt as if my background and personality were the perfect fit for the position and vice versa. I was fired up. And I’m still fired up. And the funny thing about avoiding the career of advertising per se; is that in a way, it’s exactly what I’m doing. But instead of selling a material item, I’m selling an idea. I’m selling activism.

Part of my job involves working with our incredible group of professional athletes. Getting to know them over the years has been something I’ll always be grateful for. This group is so passionate, so thoughtful, insightful, and genuine. I think from the outside it can be easy to look and them and find ways to be critical, but they really work hard to become knowledgeable about climate change, both from the science and political sides, and leverage their influence as pros to inspire other people to get involved in this fight.

GSB: I sure was inspired talking with Andy Newell and Gretchen Bleiler. These are world class athletes, Olympians…and they’re knowledgeably lobbying members of Congress on climate change? How do they have the time? Where do they get the inspiration?

Barbara: I can’t speak for each Riders Alliance member but, in general, it seems as though winter sports athletes — POW athletes — spend so much time outside, in nature…it’s natural they would appreciate it. I mean, they have an intimate interaction with the outdoors.

GSB: That makes sense, but what motivates them to speak up about climate change? Don’t they worry that being “political” could put their sponsorship relationships at risk?

Barbara: Well, snowboarders, skiers and the rest are already outside the traditional athlete world to a certain extent. There’s a natural rebelliousness to this community, particularly the snowboarders. They’ve found a way to make a living most of us could only dream of, and are often rewarded for thinking unconventionally and for taking risks. So many of them are OK with going outside their comfort zones. What is really great is that POW athletes do their homework on climate and know their stuff. In fact, our athletes who go to Washington often report that members of Congress are slack-jawed at their knowledge and expertise.

GSB: As someone who has presented to Congress on climate issues with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I can tell you that house members and senators are hard to impress. That holds true with their staffers. So getting a slack-jawed reaction is a big deal. Also a big deal is POW’s Riders Alliance Summit…

Barbara: Absolutely. It’s our biggest event of the year that we do with the athletes. We use it as our opportunity to bring them up to speed on the latest climate science, how to effectively communicate climate facts and information, provide them with social media and public speaking training, and other meaningful ways to engage in advocacy. To me, though, I think one of the biggest takeaways is the sense of community and camaraderie the summit evokes. It’s good for these athletes to see each other in person, commiserate on their experiences, become friends and supporters of each other.

 

POW Riders Alliance Credit Krystle Wright

POW athletes enjoying the 2017 Riders Alliance (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

GSB: The camaraderie is so great to hear about, especially given that some of these athletes compete against each other. Now, speaking of lobbying, talk to us about POW’s lobby days on Capitol Hill and elsewhere…

Lindsay: Well, there were 13 POW athletes at our most recent lobbying effort on the Hill a few months back. This was our biggest contingent to date; with partners and staff, we had 25 total. One of our goals this time was to work on forming relationships with Republican lawmakers, which we did by focusing on our passion for, and love of the outdoors. Sometimes, this bill and that endorsement and that policy get in the way. We need to remember we’re all people, and for the most part, we can all connect over our mutual love of the outdoors. Climate change threatens that. So, we went into offices, talked about who we are and what we do, reflected on the changes we see in the field, and then asked how they could help us address the issue. If they asked for more specifics, or if they were more amenable to our cause, we talked about our priority issues: carbon pricing, solar energy, and electrifying transportation.

GSB: …That’s great about meeting with Republicans; otherwise, POW would simply be preaching to the converted…How many members of Congress did you get to meet with this time around?

Lindsay: We met with 22 members, half of whom are part of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which includes an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, pro fly fisherman Hilary Hutcheson, as well as our board chair and VP of Aspen Skiing Company, Auden Schendler spoke on behalf of POW. Gretchen talked about how impactful the cancellation of competitions can be, especially on rural mountain towns at the beginning of the season — for example, if Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek (CO) is cancelled, that’s $4-6 million gone from the local economy, just in a weekend. Hilary recounted how her insurance adjuster told her if she kept working as a fly fishing guide outside of Glacier National Park in Montana with the poor air quality from nearby forest fires, he would cancel her policy. She literally couldn’t guide — and earn an income — because the air quality from fire smoke was so dangerous. Climate is impacting her way of life. And Auden spoke about how ski resorts lose money in low snowfall years and the snowball effect on the economy. It was very powerful to speak to this bipartisan group– very uplifting to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle really listen and come together to educate themselves on these issues and impacts. This hearing was definitely the highlight of the trip.

 

Alex Deibold, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington on POW_s September 2017 Lobby Trip to Washington DC Forest Woodward Athletes

POW takes Washington by storm: From left to right, Alex Deibold, Kaitlyn Farrington and Gretchen Bleiler on the steps of the Capitol (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

Hilary Hutcheson TDN

Hilary Hutcheson, pro fly fisherman (Photo credit: TDN)

 

Auden Schendler ClimateCon 2018

Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company (Photo credit: ClimateCon2018)

 

GSB: I hope the GOPers with whom you spoke vote in a POW-like manner sooner rather than later. Now, one thing I’ve noticed as a Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer is that the number of volunteers skyrocketed after Trump’s election. Have you seen something similar at POW? Also has Trump’s election had any effects on the issues POW takes on, the tone and aggressiveness with which it does so, etc.

Lindsay: People can no longer afford to be apathetic as our climate is under attack day after day. Now, more than ever, our community is asking us “how can we help” over and over. Our community is stepping up to the challenge. In a way, this is a silver lining of Trump’s election. Now, does it make it harder when there is an unfriendly administration? Yes. That just means we have to work harder to fight the fights that need to be fought and to get creative to see if there are any places we can potentially work with Republicans. I would say one way the results of Trump’s election is that we are looking opportunistically at actions in state legislatures. There is a ton of progress being made there, especially on carbon pricing in winter sports states like Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

GSB: Are there Trump-supporting POW athletes? If so, how is that working out?

Lindsay: I can’t speak to that specifically, but we do have Republican athletes. We have always worked to be bipartisan and if anything, put even more of an effort into that this year in our DC lobbying. We know climate is deeply politicized, but we don’t believe it should be. The Republican party is the only conservative party in the world that denies climate change. We just need to get to a place where it is safe for Republicans to talk about climate. You’d be surprised; many of them understand and agree, they just care about being re-elected, too. It’s tough. Our goal is to elect climate friendly officials, regardless of what party.

GSB: That’s all very important…so good luck. Turning to next year, with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang only two months away, how might that mega-event affect POW?

Barbara: Well, 2018 being an Olympic year helps POW. It amplifies the visibility of our athletes who end up being part of their Olympic teams. That helps us in the long run when it comes to the platforms they use to speak out against climate change. Additionally, we’ve found politicians tend to geek out when one of our athletes brings an Olympic medal or two to our lobby day meetings. Mainly, though, the Olympics will probably just decrease our productivity those two weeks it takes place, as we’ll be anxiously watching the competitions and supporting our athletes when we should be working! We’ll for sure be having a viewing party or two in the office.

GSB: Sounds like a lot of fun — y’all deserve it! I hope to see NBC Sports feature a POW athlete or two at the Olympics. What are POW’s main goals in 2018?

Lindsay: Our main goal in 2018 is to get down and dirty in the midterm elections in November. POW is working on establishing a 501(c)4, which will allow us to get more engaged in elections as an organization. We have identified ten ‘battleground elections’ where we feel it is really important to elect a climate friendly leader, whether Democrat or Republican — I want to be clear that we are not working to help the Democrats take the House. We will execute all of our programs in those ten areas — whether going into schools for Hot Planet Cool Athletes assemblies to get kids talking about the importance of climate change, or hosting educational events. Our objective is to make people more aware of their role in elections, help them understand the importance of electing climate friendly leaders, and push the conversation in each election to cover climate change.

GSB: We will stay tuned throughout 2018 to see how POW makes out in those 10 races. One last question: What are POW’s expansion plans, if any? Are you looking to move beyond winter sports?

Barbara: We want to engage the broader outdoor industry in POW’s work. This is already happening — we’re signing trail runners, climbers, anglers, guides, and mountain bikers. We’re working to bridge the gap with hunters and find ways to collaborate. The reality is climate change impacts all of us, whether it’s too hot to mountain bike or there’s not enough water in rivers to paddle or to support viable fish habitat.

 

Want to see the true POWer of POW? Watch this 1 minute 5 second video.

 


 

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Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports, Part 1: Erika Flowers Newell, US Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Hopeful and Advocate for the Environment

The Winter sports world, from the NHL to climate change-fighting Olympic skiers and snowboarders, plays an outsized role in the Green-Sports movement. This makes sense, when one considers that climate change is at least partly responsible for shortened outdoor pond hockey seasons, canceled ski races, and more. Over the next few months, GreenSportsBlog will take an in-depth look at the intersection of Green & Winter Sports, in a new, occasional series, “Winter Sports Drives Green-Sports.”

We begin the series with the first of two stories about a pair of world class cross country skiers from the United States preparing for the start of their respective qualifying campaigns for the 2018 US Olympic teams, Erika Flowers Newell and Andy Newell. Both are environmental activists and also are married to each other! 

Today, the focus is on Erika, her skiing career, environmental advocacy along with her work for one of the legends of cause-related marketing. Next week, we shift over to Andy and his climate change-fighting efforts with Protect Our Winters (POW).

GreenSportsBlog: Erika, thank you for taking the time out from your pre-Olympic qualification training to talk with us about your skiing career, your role as an eco-athlete, and more. So let’s get right to it. When did you get into cross country skiing? And were you always an environmentalist?

Erika Flowers Newell: Skiing definitely came first. I was born in Missoula, Montana. I was always into sports — soccer and running — as well as theatre. When I was 10, we moved over to Bozeman. It was the middle of 4th grade. I knew no one but saw that a bunch of kids were into skiing. So I connected with a bunch of girls who were into cross country — they remain among my best friends today.

 

Erika Flowers Reese Brown

Erika Flowers-Newell (Photo credit: Reese Brown)

 

GSB: So you got into from a social point of view?

EFN: Yes. And I was a terrible skier at first…

 

Erika Flowers youth

A young, self-proclaimed “terrible skier,” Erika Flowers (Photo credit: Erika Flowers’ mom and dad)

 

EFN: …Really, I wanted to play soccer. But, truthfully, I wasn’t that good at soccer either…The only reason I made the team my freshman year was because I could run really fast. And, as time went on, I saw that I wasn’t such a terrible skier after all and I — and this a real surprise to me — really liked it. I loved to train, loved the running part of the training, plus the actual skiing. So, as a high schooler I made my first international trip, to the Scandinavia Cup and had some decent results. While still in high school, I ranked as high as #6 among all junior skiers in the US.

GSB: That’s incredible!

EFN: Believe me, I was shocked. I went from thinking I wasn’t much good at cross country skiing to believing I could compete at a very high level, get to travel all over the world. I thought this was pretty cool. But then my mom passed away while I was  in my junior year.

GSB: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

EFN: Thanks. It was very tough. In fact, I was at a race at the time. But I tried to borrow some of her grit and toughness after she passed, and that helped me win my first international race in the spring of my junior year in high school.

GSB: You are certainly talented and tough. So was college next on the horizon?

EFN: Yes…I looked seriously at three schools: Utah, Princeton and Dartmouth. Utah has a strong ski program but going to college out East intrigued me. So I visited Princeton — I liked the idea of going to the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs but…

GSB: …there’s not much skiing in and around Princeton, NJ!

EFN: Exactly. And so after we visited Princeton, we headed up to Dartmouth. It was right on the Connecticut River, the skiing trails are pristine, the campus is beautiful and the women’s nordic team was very good — at the time, five women on the Dartmouth nordic squad also were on the US Ski Team.

GSB: So that made the decision easy…

EFN: No doubt about it. I loved Dartmouth; I bleed Dartmouth Green for sure. Was surrounded by smart, interesting people. It was challenging academically. I studied government, health policy and more. And the skiing was even more challenging. As a freshman, I was just trying to get to compete in “Carnival”…

GSB: What’s that?

EFN: They are a big part of college skiing’s regular season — combined alpine and nordic events.

GSB: The alpine events are the downhill and the various slaloms (slalom, giant slalom, and Super-G). Nordic is the umbrella term for cross country, biathlon and ski jumping.

EFN: You got it! There are six weekends of carnivals in each of three regions; East, Midwest and West. You need to be in the top six at Dartmouth to make the carnival roster and top three to be assured of competing. And, as I was able to make it to carnival as a freshman, my next goal was to make it to the NCAAs — I said to myself “If I can go to the NCAA’s once before I graduate, that will be good.”

GSB: And what does one have to do to make it to the NCAA’s?

EFN: You had to be in the top 15 in your region across the various cross country disciplines — skate style and classic, sprints and longer races, and relays. To make it even harder, only three skiers from any one school can make it and Dartmouth, along with the University of Vermont, are perennial eastern powerhouses…

GSB: So you could be in the top 15 in your region but if you were, say, the fifth best on Dartmouth, you’d be out of luck, NCAA-wise?

EFN: That’s right. But that tougher climb made me a better skier. So junior year I got to go to the NCAAs in Stowe, VT…

GSB: Home mountain advantage!

EFN: …and finished fourth. Before senior year, I spent time in Guatemala working in a health clinic — I was planning to apply to medical school — but I constantly was daydreaming about skiing…

GSB: Clearly you weren’t ready to give it up!

EFN: That’s what I learned about myself. So senior year, I went to the NCAAs one last time, finished sixth. I was content with that and was happier that the team did really well — that was the best part of it.  

 

Erika Flowers Dartmouth

Erika, while skiing for Dartmouth (Photo credit: Erika Flowers Newell)

 

GSB: So what about medical school?

EFN: Well, before that decision was made, I started to volunteer with Fast and Female, a nonprofit founded by Chandra Crawford, a Canadian nordic Olympic gold medal winner in Torino 2006. Kikkan Randall, the best US women’s cross country skier ever runs the US group. The organization hosts events in the US and Canada for girls, 8-18. It’s a combination of physical events, socializing, motivational talks, and more. I loved working with them and being an athlete role model of sorts, so that made the medical school choice even harder. So I decided to go for skiing full time, see where it would take me. This was my time.

 

Erika Flowers Fast Female

Erika Flowers Newell, inspiring young athletes through “Fast and Female” (Photo credit: Tom Kelley)

 

GSB: So how does that work, exactly? Who funds you?

EFN: Great questions. Thankfully, I came along at a time where, in addition to the US Ski Team, there were professional development programs for elite skiers in the US. One is in Stratton, VT. I went up there along with two other skiers in 2012 with two goals in mind:

  1. Race internationally every weekend in the World Cup events — the regular season of cross country — and,
  2. Make the US Ski Team

The latter is a big deal because that gives you more of a salary, coaching, and support staff.

GSB: How many make the US nordic Ski Team?

EFN: Five men and 10 women — there are more women because our team is stronger relative to the men.

GSB: So if you’re on one of those elite teams but not the US Ski Team, how do you support yourself?

EFN: They do give support — they pay for a coach which is huge. But I have to secure my own corporate sponsorship outreach and sales, which takes about 25 percent of my time. This pays for my living expenses and travel.

GSB: I had no idea you had to be a sponsorship sales pro in order to have a ski career. A good skill to have, though. So I imagine it’s a lot easier if you make the US Ski Team. How does that happen?

EFN: Of course that isn’t easy, especially if you’re an older skier and I’m now 28. I’ve been at it awhile: I tried out for the Olympic team for Sochi 2014 but didn’t make it. But I did qualify for the 2016-17 World Cup, which was fantastic. So now I’m going for the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics, with the first qualifying races the first weekend in December in Montana…

GSB: Another Home Mountain Advantage! So what do you have to do to make the Olympic team?

EFN: There are likely going to be between 10-13 slots on the women’s nordic team. My goal is to finish first or second among the non-US Ski Team qualifiers. That would pretty much guarantee me a spot on the team. So I am pushing on all cylinders.

GSB: I have no doubt about that! So, now that our readers are cross country skiing experts, we turn to the green part of your story…Where does that fit in?

EFN: Well, first of all, as a full-time skier, it’s been a challenge to keep my mind as active as it was in college. But I know I have to develop myself professionally for my post-skiing life and sustainability is at the top of my list. So it was a happy coincidence that a friend of mine from Bozeman, Elizabeth Davis, was starting a new purpose-driven agency with Carol Cone…

GSB: …A corporate social responsibility pioneer!

EFN: YES! So they started Carol Cone On Purpose

GSB: Love that name!

EFN: And I saw on Elizabeth’s Facebook feed that were looking for interns. I applied and got it. Let me tell you, it was a real eye-opener for me about the intersection of business and purpose, the idea of doing good and doing well. And I brought the sports angle. So they allowed to help expand Fast and Female and I also worked with the Women’s Sports Foundation. After awhile, they hired me as a part-time Purpose Associate. They’ve been great about me working remotely and to get the work done around my skiing schedule. I handle research, social media and writing. On the research side, I’m diving into what companies are doing, well, on purpose.

GSB: What has that research shown you, if anything, about companies, sports and sustainability?

EFN: Oh, there’s definitely a growing interest on the part of companies about the Green-Sports intersection. From hockey arenas to ski areas and the companies that sponsor those venues and those sports, they clearly get it. And then, as a skier, I see the effects of climate change up close. There’s no way to avoid it. In the 10 years since high school, a lot of places at which I used to ski are just not viable. I mean, that’s 10 years, which is really nothing from a climate perspective.

GSB: Can you give an example?

EFN: Easily. Glacier Ramsau in Austria for years was a summer training ground for nordic athletes. Early on, we could ski there. The last two years? Un-skiable. The glaciers are melting before our eyes.

 

Erika Flowers races canceled MW 2017 Julia Kern

Cross country skiing races were canceled during the 2016-17 season because of lack of snow in the US midwest (Photo credit: Julia Kern)

 

Erika Flowers no snowman

In fact, there wasn’t enough snow for Erika (r) and her teammates to make a snowman (Photo credit: Erika Flowers Newell)

 

GSB: So where do you do summer training?

EFN: For training in snow, we go New Zealand. Of course then we get fan criticism, not completely unjustified, that here we are, talking about climate change and yet we spend massive amounts of CO₂ to train in the Southern Hemisphere. Also the climate problem is coming close to home. We used to do early season training in Bozeman but not now. The snow just isn’t there.

 

Erika Flowers Summer Training Matt Whitcomb

Erika Flowers Newell (2nd place, in blue top) trains with Kikkan Randall (1st place) and others in Soldier Hollow, Utah last fall (Photo credit: Matt Whitcomb)

 

GSB: Are the effects of climate change the same for nordic and alpine?

EFN: It’s actually more acute for nordic. Alpine events typically are at higher altitudes where it’s often colder. And there’s more snow making for alpine because those events are seen as being more glamorous.

GSB: So with your work at Carol Cone On Purpose and your front row seat for climate change as a cross country skier, you are really positioned well to be an eco-athlete advocate. With that said, are you involved with Protect Our Winters (POW), the great group of winter sports, well, eco-athlete-advocates?

EFN: I’m not yet in POW, but my husband, Andy Newell, a member of the last three US Olympic men’s nordic teams, is very involved. I’ve had too much on my plate just yet with Carol Cone On Purpose and skiing to join. But with Andy taking a lead role, I can see that being part of my future. No matter what, I’ll be an eco-advocate. Athletes have a powerful platform to share our stories and influence a lot of people in positive ways. Climate change really needs to be a platform for almost every winter sports athlete. We need to continue to push for meaningful carbon reduction policies. Why? Because we see the effects of climate change EVERY. DAY. We cannot wait to take action. And as much as I want to make the Olympic team and even win a medal, making a positive impact on climate is even more important.

GSB: When you and Andy met, was environmentalism an important part of your connection? Does he up your green game or vice versa?

EFN: Andy and I both value and appreciate the opportunities we’ve had growing up to spend time in the outdoors. We both recognize that the viability and longevity of our sport depends on a healthy global climate as well as the local communities that support land stewardship and the preservation of parks and open spaces. While sustainability and environmentalism where not the things that brought us together at first, I do think our similar value systems allowed us to bond and develop an appreciation for each other and the way we interact with the natural world. I was also very impressed with Andy’s work with POW, and continue to be inspired by his dedication to the organization as he travels to meet with politicians and speak at universities to build support for the cause. He definitely “ups” my green game! I’m much more informed on the state of climate change and the politics involved with climate change and sustainability because of Andy. I think I have a better pulse on the business side of climate change and sustainability while Andy knows more of the politics but we are both working towards a greener future and I think will continue to be involved in climate action for a long time.

 

Andy Newell & Erika

Andy & Erika (Photo credit: Andy Newell)

 

GSB: Well, you and Andy make up an important eco-athlete combination. Good luck in your environmental athletes and, of course, with qualifying for Pyeongchang.

 

NEXT WEEK: Andy Newell on his work with Protect Our Winters…and more.

 

 


 

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PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim

PyeongChang, South Korea will be the center of the sporting world starting February 9 when the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics take place in the city that lies about 77 miles to the east of Seoul. Environmental sustainability has been a key factor in Olympic bids going back to the Vancouver in 2010 (winter) and London 2012 (winter) Games. How will PyeongChang fare, sustainability-wise? GreenSportsBlog talked with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) to find out.

 

 

Sustainability is now a core facet of the Olympics host city bidding process. In fact, any bid submitted since the 2014 adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020 must have a robust environmental component. Since a host city has seven years between being awarded the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the opening ceremonies, the 2022 Winter Games, awarded to Beijing in 2015, will be the first to have fully adhered to the Agenda’s guidelines.

How does the sustainability scorecard look for the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, given that the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, or POCOG, won its bid in 2011, three years before the Agenda took effect? GSB spoke with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for POCOG to answer that question.

 


 

GreenSportsBlog: Hyeona, how did you get involved in the POCOG sustainability effort?

Hyeona Kim: Ever since I joined POCOG 5 years ago, I have been interested in what real impact PyeongChang 2018 can bring to local communities and our country. Helping with the initial venue development phase, I learned of the sustainability area, and thought ‘this is why I came to PyeongChang in the first place’ and I needed to commit my work to it. I was fortunate to be involved with the sustainability team, from the development of overall sustainability strategy to its implementation today. I really value the opportunity to experience the whole process.

 

Hyeona Kim

Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager, POCOG. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: So you are definitely the person to talk to! Given that Olympic Agenda 2020 was not in force in 2011 when PyeongChang bid for the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and thus sustainability was not a “must have” in Olympic Bids, how did it fit in your bid?

HK: Though it was not “must have” for Olympic Games bidding, sustainability was a strong global trend already back then, and was part of the ultimate goal to bring the event to South Korea. Naturally, sustainability and the environment were integral to our bid from the very beginning. Our focus started from the environmental sphere of sustainability. POCOG set out the environmental vision of “O2 Plus”, an ambition to go beyond the Games carbon emissions in our carbon reduction and offset efforts.

GSB: Impressive that POCOG planned to be “Net Positive”—to be responsible for the reduction of more carbon emissions than the Games would create. Were such efforts tried before?

HK: Vancouver 2010 raised the bar by achieving “Net-zero carbon Games”. PyeongChang felt responsible for sustainable Games and we thought of going one step further.

GSB: How does POCOG go about doing that?

HK: First of all, PyeongChang 2018, together with Gangwon, the host provincial government, has funded and is funding wind farms that will produce more than the minimum amount of electricity need to power the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some of the wind farms were built during the bidding phase and then, after we won the bid in 2011, POCOG ramped up its funding for the remaining wind developments.

GSB: So how much wind power are we talking about?

HK: We expect to have 190 megawatts (mW) of electricity demand during the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. As of now, 145 mW is of wind electricity is already operational, another 32 mW is secured and another 100 mW is still under construction.

GSB: That’s a lot of wind, more than enough to power the Games. Where are these wind farms located? Close to PyeongChang?

 

POCOG Wind farm 1

Wind turbines in Gangwon Province, part of the wind farm developments funded by POCOG that will, in total, generate more energy than the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will use. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

HK: Yes, all of the wind farms are in Gangwon Province. And our use of renewables goes beyond wind. Six of the newly constructed competition venues will feature either solar power or geothermal. Several of our venues are certified for G-SEED, the Korean green building protocol, similar to LEED. Gangneung Olympic Park, the site of four venues—figure skating/short track, speed skating ice hockey, and curling…

GSB: …I LOVE curling. And, yes, I have curled before. Have you tried it? If not, you have to give it a go!

HK: Yes, actually I tried it once, and it was more active than it looked. It was fun. Anyway, part of Gangneung Olympic Park was transformed from a landfill site to a cultural and sports park, protecting the local ecology and nature in the process.

 

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0054.JPG

Aerial view of Gangneung Olympic Park. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: Very impressive on both the electricity generation and facilities sides of the ledger. What about mass transit and low emissions vehicles?

HK: POCOG made an aggressive move into EVs—our fleet has 300 of them—and the charging infrastructure is being built in and around PyeongChang as we speak. Our goal is to do what we can to make EVs a mainstream choice for as many Koreans as possible as quickly as possible. On the mass transit side, POCOG and the Korean government has invested heavily in high-speed rail (HSR) as that is a great carbon emissions reducer. High-speed rail from the Seoul area will transport a significant percentage of total fans to PyeongChang and we expect such mass transit will help us reduce 6,654 tonnes of C02 equivalent^ from our carbon inventory. All of the efforts described here helped us become the first Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be ISO 2012-1 certified…

GSB: …For those unfamiliar, ISO 2012-1 is a global standard for sustainable events. Congratulations. Now, on the flip side of POCOG’s sustainability successes, what have been its greatest challenges?

HK: Ahhh, this is a good question. When we were on our learning curve, the IOC and past Organizing Committees always screamed one common message at us “Start EARLY with sustainability planning.” And, six years after winning the bid I can see that, even though we did start early on the environmental front in 2012, it would’ve been more successful if the bigger comprehensive plan came along at the same time.

GSB: How so?

HK: Well, the comprehensive strategy would’ve balanced initiatives amongst our three sub-categories of sustainability—environmental, social and economic—and solidified specific actions and messages. Olympic Organizing Committees are always on the steep growing curve, and once it hits the operational phase, it is not easy keep the sustainability ethos alive in daily minds in office. It takes extra efforts from sustainability unit to remind and ensure delivery of sustainability initiatives.

GSB: I echo that sentiment wholeheartedly. Ensuring that sustainability, no matter what aspect, is truly part of an organization’s DNA takes constant care. But I have to say, despite the challenges; it looks like POCOG is moving the sustainable Olympics ball forward, especially in terms of Winter Games and especially when compared to an environmentally challenged Sochi 2014. Now let’s pivot to a comparison vs. the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. They had their own environmental sustainability challenges, to be sure, but one thing they got right was communicating the seriousness climate change poses to humanity to a global TV and digital audience, estimated to be up to 1 billion people. They did so with a climate change themed vignette during the opening ceremonies. Will POCOG have anything similar in store? Also will POCOG be conducting any research on attendees and/or Korean TV viewers about awareness of its environmental efforts?

HK: We were also envious of the climate change vignette from Rio 2016’s opening ceremony. No other method I think can be paralleled in terms of scale and impact of the message. It is a shame that I cannot openly discuss POCOG’s public campaign for environmental awareness at this point of time, but I can reassure you POCOG has already unfolded different programs – carbon inventory establishment and management, International Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Olympic Winter Games – and also is keen to do more for public awareness on environment and climate change.

GSB: Those are great things, to be sure. And, congratulations to you and all of POCOG for the innovative sustainability strategies and initiatives you are championing, especially O2 Plus. But, with all of the great, net positive greening initiatives POCOG is undertaking, it’s a shame that it chose not to close the sustainability loop by communicating its greenness, its climate change fighting chops, to fans at the venues and watching on TV and elsewhere. It’s like a golfer who hits a phenomenal tee shot and a great approach shot to within a foot of the hole. All she has to do is tap in and she wins the tournament. But she chooses not to putt and walks off. Let’s hope the folks in charge of Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games decide to take that putt, close the loop and communicate their greenness to a global audience.

 

^ PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Sustainability Interim Report, February 2017, pgs. 26-27.

 


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