2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit Recap: Substance and The Art of the Possible

The eighth Green Sports Alliance Summit that concluded Wednesday in Atlanta was the most substantive of the five such events I’ve attended. From the plenary sessions to the workshops to the stadium tours to the conversations with vendors at their booths, the hallmark for me was that I learned a ton!

With that as backdrop, here is a final recap of the substantive Green Sports Alliance Summit 2018.

 

PANEL DISCUSSES MICROGRIDS FOR SPORTS VENUES

“We are in the Excuse Removal business!'”

Karen Morgan, President and CEO of Dynamic Energy Networks, began “The Art of the Possible: New Business Models to Achieve Your Community’s Energy Goals” panel discussion with that proclamation.

 

Karen Morgan

Karen Morgan, President and CEO, Dynamic Energy Networks (Photo credit: Dynamic Energy Networks)

 

What excuses are Morgan and her team aiming to remove from the lexicon of sports owners?

That their stadia and arenas can’t become hubs of a microgrid — a form of distributed electricity generation that brings together a small network of electricity users with a local source of supply that, in the main, functions independently of the grid — because doing so is too costly, technologically challenging, and/or just too different.

Moderated adroitly by Anne Kelly, Ceres’ Senior Director, Policy, “The Art of the Possible” offered a detailed tutorial on the potential of microgrids to benefit not only sports venues but the surrounding community.

Morgan set the stage: “Our team invests in microgrid projects, often including solar and other renewables, taking on the financial risk from property owners. Our capital, provided by the Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, is invested upfront. Property owners pay our investors back over time through power purchase agreements (PPAs), energy services agreements and other such vehicles. Schneider Electric contributes critical software integration expertise.”

Key members of the Dynamic Energy Networks microgrid All-Star team joined Morgan on the panel.

Mark Feasel, Vice President Electric Utility Segment and Smart Grid at Schneider Electric, evangelized about microgrids’/distributed generation’s three most powerful features:

  • Digitization: “Data profoundly is transforming the effectiveness of energy assets. Solar, for example, has become exponentially more efficient thanks to digitization.”
  • Decarbonization: “Distributed generation allows for the faster integration of renewables. We see decarbonization rates of up to 85 percent in distributed generation networks.”
  • Decentralization: “For 100 years, energy was supplied to homes and businesses from a massive central hub, and consumers were passive. Now, with distributed generation, customers are proactive actors, getting more reliable, sustainable and predictable energy, sometimes at lower cost.”

Andrew Marino, Co-Head of Carlyle Group and a member of Dynamic Energy Networks’ Board of Directors, offered this take: “We see microgrids as a massive opportunity for distributed, integrated sustainable energy and a huge investment opportunity. And it’s not only renewables and storage. Electric vehicles are also part of the mix. All of our EV conversations involve integrating them with microgrids.”

Where does sports fit in?

Morgan said “Sports venues can be laboratories for energy innovation.” She then imagined the integration of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Philips Arena^ and Georgia World Congress (convention) Center  — the three structures form a triangle of sorts — via battery-powered energy storage: “This would become a resilient center for disaster relief. Sports venues are where the community goes. Five years ago, back up power was exclusively diesel-based, meaning it was dirty and took a half-hour or more to ramp up — remember the blackout at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Now we can leverage solar, dispatch a battery for resilience. It is cleaner, quicker, more reliable and at a lower price. Microgrids will help venues win the right to host the best and biggest events. So, to team owners, venue owners, I say be leaders on microgrids and distributed generation.”

 

CARBON UNDERGROUND PRESIDENT SAYS KEY SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE IS…UNDERGROUND

“There is no solution to climate change that does not include drawing carbon back down from our atmosphere. And there is no mechanism with the scale and immediacy to draw enough carbon back down to mitigate climate change other than the restoration of soil. Doing so will be transformational.”

So said Larry Kopald, Co-Founder and President of The Carbon Underground, as a lead-in to a brief presentation Tuesday afternoon about his organization’s important but not-so-well-known work.

Kopald asserted that “According to the United Nations, mismanagement of soil has resulted in a loss of as much as 70 percent of topsoil worldwide. And that loss of topsoil is a big contributor to climate change. If we continue at the current pace, the UN predicts we may have as little as sixty years left before the soil-based foundation for feeding the planet is gone.”

The good news is that restoring health of our soil can happen quickly, will reduce atmospheric CO₂ levels, increase the water supply and is now seen by many, including Big Food, as a winning investment. According to Mr. Kopald:

  • One acre of healthy soil stores 25,000 gallons of water
  • Per a UCLA study, restoring health to our soil, and thereby increasing our water supply and beginning to reverse climate change, will reduce healthcare costs by up to 25 percent
  • The largest food companies — Danone, General Mills and Unilever among them — support The Carbon Underground and are moving towards a system of “regenerative agriculture,” farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.
  • Individuals can do so as well, through The Carbon Underground’s “Adopt-a-Meter” program. For as little as $5, folks can adopt a meter of degraded soil and bring it back to health.

 

 

 

How can the sports world chip in? It seems that sports played outside, on grass and dirt like golf, soccer, baseball, and football, should support the work of groups like The Carbon Underground. Healthy soil is something almost all humans are in favor of — why not make it the centerpiece of a fan engagement program?

 

 

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

After Kopald’s presentation, he moderated “Food, Fans and Farmers: Teaming Up for a Healthier Planet.” Panel members Will Witherspoon (sustainable farmer and ex-NFL linebacker), Robby Sansom (COO/CFO of Epic Provisions, maker of bars from 100 percent grass-fed animal protein), and Will Harris (fourth generation cattle farmer), all agreed that animal-based foods play an important, essential role in our diets.

Beyond the panel, there is clear disagreement about that point.

In fact, that same evening, the Alliance hosted a screening of the new documentary film, “The Game Changers.” Per the Alliance, “it tells the story of UFC fighter James Wilks as he travels the world for the truth behind the world’s most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein, strength and optimal health.”

 

 

With that in mind, it says here that Wilks — who was at the Summit for a post-screening Q&A — should have been a part of Kobald’s “Food” panel. Having an athlete who thrives on a plant-based diet in a discussion with animal farmers would have been fascinating and illuminating.

 

James Wilks

James Wilks (Photo credit: vegan-fighter.com)

 

Also missing from the panel was a discussion of the climate change impact of animal-based foods — it is accepted science that it takes between seven to ten times more energy to get animal-based food to one’s plate than plant-based food.

So this was an opportunity missed — hopefully a fuller discussion about food can be part of the 2019 Summit lineup in Philadelphia.

 

CLEMSON UNIVERSITY PLAYS LONG GAME WHEN IT COMES TO BRINGING RECYCLING TO MEMORIAL STADIUM

Eleven years.

That’s how long it took Tom Jones, Director of Custodial, Recycling, Solid Waste and Special Events at Clemson University, and his team to get recycling fully embedded at Memorial Stadium, the 81,500 seat home of Tigers football.

Talk about playing the long game.

As Jones told the story at the “Engagement through Operations, Staff, Fans, and Community” workshop, the Clemson athletics department was very resistant to the introduction of recycling bins at the stadium and, even more so, in the suites — they felt it would be a big annoyance. His approach: Listen to them, overcome their objections one by one, and advance recycling slowly.

“You’re not going to get anywhere trying to tell the athletics department what to do,” advised Jones. “We kept at it with a ‘soft sell’ approach. We showed them that, by having fans, whether in the tailgate area or in the stadium, separate their waste into trash and recycling would make the trash haul much lighter and quicker. They liked that. Then we showed them that the cost of recycling would be the same or lower than the cost of trash hauling. That got their attention. We got students to volunteer. That got their attention, too. But we didn’t pester them. Slowly, they started to come around. Finally, in recent years, the athletics department started coming to us, asking us to help them. Because we were solving problems. And now we have a solid partnership with athletics based on trust.”

 

Clemson Recycle

Blocks of recycled cans and bottles collected by Clemson student volunteers at a home football game in 2014 (Photo credit: Clemson Newsstand)

 

BEST LINE OF THE SUMMIT

At the same “Engagement” workshop, moderator Monica Rowand, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, had us break into groups. Our task was to come up with ways to improve recycling rates among fans, stadium/arena staff and the community. One of the folks in our group was Kelsey Hallowell, the head of waste reduction consultancy Reduction In Motion. When I asked what she does day-to-day, she replied “I get paid to trash talk!”

If Kelsey had a microphone, she would’ve dropped it.

See you in Philadelphia next June!

 

 

^ Philips Arena: Home of the Atlanta Hawks

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Neil Beecroft, Reporting on UEFA’s Euro 2016’s Sustainability Scorecard

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, set high sustainability targets for the EURO 2016 (the biggest event in soccer aside from the FIFA World Cup) championships in France. How did they make out? Neil Beecroft, UEFA EURO 2016’s Sustainability Project Leader, was so keen to tell the event’s story that he took a break from a hiking trip through Colombia to talk with GreenSportsBlog.

 

GreenSportsBlog: First of all, Neil, thank you for taking time away from your vacation to talk with us.

Neil Beecroft: Greetings from Cartagena, Colombia! It is my pleasure!

GSB: Since you’re on holiday, let’s cut to the chase: If I recall correctly, you divided the environmental sustainability elements into four priorities: 1. Public Transport/Mobility, 2. Waste Management, 3. Energy and Water Optimization, and 4. Responsible sourcing. How did EURO 2016 make out vs. its sustainability targets?

NB: Well, that’s a big question. For those with the time and interest, you can read our sustainability report (click HERE for link). For those who don’t, the short answer is we did well for the most part in meeting our stiff targets, with some lessons learned mixed in. Despite the tournament growing from 31 matches for EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine to 51 matches in France this year as the number of teams increased from 16 to 24, in many cases, we actually reduced our overall environmental impact vs. 2012. I’m confident in saying we set an ambitious sustainability standard for mega-sports events. Hopefully future Olympics, World Cups, Euros and more, will replicate some of our initiatives—I expect that most will, by the way. Now, let’s look specifically at each environmental sustainability priority for EURO 2016. On Public Transport/Mobility, one area in which we were not successful was on “Combi Tickets”…

euro2016-sust-report

The EURO 2016 post-event Sustainability Report can be read here.

 

GSB: By Combi Tickets, you mean that a fan could use his or her EURO 2016 match ticket as a train or bus ticket, right? How come you weren’t able to make that happen?

NB: France was different than Austria and Switzerland, which co-hosted EURO 2008, and Poland and Ukraine, which jointly hosted the event in 2012. Combi Tickets were made available on an international basis in 2008 then in 2012 on city-by-city basis. In France for 2016, negotiations with state, host cities and public transport providers didn’t succeed in the end. On the other hand, we had in and towards France 300,000 additional available public transport seats (international and local, combined), which meant fans benefited from an increased and extensive mass transport capacity.

GSB: EURO 2020 is going to break the mold by being hosted in mega cities across Europe rather than in one or two countries, as has always been the case. Will Combi Tickets be a part of that much more spread out tournament?

NB: It’s still too early to know for sure but I do believe that there will be negotiations between the host cities and UEFA. We could study the InterRail system for instance for discounted train tickets. Beyond trains, we also tried to develop a carpooling and ride sharing infrastructure, as well as “Hop On, Hop Off” buses for the future. We could’ve done better, gotten more traction, but it was a good start.

neil-beecroft

Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Project Leader for UEFA’s EURO 2016 (Photo credit: COP21 Paris)

 

GSB: How did EURO 2016 fare in terms of offsetting carbon emissions from flights?

NB: Here we did well. All 24 teams decided, on a voluntary basis, to offset their flight-based emissions. UEFA offset all of its flight-related emissions as well…

GSB: What kind of offsets did UEFA use?

NB: We developed renewable energy projects in New Caledonia. Additionally, all UEFA official travel within 4.5 hours of the tournament had to be done by train. As for fans, there was an eco-calculator, which allowed them to determine their emissions and offset them if they so chose.

GSB: Do you have data on how many fans chose to offset their travel to-from France?

NB: Even though fans could win 10 tickets to the EURO 2016 Final, participation to the offsetting was lower than expected, in part because offsetting is new to many people and can be a bit complex. This is something to improve upon in 2020 for sure by integrating opt-in solutions directly within the ticketing purchasing system.

GSB: I would think improving on transportation related emissions in 2020, when the tournament will be continent-wide, vs. 2016 in which the tournament was played in one country, will be a challenge. But technology and willpower will no doubt improve over the next four years so challenges like this can be surmounted. Let’s turn to Waste Management. How did EURO 2016 make out?

NB: Overall, we reduced the volume of waste at the games vs. 2012, again despite playing 20 more games. We saved significantly on packaging, paper use and signage.

GSB: What about recycling?

NB: For recycling, our target was a 50 percent rate. And, while we did more than double the 18 percent recycling rate achieved in Poland and Ukraine, our 38 percent just didn’t quite make it.

GSB: What caused the shortfall?

NB: A combination of lack of local recycling infrastructure and expertise in some of the 10 French cities in which the tournament was played and expense.

GSB: Was composting in the mix?

NB: Yes. Within stadium kitchens, 12 tonnes (T) of organic waste and cooking oil were segregated for composting. Stadiums did not offer fans a compost bin as they went with a dual bin system; recycling and trash. Fan-generated organic waste was sorted out by stadium staff after the event.

GSB: Adding a composting bin for fans to dispose of organic waste—something for EURO 2020 to strongly consider…

NB: For sure. Back to 2016, our caterer followed a strict sustainability policy within its central kitchen and reached a 66 percent recycling rate which included segregation such as organic (47T), oil (2T), glass (4,5T), etc. In addition, we focused a lot of attention on redistributing unused food and were able to divert over 10 tonnes, including 50,000 sandwiches. For instance in Marseille, food donations went directly to refugees, which was a big deal.

GSB: That’s more than a big deal. Now let’s look at Priority #3, Energy and Water Use Optimization…

NB: A big factor in energy usage at a mega event like EURO 2016 was backup generation capability. Mega sports events often experience energy usage spikes and thus use backup generators to ensure the lights do not cut out in case of unexpected events such as storms…

GSB And these generators are often very energy intense, very dirty, right?

NB: Exactly. At EURO 2016, we used state-of-the-art generators that saved 30,000 liters of fuel vs. 2012, again despite many more games being played. On non-match days, we shut down unnecessary Media Centres since the evolution of technology now enables media to work remotely.

GSB: I imagine that the stadiums in France are more technologically advanced than those of Poland and Ukraine such that energy usage would be significantly less than in 2012…

NB: Actually Poland’s and Ukraine’s stadium infrastructure was more advanced than expected so there was no big advantage for France in 2016. The weather, on the other hand, did favor France, as it was cooler than projected, which resulted in lower energy consumption.

GSB: I remember it being cool during the tournament. What was the on-site solar situation like?

NB: Seven of the ten stadiums had some sort of on-site renewable presence such as micro-wind, or geothermal. In the South of France—for example, in Nice and Bordeaux—solar predominated, in the parking lots and on roofs. In the north, the emphasis was on water harvesting. Three of the ten stadiums also purchased Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and/or carbon offsets. The target for 2020 is 50 percent of the stadiums.

nouveau-stade-de-bordeaux

Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, with solar panels on the roof and in the parking areas, hosted several EURO 2016 matches. (Photo credit: Iwan Baan/Architect Magazine)

 

GSB: You mentioned water briefly. Talk more about how EURO 2016 managed water consumption.

NB: Thanks to MTD Pure Water, a water management company expert at working with mega events, our water usage was optimized. The company proposed solutions aimed at monitoring and minimizing water use, such as timed OW valves for drinking water taps. There were some initiatives that we didn’t undertake. We looked at pumping water from the canal next to the Stade de France, site of the final, for the stadium’s water supply as well as using rain-harvesting systems on the hospitality tents. But both used more energy: the first to pump the water, and the second to install the harvesting systems, so we declined.

GSB: Some of the best actions are the ones you don’t take. Let’s look at the last of the four priorities; Responsible Sourcing.

NB: We did well in many aspects. 2.5 million tickets were printed on FSC paper, as were the 100,000 media and other accreditations. Even more important, an addendum was put into all supplier contracts that they and their supply chain should adhere to UN Global Compact Principles. Our catering company had a sustainability policy so they adhered to sustainability standards. And Kuoni, our accommodations management company, challenged hotels that housed the teams and sponsors for instance on sustainability measures, both environmental and social, including strong child labor protections.

GSB: Did all of the suppliers sign the addendum?

NB: Yes, but it was a challenge to monitor all of them. For 2020 we need to up our game in terms of supplier and supply chain compliance on environmental, labor, corruption and human rights standards.

GSB: So it sounds like, overall, UEFA and EURO 2016 made good sustainability progress vs. 2012. How do you see the big picture?

NB: In terms of overall carbon assessment, the biggest source of emissions for EURO 2016 was new stadium construction…

GSB:…Really? I would’ve thought that fan transportation would be the #1 emissions source. That is certainly the case in the US.

NB: Not in Europe. Mass transit plays a bigger role and the public transport system is efficient, travel distances are shorter, vehicles are more efficient and UEFA shuts down public parking at the stadiums.

GSB: WHOA!!! There was no public parking in stadium parking lots? How did the fans react to that?

NB: Positively, which is probably a surprise to an American reader. But in Europe, we have more comprehensive mass transit systems that are used by a bigger percentage of the people. Since EURO 2016 drew a good percentage of fans from other EU countries, most were happy to use mass transit to get to one of the ten city centers. Local municipalities then developed local mass transit to get fans from the train stations, airports and city centers to the stadiums and back.

GSB: We need to import that system, that pro-mass transit attitude to the states!

NB: Well, I’ll leave that to you, Lew. Back to our biggest source of emissions, stadium construction: The good news is that EURO 2020 is being contested in major cities across the continent in stadiums that, for the most part, already exist.

GSB: Finally, how did UEFA and EURO 2016 communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans?

NB: Fans were encouraged when purchasing their tickets online to offset their carbon emissions via our eco-calculator. Only a small number did so; this has to improve for 2020.

GSB: That would be great for attendees but I’m more interested in how you’re communicating sustainability to the biggest cohort of fans—the millions watching in Europe and around the world. I mean, the 2016 Super Bowl (Super Bowl 50) was the greenest ever by far. Yet, aside from some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area where the game was held, virtually no one knew about the sustainability aspects of the event. A huge opportunity missed

NB: Yes, this is something we must do better at going forward. As said, we did air videos—”Celebrate Football” and “Respect“—promoting notably diversity, but in terms of environmental sustainability, we can do more at EURO 2020.

 

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