GSB Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since May 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams, athletes and events that are helping to lead the sports-greening movement. We haven’t focused on how they’re doing on the field. Until last month, that is. That’s when we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting the recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience. Also, it’s fun. And if there’s one thing the climate change/environmental world can use more of — including the Green-Sports niche — is fun. 

 

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks 

The star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks joined the ranks of eco-athletes when he helped promote “Strawless in Seattle September,” the Lonely Whale Foundation’s (LWF) campaign to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage.

Wilson was challenged by actor and LWF co-founder Adrian Grenier on Instagram to #stopsucking — i.e. stop using straws — at least in September. He accepted and then challenged the “12s” — aka rabid Seahawks fans — to do the same: “I accept [Grenier’s] challenge to #stopsucking. Now I’m challenging you 12s! It’s going to take teamwork to save our ocean from plastic pollution.”

The 12s responded, as did many other Seattleites. According to Lonely Whale, in September alone, 2.3 million single-use plastic straws were removed from the city. In fact, the Seahawks, baseball’s Mariners and Major League Soccer’s Sounders all refrained from giving out straws to fans last month.

Yet, Wilson’s impressive success as a #stopsucking pitch man was outdone by his otherworldly performance on the field during Sunday’s thrilling, 41-38 instant classic win over the Houston Texans and their stellar rookie QB DeShaun Watson. While his stat line is phenomenal — a career-high 452 yards passing including 4 touchdowns (TDs) — it was the way Wilson led the Seahawks back, time and again, after Watson would put Houston ahead. He saved his best for last, driving Seattle 80 yards in just three plays with 1:39 left and no timeouts remaining.

 

Wilson Bleacher Report

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson prepares to pass during Sunday’s epic 41-38 win over the Houston Texans in Seattle (Photo credit: Bleacher Report)

 

The Seahawks, now 5-2 and in a first place tie with the LA Rams in the NFC West, host the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing Wins First Ocean Leg of Volvo Ocean Race

Is GreenSportsBlog a good luck charm, or what?

We shared Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s groundbreaking sustainable sailing story just this past Friday and then what happens?

Saturday, the team, led by Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, won the first leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, which traveled from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, in wire-to-wire fashion, by several hours. They stayed ahead of the other seven boats through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the island of Porto Santo, and north to Lisbon.

“Can’t argue with the results,” said skipper Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”

 

Leg 01, Alicante to Lisbon, day xx,  on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Photo by James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race. 27 October, 2017

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, racing through the Strait of Gibraltar to its way to a  first place finish in Lisbon in the initial leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

Vestas 11th Hour Racing lived its sustainability ethos on the water just as it does on land. On the first day at sea, the crew partook in Meatless Monday, an international campaign to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment. “We are enjoying Mediterranean veggie pasta,” said team director and co-founder Mark Towill. “It is one simple way of lowering our carbon footprint and is part of our commitment to sustainability.”

The team will remain in Lisbon for one week, sharing their commitment to sustainability   with local fans at their interactive Exploration Zone, all the while preparing for the 7,000-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa, which starts November 6th.

 

Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green Rovers FC (FGR) was finding life in League Two (aka the fourth tier) of English football to be challenging after being promoted from the fifth tier for the first time in their 125+ year history in May.  The Greenest Team in Sports — it has earned that distinction in a myriad of ways, from solar panels on its stadium roof to solar powered “Mo-Bots” used to mow the organic pitch to all vegan-only concession stands — found itself in the dreaded “relegation zone” after an embarrassing 4-0 home drubbing by Newport County AFC on October 14th. The relegation zone means FGR was in one of the bottom two places in the 24-team league standings and, if it ended up there at season’s end in May, it would be relegated back down to the fifth tier.

Good thing for Forest Green Rovers is that, at that point, it had only played 13 of its 46 regular season matches. So there was plenty of time for a turnaround.

That turnaround started in strong fashion on the 17th when FGR won a taut 1-0 struggle on the road at 6th place Coventry City. Even more impressive was the comeback win at Stevenage FC on the 21st. Down 1-0 at halftime, FGR netted two goals within 12 minutes to secure the 2-1 win. The Green Devils extended their run of strong play with a third straight win on Saturday, this one a tidy 2-0 home decision over current relegation zone resident Morecambe FC.

 

FGR Morecambe

Keanu Marsh-Brown (upper right in green and black) scores for Forest Green Rovers in their 2-0 home win over Morecambe FC (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers FC)

 

The three game winning streak moved Forest Green Rovers from 23rd to 20th place. While hardly safe — there are 30 matches left and FGR is only one point above 23rd — 17th place is only two points away. Next up is an away test at Crawley Town FC on Saturday.

 

Oregon State Beavers 

Oregon State University became a green-sports leader last year with the launch of BAST — the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team — the first student-athlete run sustainability organization at a Division I school. The now-graduated Samantha Lewis (cross-country) and Jesikah Cavanaugh (swimming) helped steer the group through its infancy and led the establishment of its 3-pronged mission:

  1. Encourage and implement sustainable ideas within the athletic department
  2. Educate our fellow student-athletes about sustainability and environmental issues
  3. Work to engage with the rest of campus and the broader Corvallis community

BAST’s Year One programs included pom-pom and light stick return stations at OSU football games, recycling education tabling at men’s and women’s basketball games, and clear recycling bins — which resulted in increased recycling rates — at baseball games.

According to Cavanaugh, the BAST leadership baton, now in the possession of Marie Guelich (women’s basketball), Sam McKinnon (women’s cross country and track) and Mimi Grosselius (women’s rowing), is “in good hands.”

So how are the Beavers doing on the field/court?

If you’re looking for an on-field/court success story in Corvallis this fall, look no further than the women’s volleyball team. Its 16-8 record includes wins over 14th ranked Washington and 12th ranked Utah. The cross-country team had some early season success, with a second place finish at the Sundogger Invitational in Seattle.

 

OSU volleyball

The Oregon State University women’s volleyball team celebrates their upset over 12th ranked Utah (Photo credit: Mark Hoffman)

 

On the men’s side, the football team is suffering through a 1-7 season and are languishing at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Things are only slightly better for the men’s soccer team, which sits at 6-11 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12. The men’s team enjoying the best season thus far this fall is rowing, which earned a strong third place finish at the famed Head of the Charles regatta in Boston.

 


 

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Oregon State Student Athletes Represent Best of Green-Sports with BAST Program

Cadres of green-minded students and the growing popularity of sustainability as an academic discipline are just two reasons why there is a growing intersection of Green & Sports on campuses across the country. But while athletics and sustainability departments have driven the green-sports bus, student-athletes have taken a back seat to this point. At least, that is, until Oregon State University’s Samantha (“Sam”) Lewis, a cross-country/track runner, and Jesikah Cavanaugh, a swimmer, decided they, along with three other student-athletes wanted to accelerate the greening of OSU sports. GreenSportsBlog talked recently with Sam and Jesikah to get their takes on how they came to take on leading roles in the birth of the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team (BAST), what it has accomplished so far and where they think it will go from here.

 

If you wanted to draw up two characters to be green-sports student athlete pioneers, you would have conjured Sam Lewis and Jesikah Cavanaugh. They helped create the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team or BAST at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Both are life-long environmentalists.

Sam, a runner who grew up in Boulder, CO, told GreenSportsBlog that “sustainability was embedded in my life from an early age. We composted, recycled, rode bikes and snowshoed.” Oregon State was a natural choice due to her “love of the outdoors and of running in the rain.” I get her first love but running in the rain? Not so much.

 

Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis, Oregon State Class of ’17, founding member of BAST, and member of the cross-country/track team  (Photo credit: Oregon State University Athletics)

 

Jesikah’s lifelong appreciation of the environment was nurtured in Anchorage, AK, where, she reports, “everything is clean.” A swimmer by the age of four, Jess says she was inspired by her older, faster sister Meghan. Recruited by Division III schools in Colorado and Pittsburgh, PA, Jesikah applied to OSU almost as an afterthought: “My dad went to Oregon State and I didn’t want to go there. But I was interested in environmental engineering and I liked that their program was tied to chemical engineering rather than civil, as was the case at most schools. I ultimately want to work on water remediation—cleaning and restoration—so that link with chemical engineering was a key reason I ended up in Corvallis.”

 

Jesikah Cavanaugh OSU BAST

Jesikah Cavanaugh, Oregon State Class of ’17, founding member of BAST, and member of the swim team  (Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics)

 

Both overcame serious obstacles in their sports.

Sam, who ran the 6K in cross-country, “suffered lots of injuries,” including a stress fracture in her back during her sophomore year. “It was so frustrating. I was recruited to be a Division I runner at a Pac-12 school and I couldn’t even walk my dog,” shared Sam, “It took a couple of years to be able to compete again, but the work it took to come back was so worth it—it was the best feeling ever.” And the women’s cross-country and track team has faced its own challenges. “The sport was dropped at Oregon State in 1988, rebooted in 2004, so we have been playing catch up against some of the best teams in the country,” explained Sam. But, reflecting her grit, the cross-country squad was able to finish a respectable 12th in the powerful, 35-team West region last year, an improvement of seven places from 2015.

Jes was not offered a swimming scholarship. No problem. She walked on to the Oregon State swim team as a freshman, swimming the 100- and 200-meter butterfly. Her consistent performances (“I never missed a meet!”) earned her a scholarship by her junior year.

With passion for the environment and grit, all that was needed for Sam and Jes to enter the green-sports fray was a cause.

 

The cause turned out to be recycling bins.

You see, Sam was the women’s cross country/track team’s representative on something called the OSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which exists to make the student-athlete experience the best in can possibly be. Per Sam, “It’s not like there was talk of sustainability or climate change at SAAC. I simply asked about getting recycling bins in our locker room. Runners drink tons of chocolate milk so there were empty bottles all over the place and no bins in which to put them. I couldn’t believe that so I had to say something. THAT got discussion going — folks from other sports spoke up about recycling and other environmental issues.”

Associate Athletic Director Kimya Massey saw there was a group of sustainability-minded student-athletes in SAAC, introduced Sam to Jesikah, and suggested they form a green-themed subgroup. He believed a student run group would be unique, gain immediate credibility and could garner broad student and fan interest.

And so in the spring of 2016, the Beaver Athlete Sustainability Team or BAST was born with Sam, Jesikah and 6-8 other student-athletes forming the rest of the initial team. Jesikah said the initial support provided by the Athletic Department was crucial: “They were great from the beginning, allowing us the freedom to create our own initiatives and the opportunity to create change.”

Also per Jesikah, the spring 2016 semester saw the nascent BAST group act in a deliberate, strategic and determined fashion, to “define our three organizing pillars.”

 

Those pillars are as powerful as they are simple.

  1. Encourage and implement sustainable ideas within the athletic department
  2. Educate our fellow student-athletes about sustainability and environmental issues
  3. Work to engage with the rest of campus and the broader Corvallis community

With the pillars in place, Sam, Jesikah and the team knew they had to pivot from planning into action and events.

They staffed an Earth Day booth to let the campus know BAST existed and to learn the community’s view of athletics’ waste and its impacts on the environment. But the group’s big launch took place last fall at Reser Stadium, the home of Oregon State football.

“Tons of ‘stuff’ is given away for free at football games as promotional items,” offered Sam. “Things like pom-poms. Most people use them once; they get thrown out and go right to the landfill. We worked with the marketing team at the athletic department — we brought them in early on and they’ve been super supportive — to run a tabling effort at the Cal (Berkeley) game at which fans would return their pom-poms. Of the 750 pom-poms that were given out, about 500 were collected by BAST members. They were used again at one of Jes’ swim meets this spring.” At the Arizona game, BAST was able to collect about half of the LED light sticks that were given out. Fan engagement was the main goal at one OSU men’s basketball game and one women’s contest as BAST members manned a recycling-education table on the main concourse of Gill Coliseum.

 

OSU Pom Poms

Sam Lewis (l), Jesikah Cavanaugh (front) and the BAST team managed the “Return Pom Pom” effort at select Oregon State home football games in 2016. (Photo credit: OSU Campus Recycling)

 

But it may have been OSU baseball where BAST made its biggest first year impact. Per Sam, “The athletic department provided several clear recycling bins to Goss Stadium and BAST staffed the games to maximize the number of fans who recycled. The clear bins made it easy for fans to see what and how much was going in. This helped increase the amount recycled at the ‘clear bin’ games by a significant amount.”

 

OSU Baseball Recycling

Jesikah Cavanaugh (r), along with teammate Alice Ochs and assistant swim coach Michael Wong collect the clear recycling receptacles from an Oregon State home baseball game (Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics)

 

BAST was honored for its efforts when the Green Sports Alliance recognized the group as its Innovator of the Year at its June summit in Sacramento.

Sam and Jesikah were a bit lonely at the summit, as well as at the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, as they were the only student-athletes to attend. “Athletic directors, facilities managers and sustainability departments are all very into it,” noted Sam. “We showed that student-athletes can drive action and interest in sustainability. Hopefully, more groups like BAST will take off at other schools.”

 

Sam Bill Walton jesikah

Sam Lewis (l), Bill Walton, member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and Jesikah Cavanaugh at the first Pac-12 Sustainability Conference in June. (Photo credit: Sam Lewis)

 

BAST will have to grow without Sam’s and Jesikah’s day-to-day leadership as both graduated in May; Sam with an Exercise and Sports Science (aka Kinesiology) degree and Jesikah as an Environmental Engineering major. But both plan to keep tabs on BAST and also to figure out how to further amplify the voice student-athletes have at the intersection of Green & Sports.

Sam landed at the University of Idaho to work as a graduate assistant with the track team there — she hopes to help student-athletes at the Moscow, ID school start their own version of BAST. Jesikah, who will be in Portland for at least the next six months, working at an internship with Clean Water Services, is bullish on BAST’s future: “The group is in great hands with Marie Guelich (women’s basketball), Sam McKinnon (women’s cross country and track) and Mimi Grosselius women’s rowing) taking the reins.”

The new leadership team is expected to make climate change a bigger focus of BAST’s agenda by, per Jesikah, “measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of OSU athletics, showing a BAST video on the scoreboard at Reser Stadium, and, on a micro-level, bringing composting to the athletic training tables


 

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