The growing Green-Sports world has spawned a cadre of academics who study the movement’s myriad of topic areas. The result is a blossoming of substantive, peer-reviewed research.
The challenge for academics in this newly busy and somewhat unruly space is how to get the research — and its insights — into the hands of Green-Sports practitioners in ways that can be easily digested and acted upon.
Stepping up to try to solve this problem is Madeleine Orr, a PhD candidate in Sport Management at the University of Minnesota. She and several colleagues from Green-Sports academia are launching Sportecology.org on Earth Day — April 22 — as a platform to connect people working in Green-Sports with research that can help propel their efforts forward.
“Academic journal articles are very important but for the most part, nobody reads them except for other academics. The insights in those articles aren’t getting to the people who need them. That is true in the Green-Sports world. We created Sportecology.org to bridge that gap and to become the ‘CliffsNotes’ of sustainable sports.”
So said Madeleine “Maddy” Orr, PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and faculty member in Sport Administration at Ontario’s Laurentian University, about the new venture she and a group of leading sustainable sports academics are launching on April 22 — Earth Day.
Orr envisions Sportecology.org as a platform that will help Green-Sports practitioners — from facilities managers to sustainability coordinators at college athletics departments to organizers of mega-sports events to journalists and more — improve the quality and accelerate the impact of their work.
“Groups like the Green Sports Alliance, Sport Environment Alliance in Australia and BASIS in Great Britain are all doing great work but it is largely anecdotal, based on case studies of one organization’s experience or successful initiative” noted Orr. “Peer reviewed research can give practitioners credibility and offer empirical, scientifically tested evidence to support their ideas and programs. But they can’t get that credibility if they don’t know the research exists.”
Academics will benefit because their audience will be bigger and broader.
“Believe me, no one in academia dreams of having their work gather dust on a shelf,” shared Orr. “I would talk to sport-sustainability colleagues at conferences run by the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) and we’d all ask ‘how can we work better with practitioners; how can we get them to access our work.”
The idea of what would become Sportecology.org popped into the Toronto native’s head in 2015, picking up real steam about a year ago.
“I started to build a database of sport-sustainability journal articles to help me study for my PhD exams, writing it out long-hand at first,” recalled Orr. “At some point, I started to think ‘this should be for everybody.’ So I began to build out what would become Sportecology.org, including starting a digital record of all the files on my computer.”
Each two-paragraph book review-like entry includes:
Article name and author
What question(s) is the author trying to answer
The context of the question(s)
What the author found
Orr, after compiling the first 100 of the 200 or so existing peer-reviewed Green-Sports-focused journal articles, realized she needed assistance to get the platform up and running. That help started to appear after she presented her idea for Sportecology.org at last year’s NASSM conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“I teased the idea in one of my presentations and the audience seemed to love it,” Orr recalled. “Soon after, I got an email from Brian McCullough at Seattle University saying he was interested in collaborating, which was fantastic in helping to get us started. He’s now our Co-Director.”
Orr secured some initial seed money from the University of Minnesota — where she’s getting her PhD — and Laurentian University to get the website off the ground.
Maddy Orr pictured with University of Minnesota Vice-Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, accepting the award for the UMN’s 3 Minute Thesis First Place Winner in December 2017. Maddy was subsequently a finalist in the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools’ 3 Minute Championship Round in 2018 (Photo credit: Silke Moeller)
Other members on what is turning out to be a Sportecology.com All-Star team from the Green-Sports-Academia intersection include Walker Ross, who starts at the University of Florida Southern College in August, Tiffany Richardson, a mentor of Orr’s from the University of Minnesota, NC State’s John Casper, Sylvia Trendafilova at UT Knoxville, Tim Kellison at Georgia State, and Jamee Pelcher, who studied under McCullough and will begin her PhD studies at the University of Tennessee this fall.
The initial interest from Green-Sports academics and the energy brought by the burgeoning Sport Ecology Group begat more funding — from “small grants from universities and companies in the green space,” said Orr. This allowed the group to bring student “Green Teams” to the recent NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Fours and for Orr to produce a Green-Sports podcast series called Climate Champions, on which I was an interviewee. The podcast will launch in June 2019 as a limited series, and will be available on iTunes and Spotify.
Maddy (far right, kneeling) and some of her students in Tampa where they served as the Green Team at the recent NCAA Women’s Final Four (Photo credit: Mykelti Stephens)
After Earth Day, the Sportecology.org team will shift their efforts into a higher gear.
Per Orr, “We will have student interns this summer who will help us get the remaining sport ecology journal articles up on the site by August. Every month, a team member will write a news summary article. And we will highlight the news and activities of the academic side of the sport sustainability arena every quarter. We’re also building a ‘story map’ of all the sport management programs at universities, and organizations that have Green Sports programming or commitments, to accelerate collaboration between the private and university sectors. The goal is to become an easy access portal for Green-Sports practitioners, as well as professors, students and anyone interested in the topic.”
GSB’s Take: If one wanted evidence of the maturing of the Green-Sports world, the launch of Sportecology.org is a good data point. It says here that the site will quickly become a valuable resource for practitioners of all stripes, including GreenSportsBloggers. I for one look forward to digging into Sportecology.org come Earth Day.
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The Green Sports Alliance and Executive Director Justin Zeulner, its Executive Director since 2014, recently parted company. The Portland, OR-based organization will soon begin a search for its next leader.
“Since leaving Vulcan Philanthropy/Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in 2014 to lead the Green Sports Alliance, Justin has successfully guided the organization to new heights. The sports greening movement has become a relevant change agent and prevailing force in environmental stewardship, enabling the sports and entertainment industry to create healthier, more sustainable communities where we live and play. As one of the inaugural members of the Green Sports Alliance and innovators of our movement through his earlier career at the Portland Trail Blazers, we cannot thank Justin enough for his efforts, dedication to our mission and service to our members, stakeholders, and the organization,” the Alliance said in a statement.
“It has been both an honor and privilege to work closely with everyone involved in developing the Green Sports Alliance and our global movement,” said Zeulner. “It is with a heavy heart that I leave the organization, but I’m thrilled with the amazing progress we have made, together. I look forward to continuing to work with the entire sports greening family as I enter this new chapter in my life.”
Justin Zeulner (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)
GREEN-SPORTS 2.0 CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES LIE AHEAD FOR NEXT ALLIANCE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Alliance said it will soon launch a national search for its next Executive Director.
Whoever takes that job will be doing so as the Sports Greening Movement continues its transition from Green-Sports 1.0 (the greening of the games and the stadia and arenas in which they are played) to Green-Sports 2.0 (engaging sports fans to take positive environmental actions).
In the space of about a decade, Green-Sports 1.0 has become an unqualified success. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Alliance and of people like Justin Zeulner, LEED certified stadia and arenas, Zero-Waste games, on-site renewables and more have become commonplace.
The next Alliance Executive Director will certainly have a plate full of Green-Sports 2.0 challenges and opportunities.
To my mind, demonstrating to teams, leagues, corporate sponsors and mainstream sports media outlets that sports fans will react positively to environmentally-themed messaging and marketing initiatives needs to be at the top of the list. This goes for fans who attend games as well as the much larger group who consumes sports on TV, online and elsewhere, but not at the stadium or arena.
The good news is that there are reams of publicly available data that show broad public support for renewable energy (“2/3 of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy over fossil fuels”^), climate change (“Most Americans say climate change affects their local community”*), carbon pricing (“Yale poll shows nationwide support for revenue-neutral carbon tax”**) and other green indicators.
Infographic from Yale Center for Climate Change Communications showing widespread support throughout the US for revenue neutral carbon pricing (August 2018)
The Alliance must buttress these data by funding quantitative research that would measure fan awareness of, interest in, and engagement with, Green-Sports initiatives. It last invested in such research in 2014. Those results are old news; such studies need to be conducted annually or biannually.
Hey, keeping score is what sports is all about?
But what if, for argument’s sake, the next study shows that awareness of Green-Sports initiatives among fans is low? Wouldn’t that kind of negative result be a disaster for the Green-Sports movement?
It just would mean that the Alliance — and its global counterparts BASIS (UK), Sport Environment Alliance (Australia) and SandSI (Europe and elsewhere) — are in the early innings of a long Green-Sports 2.0 game.
She is shepherding the growth and direction of the sustainability efforts of Formula E, the fully-electric racing series which is about to start its fifth season. And, as if that is not enough, Ms. Pallé is also President of the fledgling Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI).
GreenSportsBlog spoke to Ms. Pallé about what we can expect from Formula E and SandSI.
GreenSportsBlog: Bonjour, Julia. It’s great to chat with you. Senior Sustainability Consultant of Formula Eand President of SandSI. Sacre bleu! You sure have a lot going on. Since Formula E preceded SandSI for you, let’s start there. Were you always into cars and motorsports?
Julia Pallé: Well, I grew up in Clermont-Ferrand in France, the town where Michelin is headquartered. I was not so much into motorsports growing up but I loved many other sports. I tried them all: Running, kite surfing, wakeboarding, skiing, dancing…oh, and rugby also. I loved the outdoors and knew I always wanted to be close to nature. From the beginning, my desire was to work in sustainability and make a difference so I studied sustainability management and change management and earned a business degree at the Université of Grenoble.
Julia Pallé, Senior Sustainability Consultant for Formula E and President of SandSI (Photo credit: Formula E)
GSB: I wish they had those disciplines when I was in school back in the Dark Ages! So how did you put it into practice?
JP: I went to work for Michelin in 2012…
GSB: In your hometown?
JP: Exactly! I worked in the motor sport division…
GSB: Ahhh…that’s where you got your start…
JP: Yes…Implementing sustainability programs.
GSB: How did that go?
JP: It went well. The group had a sustainability plan but the motor sports division wasn’t specific enough. With the support of management, I helped tighten things up. We did a Life Cycle Assessment on our rally racing tires…from materials sourcing to construction to the event to end of life. Thanks to that analysis, management made some significant changes: In terms of materials, we switched to natural rubber, which greatly reduced our environmental impact. And this kind of transition can have tremendous impact on passenger cars.
GSB: Very impressive, Julia. So how did you end up moving to Formula E?
JP: When Formula E began a few years ago, they started to come up with sustainability standards for their tires. Michelin felt it needed to be the standard and so we developed a hybrid tire specifically for Formula E. I wrote part of the the standard so Formula E and I began to know each other and eventually they recruited me to manage their sustainability department.
GSB: That must’ve been quite a change…
JP: Oh yeah. Formula E is based in London so I moved there. And I started traveling around the world for the races. It is a lot of travel but it’s great and important work.
GSB: An all-EV open wheel racing circuit? It is very important work, indeed. Formula E has grown quite a bit in just four seasons…
JP: For sure. For me it has been a great opportunity. I was among the first wave of employees, when we were pretty much a blank slate. Now there are more than 120 employees from 20 different nationalities in our London office. We are now a Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile or FIA certified international championship…
GSB: A la Formula 1?
JP: Yes. We have races now in Africa, Asia, Europe, as well as North and South America. Australia is next.
GSB: That just leaves Antarctica…
JP: Well, we actually brought a Formula E car down to Antarctica to shoot a video. Icebergs were breaking at the time so we had to drive on the icecap. It was incredible. The car was able to drive on an icecap. We also shot a video of a Formula E car racing a cheetah in Africa.
GSB: That is so cool! Who won?
JP: The car, but it was very tight!
Formula E car and a cheetah racing in Africa (Photo credit: Motor Trader)
GSB: So I would imagine that sustainability would have to be a core part of an EV racing championships DNA. Am I right?
JP: Certainly. From the beginning, Formula E worked to manage our events in a sustainable fashion, to ISO standards. We engage deep into our supply chain to make sure we use sustainable products and services. We recently achieved ISO 20121 certification for the entire championship. Every season, we conduct a Life Cycle Assessment to become more efficient in all aspects of our operations.
GSB: As part of that assessment, does Formula E measure its carbon footprint year to year? If so, how are you doing?
JP: So far it’s been difficult to compare our carbon footprint over time in a meaningful way. That’s because we keep adding races and changing the schedule so we haven’t been able to measure in an apples-to-apples comparison way yet. But we are working on better metrics for sure. For now, we can say we know we are doing the right things, sustainability-wise and the results we do have are positive.
GSB: What is Formula E doing to connect with the communities it visits regarding its sustainability initiatives?
JP: Our goal is to leave a positive legacy in all of our cities. Our Fan Zones and Allianz E-Village allow fans to really interact with the EVs and the drivers…
Signage along the race wall promoting EVs and the Allianz E-Village at July’s Formula E race in Red Hook, Brooklyn (Photo credit: Formula E)
GSB: That may be the most powerful green thing you can do: Give fans an up close experience with EVs…
JP: Yes…We have a gaming zone to attract younger fans and a driving zone where fans can get behind the wheel of an EV race car. And we make tickets to the races affordable to appeal to the widest audience possible. Since you are in New York City, you should know that we are working with the New York Earth Day Initiative to promote renewable energy and recycling. And the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) will have a booth. Our drivers are our best ambassadors, spreading the benefits of EVs whenever they can.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) booth at the Formula E event in Red Hook, Brooklyn in July (Photo credit: Formula E)
GSB: Plus Formula E races are on city streets…
JP: Yes! We are of the mind that our races themselves will change consumer behaviors. As you say, we are racing EVs on city streets mainly in urban centers. Fans see that and say to themselves “that could be me driving an EV!”
Formula E cars racing through Red Hook, Brooklyn (Photo credit: Formula E)
GSB: That’s the best advertising you can have for EVs…How many people attended Formula E races during the season?
JP: Over 360,000 fans have come to Formula E races in season four – which shows the appetite and curiosity of electric cars and electric racing is fast-growing!
GSB: Impressive! And what about reaching audiences beyond the races themselves — Where can fans watch Formula E races on TV and/or online?
JP: We are on cable now. FS1 airs us in the US and you can stream us via their website or app. Similar deals are in place in Europe.
GSB: How have the ratings been in the US and Europe?
JP: We don’t have exact figures for season four just yet, but we are expecting a projected cumulative TV audience of over 300 million.
GSB: What’s next for Formula E? Are you all looking at a stock car series like NASCAR? I have to believe that fans watching EVs race that they could actually buy would even be more powerful.
JP: We wholeheartedly agree! And the timing of your question is spot on. In addition to Formula E’s season 5 [click here to watch a preview video], next season we will also launch our Formula-E Support Series in which drivers will race modified Jaguar I-Pace EV SUVs. It is our intention to showcase EVs that fans can buy right now.
GSB: How do you think the Support Series will do vs. the new Electric GT Series, which will race stock car Teslas? It is scheduled to launch this November in Spain.
JP: It will definitely be interesting to watch its progress but the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY is quite different as it showcases technology first tested in Formula E in a modified road car – which is the perfect example of what Formula E is aiming to do within motorsport.
GSB: All in all, the world of EV racing, open wheel-wise and stock car-wise is growing rapidly. You sure are in the place to be right now. And that doesn’t even take into account your work with Sport and Sustainability International or SandSI. How did you get involved and what you are doing there?
JP: The founders of SandSI got in touch with me and invited me to attend the “birth meeting” in Lausanne, Switzerland in November, 2016 and to be a board member. Formula E was happy that I would have a seat at the table in this new organization which was very important. As with most every startup, the structure of SandSI was continuously evolving. I was asked to be a Vice President in September 2017 and then, just three months later I was asked to be President! And this May, at our 2nd Congress, the members elected me to a 4-year term as President. Plus every year, the members can vote to change the structure, change the President, which means I am very accountable. All of this is much better than simply being appointed.
GSB: Absolutely! And it’s great to be speaking to Madame la Presidente! So what is happening with SandSI and what are your goals for your term?
JP: Our focus is global, to ensure that the most sustainable practices are disseminated to sports organizations all over the world and to put sustainability and sports on the agenda of major global organizations like the UN. Our three main priorities are 1. Alignment and strategy surrounding UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2. ISO 20121 implementation 3. Monitoring, measuring and reporting. Thus we are working closely with organizations like UNEP and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to ensure sports is well represented in their work.
GSB: Do these organizations get the power of sports…
JP: Many people do; it is our job to make sure the voice of sports is heard loud and clear throughout those organizations.
GSB: There are of course Green-Sports organizations and trade groups throughout the world — the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), mostly in North America and now Japan, BASIS in the UK, Sport Environment Alliance (SEA) in Australia. How will you differentiate SandSI from those groups? And how will you work with them? Is there a need for all of these groups or will there be consolidation?
JP: We see ourselves as a global umbrella organization and we need to have regional peers. SandSI is here to offer practical support to all sporting organization looking to advance sustainability internationally through their sport. Thus we are in dialogue with them. In fact SEA is a founding member of SandSI. We are in touch with the GSA and BASIS to see how we can add value together.
GSB: Good luck sorting all of that out and all the best with the launch of the Formula E Support Series.
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The Green-Sports movement is in its early days in Australia and New Zealand. After speaking with Sheila Nguyen, the visionary, “won’t take no for an answer”-type Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA), the organization leading the charge Down Under, I am confident that the Green-Sports movement is in great hands.
GreenSportsBlog: Sheila, it’s clear from your American accent that you’re not originally from Australia. How did you get from here to there and how did you come to begin and lead the Green-Sports movement Down Under?
Sheila Nguyen: It’s a long story, Lew…
GSB:…I’m not going anywhere. Go!
SN: OK you asked for it! My parents are refugees from Vietnam, leaving during the war in the late 70s. They landed in Boston before moving to Lowell, where I was born. They wanted to get into the American culture so when my brother was born, they named him Larry after Larry Bird.
GSB: I’m trying to think of the sports figure who’s name is Sheila and I’m drawing a blank.
SN: Well they named me after a French singer named Sheila so not everything was Americanized. Anyway when I was a young girl, my parents, being very traditional, kept me inside all the time. I became obese. I ended up forging my mom’s signature to get the ok to play youth soccer when I was 10. They called me “The Bulldozer”. I was hooked on sports. It was really a life-changing event for me. We moved around a lot but I became incredibly active, swimming, cheerleading, you name it. And sports became embedded in my DNA.
GSB: WOW! Amazing. What did you do with this sports passion?
Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director of Sports Environment Alliance (SEA). (Photo credit: Sheila Nguyen)
SN: I rowed at the University of Vermont, was a psychology and sports medicine major. And I had a summer internship at the University of Albany when the New York Giants trained there. So I got even more into it. In fact, when it came time to look at grad schools for Sports Psychology, I only considered schools that were in that year’s NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. And whichever school made it the furthest into the tourney, that’s where I was going!
GSB: For real? Basing your graduate school selection on March Madness?
SN: That year, Villanova, Michigan State and Temple all made it into the tournament; Temple got all the way to the Elite Eight. Next thing I knew, I was headed to North Philly. Then I decided to get a PhD. in Sports Business and Corporate Social Responsibility at Florida State…
GSB: Did they make a deep NCAA Tournament run that year?
SN: No…I didn’t make my PhD decision based on the NCAA’s- I chose them as they were ranked in the top 5 for doctoral studies in sport business. My dissertation was on How Sports Can Be a Force for Good…And Good Business—I was able to provide evidence that this was the case; that doing good enhanced the business, as a whole, with lots of organizational outcomes like employee loyalty.
GSB: So where did the environmental sustainability piece come in?
SN: Again going back to my parents and their backgrounds as refugees…they were incredible savers; they wanted absolutely no waste. And one of my childhood friends had hippy parents. They composted, for goodness sakes!
GSB: In the 80s? Composting?
SN: Yep! So I was an environmentalist from when I was about eight years old.
GSB: I’m quite sure I had no idea what composting was when I was 28, much less eight. That is great to hear. So I get where your greenness comes from as well as your passion for sports. How did you come to combine the two?
SN: Great question. It goes back to 2007 when I started my job as Assistant Professor in Sport Management at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia…
GSB: Ahhhhh! So THAT’S where Australia comes in! I was going to ask about that. OK, continue…
SN: And in 2008 I started to do some research on the intersection of environmental sustainability and the sport industry- when I posed it to my class of sport industry professionals, their reaction was evidence that the industry was highly disconnected to their responsibility to their spaces and places of play.
GSB: They didn’t care…Not good.
SN: Fast forward to 2011, when I was a visiting scholar at Notre Dame in Business Ethics.
GSB: So I assume you went to a Notre Dame football game or two?
SN: Absolutely!! What an experience! An even more important one was, while at Notre Dame, I found out about the Green Sports Alliance, went to their first Summit in Portland. That was my “Eureka! Moment” where I said to myself “We have to bring this to Australia!” I talked to the folks at the GSA about doing so but, at the time, they were much more focused on growing their footprint and influence in North America. So that’s when I thought, “I’m going to build something like GSA to represent and attend to the needs of this region.”
GSB: How did you go about it? That seems like a massive undertaking, especially for someone who already had a full time job.
SN: You’re right. But I wasn’t going to wait around. So in 2011, I started talking to organizations like the AFL (Aussie Rules Football), Tennis Australia and other major sports organizations in the country. There was a modicum of interest in doing something around sustainability. Luckily, shortly after starting at Deakin, I met Malcolm Speed, one of the most important figures in Australian sport. Malcolm became my mentor and without him, the Sports Environment Alliance would not exist.
GSB: Who is Malcolm Speed?
SN: I’ll answer that this way: In 2013, David Stern, at that time still commissioner of the NBA, said “35 years ago, a man walked into my office, saying he wanted to start a basketball league in Australia. That man was Malcolm Speed. The lesson? Always keep your office door open!” Malcolm started professional basketball in Australia. He’s a globally reputed and respected sport administrator, and I think he has a crystal ball because he can foresee the industry challenges, like environmental degradation and its impact on our industry.
SN: Well, I’ve got him! Anyway, we knew that the North American sports industry had advanced in terms of considering ways to protect our planet, so in 2013 we decided to host a symposium, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, and we invited North American leaders to share their insights alongside local leaders. We were fortunate to get a number of amazing industry eco-warriors like, Kevin Carr at the NBA, Brian Thurston at Waste-Management, and Brad Mohr, who then worked for the Cleveland Indians in sustainability and now does so for the Browns, to come down and present. We also had leaders from this part of the world doing amazing things, and pretty much all of the major sports associations attending the event—Aussie Rules, Rugby Union, Rugby League, A-League Soccer, Tennis Australia, Cricket Australia, Golf, Basketball, Netball…
GSB: That sounds like a phenomenal level of participation…Who funded this? And how many people showed up?
SN: Deakin supported us and I chipped in to fund it…
GSB: You dipped into your own pocket? That is true devotion…
SN: I look at it like an investment, both in my own future in green-sports and for the environment more broadly. We had about 200 attendees, which we were happy about.
GSB: I’ll say! Australia is less than 10 percent of the US population so that would be like drawing 2,000 or more in the States. That’s really impressive, Sheila. So what were the key take-aways?
SN: That the stadium and arena operators needed to be heavily involved up front. One reason is they could convert knowledge on sustainable operations to practical improvements most easily. And number two is that sports are run differently in Australia as compared to North America. Down here, for the most part, teams are tenants of the stadium and arena owners so they haven’t yet leveraged their position to engage fans on sustainability through education through entertainment, aka, “edutainment.”
GSB: But sustainability isn’t really “entertainment”…it’s more of a cause. Don’t teams do cause marketing in Australia?
SN: They do get involved in some causes- in fact, they are highly involved with various causes, such as breast cancer awareness, racial vilification, and so on, but the environment is less ‘humanized’ and thus, the sporting public has had a more challenging time in engaging it and also probably see it as more of a future problem to be dealt with later.
GSB: It seems like the teams are letting themselves off the hook…also the “environmental problems are in the future” attitude is something we fight in North America as well. How do you start the conversation with the industry?
SN: I start off by reminding them about their ‘locality’ and what is important in this part of the world to protect. I say we need to protect Australiana, the 24,000 unique species of flora and fauna that exist only in Australia. The other message we share is on how environmental changes can impact our communities. In the 2000’s, Australia experienced serious drought. Community sport was affected as the grounds couldn’t be watered. You might think, “oh this is a problem, but, in the scheme of things, not that big of one.” Well, you would be wrong. Participatory and community sports are huge parts of the Australian culture and the drought cut that off in many cases, which impacted the community connectedness. In many parts of remote and rural Australia, sport is a way of life and a means to socialize and feel connected to one’s neighbors, who may live many kilometers away. As a result, the story is, and there are data to support it, that the drought-related cancellation of community sports led to a marked rise in depression, mental illness and even suicide from the increasing feeling of isolation and loss of identity and connection. So, we would like to say, that this movement is about protecting our communities as much as it is about protecting our spaces to play.
GSB: I had no idea. That is a HUGE story that needs to be told more broadly. Now it makes perfect sense to me that the Sports Environment Alliance was created. How did it happen?
SN: Malcolm and I started to put it together in 2014 as we saw interest in the topic at the symposiums held then. We created the Sports Environment Association (SEA) with a simple mission: To get sports to minimize its environmental impact. We saw this goal as attainable because, if done right, it would also lead to cost cutting, which venues and sports federations would appreciate as they are searching for ways to become more financially independent. In my spare time, as I was still working full time, Malcolm and I chipped away at spreading the ‘good word’, and in our first year, 2015, we were able to get 15 foundation members, including Tennis Australia, Cricket Australia, among many other amazing leaders, including, an AFL club, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the City of Melbourne itself.
Aerial view of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, one of Australia’s most venerable sporting venues and a founding member of Sports Environment Alliance (Photo credit: Matt Tubb, Airship Solutions)
GSB: WOW! That’s impressive, Sheila, well done! What are the next steps for SEA?
SN: Now that we’ve got the national sport and other industry leaders on board, we are focused on spreading the good word about the role the industry can play in bettering our environmental health. This is why our first step in addressing our mission was to build awareness of the movement and of the respective issues. In 2016-17, our main aim is to grow the ‘herd,’ through alliance membership. To that end, we just hired both our first and second employee ever—we’re a true startup, having been all volunteers up to now, Lew! And to be truly regional, we are excited to embrace our Trans-Tasman friends from New Zealand. On the latter, we recently secured Auckland Stadiums as our first Kiwi Foundation member, as they represent an enthusiastic and eco-focused group of nine facilities, which can make a world of difference and motivate the rest of the country’s sports industry to be part of the movement. Eventually, should it make sense, we hope to influence and increase the regional representation to the whole of Asia Pacific, and I think we can. Some other exciting news, we’ve started an athlete ambassador program. In fact, Daria Gavrilova, number 20 globally ranked female tennis player, and Marcus Bontempelli, an AFL player, were just featured in the Melbourne Herald Sun, sharing their support of the environment through the #SEAAmbassadors hashtag.
Daria Gavrilova, Australian tennis star and supporter of Sports Environment Association (Photo credit: HD Photos)
GSB: That is so exciting. Good luck on all fronts! One last question…It seems as though SEA is not bringing climate change into the mix. Is that an accident? Or are the politics of climate change in Australia toxic, similar to the situation here in the US?
SN: We haven’t really used the term climate change in our mainstream communication, but as you are aware, it is a highly politicized topic- in fact, I would say, it has been a political football. And, while we love sports, we don’t play games with climate change. For us, it is about impact on the ground, and minimizing our impact on the ground is our priority.
GSB: But isn’t avoiding saying the words “climate change” just acquiescing to the deniers and skeptics?
SN: As the first Green-Sports organization in our part of the world and as a start-up, we are taking first things first with the sports industry. That means getting the industry to recognize its crucial societal role, and two, to encourage sporting organizations, stadiums and other industry friends to be more environmentally friendly. That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring climate change; we’re just leading with overall environmental change at present, hence our motto #SEAtheChange . But don’t worry; we’re already partnering with various great groups focused on climate change issues, such as the Climate Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and many others. I say, to use an American football or gridiron analogy, move the football 10 yards at a time- that’s progress, and we’ll eventually get that climate change touchdown.
GSB: I know that dealing with climate change and sports is challenging in Australia as in the US. And, since you’re a startup, I think you’re right to focus on action now and take on climate change directly down the road—just not too far down the road J I look forward to coming down to Australia to check out SEA’s progress for myself.
SN: You got it Lew- any friend of the environment is a friend of ours.
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A busy GSB News & Notes kicks off with the newly minted Zero-Waste Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Zero-Waste part is new; the Coliseum opened during the Harding Administration). Also greening is tennis’ first major championship, the Australian Open, now underway in Melbourne. And, finally, a brief send off from GreenSportsBlog to President Obama, the first POTUS to publicly talk about the importance of the intersection of Green + Sports, on his last full day in office.
LA COLISEUM GOES ZERO-WASTE
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is huge, both literally—it holds 93,607 for football— and in terms of its place in American and global sports history.
The Los Angeles Coliseum, packed and jammed for USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry game in 2005 (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)
Just consider that the Coliseum:
Hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. If Los Angeles is chosen to host in 2024, the Coliseum will play a key role.
Was the landing place for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958 (until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962)
Is the home of USC Trojans football. UCLA shared the Coliseum with its crosstown rival from 1928-1981*.
Starting last season, is the temporary home for the NFL Rams after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. The club will move to the gaudily-named City Of Champions Stadium—for the 2019 campaign#.
And, as of 2016, this west coast sports mecca became a Zero-Waste facility—the second-largest such stadium in college football and the largest in the NFL.
“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum. This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. “Our university, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”
“A large part of making our communities a better place includes making as little an impact on the environment as possible,” said Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement.
The Zero Waste program diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste over the season. It took a 3-step effort between fans (who first sorted waste into bins), a crew of 80-100 custodial and sustainability staff (who further sorted the waste), and Athens Services, the Coliseum’s recycling partner, to make the grade.
Recycling bin outside of the LA Coliseum on USC game day (Photo credit: USCTrojans.com)
The team responsible for sustainability at the Australian Open—Tennis Australia (governing body of tennis in Australia), Melbourne & Olympic Parks (host facility of the Australian Open), and the State of Victoria—is in the midst of a 15 year, $AUD700 million redevelopment project with the goal to establish Melbourne & Olympic Park as “one of the most sustainable sports and entertainment venues in the world.”
About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog gave the Australian Open “Green Team” high marks for their on-site sustainability efforts but saw room for improvement in 2016 in terms of fan engagement and awareness of their sustainability good works.
How did they make out?
Thanks to a fine case study from the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA, Australia’s version of the Green Sports Alliance), it looks like the Tennis Australia and the Australian Open continued its strong greening performance on site but the fan engagement portion still rates an “Incomplete” grade. The Tennis Australia Green Team:
Continued its decrease in water usage. The effort, which started in 2008, has now reached 25 percent, in part by:
Irrigating Melbourne Park with recycled water thanks to large underground water tanks installed onsite.
Switching irrigation systems from overhead spray to drip and sub surface.
Installing above ground water tanks at Hisense Arena with 550,000-liter capacity to use rainwater for washing courts, stadiums and irrigation.
Invested in smart solar powered lighting
Converted 100% of takeaway food packaging to recyclable materials
Ensured all seafood is served according to Australia’s Marine Conservation Society’s Seafood Watch “avoid list”
Added state-of-the-art roof coatings that reflect 70 percent of the sun’s heat, keeping buildings cooler on the many very hot days that often plague the tournament.
Infographic detailing Australian Open/Tennis Australia’s greening efforts from Sports Environment Alliance
Tennis Australia still needs to better communicate the existence and benefits of the green initiatives to fans. This last point is echoed in the SEA case study: “Australian Open organizers know all about these greening efforts, however there remains a need to engage” the 700,000+ fans expected to attend the tournament about the greening efforts. I would add that fans watching on TV and online also need to be made aware that the Australian Open is a leader of the Green-Sports movement.
LAST DAY IN OFFICE FOR FIRST POTUS TO TALK GREEN-SPORTS
Today is the last full day in office for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It is not at all a stretch to say he was the first Climate Change President: Obama, mainly through executive actions, authored more stringent fuel economy standards for automobiles; enacted the Clean Power Plan, which is leading to a reduction in carbon emissions; signed a meaningful carbon emissions deal with China, and led the effort that resulted in the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 195 countries. He also is the first POTUS ever to publish a peer reviewed journal article,“The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” appearing in Science.
Obama, a serious sports fan and, at 55, still a competitive basketball player, was also the first POTUS to publicly discuss the power of the intersection of Green + Sports. GreenSportsBlog chronicled Obama’s and his administration’s dives into Green-Sports, from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz speaking to the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit to the White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtables to POTUS’ mention of the NHL’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ commitment to sustainability (“we wanna continue to have ice so that we can play hockey”) at the latter’s White House ceremony celebrating its 2016 Stanley Cup win.
President Obama talks Green-Sports at the October 2016 ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).
As Vice President Joe Biden so eloquently put it after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in 2010, Obama’s Green-Sports forays were “big BLEEPING deals” for the movement. Because, while the sports world has done incredible work greening the games themselves over a very short time span (the Obama presidency began before the Green Sports Alliance was launched), it has a long way to go as far as generating fan awareness of, and interest in said greening is concerned. A President talking about Green-Sports automatically generates both.
Obama used sports to promote social causes beyond Green-Sports. Has there ever been a POTUS who embodied Nelson Mandela’s “Sport can change the world!” ethos more than the 44th President? I think not. Among other things, Obama:
And, it seems likely that the first black President was a key catalyst for the recent expressions of social conscience by African American athletes. That’s one of the points made in “Obama’s Basketball Jones Connected Him to Hoopheads Everywhere” by Mike Wise^. His STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS column appears in the January 17 issue of ESPN’s The Undefeated, a website that explores “the intersections of race, sports and culture.”
President Obama, driving to the basket during a pickup game with White House staffers at Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2009. (Photo credit: The White House/Pete Souza, official photographer)
Will President Trump link sports and social causes? If so, which causes will he pursue? It is safe to assume that Green-Sports will not be a high priority for the 45th President. But that’s a discussion for another day.
For now, I say a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for his service, leadership (especially on climate change), integrity and dignity.
* UCLA has called the Rose Bowl home since 1982.
# The Rams will be joined by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.