The New England Patriots knocked off the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in a defensive struggle to win Super Bowl LIII at Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their sixth championship of the otherworldly 18 year Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The environment played a small but, it sez here, increasingly prominent role vs. recent Super Bowls. So before the pro football world turns its attention to free agency in March, April’s NFL Draft and the race to Super Bowl LIV in Miami¹ next February, here is a quick rundown of the Green-Sports happenings that surrounded yesterday’s Super Bowl LIII
EAGLES’ CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, WINS WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF YEAR AWARD
While Eagles stalwart defensive end Chris Long did not win a third consecutive Super Bowl ring last night — he played important roles in Philadelphia’s championship in 2018 after winning one with the Patriots the year before — he did earn the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. It honors a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field.
Long’s — and his Chris Long Foundation’s — main charitable initiative is Waterboys, a program that has united NFL players, professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. By February 2018, Long’s goal of building 32 clean water wells, one for every NFL team, was met. Long has now set a goal of providing clean water to one million people.
“I am honored to be named the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and to join the long line of men who have received this prestigious honor,” Long said in a statement. “I am humbled by the support we have received from my peers who have donated to our various matching-campaigns, the commitment and perseverance displayed by the [military] veterans who have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me each year, and the generosity of our fans who have made vital contributions to our foundation over the years.”
Chris Long, after winning the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)
Click here and here for GreenSportsBlog’s coverage of the Chris Long-Waterboys story.
BUDWEISER WIND POWER AD GETS VALUABLE ON AIR MENTION
Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad, “Wind Never Felt Better,” which featured Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” to highlight the the brand’s commitment to wind power, was the second most watched ad online, with 24.3 million views during and immediately after the game. Only Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes The Cut,” drew more online eyeballs, with 33.4 million views.
In addition to that sizable online audience, 100 million or so people were exposed to the 45 second ad on the CBS Sports TV broadcast. And, when the ad was over and the game broadcast was about to resume, play-by-play man Jim Nantz intoned “Budweiser, powered by the wind.” That extra branding, which further cemented the mainstreaming of wind power for a massive viewership, is the cherry on top to what I thought was a solid B+ ad.
CBS play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz (l), flanked by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and color commentator Tony Romo (Photo credit: CBS Sports)
Some ad critics, like Chicago Tribunemedia reporter Steve Johnson, did not like “Wind Never Felt Better” as much as I did.
Per Johnson’s review, “A Dalmatian. Clydesdales. Amber waves of grain. Bob Dylan, singing about blowing wind. Budweiser trots out all the icons as the horse and dogs are revealed to be traveling through a wind farm. It’s meant to underscore the giant beer’s commitment to sustainable energy, but the message is about as clear as a hazy IPA, a type of beer Bud decidedly is not. ‘Now Brewed with Wind Power,’ says the large type in the ad. ‘Renewable electricity from wind power is one type of energy we use to brew,” says the small [type]’, which you can read if you freeze the screen.”
There is some truth to Johnson’s critique. After all, the viewer has to wait for 30 seconds or so before she/he gets clued in to the Budweiser-wind power connection and that’s too long, especially in this era of micro-attention spans.
Still, it says here that Johnson missed the big picture: An ad promoting wind power reached an audience of at least 110 million people on TV and another 24 million online.
GREENSPORTSBLOGGER TALKS GREEN-SPORTS ON SUPER BOWL-THEMED PODCAST
One final Super Bowl LIII-themed note: I was pleased to talk Green-Sports with Marc de Sousa Shields on his excellent The Sustainable Century podcast a couple of days before the big game.
Marc opens the 24-minute interview by saying, “there are more sports fans than there are sustainability fans and we’ve gotta convert them!”
Marc de Sousa Shields, host of The Sustainable Century podcast (Photo credit: Marc de Sousa Shields)
The New England Patriots have been on the “Leading Edge” of pro football since 2001. After all, they are about to play in their ninth Super Bowl¹ in the 18-year Belichick-Brady era on Sunday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta.
Thus, it is fitting that the first Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference was hosted by Excel Dryer and D|13 at the Pats’ Gillette Stadium last month.
The conference’s centerpiece was a discussion among a panel of Green-Sports All Stars. They took a deep dive into the past, present and especially the future of green sports venue design and operations, with an emphasis on how to make stadiums and arenas as energy efficient and fan-friendly as possible.
The opportunity to earn Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits along with the chance to throw and catch passes on the same field as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were likely what drew architects — as well as contractors, property managers and more — to Gillette Stadium on a foggy January night for the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference.
View from the field at Gillette Stadium during the Leading Edge Sustainable Stadium Design Conference (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)
But it was the panel discussion, moderated by Joe Khirallah of Green Bear Group, on the Green-Sports movement’s past, present and future, that kept the audience’s rapt attention.
“At several points during the discussion, I looked out to the audience and noticed that no one was looking at their cell phones,” observed panelist Scott Jenkins, GM of Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Board Chair of the Green Sports Alliance. “Not one person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and I’ve been on a lot of panels.”
PATRIOTS, GILLETTE STADIUM: GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATORS SINCE 2002
According to conference host and panelist Jim Nolan, who as COO of Kraft Sports + Entertainment (KSE) is responsible for operating Gillette Stadium as efficiently as possible, sustainability has been a core tenet since the building opened in 2002.
“I am fortunate to work for an owner — Robert Kraft — who cares about the environment,” Nolan shared. “Our number one priority is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Second is to do as much as we can to reduce our waste stream. Every innovation we consider is examined through both financial and green lenses. We say ‘go’ on new cleantech innovations when they become economical.”
Examples of KSE’s “gos” include:
An on-site system that converts waste water into gray water for use in the bathrooms and elsewhere throughout Gillette Stadium and neighboring Patriot Place, the 1.3 million square foot retail, restaurant and entertainment complex
Energy efficient LED lighting, now illuminating the stadium and 90 percent of Patriot Place
On-site solar, which now powers more than half of Patriot Place
Next up for Gillette and Patriot Place is a 2.4 megawatt (mW) fuel cell, expected to be fully operational next year. “Once we’re up and running, the entire campus will be off the grid,” reported Nolan. “We will also have a food waste converter that will produce methane gas — which will then go into the fuel cell to generate additional electricity.”
SUSTAINABLE SPORTS VENUES ARE A MARKETABLE ASSET
To Scott Jenkins, stadium and arena owner-operators who push green innovations reap more benefits than cost reductions and efficiencies, as important as those are.
“Most sustainability investments are clear winners for stadium and arena projects,” Jenkins asserted. “They show fans and the community that the team and the owner are purpose driven, which greatly enhances brand value. And sustainability can generate incremental revenue in the form of new, ‘green-focused’ sponsors. Forward-leaning owners like the Krafts and Arthur Blank — who pushed us to build Mercedes-Benz Stadium to earn LEED Platinum certification — believe that just building to code is like being OK with being a C student. They have to be A students.”
Chris DeVolder, lead architect on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project and Managing Principal at HOK², chimed in that Blank “constantly pushed everyone who worked on the project to not only ‘think about what’s next’, but also ‘what’s next after what’s next’. Things like turning waste into energy to heat water, offering affordable vegetarian and vegan food options, and more.”
PATS CONNECT FANS TO SUSTAINABILITY IN GILLETTE STADIUM RESTROOMS
Panelist Summer Minchew, Managing Partner of Washington, D.C.- and Charlotte, NC-based Ecoimpact Consulting, and a veteran of several venue projects, offered that fans are a key element to the Green-Sports equation.
“It may sound obvious, but a positive fan experience at a sports venue is absolutely key,” Minchew said. “What is not always so obvious to stadium designers, managers and owners, is that sustainability, from environmental, health and wellness points-of-view, goes hand in hand with a great fan experience.”
According to Jim Nolan, the Patriots have been a bit late to the “fan engagement” party but they are making significant strides in the right direction. Working with energy partner NRG, the team communicates its solar story to fans via signage mounted on massive pillars near the stadium’s entry gates.
Once inside Gillette, fans experience the leading edge of sustainable stadium design when they dry their hands in the restrooms via a unique, high-velocity, two-phase drying process. The XLERATOR® from Excel Dryer — one of the sponsors of the Leading Edge conference — blows large water droplets off the hands in a couple of seconds in Phase 1. Then, in Phase 2, the heat evaporates a residual moisture layer that we feel but don’t see. This makes the drying process about three times faster than conventional hand dryers, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in energy usage.
But that’s not the XLERATOR’s greenest feature.
Replacing paper towels is.
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) showed that the XLERATOR was the catalyst for up to a 75 percent reduction in carbon footprint when compared to 100 percent recycled paper towels. That might seem counterintuitive but, after one-time use, paper towels go straight to the landfill. So XLERATORs help reduce paper production, transportation emissions, water usage, waste and more.
“The XLERATOR is a win-win-win-win for us,” enthused Nolan. “First, it’s clearly better for the environment. Second, it saves time and manpower as our staff spends much less time cleaning paper from the floor and refilling paper towel dispensers. Third, that allows staff to respond more quickly to other fan issues. Fourth and most importantly, the fans prefer the XLERATOR to paper, so they have a better experience.”
From left, Jim Nolan, COO of KSE and host of the Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference welcomes fellow panelists Summer Minchew, Chris DeVolder, Scott Jenkins, moderator Joe Khirallah, and Bill Gagnon, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with event sponsor Excel Dryer (Photo credit: Excel Dryer)
Guests at Gillette Stadium’s Optum Field Lounge this season got to experience another futuristic hand drying “win” with the recent installation of a next-generation sink system from Leading Edge sponsor D|13.
“The system features, from left to right, liquid soap dispenser, water faucet, and the XLERATORsync®, in one contained unit,” Nolan said. “It keeps water in the sink, which is better for the environment. Maintenance visits are reduced. It is the most sustainable, hygienic way to wash your hands. We’re excited to be the first stadium to feature the D|13 Sink System.”
Leading Edge Sustainable Design Conference attendees, including Pat Patriot, had the opportunity to try out the new D|13 Sink System (Photo credit: D|13)
Will Mercedes-Benz Stadium be the second? Too early to tell. After all, Scott Jenkins and the rest of the staff are busy getting ready to sustainably welcome the Patriots, Rams and 70,000+ fans for Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.
¹ The nine Super Bowls of the Belichick-Brady era: 2002 (Pats over Rams), 2004 (Pats over Panthers), 2005 (Pats over Eagles), 2008 (Giants over Pats), 2012 (Giants over Pats), 2015 (Pats over Seahawks), 2017 (Pats over Falcons), 2018 (Eagles over Pats), 2019 (Pats vs. Rams)
² HOK is a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm
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Beyond the firsts, eco-athletes, from sailors to snowboarders, used their sizable platforms to promote ocean health and the climate change fight. Some even lobbied members of Congress.
But in this Age of Trump and with the ascendancy of climate change deniers and do-nothings in the upper reaches of the US Government, the Green-Sports world needed to go much bigger, move much faster.
Against that backdrop, we bring you the BEST AND WORST OF GREEN-SPORTS, 2017.
BEST GREEN SPORTS STORY OF 2017
Protect Our Winters (POW) and Winter Sports Athletes
Photo credit: Protect Our Winters
The photo above is the perfect visualization as to why Protect Our Winters (POW), the organization of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for substantive action on climate change, is the winner of GSB’s BEST GREEN-SPORTS STORY OF 2017.
You see, the 21 folks captured in front of the US Capitol made up most of the 25-person delegation of active and retired skiers, snowboarders and more, who, along with staffers, descended on Washington this fall to lobby 22 members of Congress and their staffs. Topics included carbon pricing, solar energy and electrifying transportation.
That winter sports athletes are more concerned about climate change than any other group of athletes I can think of makes sense since they can see the negative effects of warming temperatures on their playing fields (i.e. ski slopes, snowboard courses, frozen ponds) in real time.
That they have built POW into the only climate change action advocacy group led by athletes, Olympians and world champions among them, is the amazing thing.
In recent months, GreenSportsBlog interviewed retired Olympic silver medal winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler and Olympic cross country skier Andy Newell, about their involvement with POW.
Bleiler takes part in “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes” school assembly programs, which helps make “climate change engaging, more relatable, and more personal for students.” She spoke at COP21, the global climate conference in Paris in November 2015 that led to the Paris Climate Agreement. Newell helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City in April and has written OpEds, including one that ran in USA Today in 2014.
Both were part of the POW 2017 DC fall lobby team; their firsthand experiences — and those of their colleagues — with the effects of climate change are powerful aspects of their presentations to Congress.
Here’s Bleiler: “[I share] my own experiences as a professional snowboarder who’s traveled around the world chasing snow! Reduced snow pack, warmer temperatures and shorter winters all mean a hit to the sports we love, but these changes also impact the economies of all the mountain town communities where I compete and train. This has all been happening in my lifetime…”
Given that the vast majority of the Republican-led Congress, the head of the EPA, as well as the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, are virulently opposed to fighting climate change, POW’s 2017 legislative efforts did not bear immediate fruit.
But, in the climate change fight, POW is all in for a marathon.
It is a race cross country skier Andy Newell has no doubt POW and, well, we — as in the American people —will win: “If we citizens have a big enough cultural and economic shift toward sustainable energy, the President and everyone else in DC has no choice but to follow. We have more power than we think. Senators, House members and the President will continue to hear from the winter sports community.”
Certain House members and Senators will hear from POW in 2018. The group’s main goal for the next year is to, in the words of Lindsay Bourgoine, manager of advocacy and campaigns, “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.”
Formerly titled the Greenest Sports League award, this year the category expanded to include mega-sports events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, the Masters, and the US Open. The latter is GSB’s choice for the GREENEST SPORTS LEAGUE OR EVENT OF 2017.
The Open —which draws over 700,000 fans over two weeks in late August/early September at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, NY — earned the award not only for its stellar sustainability performance at this year’s tournament but for its decade of green-sports leadership.
King was there at the beginning of the US Open’s/USTA’s greening efforts in 2008. And she wanted to go BIG.
“Billie…wanted to make the US Open the most environmentally responsible tennis event in the world,” shared Dr. Allen Hershkowitz^, then a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the nonprofit that would manage the sustainability project. “I told Billie that doing so would take years. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.'”
Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)
Ten years on, the fruits of King’s and Hershkowitz’ vision can be seen in virtually every nook and cranny of the National Tennis Center. The event:
Is zero-waste, meaning 90 percent or more of food waste is diverted from the landfill, thanks to a sophisticated composting and recycling operation
Powers itself solely by renewable energy
Uses the tournament’s daily draw sheet (schedule of play) to share “eco-tips” with fans
Promotes mass transit use and the fans have responded: More than 55 percent arrived by subway, Long Island Railroad or bus, making the US Open the most transit-friendly professional sporting event in the country
Collects and recycles over 17,000 tennis ball cans
Boasts two LEED certified structures; the two year-old, 8,000 seat Grandstand Court and the upgraded transportation center.
The LEED certified Grandstand Court rocked during the dramatic comeback win by Juan Martin del Potro over Dominic Thiem on Labor Day (Photo credit: Brian Friedman/USTA)
2018 will bring a big sustainability advance as the new, 10,000 seat Louis Armstrong Stadium will open as the world’s first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United F.C.
When Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and MLS’ Atlanta United F.C., announced in November that it had earned LEED Platinum certification, it became the first pro stadium in the U.S. to achieve such a designation. Just one month later, it won GreenSportsBlog’s GREENEST NEW STADIUM OR ARENA OF 2017.
“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” noted Arthur Blank, owner and chairman of the two teams, at the LEED Platinum announcement. “[Our] goal was to achieve the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment.”
Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosts the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 9, and Super Bowl LIII in February 2019, compiled 88 LEED points — blowing by the 80 point threshold needed for Platinum status — in a myriad of ways, including by:
Using 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to water-efficient fixtures and conservation infrastructure
Storing water in a 1.1 million gallon, underground water vault, providing the area with crucial flood management, as well as an additional 680,000 gallons of water for use in irrigation and the stadium’s cooling tower
Installing 4,000 solar panels to power the equivalent of nearly ten Falcons games or 13 Atlanta United matches with clean, renewable energy.
Featuring LED lighting that will reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent
Encouraging fans to take MARTA light rail to three nearby stations, resulting in 25-30 percent of fans ditching their cars to go to and from Falcons and United games.
Honorable Mention: Little Caesar’s Arena, Detroit (home of NBA’s Pistons and NHL’s Red Wings), currently seeking LEED certification
BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT OF 2017
Golden State Warriors, NBA Champions
The Golden State Warriors cemented their status as the gold standard of the NBA’s current era when they defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, four games to one, to win their second title in the last three seasons. A sustainability leader off the court, the Warriors also earned the BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD award for 2017.
On the court, head coach Steve Kerr seamlessly managed the addition of Kevin Durant to their championship core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. This made the Dubs even more fun to watch and much harder to play against. As a result, Golden State methodically avenged its shocking 2016 Finals loss to the Cavs.
Kevin Durant (l) and Steph Curry of the 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors — and winner of GSB’s BEST TEAM ON/GREENEST TEAM OFF FIELD/COURT award (Photo credit: USA Today)
This fall, the Warriors started the 2017-18 campaign slowly —for them — they’re “only” 23-6 at this writing. Curry and Green are injured for now. And the Houston Rockets look ready to mount a serious challenge in the West. Despite all that, Golden State is still the team to beat.
Off the court, the Warriors reflect the strong environmental ethos of the Bay Area, earning strong sustainability grades for:
Powering their practice facility with solar panels
Reducing energy use at Oracle Arena through a smart energy management system
Introducing a rainwater recapture system that uses the harvested H₂O to feed the plants and vegetation surrounding the arena.
Partnering with a local vendor who turns oils from concessions into bio-diesel,
Implementing ORBIO Sc-5000 which utilizes water, salt and electricity to create an eco-friendly cleaning solution
Reducing the carbon footprint of, and the waste produced by the food service. In partnership with Levy Restaurants, the club uses compostable cutlery and flatware and composts food waste.
It wasn’t only GreenSportsBlog who noticed the Warriors sustainability efforts: Oracle Arena earned LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in September.
“Ensuring that we have a positive impact on the Oakland/Alameda County community and our environment is extremely important to us” said Krystle von Puschendorf, Sustainability Programs Manager for Oracle Arena, “We are proud to have achieved LEED certification and are dedicated to running an environmentally friendly operation here in Oakland.”
If the Warriors stay at the top of their game on the court, the club will likely be in the running for the 2019 award because it will have moved into the new Chase Center in San Francisco — an arena expected to seek LEED Gold certification.
Given the Warriors incredibly high standards, I am surprised — and a bit disappointed — they’re not going for LEED Platinum. But there’s still time for Golden State to up its green game even further.
Artist’s rendering of Chase Center, future home of the Warriors. Scheduled to open in 2019, the arena seeks LEED Gold certification (Credit: Stok)
Honorable Mention: New England Patriots, NFL — the Pats might have won the award but they were hurt by the strong support for climate disaster Donald Trump by owner Robert Kraft; Seattle Sounders, MLS
GREEN-SPORTS MISSED OPPORTUNITY OF 2017
Super Bowl LI in Houston
Super Bowl 50, the Greenest Super Bowl of All Time, was played in the Bay Area, one of the most environmentally engaged areas in the country. Super Bowl LI took place in Houston, not exactly a green hotbed. Many would say it is not realistic to expect a Super Bowl taking place in the Oil Capital of the US to be as green as one contested in Northern California.
But while it’s one thing to fall short of the Super Bowl 50 standard, it’s quite another thing for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to do nothing from a sustainability point of view.
Or, to be fair, almost nothing: The Houston Host Committee did work with NFL Environmental, the Houston Texans, Verizon and local partners to help plant trees, but that seems to be it.
Trees For Houston and Marathon Oil helped plant 50 new trees at Crespo Elementary in advance of Super Bowl LI (Photo credit: Trees For Houston)
Tree planting is well and good but the Houston Super Bowl LI Host Committee missed a Texas-sized opportunity regarding sustainability.
This is the case especially when one considers that there is a sustainable business infrastructure and a green subculture taking root in the US’ fourth biggest city and in the Lone Star State more broadly:
The City of Houston has a longstanding, comprehensive greening initiative, Green Houston.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings and MSFA deciding not to upgrade the glass exterior of US Bank Stadium to reduce its bird kill problem.
We close with some end-of-year thank-you and a remembrance:
To our guests/interviewees: Your time, commitment and insights are much appreciated. You are helping to green the sports world in important ways. I always come away from GreenSportsBlog interviews feeling inspired.
To our readers: Thank you for making 2017 a year of significant growth: Our subscriber base grew by a third. On Twitter, our retweets and mentions nearly doubled. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe (it’s FREE!) and comment on the blog. Follow us on Twitter (@GreenSportsBlog) and friend us on Facebook (http://faceboook.com/greensportsblog).
A remembrance: Earlier this month, Ryan Yanoshak, formerly managing director of marketing communications with the Pocono International Raceway, passed away at 42 following a battle with cancer. Ryan played an important role in telling Pocono’s forward-leaning sustainability story. He will be missed.
Looking ahead, I expect the green-sports world will continue to grow in 2018, especially on the green building/venue side. But will meaningful fan engagement programs ramp up? Will we find new eco-athletes who can become the Colin Kaepernicks of green-sports? Will POW’s lobbying efforts help bring more climate change-fighters to Congress? No matter the results, you can be certain that GreenSportsBlog will remain your source for news, features and commentary on the increasingly busy intersection of Green + Sports.
Here’s to a healthy, happy Holiday Season to you and yours!
^ Dr. Hershkowitz later served as President of the Green Sports Alliance and is currently founding director of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI)
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