GSB News and Notes: Veja Enters Running for World’s Most Sustainable Sneaker Maker; Arsenal Can Run Match-Day Power via Battery; Field Hockey Seeks Sustainable Alternative to H₂O-Reliant Artificial Turf

GreenSportsBlog spans the globe in today’s News & Notes column. First, we go to Paris to tell the story of how outsider sneaker brand Veja is challenging green giants Adidas and Nike on sustainability. Then we head to North London to check out Arsenal and its newly-deployed, Tesla-made storage battery. And we end up in India where the governing body of international field hockey (FIH) is committing to develop waterless artificial turf fields.

 

VEJA JOINS ADIDAS AND NIKE IN BATTLE FOR WORLD’S MOST SUSTAINABLE SNEAKER TITLE

Adidas, with its Parley for the Oceans line of athletic footwear (and apparel) made from repurposed and upcycled materials, including plastic ocean waste, is a strong contender for most sustainable sneaker company in the world. Rival Nike would no doubt protest, citing its super-light, super-efficient Flyknit sneaker line which reduces waste by 80 percent, as the reason why they should be the green champ.

But both athletic shoe giants had better watch out for a new entrant into the mix, Paris-based fashion brand Veja.

 

Veja

A Veja sneaker being manufactured in Brazil (Photo credit: Veja)

 

The primary goal of Veja co-founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, is to manufacture sneakers from the most ecological materials and ethical suppliers possible. According to Alyssa Danigelis, writing in the November 12 issue of Environmental Leader, “The company uses raw materials sourced from organic farming and ecological agriculture in Brazil.” The footwear is manufactured there as well.

 

Kopp Morillion

Veja co-founders Sébastien Kopp (l) and François-Ghislain Morillion (Photo credit: Corentin Fohlen, Encore)

 

Danigelis reports that the duo call Veja “their ‘project,’ with one foot in design and the other in social responsibility.” On the latter, Kopp and Morillion are committed to protecting the Amazon, upcycling materials, and being transparent about chemical testing.

“A lot of our clients are discovering what is behind Veja after they buy one or two pairs,” Kopp told Andrea Lo of CNN Business. “[They] usually come back for more after learning the brand’s story.”

Veja, which means “look!” in Portuguese, and its sneakers are drawing attention from celebrities like Meghan Markle — the Duchess of Sussex — and others, for the right reasons:

  • The company purchases organic cotton directly from farmer associations in Brazil and Peru, all while respecting fair trade principles.
  • Each sneaker sole is made from 30 – 40% natural rubber. Since 2004, Veja has purchased 130 tons of wild rubber, preserving 120,000 hectares of the Amazon.
  • One Veja sneaker SKU is 100 percent vegan…
  • …The others that do contain leather only use product that has been certified Gold by the Leather Working Group. And some of it is “fish leather” from tilapia that has been discarded by freshwater fish farms. According to Danigelis, “the skin gets upcycled through a handcrafted process involving vegetable dyeing.”
  • Kopp and Morillion are Veja’s sole shareholders because they believe that bringing in outside investors could compromise the company’s integrity.

The founders are transparent about their limitations. Per Danigelis, Veja’s “shoelaces aren’t made from organic cotton and the eyelets…come from metal the company didn’t source themselves.”

Since it costs five to seven times more for Veja to make sneakers than it does Adidas, Nike and the others, the founders decided to stay away from advertising and rely instead on word-of-mouth. This has allowed Kopp and Morillion to stay competitive on retail price, which ranges from $95 to $195.

GSB’s Take: Absent taking a deep dive into sustainability reports from Adidas, Nike and Veja, it is impossible to say which sneaker company is the most sustainable. But with Veja demonstrating a serious, long-standing commitment to using organic and eco-friendly raw materials, it shows it belongs in the conversation. I expect that the green race between the two giants and the hungry outsider will be a virtuous one.

 

ARSENAL STORAGE BATTERY CAN HOLD ENOUGH ELECTRICITY TO POWER A FULL GAME

When Arsenal hosts English Premier League blood rival Tottenham Hotspur at The Emirates Stadium Sunday at 9:05 AM EST in the latest version of the “North London Derby,” the outcome may be determined by which of the two quality sides has the most energy.

Regardless of the result on the pitch, Arsenal has a decided advantage in energy storage.

The team recently unveiled a Tesla-manufactured battery storage unit at its 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium in north London that can store enough energy to run the stadium for 90 minutes, the length of a match.

 

Arsenal Tesla Storage

The Tesla storage system at Emirates Stadium in North London, home of Arsenal (Photo credit: David Price/Arsenal Football Club)

 

Per a November 26 story by Patrick Hodges in Bloomberg“the two-megawatt lithium-ion battery installed by Pivot Power LLP — which will operate it for 15 years — will allow the soccer club to buy electricity when it’s cheaper and use it at peak times. Arsenal said it plans to add a further one megawatt of storage next summer.”

The battery can also generate income for the club through a deal with utility company National Grid in which the battery can be used to stabilize the grid. Basically, the Arsenal battery can sell electrons to the utility on non-game days when demand is high.

“This is a big step forward for us in being efficient with energy usage, and building on our work in reducing our carbon footprint as an organization,” said Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s managing director, in a statement on http://www.arsenal.com.

 

Arsenal Vinai

Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal Football Club managing director (Photo credit: The Economic Times)

 

Arsenal already was a Premier League green leader. It was the first club to switch to 100 percent green electricity — supplied by Octopus Energy — and the team installed energy efficient LED floodlights.

“Arsenal is showing how football clubs and other big power users can save money and support the U.K.’s climate change and clean air targets,” said Pivot Power’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Allen. “Batteries are central to creating a cost-effective, low-carbon economy.”

GSB’s Take: While the price of energy storage has come down dramatically — and that trend is projected to continue — big increases in the deployment of batteries at stadia and arenas will also depend on future reductions in their size. 

 

FIELD HOCKEY LOOKS FOR MORE WATER-EFFICIENT ARTIFICIAL TURF

International field hockey made a commitment to water efficiency at the recent 46th FIH Congress in New Delhi.

Thierry Weil, the governing body’s CEO, said that while international hockey at the highest level would continue to be played on artificial turf, the federation was in talks with key manufacturers and suppliers to develop a surface that would not consume water. The current surface requires constant watering to allow a smooth game and minimize injuries.

 

Field Hockey

Field hockey at the international level is played on Astro turf, which requires lot of water to make the surface playable (Photo credit: L. Balachandar/SportsStar LIVE)

 

“We are looking to achieve this by the Paris Olympics in 2024, but try and do it much earlier, develop a surface close to the quality we have right now on turf with water,” Weil told Uthra Ganesan of Sportstar LIVE. “We cannot continue to put all this water on turf when people next door may not have enough to drink.”

GSB’s Take: India and Pakistan, hotbeds of world-class field hockey, are both suffering significant water shortages and those are projected to continue. Thus it makes sense for the FIH to take on the water crisis by working to develop artificial surfaces that don’t use H₂O. I wonder if there will soon be a natural grass surface that uses little to no water. If so, grass would be preferable to a waterless artificial surface because the latter is much hotter. 


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GSB News and Notes: Arsenal Signs Solar Power Deal; Swiss Ski Industry Imperiled by Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog offers up a European News & Notes: Arsenal, historically, one of England’s winningest soccer clubs, signed a deal to power their London stadium with solar power, and almost immediately began encouraging its fans to sign up for clean energy. Swiss ski resorts could see a 70 percent drop in snow cover as a result of climate change. 

 

ARSENAL PARTNERS WITH OCTOPUS ENERGY TO POWER STADIUM WITH SOLAR; ENCOURAGE FANS TO DO SO AT HOME

Earlier this season, perennial Premier League contender (this season? Not so much) Arsenal announced that Octopus Energy had signed on as their official energy partner. London-based Octopus, with over 220 solar farms, is the UK’s largest investor in solar. In fact, it is responsible for 40 percent of Britain’s large scale solar power. 

The partnership will help the club reach their sustainability targets, including helping to power the Emirates Stadium in North London using its solar resources. This is great, and typical of clean energy sponsorships at stadiums and arenas. 

But the Octopus-Arsenal deal goes beyond the typical to embrace classic (green) sports, loyalty marketing tactics. Arsenal fans who sign up with Octopus have the chance to win cool prizes, including behind the scenes VIP stadium tours, signed Arsenal shirts and autographed Arsenal footballs. And they are being offered the same clean energy rates for their homes as the club pays to power The Emirates. This represents a significant discount vs. the open or standard consumer price.

Given the incredible, hyper-local loyalty Premier League fans have for their clubs (the closest thing to it in US sports is the religious zeal of SEC college football fans), rewarding fans with Arsenal swag for making a choice for clean energy is a powerful (pun intended) way to go.

A great example of this is Kester (last name withheld for privacy reasons), winner of the Month for February of Octopus Energy’s Arsenal fan drawing. Per an interview on the Octopus website, Arsenal is clearly in his blood: “I’ve been supporting Arsenal my whole life. Ever since I was 4 years old, when I went down to Highbury^ for my first game. I’ve been hooked ever since. My family has supported Arsenal for decades”

Arsenal Octopus Feb Winner

Kester switched to Octopus Energy’s clean energy supply and, in the process, won this Arsenal jersey. (Photo credit: Octopus Energy)

 

The connection to his favorite football club made the difference for Kester when he went shopping for an energy provider: “I wanted to move energy providers, and I was on a comparison site looking for a green energy plan when I stumbled upon Octopus Energy. After a bit of research, I noticed on the Arsenal website that you guys had signed a deal to give fans their own energy plan, so I signed up. The Arsenal partnership was great as it meant I could support the club, and also be entered into the monthly prize draws.”

Octopus Energy will also have signage and other branding at all Premier League and FA Cup matches played at The Emirates as well as hospitality on some match days. In addition, they will be able to access Arsenal’s digital channels and run promotions featuring the club’s stars.

Arsenal Players

Arsenal players promote the club’s partnership with Octopus Energy, the UK’s largest investor in solar power. (Photo credit: Arsenal F.C.)

 

As a New York City-based fan of North London rival Tottenham Hotspur, it burns me up that Arsenal have beaten Spurs to the Green-Sports/clean energy punch. But, let’s cut Spurs a little slack here: They’re in their final campaign at the venerable White Hart Lane, will be a tenant next season at Wembley Stadium, the home of the English National Team, before moving into their new home in August 2018. At that time, hopefully Spurs fans will be able to win cool prizes by signing up with a clean energy provider.

In the meantime, let’s hope Spurs can finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1996—as of this writing they’re six points ahead.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPERILS SWISS SKI RESORTS’ BUSINESS

Will humanity be able to keep average global surface temperature rise to at or below 2° C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century? That is, of course, the “will life on earth resemble what we’ve known it to be” question. 

In the grand scheme of things, the survival of the Swiss ski industry is far down the priority list as compared to, say, life itself. That said, the Alps, with Switzerland at its core, is the world’s biggest ski destination, accounting for 44 percent of world ski visitors. So it is significant when Robert McSweeney, writing in the February 16 edition of Carbon Briefreports on a new study that says the Swiss ski season will increasingly be curtailed by a lack of snow.

The research, published in The Cryosphere, suggests that the pristine Swiss slopes could see an average 70 percent reduction in the depth of snow cover by the end of the century if the 2° C threshold is breached. For ski resorts at lower elevations, this might mean no snow at all. On the other hand, declines in snow depth could be limited to 30 percent if global temperature rise does not break the 2° C barrier. Some consolation.

henri-oreiller

Henri Oreiller of France, en route to winning the Gold Medal in the downhill at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Hosting an Olympics in St. Moritz, located in the central portion of the country, towards the end of the 21st century might be impossible, given the effects of climate change, according to new research. (Photo credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

Using data collected from 82 weather stations and considering three different climate change scenarios, the researchers simulated snow cover in Central and Eastern Switzerland ski country through the 21st century.

In the first scenario, worldwide CO2 emissions are halved by the middle of the century and global temperature rise is likely to stay below 2° C. The other two scenarios assume no specific international effort to cut emissions, with global temperatures rising 2.2-4.9C or 2.5-5.9C compared to pre-industrial levels.

In the near-term (between now and 2035), the projected decline in the thickness of snow is similar for all three scenarios – at around 20-30 percent compared to recent years. However, as the projections extend into the middle and end of the century, the differences between the scenarios become stark. By 2070-99, for example, the projected snow changes in the two Swiss ski regions are around 30 percent for the low CO2 scenario, but nearer to 70 percent for the “business as usual” approaches. 

The driving force behind the deterioration of snow cover is increasing temperature, not drought. Even increases in precipitation won’t compensate for the impact of the warming, say the researchers, as that precipitation will increasingly fall as rain rather than snow, especially on the resorts in the lower altitudes. As the study says, “the most affected elevation zone for climate change is located below 1,200m (~4,000 ft), where the simulations show almost no snow towards the end of the century.” Around a quarter of Alpine ski resorts are located entirely below this altitude.

For resorts where there is still enough snow for skiing, the projections suggest the average season will be much shorter, dropping from a current 6.5 months at elevations of 1,500m and up, to just two months (mid-December to mid-February) by 2100.

All of this can be expected to lead to a devastating effect on the Swiss Alps’ economy. For some Alpine villages, as much as 90% of their economy depends on winter tourism.

So the ski industry will increasingly rely on artificial snow. In fact, it is already doing so— 36 percent of slopes in Switzerland and 66 percent in Austria. Problem is, it is a water and energy intensive —and expensive—process. That has to change if the ski industry in the Alps is to have a long term chance. As the report’s lead author Dr Christoph Marty, a research scientist at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland, told McSweeney, “The efficient production of technical snow will get even more important than today.”

davos

Davos, Switzerland ski slopes being pelted with artificial snow in 2014 (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 


^ Highbury was Arsenal’s home stadium from 1913-2006. The club moved into the Emirates Stadium for the 2006-2007 Premier League campaign.
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