“Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports” — Part IV: r.Cup Reduces Number of Single Use Plastic Bottles at Sports, Entertainment Venues

“Which metro area is the Green-Sportsy-est in the US?”

While coastal areas like San Francisco-Oakland-Santa Clara and Seattle might come to mind first, it says here that Minneapolis and St. Paul, smack dab in the heartland of the country, wins the title. In fact, the Twin Cities’ Green-Sportsy-ness runs so deep that we can’t cover it all in one post.

In Part I of our four-part GSB special series, Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports, we looked at US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium and CHS Field (Independent baseball’s St. Paul Saints) from a green perspective.

Part II featured Chef David Fhima, who brought clean, healthy, organic food to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Target Center.

Then in Part III we went back to the venues, this time visiting Target Field (Minnesota Twins), Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild/NHL) and Allianz Field (Minnesota United/MLS).

In today’s Part IV finale, we profile Mike Martin, a pioneer in the sustainable concert space. He recently launched r.Cup, a Minneapolis-based startup whose goal is to dramatically reduce the number of single use plastic bottles at concerts and, going forward, sports events.

 

GSB: Mike, before we get to the r.Cup story, before we get to how sports venues can dramatically reduce the number single use plastic bottles, I’d like to understand how you got into the green concert world back before there really was a green concert world.

Mike Martin: This goes back to the 1980s. I was in the investment banking world, selling mortgage backed securities…

GSB: …The “Go-Go 80s”

Mike: You got that right. I mean I was selling to the Trump Organization at that time. Anyway, I was doing well but during that era the Bhopal disaster¹ happened, the Exxon Valdez spill² happened. I realized helping companies like these was not what I was supposed to be doing and wanted to create opportunities for capitalism to have a positive impact on the health of people and the planet.

 

Michael Martin Headshot

Mike Martin (Photo credit: Mike Martin)

 

GSB: So what did you do?

Mike: A friend got the rights to produce the official concert for the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day celebration in 1990. I had formed a concert committee when I was a student at Carroll University in Wisconsin. Based on that “vast experience”, the friend asked me to produce the event. So I left my job and set about managing the concert. It took place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. A dozen artists including Ziggy Marley, Indigo Girls and Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of REM performed; over 20,000 people showed up. And these artists formed the core of the Earth Day + 20 rally on the National Mall which drew 500,000 people, and the revenues generated from the concert helped fund the rally.

Anyway, the next day, Jonathan Kraft called. His dad, Robert, was buying the New England Patriots. He wanted to do something positive for Boston and offered up the stadium for free if we would put on a similar concert in 1991 at Foxboro Stadium, the Pats’ home at the time. We produced that event — it aired on MTV, which was a very big deal back then.

We reunited Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on Earth Day 1993 at the Hollywood Bowl. Broadcast on VH1, it was the “tent pole” (or centerpiece) event that tied in with 30 markets nationally to create that year’s National Earth Day Campaign. It raised money for PETA, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

 

McCartney

Mike Martin presents Paul McCartney and his wife Linda (since deceased) with an Earth Day “Concerts for the Environment” poster in Minneapolis in 1993 (Photo credit: Michael Martin)

 

As part of producing these events, we greened the stadium, from installing the most energy efficient light bulbs available at the time to recycling to managing water usage. At the Earth Day Festivals, we also introduced many of the components still in use today: eco-villages, rewards for taking environmental action, community involvement, the whole thing.

GSB: And thus, basically overnight, you became a purpose-focused concert producer, with green as a major thread! How cool is that?

Mike: Yes, I feel very fortunate to have been able to not only influence the live event industry, reaching millions of people, and in the process, work on creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest environmental problems.

For the last three decades, I’ve acted, mainly behind the scenes, as a catalyst to bring culture and business together to tackle some of the most pressing social issues facing humanity. One of the things I am most known for is, helping to put the concept of global warming on the map for mainstream America. In the 90s, I started reading research papers about climate change and global warming and thought “this is a massive problem.” I decided I had to do something.

I spent a year talking to leading environmentalists and acted as a catalyst to unite the top 20 environmental organizations to create the first national global warming campaign.

So in 1999-2000, in partnership with Ben & Jerry’s and 20 environmental nonprofits, we produced the Ben & Jerry’s Dave Matthews Band One Sweet World Campaign. The concept was: “Eat This Ice Cream and Lose a Ton…..of CO₂”. This was the amount of CO2 each American needed to reduce their emissions according to the Kyoto Protocol. The campaign educated the country on steps individuals could take to reduce their CO₂ emissions.

 

One Sweet Whirled1

Ben & Jerry’s One Sweet Whirled/Dave Matthews Band limited edition ice cream (Photo credit: Ben & Jerry’s)

 

“One Sweet World” become the most successful Ben & Jerry’s launch up to that point. This helped reinforce the company’s commitment to social change, which helped re-invigorate the brand image, even after being sold to Unilever. Dave Matthews Band established its bona fides as a green band.

From there, we realized we were becoming a purpose-driven marketing agency of sorts…

GSB: …Long before purpose-driven was a thing…

Mike: Then it was called “cause marketing.” Well to us, it was the effect or impact that really mattered so in 2008 we changed the name of the company from Music Matters to Effect Partners, with a focus on developing the practice of “Effect Marketing”.

GSB: What were some of Effect Marketing’s highlight projects?

Mike: We helped launch Toyota’s Prius back in 2000. In 2005-6 we developed “Green Notes” for Clif Bar. This program is still in place. We work with cool emerging artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Soja, Michael Franti and Bon Iver, teaching them how to green their tours, while giving them tools to help inspire their fans to take positive social change actions.

In the early 2000’s we started working with Kim and Jack Johnson to help them develop their greening strategies and messaging. In 2008, we worked with Kim and Jack Johnson on creating their “All At Once” sustainability non-profit and tour. We introduced hydration stations to the music industry with the Brita Filter For Good program. And, we’ve worked with brands like Proctor & Gamble, Target and Apple on developing their Effect Marketing strategies and campaigns

GSB: That’s an amazing track record. Billboard magazine called you the “guru of live music greening.”

Mike: That was very kind of them. That’s been our mission from the beginning. Music is the platform to open the hearts and minds of fans and so it is the obvious way to move people along the continuum of awareness to action on environmental and social issues.

Going to back to Foxboro in 1991, we started something that was behind the scenes but also very important: We created a document called the “EnviroRider™” that can be added to the contracts a band signs with a venue or event promoter. You know, bands have production riders and catering riders, so why not have an EnviroRider? Steve Miller was the first artist who asked me to make this for his tour. By using an EnviroRider, bands would have leverage to make sure that their concerts would be as environmentally-friendly as possible. And it works. Venues do what bands want.

What makes me very happy is how many of the items on the EnviroRider that venues, concessionaires and promoters would say they could not do in the 1990’s and 2000’s are now common practice. Composting on site, offsetting emissions, using biodiesel to power generators, bicycle corrals, fan rewards for recycling, eliminating single-use water bottles, local food, organic food.

We’ve been the Sustainability Director for U2 since 2009 when they launched the 360 Tour, still the biggest tour in history. Our goal for them was to dramatically reduce their waste reduction and carbon footprint. We did that in a number of ways, including creating an offset that provides water filters for people in sub-Saharan Africa so they would not use wood for boiling water.

We moved the needle!

GSB: I’ll say! Talk about how you also got into the fight for clean water. 

Mike: This was in 2000-1. As you may know, arsenic run-off from farming is a by-product of the chemicals and pesticides used on our food. It gets into our drinking water supply. I got involved with getting artists to support a campaign against legislation from the Bush 43 administration that would have allowed more arsenic in our water.

That led to advocating for organics and to producing the “Go Organic for Earth Day,” working with 4,500 stores nationally. The result? Sales of organics jumped by up to 25 percent nationally. The other campaign was called ONE (Organic and Natural Experience). With ONE, we took up to 25 companies at a time out on the road to major events and concerts and distributed organic samples and coupons for organic products. Amazingly, we enjoyed up to 10 to 15 percent redemption rates…

GSB: That’s an insane redemption rate. Most successful coupon campaigns get between 1 and 1.5 percent. So an organic-based promotion outdid that by tenfold! When did sports come into your work?

Mike: Well, I never was that far away from it. Of course most of the venues the bands with which we work play at also host sports events. We created a very exciting campaign that ran during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The USOC and the Dairy Industry Association…

GSB: The Milk Mustache people…

Mike: Them! Anyway they’ve had a long-term partnership, with US Olympians extolling the virtues of milk. But there is increasing awareness and more and more athletes who are adopting plant-based, vegan diets, and who decry the animal cruelty surrounding the dairy industry. So we created an ad that featured vegan Olympians called Switch4Good that refuted some of the pro-dairy claims in milk ads and extolled the virtues of a vegan diet. We ran the ad on NBC, it aired in one market and the Dairy Association complained and so NBC pulled it. But that was okay — we got a ton of publicity, plus we ran the ad on the Oscars broadcast.

 

The Switch for Good ad (60 seconds)

 

GSB: I remember that. Very cool! Now let’s talk r.Cup. How did it begin? 

Mike: To me, after greening live concert events for almost three decades, the environmental Holy Grail has always been waste reduction, especially those single-use plastic cups. We’ve tried fan education, fan incentives, trash goalies, etc. Truth is, most fans don’t really care about taking the time to recycle at concerts or sports events. They just want to enjoy the event!

A great example of this was when Live Nation hired me in 2016 to help them design the optimal way to green their amphitheaters. I was able to take the greening decisions out of the fans’ hands. No plastic, everything was designed to be recycled or composted. I thought we had the solution! But…But there was a big problem: About 80 percent of trash on the ground at a venue does not go to recycling or composting. It goes to landfill. And a lot of that trash was cups. For compostable plastic to work it has to be hand sorted and taken to an industrial composting facility. If not, it contaminates the recycled material.

And so I started to think about how to actually reduce the number of cups that end up on the floor and ultimately go to landfill from big concerts and sports events. We needed to see how we could reduce, reuse…Could we create a rent, refill, return mechanism? Now you can see where the germ of the idea for r.Cup came from.

GSB: Clever! How does it work?

Mike: r.Cup is simple and works amazingly well. You come to the event, buy a beverage of any kind. It’s served in a high quality artist or team branded cup. You pay for the beverage plus a $3 deposit for the cup. Then, if you want another beer or water or whatever, you come back with the same cup and get a refill. At the end of the event, you come to the r.Cup staff and get your $3 back or you can take your up home.

 

 

rCup Stones

An r.Cup from the Rolling Stones 2019 No Filter tour (Photo credit: r.Cup)

 

r.Cup provides the cups, handles all the logistics and tracks the positive environmental impact of the program. No waste is generated, venues do not have to clean-up or dispose of trash, saving them money. The concessionaires do not need to buy cups and can make a small fee on each cup kept. Additionally, we are seeing reports of increased per-head sales. I guess if you are holding a cup, you want to fill it up! Ten percent of the company is owned by ocean cleanup non-profits so as r.Cup grows, the plastic waste crisis begins to lessen.

 

 

r.Cup_U2_3

An r.Cup ambassador explains how the program works to a fan at a U2 concert (Photo credit: r.Cup)

 

GSB: So r.Cup gets its revenues from the people who keep the cups?

Mike: Exactly. And the cups are dishwasher-safe and recyclable. We’re working on a cup that’s fossil fuel-free. For concert tours, which is where we started in 2017, we sterilize the cups and then move on to the next city. For festivals, we will sterilize and warehouse any cups for next year’s festival.

For  sports teams — we’re dabbling in it this year with a big rollout in 2020 — obviously the cups stay where they are. And sports is a huge opportunity for us. Sports contributes far more in single use plastic waste than the music industry. We’ve been approached by sustainability leadership from all the major sports leagues. And six or seven teams at least, all among the leaders in Green-Sports, have reached out, so you will start seeing r.Cup at sport events in the near future.

GSB: Good to hear. How does sports differ from concerts for r.Cup?

Mike: They’re very different. A major band might tour every couple years. A major league baseball team has 81 home games every season. NBA clubs have 41, and NHL teams have 40. So the deposit for a cup model will not work as well in sports. That’s why we have a “no deposit model” for sports in which we become a cup service. The concessionaire pays us to provide the cups, collect, wash, house and manage the cups as well as providing environmental impact tracking. The cost of the cup service is embedded in the beverage. We collect the cups left behind, wash and sterilize them and put them back into use.

GSB: Let us know how it works out. r.Cup is based in Minneapolis, for my money, the hub of Green-Sports in the USA. Are Twin-Cities teams on your radar? And why do you think the Twin Cities sports teams are so green-minded?

Mike: Yes they are! We are in discussions with several of the local teams and you will be seeing r.Cup at some Twin Cities sports events this year.

The Twin Cities is one of the most aware and progressive communities in the country, so fans expect their teams to reflect their values. The owners of the Twin Cities teams are committed leaders who work hard to provide a positive fan experience. Eliminating tons of toxic plastic waste, creates a positive fan experience, helps the community, increases the bottom line, and, most importantly, it is the right thing to do!

 

¹ The Bhopal disaster was a gas leak incident in December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. It is considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster as up to an estimate 16,000 people died.
² The Valdez was an oil tanker owned by Exxon that spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. The oil slick ultimately impacted 1,300 miles of coast line.

 


 

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

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

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

 

PANEL DISCUSSES MICROGRIDS FOR SPORTS VENUES

“We are in the Excuse Removal business!'”

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

 

Karen Morgan

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does sports fit in?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

James Wilks

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

 

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

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

 

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

Eleven years.

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

Talk about playing the long game.

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

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

 

Clemson Recycle

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

 

BEST LINE OF THE SUMMIT

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

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

See you in Philadelphia next June!

 

 

^ Philips Arena: Home of the Atlanta Hawks

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Liverpool F.C. Under Fire for New Anti-Environmental Sponsorship Deal ; U of Michigan Football Approaches Zero-Waste; Formula E Revs Up its Promotion of Electric Vehicles

The watchword of today’s News & Notes column is BIG.

Liverpool F.C. has made a BIG mistake by partnering with Tibet Water Resources, a company that is allegedly exploiting the water supply in that region. Michigan Stadium, aka “The BIG House,” holds over 111,000 fans, making it the BIGGEST football stadium in the U.S. It recently diverted 87 percent of waste from landfill, close to the 90 percent level that will allow it to become the BIGGEST Zero-Waste stadium. Formula E, the global, electric vehicle racing circuit, partners with nonprofit The Climate Group to make EVs a much BIGGER percentage of the overall vehicle fleet. 

 

 

LIVERPOOL F.C. BUCKS GREENING-OF-ENGLISH-FOOTBALL TREND BY TAKING SPONSORSHIP CASH FROM TIBET WATER RESOURCES, ENVIRONMENTAL BAD ACTOR

Sustainable Brands, in its October 20 edition, is out with an important piece from Nithin Coca about English Premier League power Liverpool F.C.’s new sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources Limited, a company Coca asserts is committing “ongoing human rights and environmental atrocities in the region.”

 

Liverpool FC

Photo credit: Liverpool Echo

 

This is disappointing because English football/soccer has been a beacon of sports greening lately.

Premier League stalwarts Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City have put in place some strong sustainability initiatives, from partnerships with solar companies to installing LED lighting to advanced battery storage capacity. And GreenSportsBlog has written extensively about the great, green strides being made in the lower levels (aka minor leagues) of English soccer/football. Clubs like Forest Green Rovers (aka The Greenest Sports Team in the World), Dartford F.C., and Sutton United are innovating at a rapid pace. But the reach of those smaller clubs and their green good works is, of course, limited.

Liverpool is the opposite of a small club — it is a globally recognized sports brand. Per Forbes, the team is worth $1.49 billion, making it the eighth most valuable soccer club in the world^. According to the club, as of 2014, it had an estimated 580 million fans worldwide, or roughly 8 percent of the world’s population. That’s not the world’s population of soccer fans, but total human beings. How is that possible if England’s population is but 65 million?

Look to soccer-crazed Asia, where Liverpool F.C. enjoys significant support and with that, several lucrative marketing deals with companies like Konami (video games and Malaysia Airlines. And now, Tibet Water Resources, Ltd. has been added to the list.

But, to organizations concerned with the human rights violations and environmental degradations visited upon Tibet by China (note: the Chinese government would differ with this characterization but GreenSportsBlog feels it is largely an accurate one), there is a big problem with this new sponsor.

According to Mr. Coca, “Tibet Water is a Chinese-run company that is, according to [several NGO] groups, exploiting water for financial gain and giving little benefit to local Tibetans, who, instead, are seeing their environment destroyed. Though Tibet Water is just one of dozens [of water companies] operating in the region, it is, so far, the only one to make a deal with a foreign soccer club.”

While the Liverpool deal is a first, what is not unique, according to organizations like the Tibet Society, along with FreeTibet, SumOfUs (a nonprofit that tries to “stop big corporations from behaving badly”), and others, is the exploitation of Tibetan natural resources by Chinese companies. This has been happening since Tibet — more than twice the size of Texas — was invaded by China in 1950 and annexed shortly thereafter.

Tibet’s vast glaciers hold one of the largest reserves of freshwater in the world, the source for many of Asia’s great rivers including the Ganges and Indus, which flow into South Asia; and the Mekong, the lifeblood of Cambodia, Laos and Southern Vietnam. Water development, including bottling, could reduce flows in Tibet and downstream, impacting millions.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy at the Tibet Society, told Mr. Coca that, “This deal represents the issue at the very core of the Tibetan struggle: the detrimental effect of the Chinese occupation on Tibetans and the lack of consultation about their land and resources. For 70 years, Tibetans have endured injustice, indignity and discrimination at the hands of the Chinese authorities, as the occupation has resulted in systematic human rights violations against them.”

The Tibet Society, and the aforementioned like-minded organizations have joined in a campaign to get Liverpool F.C. to terminate the Tibet Water deal and thus stand up for environmental and human rights. Sondhya Gupta, a spokesperson for SumOfUs, told Mr. Coca that, “Liverpool really is giving its seal of approval to Tibet Water and saying its business model is normal and legitimate.”

Unfortunately, Liverpool F.C., whose principal owner John Henry also owns the Boston Red Sox (with a much-publicized garden atop the right field roof at Fenway Park), has shown no inclination to scuttle the deal. This despite having issued a strong statement in November 2016 on human rights. In fact, Mr. Coca reports that “the club has resisted opening up a dialogue with both fans and the organizations concerned about this partnership, and did not respond to Sustainable Brands’ requests for comment.” Over 40,000 people have signed a petition asking Liverpool to reconsider this deal (click here to sign), and take human rights and the environment into consideration when deciding partnerships.

Tibet Resources Petition

A portion of the petition asking Liverpool F.C. to drop its sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources

 

So far, there has been only silence from the management of the storied club that has captured 18 English top-flight league championships and 7 FA Cups. Somehow, methinks this story will get much bigger before it fades away.

Watch this space.

 

“THE BIG HOUSE” GETS CLOSE TO BIG ZERO-WASTE DESIGNATION

Rutgers — my alma mater! — is a big 23.5 point underdog against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House.” To have a chance at pulling a humongous upset, the Scarlet Knights will have to be supremely focused. Which means they are unlikely to notice the efforts their hosts are expending to attain Zero-Waste status by diverting at least 90 percent of the waste generated from the game from landfill.

According to a story last month by Kaela Theut writing in The Michigan Daily — the student paper at the University of Michigan — the school’s zero-waste gameday initiative got very close to the zero-waste threshold at their September 9 home opener vs. the University of Cincinnati.

 

Michigan Stadium Evan Aaron Daily

Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House (Photo credit: Evan Aaron, The Michigan Daily)

 

Benjamin Blevins, Director of Communications for Michigan Athletics, told Ms. Theut that, “We were very happy with our efforts [at the Cincinnati game] as we hit 87 percent diversion from landfill. Zero waste is 90 percent, so for our first week attempting this, we were happy to be so close.” Blevins credited the Big House’s operational staff as well as concessions partner Sodexo USA for changing most of their products to compostable options.

Athletics started working on waste diversion in 2015 as part of a university-wide initiative to reduce overall waste going to landfill on campus by 40 percent by 2025.

2016 saw Michigan Athletics begin research into going zero-waste at The Big House in partnership with the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability and Sodexo, testing various compostable products, as well as how to best streamline gameday cleanup and waste-separation operations. With crowds exceeding 111,000, this would a heavy lift.

Heavy lift or not, the initiative is in full swing this season.

New recycling bins, adorned with signs depicting examples of compostable and recyclable products, have been placed around the stadium. Stadium-goers have been heavily encouraged to place their waste into the right area to avoid contaminating the properly sorted recyclables and compost.

At the Air Force and Michigan State home games, diversion rates again came close to the 90 percent level — so far, they’ve averaged 87.6 percent for the season. Why hasn’t the Big House been able to crack the zero-waste threshold? More Blevins: “There are still a few things that would need to change to hit 90 percent. Some of [the] products we offer don’t have compostable or recyclable options so our concessions partner Sodexo is looking into finding those solutions.”

Blevins told Ms. Theut that educating the team’s fan base on how to separate waste properly can also help Michigan get to zero-waste: “There was contamination in our [waste] streams and that comes from people putting items in the wrong bins.” he said.

Fan education efforts include a public service announcement (PSA) that runs during games in-stadium, emails to season ticket holders, social media posts, and the new signage. Event team members are also knowledgeable and help answer fan questions on game days.

It says here that the compostable product solutions will be put into place, and fan education will have taken root in time for Michigan to achieve zero-waste status during the 2018 season. In the meantime, here’s hoping Michigan again matches their impressive 87 percent diversion rate at the Rutgers game on Saturday — and that the Scarlet Knights pull off the Upset of the Year!

 

FORMULA E PARTNERS WITH THE CLIMATE GROUP TO PUSH MAINSTREAMING OF EV’S

FIA Formula E, the electric vehicle racing circuit, recently signed on to become a Global Ambassador of The Climate Group’sEV100 initiative, which helps promote and accelerate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The Climate Group is an international nonprofit specializing in bold and high-impact climate and energy initiatives that bring together the world’s leading businesses, states and regional governments.

 

 

Formula E Bird 2nd Steven Tee:LAT Images:FIA Formula E via Getty Images

The 2017 Formula E Qualcomm New York City ePrix in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

EV100 is the only initiative of its kind to actively encourage world-leading companies to commit to the quicker and smoother transition to EVs, helping to deliver on corporate and global sustainability goals, improving air quality and future-proofing operations.

Brands such as HP, Unilever, IKEA Group and Formula E sponsor DHL are already members of EV100, pledging to implement charging schemes in the workplace and swapping current diesel and petrol fleets to fully-electric by 2030.

The Climate Group has also joined the FIA Formula-E Championship as an Official and International Foundation Partner.

“I’m delighted Formula E has joined forces with The Climate Group and the EV100 initiative, as a partner to promote electric and sustainable mobility,” Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of FIA Formula E, said in a statement. “Our partnership with The Climate Group is proof that change is already happening and causing a positive shift in attitude towards cleaner transportation. Formula E shows that electric isn’t just the technology of the future – it’s the technology of today. I’m glad to see other leading companies follow suit as part of this new agreement.”

 

^ Ahead of Liverpool, #8 on the “Most Valuable Soccer Clubs of 2017” list, are: 1. Manchester United, 2. Barcelona, 3. Real Madrid, 4. Bayern Munich, 5. Manchester City, 6. Arsenal, and 7. Chelsea. Rounding out the Top 10 after Liverpool are 9. Juventus, and 10. Tottenham Hotspur.

 

 


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