Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports: Vikings, U of Minnesota, St. Paul Saints LEED the Way

“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.

We started things off last week with our look at the sustainability efforts surrounding the recent NCAA Men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings.

Today, in the first of our four-part Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports series, we examine the greenness of three of the area’s many sports venues. 

The tour starts at US Bank Stadium. Then we get on the light rail’s Green Line and head east across the Mississippi River to the University of Minnesota to check out TCF Bank Stadium, home base for Gophers football. Finally, we hop back on the eastbound Green Line ride, ending up in St. Paul and CHS Field, home of the Saints, an innovative independent baseball club.

 

PEAKS AND VALLEYS GETTING TO ZERO WASTE AT US BANK STADIUM

Bradley Vogel, sustainability coordinator at US Bank Stadium, has seen a lot since he arrived in November 2016 after wrapping up his Masters Degree in Sustainability Management at the University of Minnesota.

His rookie year coincided with the Minnesota Vikings’ first season at the viking ship-shaped building. Then he and his operations team had a mega-event doubleheader for which to prepare: Super Bowl LII in February 2018 and April’s NCAA Men’s Final Four.

 

Bradley Vogel headshot

Bradley Vogel (Photo credit: MSFA)

 

Pressure came with the Super Bowl-Final Four back-to-back for Vogel and his team. 

Management wanted US Bank Stadium to achieve LEED Gold for Building Design and Construction — it ultimately earned that certification last year — but the waste diversion rate was too low at the outset.

“Our diversion rate was only 15 percent in Year One, July 2016 to June, 2017,” Vogel recalled. “But our director of operations Curtis Schmillen had a huge plan to turn that around. So in Year Two, we added compost in our back-of-house (kitchens) operations and throughout the rest of the stadium. It helped that Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis are committed to composting.” 

ESPN’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) team played a big role with composting as well. “They are composting experts,” reported Vogel. “ESPN’s X Games became an annual event at US Bank Stadium starting in July 2017, and so they helped us get past some of the pitfalls that come with trying to compost at a big event.”

With the help of funding for composting from Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which owns the building, and the state, US Bank Stadium upped its diversion rate to 46 percent in 2017.

But, with Super Bowl LII upcoming in February 2018, MSFA management was not satisfied. 

“Management and NFL Environmental asked ‘what can do to make US Bank as green as possible by Super Bowl LII?,” Vogel said. “The answer: Get us to zero waste — at least 90 percent diversion. And despite an up-and-down 2017, we knew we had the ability to get to 90 percent diversion, especially since, per Minneapolis law and MSFA policy, everything had to be compostable or recyclable, including things like ‘to go tubs’ and cutlery.”

When it came time for the Super Bowl, concessionaire Aramark upped its game on compostables. Pepsi had “bin guards” to make sure fans placed their waste in the correct bins. When all was said and done, the post-game sort revealed that the US Bank Stadium team, like the Philadelphia Eagles, were winners, as the diversion rate came in at 91 percent.

 

Jack Groh NFL Environmental Bradley Vogel

Jack Groh of NFL Environmental gives instructions to Pepsi bin guards prior to Super Bowl LII (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

US Bank Sort board Bradley Vogel

Waste Sort Board educates US Bank Stadium staff on the proper ways waste should be disposed (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

But achieving zero waste for a Super Bowl, with sponsors and the NFL pitching in is one thing. Doing it for a full, 10-game Minnesota Vikings campaign, without that outside assistance, is quite another. The US Bank Stadium sustainability team notched a solid 72 percent rate for the 2018 season but they fell short of Super Bowl LII’s 91 percent diversion level.

Vogel believes the lessons learned at the Super Bowl and the Men’s Final Four (a lower-than-expected 64 percent diversion rate, due in part to back-of-house issues that were specific to that event), will help his team get US Bank Stadium and the Vikings over that season-long zero waste hump this fall.

“We’ve maximized our compost rate back-of-house,” Vogel noted. “Now we’re working on getting our fan-facing, front-of-house composting to similar levels. That’s how we’ll get to zero-waste on a season-long basis. In the meantime, our overall sustainable approach earned US Bank Stadium LEED Platinum for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) status, making us the first stadium to attain that level. Official certification will come in June or July.”

 

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: LOOKING TO SWITCH TO RECYCLABLE PROMOTIONAL ITEMS AT GOPHERS FOOTBALL GAMES TO INCREASE DIVERSION RATE

Getting to zero waste for a full season is also goal for University of Minnesota football. The Gophers play their games at TCF Bank Stadium, their 50,000 seat, LEED silver home adjacent to the light rail’s green line.

“We’ve averaged 82 percent diversion over the past four or five years at TCF Bank Stadium, and that includes 2014-15 when the Vikings played here and 2017-18 when we hosted Minnesota United¹,” said Jeff Seifriz, assistant athletics director- facility operations. “Getting to 90 percent has proven to be tricky but we made strides last season by working with the university’s sustainability office and third party vendors like Aramark and the University of Minnesota Waste Recovery Services to do detailed audits of our post-game sorts.”

 

Jeff Seifriz

Jeff Seifriz (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

One thing that has kept the Gophers’ sustainability team from getting to zero waste has been promotional items: “The problem is that vessels like souvenir cups and serving boats have complex graphics that make them difficult to be accepted by recyclers. We’re looking at going to a simpler ‘single print’ approach that hopefully will get these items into the recycling stream and get us to 90 percent diversion.” It says here that venues and teams can reduce the environmental cost of promotional items by having fewer promotional days, at least those that involve giving out stuff.

Seifriz wishes that zero waste had been a thing when TCF Bank Stadium was in the planning stages back in 2006 (it opened in 2009): “Had zero waste been our radar back then, we would’ve made space for composting on site and for compactors.”

 

TCF Bank Stadium Exterior

TCF Bank Stadium, home of University of Minnesota Gophers football (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

Since then, Seifriz and his team have gone to school on some of the best in Collegiate Green-Sports, studying the successes of the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Washington and Big Ten rival Ohio State. The 20+ year University of Minnesota facilities veteran also shares best practices with his Green-Sports-minded counterparts from the St. Paul Saints, as well as the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, and Wild at the occasional brainstorm session (aka Happy Hours): “It’s a terrific group of committed practitioners who want to make a difference on the environment.”

 

ST. PAUL SAINTS: INCUBATING GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATION AT CHS FIELD

Independent League Baseball leagues and teams — they are not affiliated with and/or owned by major league league franchises as opposed to minor league clubs — are proving to be the sport’s petri dishes.

This season, the independent Atlantic League is experimenting with some outside-the-box rule changes, like moving the pitcher’s mound two feet farther away from home plate with the goal of reducing strikeouts and increasing the percentage of pitches that are hit in play.

The St. Paul Saints, who play in the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, have been a proving ground for green innovation since planning began about eight years ago for what would become CHS Field.

Tom Whaley, aside from a four year hiatus, has been with the Saints since 1993. He is now an owner of the club and serves executive vice-president.

Whaley said that the Twin Cities’ sustainable heritage was one of the main reasons that green figured so prominently in the new ballpark.

“Green became a top priority for us when we started planning for the new ballpark in the early 2010s for four key reasons,” recalled Whaley. “#1. A clean, healthy, environment is very important to most people in our area, #2. Industry was heading in a green direction, #3. The City of St. Paul has a cabinet-level sustainability position, and #4. We are in an eternal quest to connect with young fans and green is something to which they respond.”

 

TomWhaleyHeadshot

Tom Whaley (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

Sustainable elements at the 7,200-seat CHS Field that were state-of-the-green-ballpark-art when it opened in 2015 — especially in the world of independent baseball — included:

  • On-site 100 kWh solar array that supplies 17 percent of the ballpark’s electricity, thanks to a grant from Xcel Energy
  • A graywater re-use system, with water supplied from the roof of a large adjacent transit facility, used to water the field and flush toilets
  • A vigorous waste diversion effort, funded in part by a grant from the state of Minnesota.

As the ballpark opened, the team wrapped a green sponsorship around the initiative called “The Greenest Ballpark in America”, with Ecolab, a global sustainable cleaning solutions company based in St. Paul, coming on as title sponsor. The sponsorship is critical to helping the Saints communicate the ballpark’s environmentally friendly features and benefits to its fans.

“Our goal is to bring green closer to home for our fans, to get them to think ‘CHS Field has solar; I should look into solar at my house’,” added Whaley. “We have two touch screen kiosks on the concourse to educate fans, a mobile platform (sustainability.chsfield.com), do in-game public address and video board announcements, plus on-field contests, all to engage our fans around the ideas and technologies. In 2018, we began an internship program dedicated to sustainability, and we deploy a volunteer Green Team of about 15-20 fans that spread our green message at about one third of our home games.”

 

StPaulSaints solar

100 kWh solar array located in beyond the left field wall supplies approximately 17 percent of the electricity needs at CHS Field (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

StPaulSaints Ecolab Kiosk

Ecolab partners with the Saints on kiosks that take real-time data from CHS Field’s Building Automation System to show fans the amount of power generated and saved (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

The Saints’ sustainability efforts earned CHS Field GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Ballpark award for 2015.

How have the fans reacted to the Saints’ greening? “It’s been very well received,” offered Whaley. “One thing we haven’t done yet is survey the fans about it. We should and we will.”

 

Next in Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports, Chef David Fhima brings clean, sustainable, tasty food to the Target Center, home of the NBA’s Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx.

 

¹ The Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium while US Bank Stadium was under construction. And Minnesota United played its initial MLS season at TCF Bank while Allianz Field was being built.

 


 

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“Sustainability at the 2019 Final Fours” — Part II: Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis

The 2019 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Final Fours both featured Green Teams, squads of volunteers that helped educate fans about environmentally friendly behaviors and to direct them to place their food waste in the proper receptacles. 

Aside from that, the two events were about as different as the host cities, Tampa for the women and Minneapolis for the men.

Wednesday, GreenSportsBlog shared the experiences of Madeleine “Maddy” Orr and her students from Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada as they ventured to Tampa, becoming the first Green Team at a Women’s Final Four.

Today we turn to Minneapolis and the story of how Tiffany Richardson brought her deep Green Team management experience — honed at several Major League Baseball All-Star Games — to the Men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium.

 

Tiffany Richardson had three key things going for her as she worked to pull together and manage the green team for the 2019 Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis. Richardson:

  1. Was based in the Twin Cities, where she is owner of Elevate Sports Consulting and a former lecturer at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Kinesiology’s Sport Management area and an Educator at the Institute on the Environment (IOE). OK, she moved to Amsterdam about six months before the Final Four, but was able to handle things remotely in a smooth fashion thanks to a strong team back home.
  2. Had successfully managed Green Teams at four Major League Baseball All-Star Games, starting with the 2014 edition at Minneapolis’ Target Field.
  3. Reached out to the Minneapolis local organizing committee about a Green Team two years before the Final Four, giving her the necessary time to sell management on her vision.

Upon meeting Richardson for the first time at a Minneapolis cafe the morning of the semifinals doubleheader, one thing became crystal clear to me: Green team members would execute her vision to the best of their abilities.

 

“I WANTED TO DO IT!”

“My ears perked up as soon as I heard that Minneapolis was going to host the 2019 Men’s Final Four,” Richardson recalled. “They needed to have a sustainability effort and I knew how to make it work. And I wanted to do it! So in early 2017, I got in touch with Kate Mortenson, president of the local organizing committee. She knew my reputation in Green-Sports and asked me to be the sustainability chair. And she gave me a blank canvas on which to create the sustainability programming, which was fantastic.”

 

Tiffany Richardson

Tiffany Richardson (Photo credit: Tiffany Richardson)

 

Richardson consulted with Colin Tetreault, who managed the sustainability effort for the 2017 Men’s Final Four in Phoenix about how best to fill the canvas.

“Colin drove home the point that we needed to establish a sustainability legacy for the Minneapolis Final Four,” said Richardson. “Water was the legacy for Phoenix. We decided to go with mass transit. Our message: Fans don’t need to rent cars; use mass transit.”

A plan was developed to encourage fans coming in to Minneapolis for the tournament to take light rail from the airport to downtown. I saw this firsthand as I attended the tournament. It could not have been more convenient. Fans could easily get to US Bank Stadium via light rail, bus, commuter rail and on foot.

 

IT’S GO (GREEN) TIME

And, while Phoenix didn’t have a Green-Team in 2017 — the NCAA thought it would be too intrusive for fans — Richardson was determined to show the powers that be that this would not be the case in Minneapolis.

“We sent a ‘sizzle video’ of our Green-Team’s work at the 2017 All-Star Game at Marlins Park in Miami to JoAn Scott, the NCAA’s managing director for the Division I men’s basketball championship in the fall,” recounted Richardson. “I told her and her colleagues that the only difference between All-Star and Final Four was innings versus time outs. They LOVED the video! Fast-forward to late 2017-early 2018. We presented our full vision for the Green-Team to JoAnne and her team. They aired their concerns — ‘don’t be disruptive’ and ‘don’t chastise’. We came to a meeting of the minds and the Green-Team was a GO!”

Speaking of GO, Richardson decided to go — as in move —  to Amsterdam in late summer 2018 to pursue an MBA at the University of Amsterdam. She also lectured on Sports Ethics at The Hague University in their International Sport Management department.

Big problem, right?

You don’t know Tiffany Richardson.

“I asked the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) to appoint a top-notch former student, Nicole Petschow, to run things in Minneapolis while I was away, including managing the recruiting of green team members,” Richardson said. “I would be on all conference calls and then would fly in for the Final Four. It worked out really well.”

 

Nicole Petschow

Nicole Petschow (Photo credit: Nicole Petschow)

 

As the calendar turned to 2019, the pace of the Final Four sustainability effort kicked into high gear:

  • A strong recruitment effort netted 70-plus green team members. They came from the University of Minnesota, The University of St. Thomas (another local school), and the University of Louisville.
  • Background checks were conducted in January on all of the volunteers (Richardson: “Security around the Men’s Final Four is much tighter than at the Women’s, a big difference.”)
  • Volunteer training took place in February. Per Richardson, “The volunteers helped out at Minnesota Wild NHL games to get experience and assist in the Wild’s efforts because they have a robust sustainability program themselves.”
  • Richardson and team worked with the MLOC to help the Men’s Final Four earn certification as a sustainable event from the Council for Responsible Sport (level still pending.)

 

GREEN TEAMERS DELIVER SOLID RESULTS

Since this was far from Richardson’s first Green-Team rodeo, she and her leadership team were well prepared heading into the Saturday semifinals at US Bank Stadium.

Still, the massive size of the building posed some challenges.

“This was basketball being played in a football stadium,” Richardson noted. “Instead of 17,000 for hockey or 43,000 for a baseball All-Star Game we had 72,000 fans! Our plans had to be fluid. What if the crowd filed in slowly? What if it rained and everyone wanted to get in early? What if fans loitered near the entrances? We had to be ready for every eventuality and we were.”

 

US Bank Stadium Jeff Thurn

72,711 fans shoehorned into US Bank Stadium for the Men’s Final Four semifinals (Photo credit: Jeff Thurn)

 

When fans started entering the Stadium at 2:45 PM for the 5 PM first game between Auburn and Virginia, the Green-Teamers were there. Unobtrusive and pleasant, they collected plastics and aluminum cans on the concourses. I saw them trudge up and down the very long, steep aisles of the upper deck, taking empty items with a smile — great guest service.

Per Richardson, “Kudos go to students from the University of Minnesota, St. Thomas and The University of Louisville. They brought great energy, never complained and understood this was about the bigger vision — one less bottle in the landfill — and they GOT IT DONE!”

 

Men's Final Four Green Team

2019 Men’s Final Four Green Team in Minneapolis (Photo credit: Tiffany Richardson)

 

Approximately 62 percent of the 144,000 pounds of waste collected over the two nights of the Final Four was diverted, with about half of the diverted waste going to recycling and the other half to compost¹.

Why didn’t they get in the 80-90 percent diversion range?

“We had a few Back-of-House — i.e. kitchen — issues that were beyond our control,” Richardson acknowledged. “I’m confident that the next time US Bank Stadium hosts a mega-event, those problems will have been ironed out and the diversion rates would approach the 90 percent Zero-Waste threshold.”

 

WHAT COULD’VE GONE BETTER/HOW TO MAKE FUTURE FINAL FOURS GREENER

“We had a really great event: The Green Team, folks from US Bank Stadium and the local organizing committee came together beautifully,” Richardson said. “But it could’ve gone much better, with a stronger commitment to fan-facing sustainability by the NCAA and sponsors like Coke.”

According to Richardson, here’s where the NCAA and Coca-Cola, a corporate sponsor with a strong green initiative, missed the mark:

  • Coke failed to promote their World Without Waste sustainability campaign (“They leveraged their new Orange-Vanilla flavor everywhere. World Without Waste? Not so much.”)
  • There were no recycling or compost receptacles on the Fan Fest streets that were closed to traffic
  • The public transit initiative fell a bit short as Richardson’s and company’s request to provide free mass transit rides to fans bearing game tickets was rejected (volunteers and coaches did get that benefit)

How can Men’s Final Fours go greener in the future, starting with the 2020 edition in Atlanta at LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

“The NCAA needs its own ‘sustainability charter’ for mega-events like the Final Fours and College Football Playoff National Championship, and that charter needs to have some real teeth,” recommended Richardson. “Corporate sponsors need to buy in. Sponsor-funded carbon offsets for every fan, Zero-Waste Games. Students will volunteer in great numbers; they don’t have to worry about that. There can’t be a greenwash; the NCAA can’t use half-measures because they don’t need to. They are the NCAA after all.”

 

 

¹ Actual amounts diverted: RECYCLED: 43,440 lbs.; COMPOST: 42,860 lbs.; DONATED FOOD: 6,427 lbs.

 


 

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Men’s and Women’s Final Four From a Green-Sports Perspective

After the greatest weekend of Elite Eight games ever — all four went down to the wire, with two going to overtime — the Men’s Final Four is now set. This Saturday evening in Minneapolis, Auburn takes on the University of Virginia and then Texas Tech and Michigan State will go at it.

While the ESPN’s and SI.com’s of the world will analyze the on-court matchups in detail throughout the week, GreenSportsBlog digs into each school from a Green-Sports point of view.

And, we also take a look at Green-Sports goings on at Oregon, Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn — the participants in the Women’s Final Four in Tampa.

 

AUBURN TIGERS

Charles Barkley, the greatest basketball player in Auburn history, was overcome by emotion after his alma mater’s thrilling 77-71 overtime victory over favored Kentucky sent the school to its first Final Four. He wiped back tears in the game’s immediate aftermath, calling the win “the greatest day in Auburn basketball history” on the CBS Sports postgame show.

 

 

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member would likely need to have tissues at the ready if he were to read our January story about Auburn’s growing Green-Sports résumé. In “Auburn Athletics: Green-Sports Grows in the SEC,” Barkley would learn that, per Mike Kensler, Auburn’s Director of the Office of Sustainability:

  • An energy efficiency campaign is underway at Auburn Arena, home of Tigers men’s and women’s basketball and women’s gymnastics.
  • The football team hosts an annual Green Game at 87,000 seat Jordan-Hare Stadium that features student “Trash Talkers” roaming the tailgate areas, urging fans to recycle, a video on Auburn’s greening programs that runs in-game on the video board, and a Green-Sports focused column in the game program.
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting illuminates Plainsman Park, Auburn’s baseball stadium.
  • Auburn football players, coaches, and others traveled to the Dominican Republic in May 2017 where they built and distributed water filters and solar light packets to those in need.
  • Helen Ulrich, a sophomore journalism major on the women’s equestrian team, earned her eco-athlete stripes by writing a story on the anti-plastic straw movement.

 

auburn football 2017

Auburn football players Dontavius Russell and Daniel Carlson drain and assemble the filters before they are inserted into the buckets in the Dominican Republic in 2017 (Photo credit: Auburn University)

 

And while there’s no way of knowing if the Tigers (also, for some reason, known by the “War EAGLE” battle cry) will qualify for the 2020 Men’s Final Four at in Atlanta, there will definitely be an Auburn flavor to the event from a green point of view. Per this 2018 GreenSportsBlog interview, Carlie Bullock-Jones, CEO of sustainability consulting firm Ecoworks Studio, and an Auburn grad (“War Damn EAGLE!”), played an important role in helping Mercedes-Benz Stadium achieve Platinum status.

 

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

If you are a UVA fan, you still probably can’t get enough of seeing THIS:

 

 

It took that miraculous last millisecond bucket by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, off of that amazing whip pass from Kihei Clark, to send its Midwest Region final against the gutty Purdue Boilermakers into overtime. The top seeded Cavaliers then took care of business in the extra frame, winning the “Game of the Tournament” (so far) 80-75, earning the school its first Final Four berth since 1984.

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia Class of ’16, only made it as far as the Sweet Sixteen during his four seasons in Charlottesville. But the Milwaukee Bucks guard is making UVA alums proud through his Hoops₂O initiative. Brogdon and four other NBA players¹ are working to raise funds and awareness for clean water initiatives in East Africa. Fans donate to the program in the name of one of the players, with the players matching those contributions dollar-for-dollar. So far, Hoops₂O has raised $164,000 towards its Year One goal of $225,000. Click here to contribute.

 

Brogdon 2

Malcolm Brogdon, founder of Hoops₂o at a Waterboys well site in East Africa (Photo credit: Clay Cook Photography)

 

Brogdon was inspired by Waterboysthe program midwifed by former Virginia football star Chris Long. The two-time Super Bowl champ and 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, along with support from more than 20 current and retired NFL players, funds the digging of wells in the area and teaches the locals how to operate and maintain them.

 

Chris Long was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia’s 2018 Commencement ceremony (Photo credit: Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

 

Since its inception in 2013, Waterboys, now officially connected to Hoops₂O, has raised more $2.6 million to fund 55 wells that will provide water to over 205,000 people.

 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Run a Google search on “Texas Tech University Athletics Sustainability” or something similar and you get several links to articles about…the University of Texas. This is to say that, so far, Red Raiders’ Athletics has not yet embraced Green-Sports.

Yet the university is a leader when it comes to climate change communications despite being located in the politically and religiously conservative West Texas city of Lubbock.

That is thanks largely to climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech and arguably the world’s most powerful climate change communicator. In fact, Time Magazine named her to its “100 Most Influential People in the World” list in 2014.

 

hayhoe-credit-artielimmer-texastechuniversity

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. (Photo credit: Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)

 

Dr. Hayhoe spoke with us in 2016 for GreenSportsBlog’s “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports” series. Here’s an excerpt that focuses on how sports can play an important role in the climate change fight (click here to read the entire interview):

GSB: You emphasize the community-religious-economy boosting nature of climate change solutions in your must-watch web series, Global Weirding. That makes total sense.

Katharine: Science is the foundation but what connects with people, what binds them together — shared values — turns out to be bigger than the science! And the pathways in our brains that are used to solve issues respond more to the shared values approach than the scientific. And community and shared values, that’s what sports is all about. Sports is part of our collective shared identity. It builds community. And this goes back millennia to Roman times and chariot races.

GSB: So how do you think sports can play an important role in building awareness and action among fans? Many times, when I ask why more athletes don’t get involved, I hear that “climate change is too complex!” But if what you’re saying is right — and I think it is — athletes don’t need to worry so much about the science. They need to emphasize the importance of the solutions to the communities where they play!

KH: Exactly. Now some sports are effected more directly and more in the present than others. Hey, I’m Canadian, so I get that hockey and other snow sports are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change on their sports in the here and now. That’s why it’s great that Protect Our Winters and the National Hockey League are leading the climate change fight. Hey, we’re a skiing family so we see a shorter ski season. I’m also a sailor and so the effects of increased ocean acidification are powerful as they are obvious…But athletes in sports that don’t have as direct a link as those we mentioned can certainly get involved. Look, I often talk about the Six America’s of Global Warming. Basically, Americans fall into six groups as it relates to global warming/climate change: From most engaged to least, it goes like this:

  1. Alarmed
  2. Concerned
  3. Cautious
  4. Dis-engaged
  5. Doubtful
  6. Dismissive

I think for now at least, we’ll leave the Dismissives — they’ll be very hard to move. But I’ve found the way to communicate with the Cautious, Dis-engaged and Doubtfuls is to emphasize shared values and concerns, and then you can move them. Sports is as powerful, as passionate a platform as there is to move masses of people.

Amen, Dr. Hayhoe. AMEN!

 

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

Michigan State can lay claim to being the greenest school in this year’s Final Four on at least one metric: It is the only one of the four to have green as one of its school colors.

In addition, its Sustainability Office:

  • Manages the Be Spartan Green team of student volunteers. They monitor waste stations at Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football and Hockey games to help divert recyclable items from going to the landfill, as well as informing attendees about recycling options.
  • Published a Green Your Tailgate page on its website

The East Lansing-based school, now just two wins shy of its third national championship, also boasts a faculty member whose research has centered on sustainability issues surrounding mega-events like Olympics, World Cup and, yes, Final Fours.

GreenSportsBlog interviewed Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor, Associate Professor in Michigan State’s Global Urban Studies Program, in 2015. In this excerpt, we discuss the sustainability legacies of the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

 

Eva Kassens-Noor

Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor of Michigan State University (Photo credit: Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor)

 

GSB: How did sustainability figure into London 2012?

Eva: Legacy and sustainability were central tenets of the London 2012 bid. The facilities that were built for the Games, for the most part, have found significant post Games use, often for the general public. The Olympic Stadium will become the home of West Ham United Football Club of the Premier League starting next season.

GSB: Now let’s look to Rio 2016. Plenty of media outlets have tackled the environmental problems related to the polluted waters of the sailing and rowing venues. But what about its legacy?

Eva: I’ve been very critical of Rio in terms of legacy…

GSB: Why? We wrote about the additional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines in Rio that are Olympics-related (links here and here). That should be a carbon footprint reducer, no?

EKN: You would think so but the Olympic Village and the BRT plowed through many Favelas, removing hundreds of families and businesses. The route of the BRT is also problematic — one of the routes goes from the airport to a wealthy area without going through downtown. Very ineffective.

BRT will play a significant role in transporting fans to and from this weekend’s Final Four in Minneapolis. GreenSportsBlog is heading to the Twin Cities and will report on what, arguably, is the greenest stadium and arena inventory of any metropolitan area in North America.

As far as the basketball is concerned, I picked Michigan State to beat Virginia in the championship game before the tournament began and so will stick with that².

 

WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN’S FINAL FOUR?

Friday night’s semifinal matchups for the 2019 Women’s Final Four in Tampa feature two-time national champion Baylor vs. Oregon, seeking its first title. The nightcap is a battle of true women’s hoops heavyweights:  Defending champion Notre Dame vs. 11-time winner UConn.

From a Green-Sports perspective, the University of Oregon looks to be the favorite, but all four schools have a story to tell.

The Eugene-based university is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, as is the PAC-12 Conference. It participates in the league’s Zero-Waste Challenge, a series of waste-reduction competitions that engage fans in sustainability, develop best practices, and provide an outlet for friendly environmental competitions. And Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks’ All America guard, took part in a PAC-12 Team Green promotional 15 second video.

 

Sabrina Ionescu

Sabrina Ionescu, University of Oregon’s 1st team All American guard (Photo credit: Sabrina Ionescu)

 

Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas, has been recycling since 2015, at McLane Stadium, the 45,100-seat home of Bears football.

Notre Dame’s Green-Sports initiatives are mainly focused on waste generated at Notre Dame Stadium, the 80,795-seat cathedral of Fighting Irish football. The Go Irish. Be Green. program features teams of volunteer students circulating through the tailgate lots, distributing blue recycle bags to fans and answering questions about single stream recycling. And they also produced this sustainability-themed video for the 2018 season.

 

 

The big question is where has this video been shown: In stadium? On Notre Dame football broadcasts? To date it has received only 64 views on YouTube.

UConn, through its EcoHusky student group, has hosted women’s and men’s Basketball Green Game Days at Gampel Pavilion over the past several years. Starting in 2017, the university’s Office of Environmental Policy purchased carbon offsets to be able to make the claim that the games were carbon-free. P.A. announcements, video board mentions, and social media posts during the events promoted the greening initiative to fans.

 

¹ In addition to Brogdon, the Hoops₂O team includes Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets), Garrett Temple (Memphis Grizzlies) and Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves)
² In case you think I’m some sort of March Madness savant, think again. This is the first year in at least a decade in which my brackets weren’t busted by the Sweet 16.

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #7: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders On The Field

GreenSportsBlog focuses mainly on the Green side of the equation, telling the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, venues and athletes.

But the Sports angle is important, too. Why? Because if the athletes and teams leading the Green-Sports movement do well, their green messaging will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what a long, hard slog is all about. We can relate.

GSB created the Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field to give the sports side of the equation. It is an occasional series that highlights recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes.

With that in mind, please enjoy our seventh Eco-Scorecard.

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, TAKES OVER AS THE STARTER WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS, LEADS TEAM TO LAST-MINUTE COMEBACK WIN

Josh Rosen has two unique qualities among the five rookie quarterbacks chosen in the first round — a record — of this spring’s NFL Draft.

  1. The UCLA product is the only one of the group to go on record about his concerns about climate change. “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything,” declared Rosen in a pre-draft interview with ESPN’s Sam Alipour. “I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”
  2. Chosen by the Arizona Cardinals, Rosen became the first of his four fellow quarterback draftees (Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns; Sam Darnold, New York Jets; Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills; and Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens are the others) to engineer a last minute, come-from-behind, game winning drive. He turned that trick on Sunday, leading his team back from a 15-3 deficit to a dramatic 18-15 home win over the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Josh Rosen

Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen gets off a pass in the first quarter of the Arizona Cardinals-San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday in Glendale, AZ. Rosen led the Redbirds to a dramatic 18-15 comeback win (Photo credit: Art Foxall/UPI)

 

Rosen and the Cardinals were down 15-10 and had the ball on their own 22 yard line with only 1:42 left in the game. They needed a touchdown to win. The rookie displayed the poise of the veteran as he moved his team down to the 49ers 9 yard line with 39 seconds left, hitting several clutch passes in the process.

And then THIS happened …

 

Rosen found fellow rookie Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone in between two defenders for the touchdown, and that, as they say, was that!

To be clear, his rookie season has not been a bed of roses for Rosen, nor for his fellow first round quarterback draftees. They all have shown promise at times while, at the same time, also going through the sometimes ugly growing pains that are typical of rookie signal callers. Just last week, Rosen looked dreadful for much of the game as the Denver Broncos devoured the Cardinals, 45-10.

It sounds (and is) cliche but what a difference a week makes! Rosen has his first comeback win and an even bigger platform on which to (hopefully) spread his climate change message.

 

CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, COMES UP BIG FOR PHILADELPHIA EAGLES IN BIG GAME VS. JAGUARS

The Philadelphia Eagles are dealing with the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover this season.

Going into last Sunday’s game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defending Super Bowl champions had a sluggish 3-4 record. It was not a stretch to say their season was on the line across the pond, especially with the surprising start of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles emerged from Wembley Stadium with a hard fought, 24-18 win over the Jags, thanks in part to two quarterback sacks registered by defensive end and eco-athlete Chris Long.

 

Chris Long Bortles

Chris Long (#56) of the Philadelphia Eagles sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback in Sunday’s 24-18 win at London’s Wembley Stadium (Photo credit: Young Kim, Philly.com staff photographer)

 

Long has been on the winning team in the last two Super Bowls, earning those gaudy, oversized rings in 2017 with the New England Patriots and, this February, with the Eagles (against the Pats). And he has played at a consistently high level over his 11 year career, notching 66 sacks.

But the University of Virginia product’s greatest legacy may be his strong commitment to a variety of pro-social causes:

  • This season, Long is donating a quarter of his salary to launch First Quarter for Literacy, a program meant to “put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods” and “build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising leaders.”
  • Last year, he gave his entire base salary, worth $1 million, to charity. Long said he was inspired to donate after seeing the violent protests held by white nationalists in Charlottesville, the home of his alma mater.

On the environment, Long saw the water crisis in East Africa when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

That something was the creation of Waterboys, a non-profit that funds the digging of wells (and training the locals how to do the digging and maintenance). Relying on 20 current and former players, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million that will fund the digging of 49 wells and provide water to over 193,000 people.

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS, GREENEST TEAM IN SPORTS, MAY CONTEND FOR PROMOTION TO THIRD TIER OF ENGLISH SOCCER

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands to much, much more.

Even though only about one third of the season’s matches have been played, English soccer’s League Two (aka the 4th tier^) standings are beginning to take shape. And Forest Green are showing early signs of being able to compete for promotion to 3rd tier League One, which would be a first for the 127-year-old club.

After winning two matches in a four day stretch last week, FGR finds itself sitting in 6th place in the 24 team league and only two points from 3rd place. The top three teams at the end of the season earn automatic promotion to League One. And the teams finishing in 4th-7th enter a playoff, with the winner also going up.

Riding first half goals from Reece Brown and Liam Shepherd, Forest Green knocked off visiting Tranmere 3-1 last Tuesday. Then on Saturday at third place Exeter City, Brown and Shepherd waited until the second half to each find the back of the net to power FGRs 2-1 win.

 

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Forest Green Rovers’ Reece Brown attacks Exeter City’s defense (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Saturday, FGR steps up in class with a clash at first place Lincoln City.

With two important caveats — 1) there are many, many matches until the season ends in May and, 2) things like injuries, bad luck and more can happen — the Lincoln City match will be an important early-season measuring stick for Forest Green Rovers in its quest to be a legitimate promotion threat.

 

^ The pecking order of the top five tiers of English Soccer/Football goes like this: 1st tier: Premier League, 2nd tier: Championship, 3rd tier: League One, 4th tier: League Two, 5th tier: National

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Climate Change Threatens World Beer Supply, NBA’s Malcolm Brogdon Launches Hoops2O to Bring H2O to East Africa, Japanese Repurpose Broken Bats into Chopsticks

The sports world has not engaged strongly enough on climate change yet, at least as not as far as I’m concerned. Maybe that will change now that a new report shows climate change will negatively impact the world barley crop, thus threatening…BEER! The Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players just launched Hoops2O to help bring fresh water to East Africa by funding the digging of wells. And Japan, a country which has long embraced recycling, turns its broken baseball bats into chopsticks. All in a “Spanning the Globe” GSB News & Notes.

 

DROUGHT AND HEAT COULD IMPERIL WORLD’S BEER SUPPLY; WILL SPORTS INDUSTRY GET MORE ENGAGED ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

Beer and sports go together like Minneapolis and St. Paul.

So maybe, just maybe, a potential beer shortage might spur the sports industry to take faster, more meaningful action on climate change.

A new report in Nature, by an international team of scientists, considered how climate change might affect the barley crop over the next 80 years. Barley is the most widely used grain in beer making^.

 

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Barley, the most widely used grain in beer making, will be under threat from climate change (Photo credit: Beer Smith)

 

Researchers in China, Britain and the United States say that by the end of the century, drought and heat could hurt barley crops enough to cause significant beer shortages.

Given the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, a beer shortage might seem trivial.

That’s why, according to one of the report’s authors, Dabo Guan, of Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, the report was directed at readers in the developed world — to suggest that climate change will hit everyone, not just the poor.

 

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Dabo Guan (Photo credit: University of East Anglia)

 

“We will suffer less,” Guan told James Gorman of The New York Times. “but we will still suffer. [Climate change] may not affect our bread but it will affect our beer.”

Guan and his team merged mathematical models of the impact of climate change on barley crops with models of international trade.

The results revealed that, China and the United States, which drink the most beer of all countries, would experience the most drastic effects. “Under the worst scenario,” Guan told Gorman, “China would lose 10 percent of its beer supply and the United States 15 to 20 percent.”

In models that include high numbers of severe droughts, the price of a bottle of beer in Ireland might double. In the Czech Republic, it could be six or seven times as expensive.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company, has taken notice. Jess Newman, the company’s director of agronomy in the United States, told Gorman for his Times piece, “We take climate uncertainty very seriously.”

 

GSB’s Take: I’ve been trying to find the “magic bullet” that would get sports teams, leagues and mega-events to engage fans on climate change in a meaningful way. Could a potential beer shortage do the trick? If that shortage would come down the pike in the next three to five years, maybe. But, since this report’s time frame is 80 years, I doubt the sports industry will take much notice.

 

NBA’S MALCOLM BROGDON’S HOOPS₂O JOINS NFL’S CHRIS LONG’S WATERBOYS IN BRINGING WELLS AND FRESH WATER TO EAST AFRICA

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players announced the launch of Hoops₂Ojoining the fight for access to clean water in East Africa. Rounding out the Hoops₂O “Starting 5” are Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Harris, (Brooklyn Nets), Garrett Temple (Memphis Grizzlies), and Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves).

 

Brogdon Bucks

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks point guard (Photo credit: Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

 

Traveling to Ghana and Malawi as a child and seeing the effects of extreme poverty in those countries gave the former University of Virginia star the drive to use his platform as an NBA player to make a difference in Africa.  “I saw from a very young age the value of clean water in communities in Africa,” said Brogdon. “I made a promise to myself that once I reached a time and place in my career where I could do more, I would.

Hoops₂O looks to build upon the successful Waterboys program midwifed and led by Chris Long, a fellow UVa alum, and a two-time Super Bowl Champion defensive end, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Waterboys, with support from more than 20 current and retired NFL players, funds the digging of wells in the area and teaches the locals how to do the digging and maintaining. To date, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million to fund 49 wells that will provide water to over 193,000 people.

Brogdon took notice: “When I learned about Chris’ Waterboys initiative and saw their accomplishments by working as a team of players to inspire action, I knew I wanted to expand his vision into the NBA and address our ultimate shared goal to save more lives faster and transform communities.”

 

Brogdon 2

Malcolm Brogdon, founder of Hoops₂o at a Waterboys well site in East Africa (Photo credit: Clay Cook Photography)

 

To get Hoops₂O off the ground, the Starting 5 are asking fans to get involved by participating in the “Ballin’ for Buckets” campaign. Fans are encouraged to pledge a dollar amount per stat line (i.e. points Brogdon will score, the number of 3-pointers Tolliver will hit) for one of the Starting 5 players for the month of November.

Brogdon and each of his Starting 5 teammates also made financial pledges to support Ballin’ for Buckets. Player stat tracking will begin on November 1, but fans can make a pledge now. To learn more and make a pledge, fans are encouraged to visit www.hoops2o.org.

The Starting 5’s goal is to raise $45,000 — the cost of building one solar paneled, sustainable, deep borehole well — by the end of November. Brogdon and friends hope to raise $225,000 to fund five wells by the end of the NBA season next spring.

“I’m honored that our work is expanding into the NBA,” added Waterboys Founder Chris Long. “I couldn’t be more excited about what this will mean for our neighbors who lack access to a fundamental resource. I’m confident that working together as a united front, the NFL’s Waterboys and the NBA’s Starting 5 will bring us one step closer to providing water to one million people.”

 

Chris Long

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, co-founder of Waterboys (Photo credit: WPVI-TV Philadelphia)

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to Brogdon and his mates for getting involved in the water crisis in East Africa. Basketball and the NBA are very popular across Africa so it’s a natural connection. Could NBA partner Coca-Cola should provide financial and other support that could help scale Hoops₂O. Why not?

 

JAPAN BASEBALL: BROKEN BASEBALL BATS MORPH INTO CHOPSTICKS

When batters from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp come to the plate in the Japan Series, which started on Saturday, they will be carrying bats made overseas from white ash and maple, like their major league counterparts. But up until about 15 years ago, most Japanese professionals, including future big leaguers stars Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki used bats made from wood from the aodamo, a species of ash tree native to Japan.

Since bat makers did not replant the trees as they were cut, aodamo is no longer economically feasible to log on the northern island of Hokkaido, the capital of Japanese bat production. It can take 50 to 70 years for an aodamo tree to grow to a height and thickness needed to make bats. The hope is that if a comprehensive reforestation project is successful, aodamo will again become feasible for baseball towards the latter part of the century.

To make that a reality, conservationists and aodamo bat enthusiasts need to drum up interest in restoring the tree population now.

That is where turning broken bats into chopsticks comes in.

The germ for this idea was born in 2000. According to Jeré Longman of The New York Times, “An article in The Nikkei financial newspaper and other Japanese publications first sounded alarms about the decreased availability of aodamo wood. The Nikkei article was read by officials at the Hyozaemon chopsticks company [and its] chief executive [and former high school baseball player], Hyogoo Uratani.”

At that time, broken bats were mostly given away or burned in barrels to keep players warm during spring training. Uratani and his friend Takeo Minatoya, who had been a general manager in the Japanese Central League, conjured the bats-into-chopsticks program to publicize the aodamo wood problem.

Only the barrel of the bat is thick enough to make chopsticks.^ The barrel is sawed from the handle, sliced vertically into thin blocks then sanded by craftsmen into the shape of chopsticks. Hyozaemon officials told Longman, “the barrel of one bat can yield five or six pairs of chopsticks.”

 

Chopsticks

Broken baseball bats used to be burned in Japan. Now they become chopsticks. (Photo credit; Shiho Fukada/The New York Times)

 

Today, all 12 teams in Japan’s Central and Pacific Leagues take part in the bats-to-chopsticks initiative. The company  collects an average of 10,000 broken bats each season.

Per Longman, “Hyozaemon pays a licensing fee to put team logos on its chopsticks. In turn, Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s equivalent of Major League Baseball, makes an annual contribution of 3.5 million yen, or about $31,000, to the nonprofit Aodamo Preservation Society. The money is used to plant aodamo seedlings on Hokkaido.”

More than aodamo 10,000 trees have been planted so far with many more to come.

 

Chopsticks 2

Chopsticks from broken bats display logos from Japan’s Central and Pacific League teams (Photo credit: Shiho Fukada/The New York Times)
^ In addition to the barrel being used for chopsticks, the tapered portion toward the handle can be repurposed into shoehorns and handles for forks and spoons. The cap of the bat can be made into a drinking cup.

 


 

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Chris Long: Wins 2nd Straight Super Bowl, Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro to Bring Attention to East Africa’s Water Crisis

Many a Super Bowl MVP, starting with New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms back in 1987, have, in the moments after winning the award, answered the question “What’s Next” by proclaiming “I’m going to Disney World!” Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long did not win the MVP of Super Bowl LII (backup QB turned hero Nick Foles did) but, if he was asked the “What’s Next” question, his answer would’ve been “Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to draw attention to the East Africa water crisis.” 

 

Chris Long is having quite a last 13 months, on and off the field. Let’s review:

  • February 2017: Earned his first Super Bowl ring, playing a key role as a defensive end for the New England Patriots in their epic comeback from a 28-3 deficit to win Super Bowl LI, 34-28 over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • March 2017: Long and a group of 11 hearty souls, including retired NFL players, took Long’s “Conquering Kili Challenge,” climbing 19,000 foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of his Waterboys.org initiative. As detailed in a May, 2017 GreenSportsBlog post, Waterboys 1) raises awareness of the fresh water crisis in East Africa, 2) funds the digging of wells in the area — 32 to date — one for each NFL team — and 3) teaches the locals how to do the digging and maintaining. This was Long’s second ascent of Kilimanjaro

 

Video highlights of 2017’s “Conquering Kili Challenge”

 

  • March 2017: Signed an effective two year, $4.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, citing the Cheesesteaks’ scheme as being a better fit for his skill set.
  • October 2017: Donated his entire 2017 base salary of $1 million to benefit educational charities in the three cities in which he’s played during his 10-year NFL career — St. Louis (formerly the home of the Rams), Boston, Philadelphia — as well as to fund scholarships to a private middle and high school in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. “In my 10th year, I want to celebrate the awesome opportunity I’ve had to play football by giving back to the communities that have given me that gift,” Long said in a statement. “Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America.”
  • December 2017: Strongly shut down critics of then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest police violence against people of color by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016. Here is one of Long’s several December 22 tweets on the subject: “ZERO interest in being used as the anti-Colin. I support Colin’s right to protest, and what he’s protesting. He deserves a job in the NFL. He’s donated as much $ as I have to social causes.” The 49ers chose to part ways from Kaepernick, 30, after the 2016 season and none of the remaining 31 NFL teams chose to offer him a contract. Kaepernick sued the NFL and its owners for collusion — that suit is still pending.
  • February 2018: Wins his second consecutive Super Bowl ring, helping the Philadelphia Eagles hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in team history. In case you’ve been under a rock the past month, the Eagles defeated his former team, the Patriots, 41-33, in what became instant classic.

 

Chris Long

Chris Long, after winning Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles (Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

 

  • February 2018: Three weeks after winning Super Bowl LII, Long and his climbing mates “Conquer Kili” again!

 

This time around, Long and trip co-skipper, former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, led a team of 12 — plus video crew — on the climb. Rams linebacker and eco-athlete Connor Barwin became the first active NFLer other than Long to take part. While he was with the Eagles, Barwin, a supporter of Waterboys for the past two seasons, rode his bike and/or took mass transit to work and helped install solar panels on roofs in South Jersey. And, in another “Conquering Kili” first, a professional athlete from a sport other than football joined the group: Professional MMA fighter Justin Wren is a long time advocate for clean water through his work with the Mbuti Pygmies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As far as Long is concerned, I cannot wrap my head around the idea that he could climb Kilimanjaro almost immediately after two grueling, physically punishing Super Bowl runs.

As the University of Virginia alum explained to SI.com’s Peter King on February 14, “I spend time outside. I hike, I trek, I climb. Doing it halfway around the world for eight days is different. But the toughest part is the altitude. Lots of people make it. But even the fittest guys struggle. Last year, we had a vet, an ultra-marathoner, totally bad-ass guy, who had to turn around. Altitude didn’t agree with him.”

But, somehow, Long was able to summit. Again, from his Valentine’s Day chat with Peter King: “You start in a rainforest, move into the high desert, and on the sixth day, you’re summitting, and you’re on a glacier, and you’re on top of Africa. It’s quite amazing.”

What is even more amazing is Long’s ability to generate real results for Tanzanians through his consistent commitment and generosity of spirit.

Results: The 2018 “Conquering Kili” class set a Kilimanjaro-level fundraising goal of $150,000 to support the climb and to construct clean water wells. As of February 13, the class had raised $68,000. The projects funded this year add to the four wells that have already been constructed through the “Conquering Kili” by previous classes.

Consistent Commitment: Long, again talking to SI.com’s King: “The awareness for our cause, clean water in east Africa … this is our best platform. The world water crisis is huge, and it means so much to me that we’ve been able to raise enough money to build 32 wells [through Waterboys; several other wells have been built through “Conquering Kili”] in such desperate areas.”

Generosity of Spirit: Once more, as part of the Long-King chat: “It’s a cool opportunity to involve all of my passions—my foundation, my life, helping active and retired NFL dudes, and then our military. They have a need, a void, for service. Some vets want to get involved in a cause bigger than selves. And this is such a great cause.”

 

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Long and his 2018 “Conquering Kili” team at the summit of Kilimanjaro (Photo credit: Chris Long/Instagram)

 

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Chris Long wears the ubiquitous (at least in the Philadelphia area) dog mask — it symbolizes the Eagles’ underdog status throughout its playoff/Super Bowl run — at the Kilimanjaro summit (Photo credit: Chris Long/Instagram)

 


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Super Bowl LII Champion Eagles Have Been Green-Sports Leaders for More than a Decade

The first-time Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have long been Green-Sports trail blazers. As the City of Brotherly Love gets ready for Thursday’s parade (please stay off the hotel awnings and street light poles, Iggles fans!), GreenSportsBlog is happy to play some of the Eagles’ Greatest Green-Sports Hits.

 

IT ALL STARTED WITH…TOILET PAPER?

As Green Sports Alliance co-founder Dr. Allen Hershkowitz likes to tell it, the impetus for the Eagles’ commitment to sustainability  — and, for that matter, the beginning of the broader sports-greening movement — can be traced back to 2004 and…

…toilet paper?

The second paragraph of “This May Be the Most Radical Idea in All of Professional Sports,” Ian Gordon’s spot-on profile of Hershkowitz in the July/August 2015 issue of Mother Jonescaptures the essence of the story:

“Back in 2004, the Philadelphia Eagles had recently moved into a brand new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, and wanted to become more environmentally responsible. The team reached out to [Hershkowitz] to talk about paper, one of his areas of expertise. It wasn’t exactly exciting stuff, but Hershkowitz, then a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with a track record of taking on ambitious projects, had done his homework: The Eagles’ TP supplier was Kimberly-Clark, which was getting wood pulp from forests in the southern Appalachians that were home to, you guessed it, real-life eagles. ‘The people at the Eagles’ stadium were wiping their butts with eagle habitat,’ he recalls. ‘That’s what we call a branding liability.'”

Indeed.

 

CHRISTINA WEISS LURIE LEADS THE EAGLES GREENING EFFORTS

Why did the Eagles want to become more environmentally responsible?

Christina Weiss Lurie, a minority owner of the club since 1994, deserves much of the credit. She spearheaded the Eagles Go Green campaign, coinciding with the opening of “The Linc” in 2003. That groundbreaking initiative has seen the Eagles divert 99 percent of their waste from the landfill and generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy.

 

(player/coach/executive name)

Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo credit: Christina Weiss Lurie)

 

In a wide-ranging September 2013 GreenSportsBlog interview, Weiss Lurie shared…

…her inspirations for Go Green:

“In the late 90’s, as we planned what became Lincoln Financial Field, we looked for ways to make a positive statement to the community with the stadium.  And, while it was not designed with sustainability at the forefront, as time went on I started thinking about how we could operate more efficiently and with a smaller carbon footprint.  9/11 inspired us as well — with the idea that we had to do more to wean ourselves off of foreign sources of energy.  We asked the simple question: What can we do? And so, when the stadium opened in 2003 we started the Go Green campaign with something relatively simple–recycling–and things took off from there.”

…how her colleagues in Eagles management didn’t exactly embrace Go Green from the start:

“It was an uphill battle at the beginning, no doubt about it.  We are a business after all and so the costs of greening had to be taken into account at every step of the way. ‘[But] we just persevered!  And, at the same time, we empowered the team employees from top to bottom to take ownership of Go Green.  From the bottom up, we provided incentives for all employees to choose electricity supply from renewable sources for their homes by paying any premiums for green vs. “brown” power.  From the top down, I’ve been fortunate, over the years, to get buy in from our C-level on Go Green, especially our CFO at the time.  The net result of the bottom-up/top-down strategy has been astounding:  Our recycling rates have gone up from 8 percent in 2005 to 99 percent in 2012!”

…how a variety of forward-thinking companies partnered with the club to make Go Green a success:

“We’ve been very lucky with our vendors.  For example, SCA, a Swedish company that has its US headquarters in Philadelphia, is our paper vendor.  They provide us with 100% post consumer recycled paper. Aramark, our food concessionaire, initially was resistant to “greening” our food services operations (composting, organics, etc.) due to cost.  But ultimately they wanted to find solutions and now are bringing their green operations to other facilities!  Going the eco friendly route is a journey and can take time. NRG, our energy provider, built and financed our 11,000 panel solar array at Lincoln Financial Field.  Now we generate 30 percent of our electricity from the panels and also mini wind turbines.”

 

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Solar array, topped by Eagle talon-shaped wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

GO GREEN DOES NOT REST ON ITS LAURELS 

While repeating as Super Bowl champs is super difficult — the 2004-2005 New England Patriots were the last team to turn that trick — the Eagles, through Go Green, have been consistent Green-Sports winners over the past a decade and a half. Last summer, GreenSportsBlog shared how the Eagles continued that trend through the installation of  Eco-Safe Digesters® at The Linc and their practice facility:

“The Philadelphia Eagles team[ed] up with environmental partner, Delaware-based Waste Masters Solutions (WMS), on the installation of a BioHiTech Global Eco-Safe Digester®, a food waste digester and data analytics platform at Lincoln Financial Field. The unit uses a proprietary bacteria formula to break down pre- and post-consumer food scraps via aerobic digestion and send them through sewer systems with no residual solids…This move builds upon the September 2016 installation of a waste digester at the team’s NovaCare Complex practice facility to help decompose pre-consumer food waste. Since then, more than nine tons of food waste has been decomposed and, thus, diverted from landfills.”

 

BioHiTech Eco-Safe

BioHiTech Global’s Eco-Safe Digesters will be installed Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, and will be managed and maintained by Waste Master Solutions. (Photo credit: BioHiTech Global)

 

EAGLE ECO-ATHLETES; CHRIS LONG AND CONNOR BARWIN

The Eagles’ Go Green ethos has made its way to the locker room.

Defensive end Chris Long, who donated his entire 2017 salary of $1 million to educational charities, is also the co-founder of the nonprofit Waterboys. A January 2017 GreenSportsBlog story provides some of the inspiring particulars:

“[After Long’s season ends,] the former first round draft pick from the University of Virginia will turn a good chunk of his offseason attention to Waterboys, the nonprofit he founded to use his platform as a pro football player to affect change by bringing water to drought-ravaged Tanzania and other countries in East Africa…

…Long first visited Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Seeing the poverty and the challenging quality of life—due, in large part, to the water scarcity in the area—were his catalysts for action. That water deficit has reached crisis levels due to a massive prolonged drought that, according to climate scientists, is being exacerbated by climate change.

…Through Waterboys, Long, philanthropist Doug Pitt and a network of 23 current and former NFLers, including ex-Eagle (currently with the Los Angeles Rams) Connor Barwin, donate their own funds and, through social media, raise money from their fans to support the digging of wells by local workers in East Africa.”

 

Chris Long

Eagles defensive end Chris Long, co-founder of Waterboys (Photo credit: WPVI-TV Philadelphia)

 

To date, 31 wells have been funded, with each serving 7,500 people at a cost of $45,000.

Speaking of Connor Barwin, while he was with Philadelphia, the popular linebacker became one of pro sports’ leading eco-athletes. He drove a Tesla, rode his bike to work and, as a volunteer, installed solar panels on the roofs of local homes.

 

GREEN X 2 IN SUPER BOWL LIII?

Given the Eagles Green-Sports leadership, rooting for them to get back to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta next February is not a heavy lift for this GreenSportsBlogger. And how fitting would it be if, across the sideline, stood the New York Jets, aka Gang Green.

OK, to be completely transparent, the Gang Green moniker has nothing to do with sustainability — rather, it refers to the color of the Jets’ uniforms. But the club does play at MetLife Stadium, a green leader in its own right. And they are, for better and mostly worse, my favorite team. Of course they don’t really have a quarterback, but that’s a story for another day.

Still, I choose to dream big and green. And nothing would be bigger — or greener — than an Eagles-Jets Super Bowl.

But, for now, it’s the Eagles day. So Fly Eagles FLY!

 

 

 


 

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