Tuesday at the (Very) Interactive 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit: Climate Change Takes a Starring Role; ESPN Wins Environmental Leadership Award, But Are They Really Leading?

Executive Director Justin Zeulner promised that the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta would be “much more interactive than in past years — more workshops than panel discussions.” The Alliance made good on that promise at Tuesday’s full day session, with workshops that were more substantive and less jargon-y than in the past. Here are some of the highlights from Day 1 of the Summit.

 

THOUGHT LEADER WORKSHOP TAKES ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND SPORTS

Climate change, politics, and sports — not often mixed together at the four Alliance Summits I had attended previously — were featured items on the menu at the somewhat wonkish lunch time Thought Leader workshop. Co-led with verve by Colin Tetreault, Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University and Anne Kelly, Senior Director, Policy at Ceres, the session also featured Matt Ellis, CEO and Founder of Measurabl, Ben Jarrett, North American Sustainability Leader at Kimberly-Clark, Scott Mercer, CEO of Volta Charging, and Kat West of JLL.

 

Colin Tetreault

Colin Tetreault (Photo credit: Arizona State University)

 

Audience members, yours truly included, probed the panel (and the panel probed back) about, among other things, how athletes, teams and leagues can and should talk about climate change. The issue of politics hung over that question.

Mr. Mercer questioned the premise, saying in effect that climate change is not political. There was some pushback, both from Mr. Jarrett and some audience members. Ms. West suggested that emphasizing positive environmental actions and staying out of the politics of climate change is probably the best approach. I volleyed, saying “like it or not, climate change is a political issue and we can’t be afraid of that. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was a controversial issue and now he’s a hero. Muhammad Ali’s criticism of the Vietnam War was a controversial issue and now he’s a hero. We don’t have the time to wait for our sports-climate heroes.” That led to more respectful dialogue from a variety of perspectives.

Which was great.

Too often I’ve seen panels — at the Summit and elsewhere — where everyone agrees in a Kumbaya-ish sort of way. I think workshops like this, which featured a healthy and respectful debate, are much more valuable and informative.

On the way to the next workshop, I heard several people saying, “I could’ve stayed for another hour.” I silently seconded that emotion.

 

DOES ESPN DESERVE ITS “ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP AWARD”

ESPN won the Alliance’s Environmental Leadership Award for 2018 .

In accepting the award, Kevin Martinez, ESPN’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship, showed a video that highlighted impressive environmental achievements at the ESPY Awards, the Winter X Games and the College GameDay studio shows for both football and basketball. And ESPN’s sprawling Bristol, CT headquarters campus has been greening for the better part of a decade, including on-site solar and a strong waste diversion program (62 percent in 2017).

 

Kevin Martinez - March 5, 2013

Kevin Martinez, ESPN’s vice president of corporate citizenship, accepted the Alliance’s Environmental Leadership Award (Photo credit: Rich Arden/ESPN)

 

These accomplishments deserve to be commended.

Just not, it says here, with the Environmental Leadership Award.

I just don’t see leadership from from the Worldwide Leader in Sports in the environmental arena.

That’s because ESPN has not told Green-Sports stories to its massive audiences — 86 million cable subscribers, 115 million monthly espn.com visitors, 2.1 million ESPN The Magazine subscribers, etc.

There have been occasional exceptions: Outside The Linesthe 60 Minutes of ESPN, covered the effect of the polluted waters of Rio on the sailors and rowers at the 2016 Summer Olympics as well as the impact of wildfires in California and of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The producers are planning to mark the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey in August.

But that’s not leadership, at least not in my eyes.

The good news is that it’s not that heavy a lift to get to leadership. Taking some or all of these steps would do the trick:

  • Tell some of the many inspirational, positive, interesting Green-Sports stories out there.
  • Air a “Climate and Sports” series on SportsCenter 
  • Produce an ESPN 30 for 30 or a Nine for IX (women’s sports focused) documentary on an Eco-Athlete
  • Add an Eco-Athlete of the Year Award to the ESPY’s roster

You get the idea.

Now, you’re probably dying to ask me, “So Lew, to whom would you have given the Environmental Leadership Award?”

My vote would’ve gone to another sports media behemoth, Sky Sports of Great Britain, for its Sky Ocean Rescue initiative. According to SkySports.com, it shines a spotlight on “the issues affecting ocean health, finds innovative solutions to the ocean plastic problems and inspires people to make small everyday changes that collectively make a huge difference.” Just last week, the network named modern pentathlete Francesca Summers and para-swimmer Ellen Keane as Sky Sports Scholars for their Sky Ocean Rescue/beach cleanup work. Sky Sports also features Sky Ocean Rescue-related content on its air. And they are partners with the environmentally forward leaning Volvo Ocean Race.

 

Francesca Summers

Francesca Summers and Ellen Keane clean trash from beaches as part of the Sky Ocean Rescue program (Photo credit: Sky Sports)

 

ARTHUR M. BLANK WINS COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

The Alliance’s first annual Community Champion Award, given to a sustainability leader in the Summit’s host city, went to Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United and builder of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mr. Blank’s commitment to going the extra mile to make sure the stadium earned LEED Platinum certification was likely well known by many in the audience. My guess is few attendees were aware of his vision to make the stadium an economic and cultural engine for the adjacent West Side neighborhood.

In decline for more than 40 years, the West Side was once home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a nucleus of the civil rights movement. And now, thanks in part to Mr. Blank, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium team, as well as the Atlanta and Georgia governments, that historic neighborhood is starting on the long road back.

 

GSA Arthur Blank-headshot

Arthur M. Blank, a deserving winner of the Green Sports Alliance’s Community Champion Award (Photo credit: Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment)

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Seattle Seahawks and Sounders Sell Potatoes Grown from Their Own Compost; EV Charging at Chicago’s United Center; Golf Course Bogeys Chance to Score on Climate Change

GreenSportsBlog’s News & Notes is back with Three for Thursday: CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks and Sounders, built on its already strong green-sports record by sourcing potatoes grown from its own compost. Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks, is bringing free electric vehicle (EV) charging to its parking lots. And a golf course near Portland, OR swings and misses on a chance to make a statement on climate change. 

 

 

POTATOES GROWN FROM COMPOST SOLD AT SEATTLE’S CENTURYLINK FIELD

CenturyLink Field’s reputation as one of the greenest sports venues in the U.S. is well-deserved. From on-site solar to diverting over 97 percent of its waste from landfill this season to its stellar public transit offerings that bring 35 percent of all attendees to and from Seahawks and Sounders games, CenturyLink gets it done. And, this September, the venue  went straw-free by taking part in “Strawless in Seattle,” an initiative of the Lonely Whale Foundation.

How could CenturyLink Field top all that?

By changing the way they source potatoes, that’s how!

You see, all of the french fries served at the Seahawks thrilling 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans on October 29 and the Sounders 2-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS playoff game on November 2 came from Sound Sustainable Farms, which used compost from the stadium’s food waste to grow its produce.

The Seahawks and Sounders are partnering with Cedar Grove Composting, which owns Sound Sustainable Farms, to offer locally sourced, organic and eco-friendly foods.

Cedar Grove collects about 16 tons of compost after every Seahawks game, according to a team statement. That compost served as the growing environment which yielded approximately 6,000 pounds of cut potatoes for the Seahawks-Texans game.

Cedar Grove says it brought its compost to a dormant farm in Redmond, WA earlier this year where the soil was restored for farming. And, voilà, Sound Sustainable Farms was born and CenturyLink Field had french fries made from their own compost.

 

CenturyLink Potatoes

Potatoes, growing in soil from compost collected at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, will ultimately become french fries at…CenturyLink Field (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

“This fully integrated, closed-loop cycle takes composting to its highest and best use by returning the finished compost to growing food for local consumption,” said J. Stephan Banchero, III, vice president of Cedar Grove.

 

UNITED CENTER GETS NEW JUICE FROM VOLTA EV CHARGING

So far this season, both tenants of Chicago’s United Center — the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks — can use jolts of energy. The once-legendary Bulls now reside near the Eastern Conference bottom with a 2-9 record. The Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups this decade, are in better shape than their hoops co-tenants but are lumbering along at a “meh” 8-8-2 mark.

But, there is hope.

Volta Charging, the leader in free electric vehicle (EV) charging, recently began deploying EV charging stations near the South and East entrances of the United Center in Chicago, as part of a 10-year agreement with the venue.

Through Volta’s nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, the largest indoor arena in the U.S., will offer visitors free charging facilities, supporting the United Center’s mission to reduce its environmental impact.

 

Volta Charging Greentech Media

A Volta charging station. The company recently signed a 10-year deal to deploy similar stations at Chicago’s United Center, home of the NBA’s Bulls and the NHL’s Blackhawks (Photo credit: GreenTech Media)

 

Four open-access universal charging stations will be installed, operated and maintained at no cost to the United Center or its customers through Volta’s ad-supported network model. The stations will be equipped with digital-hybrid advertising display units that will be placed in prime locations near venue entrances. This will ensure sponsor/advertiser messages reach fans entering and exiting the arena, while facilitating easy access for drivers.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an executive order committing  the city to work towards the scientific guidelines put forth in the Paris climate agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. As city departments work to find ways to reduce emissions, United Center is raising awareness about its own commitment to sustainability through its partnership with Volta.

“With over 2.5 million visitors annually, we are excited to be partnering with Volta to bring its [charging] stations to our arena and provide visitors with a convenient and easy way to charge their vehicles,” said Joe Myra, VP of Business Affairs at the United Center. “Volta’s model aligns perfectly with our plan to work towards sustainability and enables our patrons to take a personal stake in a viable future.”

Since its founding 2010, Volta reports it has delivered over 15 million electric miles, saving 136,000 gallons of gas and offsetting 6.6 million pounds of CO₂ in the process.

 

WASHINGTON STATE’S BEACON ROCK GOLF COURSE DOESN’T QUITE GET GREEN-SPORTS

Have you seen this photo? It received quite a bit of media attention back in early September.

 

Golf Fire

Photo credit: Beacon Rock Golf Course

 

It was taken on September 7 at Beacon Rock Golf Course on the Washington side of the border with Oregon.

In the background, you see the Eagle Creek fire, a 31,000-acre blaze burning all the way to the Portland area, about 45 miles away. Even though it was encroaching on the golf course, play went on.

Of course, it must be noted that the Columbia River forms the border between the two states at that point so there was little chance of the fire moving on to the first tee. And, it’s worth mentioning that many golfers have the “play through” ethos, meaning that the elements will not stop them.

I get it.

But what I don’t get are the reactions of the folks who run Beacon Rock Golf Course.

They posted the photo above to Facebook with the caption “Our golfers are committed to finishing the round!” That’s simply callous and tone deaf.

But later on, they posted this more menacing photo with a sober, much more appropriate caption:

 

Golf Fire 2

 

Yet, to me, this was an opportunity lost.

If I was asked to write this caption, it would have read something like this:

“View from the Clubhouse. A fire of this magnitude makes us 1) thankful no lives have been lost so far, 2) think of the many people who will be affected for many months, and 3) urge business as well as government leaders in Washington, Oregon and at the federal level to take serious, immediate action on climate change.” 

OK, maybe it could be a tad tighter, but you get my drift.

 


 

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