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.

 

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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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The GSB Interview: Nicole Woodie, Manager, Chris Long Foundation’s “Waterboys”

Back in January, GreenSportsBlog ran a short feature in a News & Notes column about Waterboys.org, a nonprofit that funds the digging of wells in water-deprived areas of Tanzania in East Africa. Founded by Chris Long, the defensive end who was, at the time of our story, about to win a Super Bowl for the New England Patriots and has since moved down I-95 to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, Waterboys is halfway to its goal of spearheading the digging of 32 wells. We received far more comments than usual on this post, with readers wanting to learn more. So today, we bring you our interview with Nicole Woodie, President of Fruition Giving, a philanthropy-consulting firm. Ms. Woodie manages Waterboys on behalf of the Chris Long Foundation.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Nicole, I have to tell you…GreenSportsBlog readers responded to our January story on Chris Long and Waterboys at an unusually high rate. They wanted to know more so I am glad to dig in to it with you. How did you get to work on Waterboys?

Nicole Woodie: Well, Lew, I got there by sort of a circuitous route. I started out as a political fundraiser in Missouri…

GSB: How did you get into that, especially at a young age? Sounds like an interesting story in itself…

 

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Nicole Woodie, President of Fruition Giving (Photo credit: Nicole Woodie)

 

NW: It started when my aunt decided to run for statewide office as Attorney General. She needed help in fundraising, I thought I’d be good at it and I thought she’d be a great AG so I gave it a shot. I started to have some success raising money and eventually became the campaign’s finance director. We ended up losing but I was able to get more work. Most notably, I worked as Finance Director for Robin Carnahan in her campaign for Secretary of State, which she won, and then as her deputy Finance Director for her unsuccessful US Senate bid.

GSB: You must have learned a ton…

NW: No doubt about it. But, while I was successful as a political fundraiser, what I really wanted to work in was sports—I love sports—and particularly sports philanthropy. So I pivoted to the world of community outreach. I got an internship with the St. Louis Rams and waited tables to earn some cash. And then, in 2011, the Rams hired me to work full time in community outreach, with a focus on getting players involved with causes and nonprofits that fit their individual interests.

GSB: That is a terrific story, Nicole! And now I see how you connected with Chris, as the club selected him out of the University of Virginia with the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

NW: That’s right. I started working with him on his community programs in St. Louis. What you have to know about Chris is this: When he gets passionate about a cause, he goes after it 100 percent.

GSB: So how did it play out that Chris ended up starting Waterboys and what is your role in the organization?

NW: OK, first let’s go back to 2013. That’s when Chris and his teammate James Hall climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When they came down the mountain and toured the villages, Chris saw poverty like he’d never seen before. He was struck both by the tragic conditions in which the people lived and by their resiliency and the beauty of the area. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

GSB: What was that something?

NW: He wasn’t sure. But then came a chance encounter at a hotel bar while Chris was having a beer.

GSB: This sounds like we’re getting into film noir territory. Did it involve a blonde in a trench coat?

NW: Hardly. He hears a recognizable voice from behind him belt out “Chris Long!” It turns out the voice belongs to Fox’ lead NFL broadcaster and St. Louis Cardinals announcer Joe Buck. He was there with Doug Pitt, Brad’s brother…

GSB: …You cannot make this up!!!

NW: You’re right, Lew. Doug Pitt was a goodwill ambassador to Tanzania at the time and was there with Buck on a water project. They asked Chris to join them but he couldn’t. But, when he returned to St. Louis he set about educating himself on the water crisis, talked to Doug Pitt some more and then he started the Chris Long Foundation in 2015, with Waterboys launching in August of that year.

GSB: And where did you come in?

NW: At around that time I had decided to leave the Rams and go out on my own to broaden my impact in sports philanthropy. Chris brought me on to run and manage the foundation and, ultimately, Waterboys.

GSB: What does that mean?

NW: I handle administration, events, fundraising, PR and the back end…

GSB: Basically, you do it all. Impressive. Back to the “Birth of Waterboys” story…

NW: Yes…So, back in 2015, if you recall that was around the time of the Ice Bucket Challenge which raised millions of dollars for ALS research. Chris was amazed at the power of social media and collective action could do. And then he thought ‘We need to do this with water.’ Then he put pen to paper and Waterboys was born. Chris realized several crucial facts: 1. Water is a life-death issue. 2. Solutions exist to the water crisis. 3. Solving that crisis will allow water to transform communities by leading to economic growth, increased education and gender equality. He asked himself how he could involve the league and its players, thinking, ‘If I can get guys in each NFL market to get involved, we’ll get more people to care.’ So the idea to fund the digging of 32 wells, one for each team, was born. We recruited one player from each team. By August 2015, we had gotten 22 Waterboys from 21 NFL teams. Each player donated or assisted in raising funds and asked his fans to do the same.

GSB: That’s incredible. How involved was Chris personally?

NW: He was working on this every week, even in-season.

GSB: So with all of this activity, how many wells have actually been built?

NW: At this point we’ve completed the digging of 16 wells with funding in place for five more. This means 66,000 people now have clean drinking water. When the five that are funded are completed, the number of people served will be in the 70,000-80,000 range.

 

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Chris Long (2nd from right) was in East Africa in 2015 for the digging of Waterboys’ first well. (Photo credit: Waterboys)

 

 

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The fruits of Waterboys’ labors, fresh drinking water. (Photo credit: Waterboys)

 

GSB: When do you project that all 32 wells will be funded?

NW: We’re looking at 2018…

GSB: That is a rapid pace…

NW: That’s the only way Chris knows how to work.

GSB: Now, how does Waterboys go about getting the wells dug?

NW: The Chris Long Foundation funds the wells and the digging of them. WorldServe International, on whose board Doug Pitt sits…

GSB: …Brad’s brother!

NW: …the very same. Anyway World Serve International does the work in country. All of the wells are built using Tanzanian crews. Each one serves up to 7,500 people. Solar panels generate the power to operate the wells. The community pays a tiny fee to use the wells, which pays for the upkeep. And everyone in the community where the wells exist gets access to them, which keeps corruption out.

GSB: This is such an amazing program! What are your plans to scale this to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere? Will you broaden Waterboys to sports other than football?

NW: Our goal is to get water to 1 million people so we are looking at bringing athletes from other sports into the mix. The plan for now is to stay in East Africa, as the need there is massive and acute.

GSB: Got it. OK, I gotta ask one last question. I saw recently that ex-Steelers quarterback; NFL legend and Fox NFL Today host Terry Bradshaw made a big donation to Waterboys. Tell us how that happened…

NW: Terry of course works with Howie Long, Chris’ dad, on NFL Today. He calls Chris his godson. Terry had heard about Waterboys, did a feature on it on the Super Bowl pregame show. So he and his wife committed to fund the balance of well number 17 and gave an additional $45,000 to fund their own well. And Terry pushed a video about Waterboys through churches in Pittsburgh, resulting in funding of yet another well.

GSB: Great job by Terry Bradshaw. OK, I lied. I have one more question. Climate change is likely exacerbating the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Tanzania. Where does climate change fit in Chris’ calculus with Waterboys?

NW: Chris sees that climate change clearly goes hand in hand with water issues and is likely making it much worse. Waterboys’ main focus is getting to water to people who need it but climate change is something that will be part of the conversation as we plan for the future.

 


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GSB News and Notes: NFLers Bring H2O to East Africa; Making Sneakers from CO2; Legendary Golf Club Publishes Sustainability Report

H2O and CO2. Today’s News & Notes centers on those life-sustaining and, in the case of the latter, climate change-contributing compounds. New England Patriots defensive lineman Chris Long is leading an effort to bring much-needed water to East Africa. NRG, one the largest energy producers (brown and green power) in the US, is looking at delving in the athletic shoe market with “Shoe Without a Footprint” made from—get this—CO2. And, San Francisco’s Olympic Club, host of five US Opens, recently became the first North American Golf Club to issue a sustainability report, with water a main focus. 

 

“WATERBOYS”: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ DEFENSIVE END CHRIS LONG ANOTHER NFL-ERS BRINGS WATER TO EAST AFRICA

Defensive End Chris Long, after playing the first eight years of his career with the largely mediocre-to-poor St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams, will taste the NFL playoffs for the first time with the New England Patriots on Saturday night. Whenever the Pats’ postseason run ends, the former first round draft pick from the University of Virginia will turn a good chunk of his offseason attention to Waterboys, the non-profit 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.

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Chris Long, New England Patriots and founder of Waterboys. (Photo credit: New England Patriots)

 

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 his brother Kyle (Chicago Bears), Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and eco-athlete Connor Barwin (Philadelphia Eagles)^, 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. To date, 14 wells have been funded (their initial goal is to fund 32, one for each of the NFL teams) with each serving 7,500 people at a cost of $45,000.

Chris Long shares the Waterboys story in this 2 minute 32 second video

 

If you are interested in supporting Waterboys, please click here.

 

MAKING SNEAKERS FROM CO2

 

What if I told you that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are not just the primary driver of climate change, but also a potential key ingredient for an almost infinite number of materials, fuels and products we use every day?

That is not the beginning of an ad for a new ESPN 30-for-30 sports documentary (which all begin with “What if I told you…?”).

Rather, it is the question posed by XPRIZE consultant Alisa Ferguson in “You’ll Never Guess How CO2 Can Save US,” a thought provoking December 13, 2016 piece in GreenBiz. She readily acknowledges that the technology to turn CO2 into, well, stuff, is in its very early days and may never scale. But then again, it may: Professor Michael Aresta of the University of Bari (Italy), confidently says humanity will be able to recycle up to 25 percent of emitted CO2 by 2036.

Ms. Ferguson offers several eyebrow-raising examples of Fortune 500 companies working on spent CO2-based products: Sprint began selling iPhone cases made from waste CO2 captured at farms and landfills, Ford plans to make car seats from foam and plastics derived from CO2 emissions. 

The one that raised my eyebrows the most was “Shoe Without a Footprint,” (SWF) a collaboration between NRG and new product development firm 10xBeta. GreenSportsBlog readers may recall that NRG is one of the largest producers of power in the US, both clean/green and dirty/brown and has installed solar arrays at six NFL stadia.

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First look at Shoe Without a Footprint from 10xBeta and NRG. (Photo credit: NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE)

 

The foam embedded in SWF is the brainchild of 10xBeta CEO and inventor Marcel Botha. CO2 emitted by power plants was captured and turned into a special polymer which made up approximately 75 percent of the final product. 

Now, don’t go to your nearest FootLocker, asking for a size 10 SWF just yet. Only five pair were created for entry into the Carbon XPrize contest, an NRG-sponsored competition aimed at finding innovative technologies that could turn carbon dioxide emissions into useful products. But Botha asserts that the technology is scalable.

 

THE OLYMPIC CLUB BECOMES FIRST US GOLF VENUE TO PUBLISH SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

San Francisco’s Olympic Club is one of the USA’s iconic golf clubs. Here are some key numbers that buttress that claim:

5: U.S. Opens hosted by the Olympic Club, most recently in 2012

33: The Olympic Club’s ranking on Golf Digest’s 2015 list of “America’s 100 Greatest Courses.”

1: The Olympic Club is the first club in North America to release a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report, demonstrating transparency in operations related to the environment, community, and economy – while exhibiting the aesthetics, performance, and playability of a top 100 course.

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The Olympic Club, San Francisco; the first golf club in North America to issue a sustainability report. (Photo credit: Golf Advisor)

 

Water management plays a key role in The Olympic Club’s sustainability efforts. The Olympic Club reports that recycled water accounts for 97 percent of water used at its golf course—as compared to an average of 25 percent for all golf courses in the United States, according to the Golf Course Superintendents Association)

Women-owned sustainability consulting firm IMPACT360 Sportswhich developed the sustainability report in collaboration with The Olympic Club, conducted stakeholder interviews, assessments, and surveys covering thousands of data points related to natural resources use, diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. This led to the development of The Olympic Club’s sustainability baselines and goals.

With a massive drought in golf-mad California and a growing need to engage the millennial market segment, there is a heightened focus on the environment and increasing diversity within the sport.

“The Olympic Club is elevating its commitment to the environment, diversity, and community within an industry that needs to embrace sustainability to grow the game,” said IMPACT360 Sports Co-Founder (and subject of a March 2015 GreenSportsBlog interview) Aubrey McCormick. “As a former professional golfer, I am particularly proud of The Olympic Club. Fans and future golfers are going to align with athletes and courses that share their values. CSR reporting and sustainability will be increasingly important.”

 

^ The rest of the Waterboys NFL roster includes Branden Albert (Miami Dolphins), Danny Amendola (New England Patriots), Anquan Boldin (Detroit Lions), Nate Boyer (former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk), Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings), Dwayne Brown (Houston Texans), Calais Campbell (Arizona Cardinals), Brian Cushing (Houston Texans), Vontae Davis (Indianapolis Colts), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (retired, New York Jets), Chad Greenway (Minnesota Vikings), Tamba Hali (Kansas City Chiefs), Chris Harris (Denver Broncos), AJ Hawk (Cincinnati Bengals), Johnny Hekker (LA Rams), Fred Jackson (retired, Buffalo Bills), Charles Johnson (Carolina Panthers), TJ Lang (Green Bay Packers), Jim Laurinaitis (New Orleans Saints), Taylor Lewan (Tennessee Titans), Zach Martin (Dallas Cowboys), Eugene Monroe (Baltimore Ravens), Jared Odrick (Jacksonville Jaguars), Lawrence Timmons (Pittsburgh Steelers), Justin Tuck (retired, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders), and Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans).

 

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