Corpus Christi, Texas became an unlikely center of the Green-Sports universe last month. That’s when the Youth Sailing World Championships brought a strong, new sustainability platform to the city on the Gulf of Mexico. It is fitting that leading the sustainability charge in South Texas was a relative newbie to Green-Sports, Elizabeth Kratzig.
GreenSportsBlog, always on the lookout for the next new thing, takes a look.
Elizabeth Kratzig has been sailing — and racing — almost all her life.
“I grew up on the water,” said Kratzig. “In fact, in 1991 I competed in the Youth Sailing World Championships (YSWC) in Scotland. Later, I competed for the US Sailing team and medaled in world championships in multiple classes. Then I coached 19 and unders for US Sailing.”
Sustainability? That’s a taste Kratzig acquired much more recently, as she was looking for ways to help her hometown, Corpus Christi, and the Corpus Christi Yacht Club in their bid to host the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships.
“As a member of the Corpus Christi Yacht Club, host of the Youth Worlds, and an avid sailor, I knew that I wanted to be involved with the organizing committee of the YSWC.” Kratzig related. “I asked myself, ‘How can I assist the regatta?’ What can we — the South Texas sailing community— do differently?’ I began to think about how we could better care for our playing field — the water — as well as the land and air around it. I began to think about how we could make this a green event.”
She didn’t only think about greening the event, she dove in.
So, once Corpus Christi won the bid to host the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships, Kratzig began volunteering with the Host Committee’s Green Team Committee (GTC), ultimately becoming its co-chair alongside Dr. David McKee. They brought in key people to the Green Team including leaders in local and state conservation groups, leaders from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and key personnel from city government.
And Kratzig, like the sailor she is, kept grinding towards greening the event: “We met with Sailors For The Sea, the Newport, RI nonprofit that certifies sustainable regattas, to learn about best practices. Finally, last September, we decided to go for platinum, their highest certification.”
LEAVING A SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY FOR SOUTH TEXAS
The Green Team worked with a variety of South Texas organizations, from the Corpus Christi Arts Center to Surfider (volunteers from the local chapter took part in beach cleanup before the event). And Kratzig, who ultimately became the Green Team’s Co-Chair, and team asked Todd McGuire, Program Director of 11th Hour Racing – an organization that establishes strategic partnerships within sailing and maritime communities to promote collaborative, systemic change benefitting the health of the ocean – for funding to help offset costs involved with going green at the platinum level.
Thing was, platinum certification from Sailors for the Sea was not going to be enough for 11th Hour Racing.
According to Kratzig, 11th Hour Racing’s vision goes beyond supporting a one-time regatta: “McGuire said ‘We need you to leave a lasting sustainability legacy, a lasting environmental movement, if we’re going to invest.’ So we went back to the drawing board to develop environmental programs that would live long after the Youth Worlds left Corpus Christi.”
When Kratzig and company went back to 11th Hour Racing this February, they did so offering a laundry list of legacy-building sustainability initiatives:
- Sustainability would be embedded in all aspects of the 2018 Youth World Sailing Championship.
- The Green Team Committee teamed up with the Texas Sailing Association to use the TSA platform and Youth Circuit to educate sailors about ways to protect their local waters. The TSA pledged to work with Sailors for the Sea and bring Clean Regatta practices to all Texas Youth Circuit Regattas.
- The Green Team created a sustainability event plan for Corpus Christi. It provides guidelines and resources for other organizations in the area to run sustainable events.
- The Youth Worlds’ website would feature green content. “This is important,” offered Kratzig. “Only a small amount of spectators follow the race live in Corpus Christi. Most of them watch online so we need to be there with sustainability messaging.”
- Art exhibits in the city would contain environmental messaging during the month of the regatta, including a chandelier made of over 1200 plastic bottles that would be hung in the Corpus Christi airport.
- The 2018 Youth World Sailing Championships would measure a variety of sustainability metrics, from electricity usage to waste to water usage diversity. Among other things, this would serve as a benchmark for future Youth Worlds, starting with the 2019 edition in Gdynia, Poland.
- The Host Committee and its team of volunteers would do everything possible to dot every green “i” at the event. Per Kratzig, “We even greened up our fences, replacing zip ties with more sustainable reusable bungees.”
- A sustainability report would be written after the event based on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards.
- Environmental education would be offered to all 381 sailors from over 60 countries at the 2018 Youth Worlds. Since 80 percent of all Olympic sailing medalists have competed in the Youth Worlds, there’s a good chance that some of the participants will, in a few years time, have a big platform from which to share the sustainable sailing lessons they learned in Corpus Christi.
The Green Team’s legacy pitch was a success, as 11th Hour Racing soon became the event’s Official Sustainability Partner.
And, per the Green Team, the event was a success from a variety of sustainability metrics:
- They were thisclose to being a Zero-Waste event as they diverted 89.8 percent of waste via recycling and composting — the threshold for Zero-Waste is 90 percent!
- Almost 45,000 16 oz. water bottles were saved by enforcing the use of reusable bottles
- A solar powered compost machine was used
- Plastic Straws were banned from many areas around the regatta and all competitors were given stainless steel straws donated by Sailors for the Sea.
Kudos to the Green Team for fielding pre- and post-event sustainability surveys. This needs to be the rule, not the exception, for all sports events.
2018: WORLD SAILING’S GREENEST YEAR EVER
World Sailing, the governing body that serves 70 million sailors and the sport’s 250 million followers, sees the greening of the Youth Worlds as just the latest example of what has become a very strong 2018, sustainability-wise, rebounding from a controversy-laden 2016 surrounding the decision to host of Olympic sailing at Rio’s severely polluted Guanabara Bay.
According to Dan Reading World Sailing’s Sustainability Programme Manager, “Young people really get sustainability. Mom and dad? It’s much harder to change their minds. That’s why we made the environment such a focus at this year’s Youth Worlds. And that’s just a part of our much more ambitious and strategic approach to sustainability over the last year or so. After all, sailors work and play on the water, they understand the power of nature. Most importantly, sailors see what’s happening to the oceans in terms of plastic and other waste up close. They’re sustainability specialists.”
In the last year alone, World Sailing (which, in addition to the Youth Worlds, sanctions the America’s Cup, and Volvo Ocean Race) launched a raft of sustainability initiatives — from boat construction to the significant reduction in the use of single use plastics, from environmentally friendly packaging to diversity.
Climate change has also become more of a focus. “Sailing teams from Pacific island nations like Fiji and Vanuatu see effects of climate change every day,” said Reading. “So we’re measuring our carbon footprint, including the emissions of our supply chain.”
The Green Team decided to measure how their sustainability efforts are playing with participants, team leaders, coaches, and volunteers. “The Green Team approached Brian McCullough, an expert in Green-Sports at the University of Seattle, to assist in developing a longitudinal survey [i.e. before and after] that looks at how attitudes about the environment and environmental behaviors are changing among sailors and fans,” reported Kratzig. “It’s early yet, but survey response rates have been good.”
The upshot? The post-race survey showed a dramatic and positive change in sustainability habits and attitudes. Of those responding to the survey:
- The event’s sustainability theme resulted in more than 80 percent to stop buying single-use plastic completely and more than 40 percent to recycle.
- 87.6 percent thought the sustainability focus enhanced the event
- 95.6 percent would like to see sustainability and ocean conservation at all sailing events.
The organization promotes its sustainability initiatives to the sailing media, along with local media where it hosts regattas.
That was the case in South Texas with the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships. “Our sustainability story got good local coverage,” Kratzig reported. “The Corpus Christi ABC and NBC affiliates covered us as did print and online media.”
Given GSB’s belief that getting media of all stripes to #CoverGreenSports is the most important thing the Green-Sports movement can do right now, a heartfelt thank you goes to Elizabeth Kratzig, her Green Team and World Sailing.