Big Finish To 3rd Green Sports Alliance Summit

The #GreenSports Alliance wrapped up today in Brooklyn with a vibrant Keynote from Andrew Winston, a fascinating panel discussion among current and former athletes who are “Stepping Up To Bat For The Planet”, and Closing Remarks from Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport that had the audience rarin’ to go!

Winston, Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and author of “Green To Gold”, offered, at least for me, new factoids and metrics about the massive scale of the climate change/energy problem (China, in 2012 alone, built the equivalent of all of the retail stores already in existence in the United States; the Cloud, if it were a country, would be the world’s 5th biggest energy user), the challenges (Carbon productivity must increase by 10X by 2050 if we are to avoid the worst calamities of climate change) and the huge opportunities this creates (the Clean Energy/Tech market will be $2.2 trillion by 2020–and Winston thinks this is conservative).  He sees the sports industry as being right smack in the middle of it all, with a particular opportunity to be part of the solution.

The athletes panel was ably moderated by Sports Illustrated Senior Writer David Epstein, author of the new book on the science of sport, The Sports Gene.  All three of the athletes were from the Winter Sports world (Does this mean winter athletes are more interested in climate change?  Or is it an anomaly?  TBD).  Professional Snowboarder Kimmy Fasani said she was motivated to speak out about climate change because she “is always chasing winter…sees changes in the form of drastically shorter snowboarding seasons in real time.”

Andrew Ference, recently signed as a free agent by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers after helping the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup in 2011, said the relatively small number of athletes joining him in the climate change fight is due, in part, to athletes having to be “almost 100% focused and selfish to get to where they are and stay there.  For most, there isn’t time to get involved with stuff off the field”.   One way, suggested Ference, for some athletes to connect to this issue is to emphasize the local aspects (i.e Superstorm Sandy in New York).  He also had the line of the day when Epstein asked:  ”Is Green seen by the guys in the locker room as being geeky or wimpy?”  Ference:  ”That’s why I fight once in awhile!”.


Kimmy Fasani Andrew Ference

Snowboarder Kimmy Fasani and Edmonton Oilers Andrew Ference at Green Sports Alliance Summit (Aug 28, 2013)

Mike Richter, former NY Rangers’ goaltender (and one of the deliverers, in 1994, of that club’s lone Stanley Cup since 1940), spoke about how it’s much easier to be out front on climate change as a retired athlete because he doesn’t have to worry about companies whose products he endorses who may be in the climate denier camp or who may be afraid of climate denier customers.  Richter:  ”It would be great if Tiger Woods would talk about global warming.  Would it be great for Tiger’s relationship with Buick?  There’s tension there and it’s sad.”  Richter, now a partner in Healthy Planet Partners, a renewable energy/energy efficiency financing company, opined that climate change is a harder issue for athletes to get involved in than others because it’s “very technical, complex and vast.”  Memo to self and Green Sports Alliance:  Let’s work on demystifying Climate Change so Tiger Woods, LeBron James (I’m still waiting on a response to my Open Letter, LBJ!) lend their voices.

The Summit concluded with the remarks of Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport, a London-based, non-profit with a global footprint that “promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change across the world”.  Beyond Sport’s remit goes far beyond sustainability/climate change, (although that is core to their DNA) to tackle healthcare, education, conflict resolution, racism and more.  Keller shared Beyond Sport on-the-ground success stories.  One that resonated with me is “Project Greenhands” in India.  People are given the opportunity to take a yoga class or learn volleyball if they plant a tree.  Lots of folks must be doing downward facing dog or learning how to spike because almost 19 million trees have been planted!  Keller was kind enough to invite me to attend the Beyond Sport Summit in Philadelphia on September 11 (a fitting way to spend that day, methinks) and I’m going to take him up on it.

To wrap it all up, I learned a ton and met wonderful people at the Summit.  The green/sports intersection is small but getting more and more crowded.  I am so excited to be a part of it all.  Kudos to everyone at the Green Sports Alliance who made it all work without a hitch.


News & Notes From Green Sports Alliance Summit

As the #GreenSports Alliance Summit enters it’s 3rd and final day, I thought I’d share some news stories coming out of the first 2 days:

  • A story from Solutions Journal about the Green Sports Movement and The Alliance itself:
  • An Environmental Leader column about EPA’s new online Green Sports Resource Directory that can help teams, venues and leagues save money and reduce carbon pollution:
  • Also from the Environmental Leader, the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers shared how they divert waste using Bioplastic:

Day 3 review to come later today.


A Movement Grows in Brooklyn at Green Sports Alliance Summit

Leading lights of the growing Green Sports Movement spoke to 600 attendees (600!) at Day 2 of the 3rd annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn.

Lisa MacCallum, Nike’s VP, Access To Sport, delivered a passionate Keynote address focused on the “Inactivity Crisis” plaguing the world’s youth.  ”Today’s kids are the least active generation in history”, said MacCallum, “and physical inactivity has become the new normal.”  Physical inactivity costs in the US are estimated at $147 billion annually, more than twice the US education budget.  While MacCallum positioned the Inactivity Crisis as a sustainability issue in the broader, “healthy lifestyle, healthy planet” sense of the word, I’m not sure I would’ve made her talk the Keynote because it was slightly off topic for a Green Sports Summit.  Still, I’m glad I got to hear her speak and applaud Nike for their efforts to get kids under 10 MOVING!

Christina Weiss Lurie

Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner, Philadelphia Eagles

Three C-Level sports team executives highlighted the best panel of the day, “Investing In The Future:  Supporting Sustainability From Top To Bottom”.  Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner & Vice Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans (formerly Hornets) spoke movingly about the Saints commitment to sustainability in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, demonstrated why the Eagles and their “Go Green” campaign are are showing the NFL the way, sustainability-wise:  All of the Eagles energy is off-grid (100% solar/wind!) and 99% of their waste is diverted from landfill.  I told Weiss Lurie that the Eagles have officially become my 2nd favorite team, after the Jets.  Weiss Lurie:  ”Hey, they both wear green!”.  Bob Nutting, Chairman of the Board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said many fans expressed concern that the Pirates were focusing on being green at the expense of the product on the field.  Despite the Pirates finishing below .500 every year for two decades, Nutting and the rest of the management team decided they would walk (continue greening) and chew gum (build a winner) at the same time.  Looks like they’re on the right track–as of this writing, the Pirates are 76-54, 1/2 game out of first in the National League’s Central Division and the “Let’s Go Bucs, Let’s Go Green” campaign has taken strong root in the community.

While the Summit is, understandably, centered mainly on sustainability from a facilities management (i.e. stadiums/arenas) point of view, I was particularly interested to see the “Sustainability + Sports Sponsorship” panel as I believe fan engagement and corporate sponsorship to be the next and most impactful frontiers in the Green Sports Movement.  Why?  Scale.  Billions follow sports worldwide.  Sponsorship is a $50 billion annual business worldwide, with $20 billion of that coming from the US and 70% of that coming from sports!

The panelists included a representative of a club (Portland Trailblazers), a national sponsor (GM), regional sponsor (National Grid), and a sponsorship agency (GMR).  The general consensus is that green-themed sponsorships are growing but more slowly than perhaps hoped.  I asked how much of that slowness is due to fear of offending climate deniers/Red State America.  The rather tepid response–no apparent willingness to take on the deniers–showed that the fear is, sadly, still there.  But, the panel gets that fans under 35 grew up with recycling and understand green.  Thus, green-themed sponsorships targeted to younger audiences should flourish.

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Co-Founder of the Green Sports Alliance and Senior Scientist at NRDC, moderated “4 Ways Sports Teams + Venues Can Tackle Environmental Issues”.  Jim Puckett, Founder of the Basel Action Network, an NGO  working to combat the export of toxic waste from industrialized societies to developing countries, detailed their e-Stewards program.   Recyclers can become e-Steward certified after proving that they follow all national and international laws concerning electronic waste and its proper disposal, which includes bans on exporting, land dumping, incineration, and use of prison labor.  Puckett encouraged teams to be vocal e-Stewards adopters as “education about e-waste is the key.”  Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, reported on their innovative Gallons For Goals partnership with the NHL in which the league restores 1,000 gallons of water to de-watered ecosystems for every goal scored in a season.

Who knew the only Formula 1 racetrack in the US would be a sustainability leader?  Edgar Farrera, Director of Sustainability at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA)the Austin, TX based track that opened in November, 2012, shared that story during the “4 Ways To Green Sporting Events” panel.  Before Austin would agree to allow COTA to build the track, it had to comply with a comprehensive, 55-point sustainability protocol.  Once built, COTA not only hosted the Formula 1 US Grand Prix last fall, it also was the site for the Formula Sun Grand Prix, a solar car race among 12 colleges.  How cool is that?

Formula Sun

Formula Sun competitors at Circuit of America Racetrack, Austin, TX

I expect to see and hear about more innovative, amazing developments in the Green Sports world at tomorrow’s final session.  Stay tuned to GSB for the highlights.

Red Bull Arena Tour/Follow Up To “How Green Is Your NY/NJ Sports Team” Post

As followers of the GreenSportsBlog know, I’ve been writing a series of occasional posts on the “greenness” (or lack thereof) of the 6 new stadia/arenas that have been constructed in the last 6-7 years in the NY-NJ area.  The fourth and most recent featured Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, the home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, which opened in2010.  That post, like the rest of the series, relied on phone interviews and research of publicly-available news stories.  The opportunity to tour the facilities and to ask questions of the project directors would certainly make for more informative posts.

Well, yesterday, I was fortunate and excited to be able to tour Red Bull Arena as part of the Green Sports Alliance Summit.  The Summit, which started today and runs through Wednesday (I’ll be attending Tuesday and Wednesday and blogging from there), is running several NY-NJ stadium tours.  It’s almost as if they wanted to make my series meatier!  Attendees were only allowed to choose one tour so I picked Red Bull Arena with the idea of amplifying the original post.  Here’s what I learned.

RBA Pitch View

Red Bull Arena


  • The greenest aspect of Red Bull Arena may be its location on a reclaimed Brownfield site.  Contamination at the former 10 acre steel mill was massive.  Cleanup/remediation, initiated by the Town of Harrison, began in 2006, but was accelerated greatly once the Red Bulls began building the arena in 2008.  Cleaning up the Brownfield 3-4 years earlier than originally projected is a big deal! While the site is still being monitored by NJ Department of Environmental Protection for groundwater contamination, the inspections, which at one point were every 3 months, are now conducted yearly.  The hope is that those inspections will no longer be needed in about a year.
  • The lighting system, from Musco Lighting, is quite advanced on several levels and, thus, the arena requires far fewer lights than a less technologically advanced arena:
    • The translucent roof, state-of-the-art and spectacular aesthetically, helps keep light in during late afternoons/dusk which means the lights can be used less.
    • Engineers took into account the urban light effect of both Newark and New York City when determining the necessary amount of lightbulbs.

Red Bull Arena Translucent Roof

The beautiful translucent roof at Red Bull Arena


  • The Red Bulls did not build the Arena to LEED standards.  According to Amorosa, that was largely because the design phase for the building was largely completed in 2006 when LEED certification standards for outdoor arenas/stadia were first being developed.  To go back and restart the design process would have cost around $500,000 so LEED was not pursued.
  • Similarly LED bulbs are not currently in use.  Again, cost was cited.  Red Bull Arena hosts only 25 event days per year, so the payback on an investment in LEDs is likely quite long.


  • The Arena only buys 10% of its electricity from green sources.  Yes, there is a premium to be paid for buying 100% green but that premium is getting smaller all the time.  With annual electricity use of 8,100 mWh, the annual premium for upping the green percentage from 10% to 100% would only be $8,100.  Seems like the right statement for a hugely profitable company like Red Bull to make.  An opportunity missed.

My overall take is that, while Red Bull Arena is operated sustainably in many facets  (NOTE:  We did not learn much about the Food Service aspect of the operation as that is handled by Delaware North Sportservice and they weren’t represented on the tour), “going green” was not a high priority during design and construction.  The construction director who led our tour is justifiably proud of an absolutely gorgeous stadium that gets better than passing energy efficiency grades; I think he’d be prouder if corporate parent Red Bull would invest a modest amount to buy electricity from wind, solar and hydro.


US Green Building Council and Green Sports Alliance Team Up On LEED Stadiums

The US Green Building Council (USGBC), the group that manages LEED certification of all manner of buildings, has teamed up the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) to promote green building initiatives in pro and college sports.  Environmental Leader broke this news this morning.

USGBC says it will support the GSA to accelerate the green sports movement by promoting increased LEED certification of sports stadiums, ballparks and arenas across the country.

GSA is hosting their annual Summit next week in Brooklyn and the USGBC-GSA partnership will most certainly be on the agenda.  GreenSportsBlog will be on hand to provide reports on this and other topics.

Green-Sports World Stepping Up To The Plate: Green Sports Alliance Summit Next Week In Brooklyn


Founded as a non-profit in 2010 by Paul Allen, co-Founder of Microsoft and owner of the NBA Portland Trail Blazers, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Green Sports Alliance has grown from a group of 7 sports teams in the Pacific Northwest to a membership of over 170 sports teams and venues from 15 different pro and college sports leagues/conferences.  Venue operators, sports team executives and environmental scientists exchange information about best practices and develop solutions to their environmental challenges that are cost-competitive and innovative through the Alliance’s various platforms and events.

The Green Sports Alliance Summit is their signature event, drawing over 500 attendees and 80+ panelists over 3 days.  In addition, attendees will be able to tour one of the 5 NY-NJ area sports venues, with the focus of those tours being the building’s greenness.  I’ll be touring Red Bull Arena tour on Sunday and will follow up on my recent “How Green Is Your NY/NJ Sports Team:  Red Bulls” post last Monday.

GSA Summit


Most of the panel discussions at the Summit will focus, appropriately and not surprisingly, on the “Greening of Sports Stadia/Arenas”.  While this is certainly important and newsworthy, I’m even more interested in the power of top athletes to 1) influence fans to act and live more sustainably and 2) to pressure political leaders to enact policies that will help Save Humanity As We Know It.  How is it that actors (Leo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz) and musicians (Bono) are out in front of the sustainability issue but the biggest athletes are mainly quiet?  I mean, LeBron James has not yet reacted, to this point, to GSB’s direct appeal to lend his considerable (14,000,000+ FB friends) voice to the fighting-climate-change cause.   I’m certainly looking forward to the ”Athletes Stepping Up To Bat For The Planet” panel next Wednesday.  The most recognizable name on the panel is Mike Richter, the goalie for the New York Rangers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994, and now CEO of Healthy Planet Partnersa Solar Power/Energy Efficiency development company based in Greenwich, CT.  He’s not LeBron but his name is on the Stanley Cup so that’s a start.  Look to GreenSportsBlog next week for news from “Athletes Stepping Up To Bat For the Planet” and the rest of the Green Sports Alliance Summit.


UConn, Not Alabama, Is #1!*

*  As The Greenest University In The US, Not Football

While the University of Alabama is widely expected to win their 3rd consecutive college football national championship in the season that starts in about 10 days, the Crimson Tide is not even listed in a more important (IMHO) (many would disagree) (oh well!), if much less well-known poll:  Sierra’s (the magazine of the Sierra Club) “Cool Schools” ranking of the Greenest Colleges and Universities in the US.  That designation, announced Thursday, goes to the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

There are parallels between the two:  The Tide was lauded by Sports Illustrated in its College Football Preview issue for excellence in all 3 phases of football  (offense, defense and special teams);  UConn was recognized by Sierra for top quality performance in 3 phases of sustainability:

  • Sustainability Course Work:  UConn offers almost 600 sustainability-related classes and more than 40% of UConn’s research faculty does original academic work that benefits the environment.
  • Water/Energy Efficiency:  Since 2005, the Storrs campus has slashed water use by 15%—since 2011, “13 of its buildings were retrofitted to prevent 2,640 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.”
  • Healthy/Sustainable Dining:  ”30% of meal options are vegetarian, more than a quarter of the food is processed within 100 miles, and many ingredients are harvested right on campus.”

UConn Green #1

UConn students plant vegetables in their on-campus garden

Neither school makes both lists; in fact, only Stanford does: They check in at  #2 in SI and #7 in Sierra.  Maybe The Cardinal should change their colors to green!  Click here for the entire Sierra ranking list of 162 colleges and universities.  Did your school make it?

Of course Sports Illustrated is not the only pre-season college football poll.  And Sierra is not the only poll of the greenest universities.  The Princeton Review offers up its “Green Honor Roll”, a Top 22 which includes neither UConn nor Alabama (Stanford is on that list, which is offered up alphabetically, not 1-22).  The Association For The Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has a STARS Gold-Silver-Bronze system.  UConn and Stanford both earned a Gold rating and Alabama is not rated.

College football has, over the decades, morphed from a bizarre system in which polls decided the national champion to a national championship game in which the two participants were selected by a computer-calculated formula that combines several polls.  In 2014, the system is being altered again, with a 4-team playoff.  Those 4 teams will be selected by a committee that will, it is expected, use an amalgam of polls as the basis for their selections.  Having one system, with a champion decided on the field, has helped college football immeasurably

The Green Campus movement needs one standard, if for no other reason than it is time consuming for staffers at the colleges and universities to respond to each of the very detailed questionnaires.  Only a few schools fill out all three.  Many, including NYU, where I got MBA, participate in just one because of the time constraints.

Rutgers, my undergrad alma mater, did not participate in any of the polls.  This is a shame as the State University of New Jersey is the home of a terrific Environmental Sciences department and also has a 1.4 megawatt solar farm.  I reached out to the Environmental Sciences department  to see why they’re not participating in the rankings but have not heard back.  I’ll let you know what I find out.  Given the scandals in the Athletics Department, Rutgers should look to get good PR wherever it can.

Of course, very few people will care about the Green School rankings while millions will debate the football polls.  I get it–football is fun.  Heck, in Alabama, it’s life itself.  And, while I’m not naive to think that you’ll get talk radio shows devoted to debating Green School rankings (although that would be funny:  ”Vinnie From Queens, you’re on Green Radio!”  ”Ya know, I think Dickinson College is for real.  Their on-site wind farm shows real promise and I like what they’re doing in the classroom!”), I do believe there are ways to combine the on-campus passions for college football and sustainability.

One idea would be to have a contest, conference by conference, to see which football stadium recycles the most per fan (thus taking into account the variation in stadium capacity).  The winning school gets an extra football scholarship to offer the next season and the football team endows a new chair in environmental science (or related fields).

Feel free to submit your own ideas.  And let me know where you went to school and if your alma mater made one of the green lists.  And, even though I’ll root for Rutgers like crazy when they open up at Fresno in a week or so, I’ll also pull for UConn, the Greenest University in the US.

Barclay’s Center Nets LEED Silver Certification

The US Green Building Council announced yesterday that the almost 1-year old Barclay’s Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets and future home (2015) of the New York Islanders, has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification.  This makes the Barclay’s Center the only one of the 6 new stadiums/arenas in the NYC/NJ to earn any type of LEED status.

Barclays Center

Barclay’s Center at Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn


GSB has been running an occasional 6-part series, “How Green Is Your New York/New Jersey Sports Team”, on the green-ness (or lack thereof) of those 6 facilities, in chronological order of their construction.  Yesterday’s column, on Red Bull Arena (NY Red Bulls, Major League Soccer), was the 4th in .  The other 3 featured Newark’s Prudential Center (NJ Devils), Citi Field (NY Mets), and Yankee Stadium (NY Yankees) (DUH!).  Still to come is MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands (NY Giants and J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!) and the Barclay’s Center.

How Green Is Your New York (New Jersey) Sports Team: Red Bull Arena


After a drought in new stadium/arena building in the New York City area from 1981 to 2007, an explosion in the construction of new ballparks took place from 2007-2012.  While only one of the 6 stadiums/arenas built in the NYC-NJ area since 2007 achieved LEED status, I thought it would be interesting to look at each to see how green they are (or aren’t).  Today’s column looks at the 4th of the 6, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, home of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) New York Red Bulls.  Click here for Part 1, which examined Newark’s Prudential Center, home of the NHL’s Devils; here for Part 2, which took a look at Citi Field, home of the Mets; and here for Part 3, featuring the new Yankee Stadium.

Red Bull Arena, a soccer-only facility which opened in March of 2010, is simply a fantastic place to watch a match.  Modeled on the classic soccer/football stadia of Europe, the arena features:

  • Seats that are close to the action (the first row is only 21 feet from the natural grass pitch);
  • An intimate seating capacity of only 25,000 fans
  • A spectacular roof that protects fans from the elements and adds to the intimate feel of the place.

Red Bull Arena

Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ

From a green point-of-view, the scorecard is more mixed.

On the plus side of the ledger, Red Bull Arena is more easily accessible by mass transit than MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.  It is a few hundred yards from the Harrison PATH Station and is about a 15 minute walk from Newark’s Penn Station, which means easy access for suburban fans via NJ Transit and fans from rival cities Philadelphia, DC and Boston on Amtrak.  Yes, MetLife Stadium now has a NJ Transit station, making mass transit access easier there than when the Red Bulls played there (they played in the original, Giants Stadium), but the Meadowlands complex was built in an unpopulated swamp and the facility was designed with cars in mind.  Harrison is in an urban environment, abutting the Ironbound section of Newark.  I was unable to find statistics on the percentage of fans who take mass transit to Red Bull Arena but my eyeball test tells me that it’s far greater than the percentage of fans who use mass transit to get to the Meadowlands.

Red Bull Arena was built on what was a condemned brownfield site.  Before construction could begin, a massive environmental cleanup was conducted on the site and environs.  It is the centerpiece of Harrison Station, a high-density residential and commercial district that, when complete, is expected to be at the forefront of energy-efficient urban redevelopment.

Iowa-based Musco Lighting helped the Red Bulls score significant energy and cost savings ($215,000 expected over 10 years) with a state-of-the-art lighting system. Food services also are handled with energy efficiency in mind (projected savings figures unavailable as of now). The arena features waterless urinals.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Red Bull Arena was constructed  with a green building strategy in place.  As far as I can tell, recycled concrete wasn’t used, the roof is not green, renewable energy was/is not being purchased, etc.  As with the Yankees, the Red Bulls were contacted several times to comment on this story and to see if the construction of Red Bull Arena was greener than it appears but they did not respond.  This is mildly surprising to me, given that the Red Bulls and MLS can use all the publicity they can get these days.

However, they will get another chance as I will be attending a Red Bull Arena stadium tour in two weeks as part of the upcoming Green Sports Alliance Summit.  I will certainly press the issue and, if there’s any news from that tour, I’ll post it here.