Happy Thanksgiving From A Green, New York Sports Fan…

…who’s very thankful DESPITE being a Green, New York sports fan!  One could expect I would be cynical, sarcastic, and downright ornery this Thanksgiving, given the challenges 1) the world faces (or, largely ignores) in reversing the Climate Change Train and 2) of being a Jets/Rutgers/Knicks/Yankees fan (OK it ain’t THAT hard on the Yankee front).  But, even though getting/keeping a Price on Carbon is proving beyond difficult, even though we’re observing the first anniversary of the Butt Fumble, even though Rutgers Athletics had more self-inflicted wounds than thought to be humanly possible in one year, even though the Knicks are on a 7 game losing streak, even though Yankee fans had to endure a 3rd Red Sox World Championship in a decade (what, you thought I was actually going to show Big Papi getting a big hit? Not. Gonna. Happen), I am thankful!  No, I’m not kidding! So, with that lightness of spirit, I give you the first annual GSB “Top 10 Things To Be Thankful For In My Green/Sports World”–5 sports and 5 green items on the menu.

  1. The Jets are still relevant (if barely).  I know, the Jets are on a 2 game losing streak, are under .500 for the first time this year (5-6), and have endured awful quarterback play the last 5 games from rookie Geno Smith (wait a minute, I feel cynicism building) BUT the expectations were so low before the season (ESPN had them rated as the worst team in the league, many experts thought they’d finish with 3-4 wins) that I thought the Jets would be out of playoff contention by Halloween much less Thanksgiving.  But, here they sit, in a tie for the last playoff spot (the tie-breakers don’t work in their favor, true) on Turkey Day, having beaten two of the NFL’s elite (New England and New Orleans) along the way.  Any Jets fan, including this one, would’ve signed on for that at the beginning of the season.  So I’m thankful for Jets Relevance!
  2. Renewable energy continued its strong US growth.  Many states, both red and blue, stepped up in 2013, in the face of sometimes strong opposition from Big Oil/Coal, to increase renewable energy standards.  This has helped both wind and solar continue their impressive growth rates.  Check this story out from the Sierra Club on 10 Clean Energy stories to be thankful for!
  3. The Red Bulls Are One NY Team To Be Proud Of.  The media, rightfully, is bemoaning the putrid play of New York’s sports teams–the 4-7 Giants are toast, both the Knicks and Nets NBA “Ships Be Sinking”, the Yanks didn’t make the playoffs, the Mets–all you need to know about the Mets is that their signature star, Matt Harvey, is out until 2015.  The Rangers are 13-12 (over .500!!!) and in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division but the area’s two other NHL clubs, the Devils and Islanders, are languishing.  That the 5-6 Jets are considered somewhat of a success story in NYC sports is a reflection, at least in part, on how bad the rest of the NY clubs are.  Often left out of the discussion are the Major League Soccer Red Bulls since MLS gets next to no attention in these parts.  This is a shame because 1) the Red Bulls, after being lousy for most of their 19 year existence, are very good–they won the Supporters Shield trophy for having the best regular season record (ok, they lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs), 2) they play in a terrific stadium, Red Bull Arena, that has great sight lines–you’re on top of the action–and is quite green, 3) the atmosphere is FUN (Barclays Premier League style singing from the Supporters’ Sections throughout the game–without violence), and 4) Ticket prices are very reasonable.  I know, I know–MLS is not the Premier League in terms of quality–but SO WHAT!  It’s getting better, it’s easily accessible and it’s live.  Let’s Go RED BULLS!  Plus check out reason #5 if you’re into the Premier League.
  4. Sheldon Whitehouse.  In a recent GSB post I called the democratic junior senator from Rhode Island “a hero” for his weekly speeches on the senate floor about the need to do something significant NOW to fight climate change.  Also this year, Whitehouse launched, along with Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change Its goal is to “focus congressional and public attention on climate change and to develop effective policy responses to this urgent challenge.”  I applaud Senator Whitehouse and hope he will be on this list next Thanksgiving, with some legislative successes to his credit.
  5. BPL on NBC.  In April, NBC bought the broadcast rights to the Barclays Premier League (BPL) for $250 million over 3 years, wrestling the games of the top level of English Soccer from ESPN and Fox. The announcers are fantastic (even though ESPN’s Ian Darke didn’t move over to NBC), the production values top-notch, and the matches, despite the occasional nil-nil snoozer, have been compelling.  The strong ratings to date seem to justify NBC’s investment.
  6. The SOCCKET.  The soccer ball from Uncharted Play that generates energy to power lights in underdeveloped areas (how cool is THAT?!?!) continued its strong growth in 2013.  The production run was upped from 9,000 to 50,000.  State Farm continued its sponsorship.  Plans for a jump rope (designed on a 3-D Printer) that generates power are moving forward.  THE SOCCKET ROCKS!
  7. Fantastic NBA Finals:  This series lived up to the hype:  Miami Heat vs. the San Antonio Spurs, the two best teams, with both playing at an incredibly high level over 7 games.  LeBron James for the Heat vs. Tim Duncan for the Spurs.  Dwayne Wade, injured, tried to gut out one more trophy for the Heat.  Kawhi Leonard, an up and coming star for the Spurs, worked to push his club over the finish line.  The first 5 games were blowouts that featured spectacular play by the winning team in each contest.  The Spurs led, 3-2, coming into Miami for Game 6 and were up 5 points with 28 seconds left.  LeBron hits a 3.  Spurs by 2.  Leonard gets fouled, makes only one of two free throws.  Spurs up 3.  Heat miss a 3, but Chris Bosh gets the rebound for Miami, kicks it out to Ray Allen, who nails a 3 to tie it with 3 seconds left!  Overtime.  The Heat win it in OT.  Series tied 3-3.  Both teams were tired for Game 7, which was a seesaw affair.  Finally LeBron and Wade make big plays down the stretch and the Heat survive and win the title.
  8. EPA’s Tough Emission Limits on Coal-Fired Power Plants:  President Obama made a largely ignored but important speech (termed the greatest by any president on climate change by Al Gore) in July in which he proposed major rules changes, through the EPA, that will limit carbon emissions from coal plants, as well as other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Big Oil/Coal is fighting it, hard, so it must be a big deal.  But the bet here is that the regulations will largely stick and so any new coal fired power plants will have to have carbon capture technology in order to be approved.
  9. The Jets Aren’t Playing Today.  If there’s a Butt Fumble today, it won’t be by a Jets QB.  I can go to my Thanksgiving dinner RELAXED.  Unlike last year, when the Jets were embarrassed  by the Patriots on Thanksgiving Night in the Butt Fumble Game, today there will be no worrying about the Jets, no scheming about how to excuse myself artfully from an interesting (or not) conversation about Obamacare or the controversial French film Blue Is The Warmest Color to watch the Jets.  Don’t worry, football will be a part of my Thanksgiving (Detroit 17, Green Bay 10 2nd quarter, as I write; Dallas-Oakland to follow, mostly after dinner, and then I will likely fall asleep in a tryptophan-induced haze during Baltimore-Pittsburgh)–it will just be Jets-Angst-Free!!!
  10. GreenSportsBlog Community.  It may be cliche but a big THANK YOU to  GreenSportsBlog readers, commenters (keep ‘em coming), and interview subjects.  Also special thanks to Elyssa Emrich, our GSB Midwest Correspondent.  We’ve gone from 0 to 400+ subscribers since May.  The interest in the intersection of Green & Sports–and in the blog itself–continues to grow.  And for that I’m very thankful.  Have a happy and safe and green Thanksgiving and thanks for reading GreenSportsBlog.

Australia’s Carbon Tax Forces Need A Big Comeback

In 2011, Australia became the first major country to place a price on carbon by enacting a Carbon Tax. In the US and around the world, Price-On-Carbon backers heralded Australia as a beacon of hope. Then we just assumed that the Carbon Tax was etched in stone.  Took it for granted.  But recent Australian elections were won by the conservatives (which are oddly called the Liberal Party, but I digress) who ran on a platform of abolishing the Carbon Tax.  Like a sports team on its way to certain victory only to fall behind or lose in disastrous, unexpected fashion, the Carbon Tax forces in Australia need to recover from that punch in the gut and fight back.  GSB explores if they have what it takes.

On September 7, pro Price-On-Carbon forces around the world were dealt a tough blow when Tony Abbott, an avowed opponent of the Carbon Tax in Australia, became Prime Minister.  He has some potential hurdles in the Australian Senate to surmount but there’s a good chance the Carbon Tax will be repealed.  I felt the reverberations from this news a half a world away in NYC because, when I give Climate Reality Project (the grassroots group founded by former VP Al Gore after “An Inconvenient Truth”) slideshows, one of the most upbeat slides in the presentation is one that shows folks in front of Canberra, the Australian capital, celebrating the Carbon Tax (celebrating a tax is hard to imagine but pictures don’t lie!).  Australia was the exemplar of Price-On-Carbon hope–and then, all of a sudden, the hope was dashed.  Should I get rid of that slide, I asked myself.


Pro Carbon Tax event in Canberra, Australia in 2011 after policy was approved by the legislature. (Photo Credit: Australian Conservation Foundation/Belinda Patton)

Flash forward to November 10.  I’m watching (American not Aussie Rules) football at a watering hole on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. Ravens seemingly have the game won.  I mean it’s over.  The crowd is celebrating.  Up by 7 points and time only for a desperation Hail Mary pass from Bengals QB Andy Dalton to AJ Green from 51 yards away that would tie the game and send it into overtime.  A million to one shot…no way he catches it…and yet…well listen/see for yourselves!

TOUCHDOWN Bengals!  Tie game.  The Ravens and the 65,000+ fans had the collective wind knocked out of them.  A game that was won was instead going into overtime.  All the momentum switched to the Bengals.  No doubt they would ride the proverbial wind at their sails and win in OT.  

AJ Green Leaping Grab

Cincinnati Bengals WR AJ Green (#18) leaps to make game-tying TD catch vs. Baltimore Ravens, sending game into overtime. (Photo Credit: AP)

Well a funny thing happened on the way to the Certain-Ravens-Win-That-Was-Now-A-Sure-Bengals-Victory.  It didn’t happen.  Despite the despair of the fans, despite the loss of positive energy that the team must’ve faced, the Ravens gathered themselves, and summoned the collective intestinal fortitude necessary to overcome the headwinds resulting from Green’s game-turning catch.  The Ravens players and coaches did their jobs and were able to rebound to win the game.

Justin Tucker Celebrates

Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo Credit: USA Today)

There is a lesson in this for the Australian Carbon Tax forces. They’ve just been AJ Green-ed.  But the game isn’t over.  They have to be the Ravens.  Or they have to have a little Blutarsky from Animal House in ‘em (warning: there’s a swear word in that clip). They have to be tough, smart and organized.  More than that, they have to have the fortitude to fight back and win the argument.  It ain’t gonna be easy.

Recent polling shows that 57% of Australians want the Carbon Tax repealed. But a deeper dive reveals that there’s still a strong appetite among Australians to meet their aggressive carbon reduction targets.  And, the people like PM Abbott’s prescription (using taxpayer funds to purchase emissions reductions from polluters, and planting trees) even less than they like the Carbon Tax (12% in favor of Abbott’s position, 16% in favor of Carbon Tax).

So there’s room for a comeback by the Carbon Tax forces.  Perhaps they need to advocate a Cap & Trade system.  Perhaps they need to adjust the formula of the Carbon Tax.  Perhaps they need to rebrand to Price-On-Carbon.  I’ll leave the tactics to the Australians.  But the point is:  They can’t let up.  And they’re not.

According to Melbourne-based writer, blogger and climate activist Andrea Flory, the YES forces (I’ll use YES to represent Carbon Tax/Price On Carbon/Whatever) are in the process of pushing back.  She attended a Climate Change rally in Melbourne in mid-November that drew 30,000 people. The mood was upbeat, with an emphasis on “people power” and “a grassroots movement to build [the momentum] back up through social media” for a price on carbon, said Flory.  She was pleasantly surprised by the broad makeup of the crowd–young and old, wealthy, middle class and lower class.

Melbourne Climate Change Rally

Some of the estimated 30,000 people at a mid-November Climate Change rally in Melbourne, Australia (Photo Credit: Joe Armao)

One rally, of course, does not mean much, but perception is reality.  And if the perception is that the YES forces are in this for the long haul, that they can take a shot and comeback better than ever, then that’s a great early sign as this is a long game, in Australia, the US and everywhere else.  The key in Australia is to build on the Melbourne rally so the Labour and Green politicians see that staking out a YES position is not career suicide.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep that YES slide in my Climate Reality slideshow presentations–and may add one of AJ Green’s catch to boot.

The Intersection of Green & Sports & Politics

Executives from the major US professional sports leagues met with the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, made up of Senators and members of the House of Representatives (hence, bicameral).  The task force’s goal is to “focus congressional and public attention on climate change and to develop effective policy responses to this urgent challenge.”  Seems as though some members of Congress (at least the Democrats in Congress–because there are no Republicans on the task force–more on that later) think they can learn something about how to deal with climate change from the professional sports leagues.

The GreenSportsBlog was started back in May with the notion that those fighting the climate change fight could learn some valuable lessons from the sports world.  It turns out that at least some members of Congress understand the power of the Green & Sports intersection and, yesterday, set about learning some of those lessons.

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), met with representatives from the NBA, WNBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in a closed-door meeting to discuss the effects of climate change on these organizations and the work they are doing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Letters from the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB to the Task Force demonstrate the tangible steps the leagues are taking to green their sports:

  • An impressive number of new stadiums and arenas are LEED certified, even more feature on-site solar and wind generation.
  • MLB and the NHL, working with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), have developed and implemented online tools that enables all of the clubs in each sport to track and analyze data specific to waste output, energy usage and water consumption.  The NBA is on track to employ a similar program.  The goals are, through sharing of best practices, to change behavior on the part of facilities managers, gain an awareness of resource usage, and to reduce environmental impact.
  • The NFL focuses its efforts on greening its premier, highest visibility events, most notably the Super Bowl.  From planting trees in the host city to offsetting the carbon associated with the Super Bowl, from sending unserved food to homeless shelters to recycling office supplies, the NFL uses its showcase event to promote green behavior.

Solar in KC

Solar panels beyond the left field bleachers at Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Photo Credit: Kansas City Royals)

In my view, the NBA and NHL letters to the Task Force were far more valuable than those of the NFL and MLB in that they went beyond talking about what they’re doing to make recommendations about actions the federal government can take under current law to deal more aggressively with climate change.

  • The NBA supports Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “standards to reduce the carbon pollution from electric power plants.”  Those standards, which will primarily affect the coal industry, are currently in the public comment phase, and are being fought hard by Big Coal.  The NBA also supports current actions taken by EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set more stringent fuel standards and additional clean energy research and investment.
  • The NHL believes the best way for the federal government “to impact climate change is to affect the way energy is consumed in the built environment” (i.e. energy efficiency). It recommends “an aggressive nation-wide retrofit initiative” that would reduce costs, even taking into account initial investments and would result in “substantial reductions in GHG emissions.”

The NHL goes even further than the NBA, suggesting what Congress could do going forward:  ”Congress could consider legislation that would establish a creative public financing program that could stimulate the changes that are needed to undertake more building retrofit projects…The loan program could be coupled with a contractor guarantee and a commitment to tracking consumption data in order to ensure the program is effective in meeting its goals.”  GSB readers won’t be surprised about the NHL’s forward-thinking/acting-ness on climate–check out our recent interview with the NHL Green Team.

While none of the leagues waded into the most controversial of the sustainability policy waters–Keystone XL, Carbon Tax/Cap & Trade–the NBA’s endorsement of the EPA’s tighter power plant emission standards and the NHL’s proposal of an infrastructure retrofit financing program is a BIG DEAL.  Hopefully, the leagues’ actions and statements will provide spur more Congressional democrats to take a more aggressive posture on climate change than they have to date.

Notice I say  Congressional “democrats”…As far as I know, not one republican member of Congress, in either House, admits that climate change is real. How pathetic is that, when 97-98% of climate scientists publishing in the field confirm the consensus??? To me, we’re not going to get to meaningful climate change policy (i.e. a price on carbon) until we find a GOP big shot to say, as I’ve urged my pal LeBron James to say, that “climate change is real. It’s human caused. And we have to do something meaningful about it.”  But, in the meantime, we need as many democrats, from the President, Governors, and members of Congress, to push on climate.

Sheldon Whitehouse

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Co-Chairman, Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, giving a weekly climate change talk in a nearly empty senate chamber (Photo Credit: Providence Journal)

Finally, a few words on one of those democrats and one of the chairmen of the Climate Change Task Force, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  Not well known beyond Providence and Woonsocket, Whitehouse has taken on the often thankless job of keeping climate change on the senate’s (and the public’s) radar screen. Please,  PLEASE read Ezra Klein’s terrific Bloomberg.com column–it takes you inside  Whitehouse and his weekly talks on climate change to a largely empty chamber.  Sheldon Whitehouse is a hero.

Follow GreenSportsBlog on Twitter: @LewieBlau

Email GreenSportsBlog: lew@greensportsblog.com




The Ups & Downs Of The Green Sports World

Like the New York Jets, who this week set an NFL record by alternating wins and losses for a 10th consecutive game (win-lose-win-lose, etc.) (hopefully this trend continues for one more game as it’s their “win” week), the Green Sports World had an up-down (I think) week.

UP:  The Cleveland Browns Unveil A New Food Waste-To-Energy System

While the Cleveland Browns’ on-field performance has been mediocre-to-putrid since they re-entered the league in 1999 (the original Browns left for Baltimore in 1995; the new Browns have made the playoffs once in 14 seasons and will likely not see post-season play this year), they are among the league leaders off the field in terms of greening.

Dawg Pound GiantBomb.com

Buck Up, Dawg Pound Fans!  Your Cleveland Browns Are A Leader In Greening The NFL Via Their Innovative Food Waste-To-Energy System (Photo Credit: GiantBomb)

In a story in TriplePundit.com, Tina Casey profiles the Browns innovative new food waste-to-energy system, called Grind2Energy.  The system, created and operated by InSinkErator, is the first of its kind at NFL stadiums.  Launching at the Browns-Steelers game this Sunday, Grind2Energy “reclaims food scraps for conversion into renewable methane gas, rather than sending it to a landfill where it would decompose and add methane (a potent greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere.”

Grind2 Rewmag.com

InSinkErator’s Grind2Energy Food Waste Grinder Will Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Food Waste At Cleveland Browns Games (Photo Credit: RewMag.com)

The Grind2Energy process, which Ms. Casey’s article details, results in a big win for the environment by essentially shifting the by-products from food waste from decomposed methane (which is what happens now when food waste is sent to a landfill) to burned methane gas.  That doesn’t sound like a win, does it?  Burning methane gas can’t be a good thing?  Things aren’t always as they seem:

THIS IS A BIG WIN–and it is a system that other NFL teams will likely model in 2014 and beyond.  So, Browns fans, I know it’s small consolation when your team is 4-6, but you should be proud of Grind2Energy.  Plus they’re only a game out of a Wild Card spot.

DOWN (I think):  The Atlanta Braves Move To The Suburbs

Last week, the Atlanta Braves announced they will be moving from 17 year-old Turner Field, located just south of downtown Atlanta, to a new stadium in suburban Cobb County.  The new ballpark, 15 miles northwest of “The Ted”, is scheduled to open in 2017.

Cobb County Marietta.com

Aerial View Of The Footprint of the New Braves Stadium and Retail/Entertainment/Hotel Development in Cobb County, GA.  (Photo Credit: Marietta.com)

My initial reaction was “what’s up with Atlanta sports teams leaving flying the coop from relatively new stadiums?”  After all, the NFL Falcons will leave their downtown  home, the Georgia Dome, after only 25 years for what looks like a futuristic stadium, also downtown.

New Falcons Stadium

Artist’s Rendering, New Atlanta Falcons Stadium.  I Hope It’s As Green As It Is Cool-Looking (Photo Credit: Atlanta Falcons)

Next, my thoughts went to the greenness of the proposed ballpark and, at first glance, it doesn’t seem green at all.

  • The new stadium will not be located near MARTA, the Atlanta light rail system.  This means that virtually all fans will be driving to the new stadium.  Currently, fans can take MARTA to Turner Field, although the nearest station is about a mile away.  Free shuttle bus service takes fans from MARTA to the ballpark but many walk.  That ain’t gonna happen in Cobb County.
  • Traffic, admittedly bad for games at Turner Field (it’s bad pretty much everywhere in Atlanta), is expected to be awful in Cobb County.  The stadium will likely be at the intersection of I-75 and I-285, already one of the most congested in the Atlanta area.
  • Baseball is only part of the picture.  The Braves, per their website, will “develop the remaining parcels surrounding the venue, crafting a destination featuring retail, entertainment and hotel options.”  More cars, more sprawl, more emissions.
  • While it’s still early days, it’s curious that the Braves new ballpark website doesn’t mention sustainability at all.  Every new ballpark website I’ve seen goes out of its way to talk up how green they are.  Not the Braves.  At least they’re not greenwashing.  Yet.

While I think the Braves’  move to the suburbs is far from green, the truth is we don’t know the full story:

  • Transportation-Based Carbon Emissions: The team says one reason for the move to Cobb is that it’s closer to the epicenter of its mainly suburban fan base.  If this is true, then emissions from cars will be lower with fewer miles being driven.  But, the traffic will likely be worse, thus increasing emissions.  And those who now take MARTA will have to drive, adding even more to emissions.  Hopefully a detailed analysis will be done to determine the net effect on carbon emissions of the move.
  • Recycling of Turner Field:  Will any of the steel, bricks and/or other materials that are part of Turner Field be used to build the new ballpark? Turner Field will be torn down.
  • What kind of bus service will be used to get fans to the new ballpark and how many fans will use it?
  • Will the new ballpark be LEED certified?

GSB will reach out to the Braves to get their side of the sustainability (or lack thereof) story.



Greening Of The Big 10: University of Michigan, Going Green In A BIG Way

By Elyssa Emrich

It’s not easy for me, a proud Wisconsin Badger, to admit but Ohio State vs. Michigan is the biggest rivalry in college football.  There.  I said it.  Don’t believe me? In a 2003 espn.com fan poll, “The Game” was voted the #1 college football rivalry (beating out Army/Navy, Auburn/Alabama and Texas/Oklahoma for those keeping score at home).

Referring to my last post, Ohio State is winning big this year, both on the field, with the #3 ranked team in the country, and off the field with their Zero-Waste program. Michigan, on the other hand, has been trailing on both counts.  With their home loss this past weekend to Nebraska they are no longer in the running to be Big Ten Champs. Losers of 9 of the last 11 vs. Ohio State, Michigan’s green sports program has fallen behind their rivals as well.  But, with an emerging Green Game Plan that’s broader than that of the Buckeyes, things are starting to turn around.

While Ohio State has focused narrowly on recycling and composting, Michigan is looking to go bigger.  Michigan–going big? Are you surprised? Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) has the biggest capacity of any stadium in the country (109,901) and has the record for the biggest crowd in history (115,109).  Through their partnership with the University’s Planet Blue initiative, the Michigan Athletic Department created a comprehensive sustainability plan that tackles:

  1. Waste Reduction and Recycling
  2. Energy Efficiency
  3. Water Conservation
  4. Education and Awareness

Maize & Go Blue

The Big House at night, 109,000 strong (Photo Credit: MaizeAndGoBlue.com)

Paul Dunlop, the facilities manager for Michigan Athletics, broke down each element of their game plan for me.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

Michigan is very proud to hold the title of the largest football stadium in the country, but does it take pride in being a large producer of waste because of that? I doubt it. That is why the athletic department has made recycling and waste reduction a priority.  “We All Win When We Put It In The Blue Bin” PA announcements and signage let Wolverines fans know that recycling is important.

Big House Put It In The Bin

Scoreboard at the Big House, urging 100,000+ fans to put recycling “In The Bin” (Photo Credit: University of Michigan)

As a result, Michigan football diverted 40.8% of waste, equaling about 485,000 lbs. from the landfill in 2012.  Those numbers should go up some since they started composting their Back-Of-(Big)-House food preparation operations this season. If Michigan wants to take things to the Ohio State level by doubling those diversion rates and thus managing large-scale, zero-waste events, they need to bring composting to the Front-Of-House, with clearly marked composting bins.

Michigan conducted a Zero-Waste test event at a soccer match on October 30th at their soccer complex.  While results have yet to be released, steps taken to achieve Zero-Waste included:

  • Converting some trash bins into composting bins
  • Using compostable food and drink materials, provided by concessionaire Sodexo.

There is no current timetable for when the Big House will become Zero-Waste, but fans, student-athletes, and others the university are beginning to demand it.  That Ohio State’s Horseshoe has already achieved Zero-Waste status for some games will certainly push Michigan.  One thing is for certain: Making the Big House not only the largest stadium in the country, but also the largest zero-waste stadium will be a Big Deal.

Energy Efficiency

As big as The Big House is, it’s only one part of the Athletic Department’s physical footprint.  And that footprint will be getting bigger as sixteen new facility projects and upgrades (including renovations of the swimming & diving, track & field, volleyball, wrestling, softball and soccer venues) are on the drawing board with total construction costs currently estimated at $160 million.

The Michigan Green Game Plan takes sustainability into account on a project-by-project basis. Dunlop mentioned that most projects will at least reach LEED’s minimum construction standards, but they will not seek LEED certification in all cases because of the fees involved.  Crisler Center, home of Michigan basketball, received LEED Gold Certification this past summer for its renovation and expansion project.

Crisler Center

Interior of the Renovated Crisler Center, Home of Michigan Basketball

Energy efficiency through building automation is another top priority, with particular emphasis placed on lighting control systems. These systems aim to eliminate unnecessary energy consumption through occupancy censors.  In addition, Michigan is currently installing LED lighting in their tennis facility, partnering with Sustainable Solutions, an Illinois-based LED lighting solutions distributor.

Speaking of lighting, The Big House didn’t have permanent stadium lights until the 2011 football season.  The new energy efficient lights are augmented by a state-of-the art, anti-reflective glass product from Michigan-based Guardian Industries.  Anti-reflective glass lenses surrounds the lighting fixtures, maximizing efficiency and enhancing illumination.

Water Conservation

Water Conservation, an important facet of the Green Game Plan at Michigan, has 3 key long-term goals:

  • Monitoring and reducing water consumption
  • Protecting their streams
  • Eliminating harmful chemicals in cleaning products

Automated irrigation systems have been installed to reduce unnecessary water consumption. The LEED Gold Crisler Center features low-flow plumbing fixtures including showerheads and waterless urinals, which have the potential to save a lot of water. An Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan is reducing contamination caused by construction pollution from soil erosion, waterway sedimentation and airborne dust generation. Finally, Michigan is working closely with their custodial team to use less water when cleaning and to create a better working environment that is safe from harmful chemicals.

Education, Awareness and Student-Athlete Involvement

Engaging fans and student-athletes in being greener off the field will magnify the Maize & Blue’s successes on the field. Fans have easy access to Michigan’s Green game plan by visiting their webpage (http://www.mgoblue.com/sustainability).  There, they will learn how they can play a key part in Michigan’s greening, Zero-Waste efforts.

Student-athletes are getting in the green game through Michigan Student Athletes for Sustainability (MSAS), founded by sustainability-minded former soccer player Courtney Mercier.  In my eyes, this group is the most impressive aspect of the Michigan Green Game Plan, because student-athletes are the reason college athletics exists. When these role models become passionate about creating a sustainable environment, fans will become more passionate.

The Maize & Blue Goes BIG On Green

A common thread of this post is that Michigan athletics does things in a big way.  Former MSAS advisor and current Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprises graduate student Leah Zimmerman played an important role in growing the Michigan Athletic Department’s Green Game Plan. Leah sat on an Athletic Department-wide committee (involving marketing, operations, communications, IT, etc.) whose mission is to follow through with and scale up the Michigan Green Game Plan and, in so doing, build the campus-wide conversation about sustainability. Michigan is the only athletic department I have come across thus far that has such a dedicated, multi-disciplinary committee.

While much of the Michigan Green Game Plan is still to be implemented, its comprehensive nature is something that, if successful, others in the Big 10—and beyond—should consider modeling. I recommend that all of the Big 10 Athletic Departments collaborate on sharing green best practices—and adopt a conference-wide Green Game Plan.  Now, THAT would be really BIG–because everyone wins when sustainability becomes a priority.

You can reach Elyssa via:

Twitter:  @eemrich33

Email:  eemrich@uwalumni.com

LeBron Takes First Green Steps By Riding His Bike To Work

Back in June, GSB sent an Open Letter To LeBron James, asking him to add his considerable voice and influence to the fight to slow/reverse climate change and its effects.  The request was simple: Just say “climate change is real, it’s human-caused, and we have to do something meaningful about it.” While he hasn’t, to our knowledge, said that, LeBron has made a different statement in the green direction with his actions–by occasionally riding his bike to work.

LeBron Cycling

LeBron James, riding his bike to work at the Miami Heat’s practice facility

A recent long form Nike ad (1:46), centered on LeBron’s bicycle commuting, has generated over 2 million YouTube views.  Check it out here.  It’s a great ad, methinks, for Nike, James and bicycle commuting.  What about you?

Now, despite the Open Letter and the international groundswell of support it garnered, it is possible that James’ decision to ride his bike to work has nothing to do with the environment nor climate change. It could be because traffic is awful. Or perhaps he’s doing it as part of his training regimen.  Maybe he just likes to ride a bike! Who knows? Unless he talks about it, we can only speculate about the reason(s).  But his intent is secondary at this point. LeBron James cycling to work is a great statement on behalf of bicycle commuting, which grew 10% in the US from 2011 to 2012 and over 60% since 2000, and driving less.  And that’s green, no matter LeBron’s motives.

That said, the next step is obvious–another Open Letter that asks LeBron to make the “climate change is real” announcement (you will read it here first!).  He could even ride his bike to the press conference.


Celebrity Auto Group: How NOT To Green The Sports World

Celebrity Auto Group is a high-end auto dealer that caters to big-time athletes and other entertainers.  The business was recently ranked #67 in Inc Magazine’s listing of the Top 500 private companies in America (Sep. 2013).  While the business is doing very well, with a 3-year growth rate to die for (+4,744%!) and 2012 revenue of $16.2 million, GSB believes Celebrity Auto Group sends a strong anti-green message at the time we need consistently positive green messages (and actions) from the sports world and elsewhere.

Back in June, shortly after LeBron James led the Miami Heat to its 2nd consecutive NBA Championship, GSB posted an “Open Letter To LeBron James” which asked LeBron to become “‘The King’ of the Climate Change fight”. It urged LeBron to go on record with a clear statement saying Climate Change is real, it’s human caused and we have to take serious steps now to stave off the carbon train wreck humanity looks to be headed for.

The tone of the piece was a bit tongue-in-cheek  (hey, humor is a necessity when writing about climate change!) and included a mock Q and A between GSB and LBJ which went, in part like this:

LeBron:  What can I do?

GSB:  In addition to the Climate change is real statement, you can and should:

  • Sell your gas guzzling cars in favor of energy efficient rides.  Make do with fewer cars.  Here’s a statement you can issue:  I’ve taken a leadership role on the Heat by walking the walk–working overtime to improve my game.  Now I’m walking the walk on climate change.  I’ll start by getting rid of my gas guzzling Jeep and Rolls Royce and the rest.  Instead, I’m going to drive an all electric car or a hybrid.  I’m also going to do with fewer cars.  I mean, I don’t need 5 cars.  No one needs 5 cars!  It sets a bad example if we’re going to do something serious about climate change.  We need to be more energy efficient; it’s as simple as a pick and roll! 

That faux Q&A was on my mind when I read about Celebrity Auto Group (CAG) in Inc. Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, which listed the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America.  Based in Sarasota, FL, CAG (#67 on Inc’s list) was founded by former pro tennis player Conor Delaney in 2006 to, per Inc’s Reshma Memon Yaqub, source and customize high-end, exotic vehicles for A-list athletes and other entertainers.  There’s nothing unusual about that on its face–Big-Time athletes and other entertainers like fancy cars–BUT, these excerpts from Delaney’s first-person account stopped me dead in my tracks:

The bulk of my business comes from 125 people, mostly NBA players, who buy 2 to 12 cars a year (my bold) for an average of $150,000 each. Then they do it again the next year.

Think about that–up to 12 cars per year!  The message, of course, is “Conspicuous consumption is where it’s at, baby!  Consume more, consume big!  We’re 4% of the world’s population and 25% of its energy use…and we gotta get that energy use number UP!  Carbon footprint–what’s THAT?  Fuel efficiency–WHO CARES?”  On that last point–fuel efficiency–it seems that CAG’s target market indeed does not care as fuel economy information is not included on the listings of any of the 27 cars currently for sale.


Conor Delaney, Founder of Celebrity Auto Group (Photo Credit:  Inc.com)

Now you might think that the general public would feel that buying up to 12 cars per year would be cool and that any negative blow back would be minimal.  On the other hand, Delaney says “privacy is huge for athletes” so he “never name(s) clients, tweet about them, or post(s) Instagram pictures of their cars.” Most of this bending-over-backwards for anonymity has to be due to the athletes just wanting to be left alone.  But maybe, somewhere in the backs of their minds, the athletes realize what a horrible example they’re setting.  Maybe they know their profligacy is grotesque and would look bad.  Maybe?  The problem is, maybe not.

GSB is going to try to talk to Mr. Delaney to find out if his customers even think about how bad 12 cars per year looks.  And we will push LeBron again about that making the “climate change is real” statement–and about selling one or more of his cars.


The GSB Interview: The NHL Green Team

The National Hockey League is arguably the leader among North American professional sports leagues in terms of taking substantive action regarding greening its sport. A key reason for this commitment is that many NHL players hail from rural Canada and grew up playing outdoor pond hockey.  That pond hockey heritage, highlighted through the incredibly popular, outdoor NHL Winter Classic games, is at risk due to the effects of climate change that are happening now, in real time.  GreenSportsBlog recently sat down with the NHL’s 3-person Green Team to discuss the league’s journey to sustainability.  The team is made up of Bernadette Mansur, SVP Public Affairs, Executive Director of NHL Green and of the NHL Foundation; Omar Mitchell, Director of Sustainability; and Paul LaCaruba, Coordinator, Public Affairs.

GreenSportsBlog:  When and why did the NHL get involved with fighting climate change?

Bernadette Mansur:  Internally, we can trace it back to a conversation between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Dr. Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) back in 2008 about the need for the NHL to move aggressively to green the sport (Ed. Note: NRDC is committed to the Green & Sports intersection and Dr. Hershkowitz is the driving force behind that commitment).  Gary was long aware of climate change and also of the unique place pond hockey holds for Canadian-born players and fans. With climate change putting pond hockey under threat, Gary was on board.

Omar Mitchell:  That 2008 conversation between Gary and Allen quickly led to the 2010 launch of NHL Green.  It was introduced at the NHL Winter Classic in Boston’s Fenway Park on New Year’s Day 2010.  The League’s outdoor games, especially NHL Winter Classics, are the by far the biggest, most high-profile regular season event on the league calendar aside from the Stanley Cup Final.

Paul LaCaruba:  Commissioner Bettman saw Boston, with its highly-educated work force and its world-class universities as a logical place to launch.  The league convened a panel with professors expert on climate science from Harvard and MIT to help guide NHL Green’s development.

NHL Winter Classic

2010 NHL Winter Classic at Boston’s Fenway Park (Photo Credit: Boston.com).

GSB:  What were some of the early NHL Green programs?

Bernadette: We started relatively small with Rock & Wrap It Up, a food donation program pioneered by a fellow named Syd Mandelbaum in the 90s to take all prepared but unused food at our arenas to shelters and other places where the food would go to good use and not to landfill.  All 30 clubs took part, starting with the 2010-2011 season.  Thus far, over 210 tons of food have been donated. [Ed. Note: Mandelbaum, a forensic scientist by trade, coupled his love of rock music and his desire to wipe out world hunger by starting Rock & Wrap It Up in 1994.  As of 2010, over 200 million people had been fed through this program.]

Omar:  The league also, through its relationship with MIT, started a “Sustainability Manager” Fellowship with a Sloan MBA student.  The Fellow works with NHL club Facility Managers to share how they can operate more sustainably and more efficiently.  The clubs reacted positively, especially to Rock & Wrap It Up. Sustainability representatives at each club made the food recovery program doable.

Paul:  At around that time, the league instituted monthly sustainability calls that involved representatives from each club and from multiple disciplines–Facilities Management, PR, Finance, even Chief Operating Officers. Sustainability became engrained in the day-to-day operations of every club.

GSB: What were some of the key learnings from “Rock” and the other early efforts?

Paul:  Some programs don’t require much in the way of funding.  Rather, changing the way you think, the way a club does things, can have a great impact without much money being spent.

Omar:  Also starting with a food recovery effort was, in hindsight, a smart way to go in that it got the league an easy win.  No one said no, it was community-oriented, it led to lasting partnerships and, in fact, it was more than green–it was humanitarian.

GSB:  Sounds like Rock & Wrap It Up helped pave the way for the next big NHL Green program, Gallons For Goals.  Tell us about that.

Bernadette:  This is the NHL’s water restoration project and gets to the heart of both the fresh water climate change-pond hockey and fresh water scarcity issues.  We partnered with the non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) to offset some of our premier events like the NHL Winter Classic, the NHL All-Star Game and the NHL Draft through the purchase of BEF Water Restoration Credits (WRCs) and to engage the fans at the same time.  We did this through Gallons For Goals.  Starting with the 2011-2012 season, the league committed to restoring 1,000 gallons of water to at-risk rivers, like the Deshutes River in Oregon, for every goal scored.  Over 20,000,000 gallons have been restored since then.

GSB: How have the fans been engaged? How have they reacted?

Omar: Gallons For Goals is for the fans.  They are aware of water scarcity issues and that water is in our DNA. And we brought it to the fans–we had a Gallons For Goals exhibit at the 2012 NHL Winter Classic “Spectator Plaza” in Philadelphia.  Fans pledged to reduce water use.  We track our water restoration numbers on the NHL Green website.

Bernadette:  We’re also offsetting the water used at our New York headquarters–which, over two seasons, will amount to 6 million gallons.

Paul:  And we produced a Gallons For Goals Public Service Announcement in 2011 that got a great reception.

Deschutes 2

Deshutes River in Oregon, replenished by water from NHL’s Gallons For Goals (Photo Credit: Bonneville Environmental Foundation (C) 2011)

GSB:  Has the league done research on fan awareness and reaction to Gallons For Goals?

Paul:  Not yet.  Anecdotally the clubs tell us that feedback from the fans has been very positive.

GSB: How have the owners reacted to NHL Green, especially those from cities like Edmonton and Calgary, which are major oil producers?

Paul:   Every owner, from every team has been enthusiastic about NHL Green.

GSB: How about the players?

Bernadette:  One of the great things about the NHL is that we have lots of “genuine guys”.  A majority are from Canada and many of the Canadians are from rural areas and have a strong appreciation for nature.

Paul:  Andrew Ference of the Edmonton Oilers has been amazing on this issue, speaking out forcefully and publicly on energy efficiency and climate change.  When he was with the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins in 2011, Ference and teammate Zdeno Chara rode bikes to the games in both Boston and Vancouver during that Stanley Cup Final.

Omar:  LA Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, an avid fisherman from British Columbia, is on the Advisory Committee of Save Our Salmon. And former NY Rangers goalie Mike Richter has gone a different route, from winning the Stanley Cup to starting a solar finance company.

Paul:   Richter’s eyes were opened to this issue when he first got to New York and wanted to go for a training run on a hot summer day and heard on the radio that the air quality that day made running dangerous.  He said “what’s up with that?” and is trying to do something about it.  Scott Niedermayer, a Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup winner, is very concerned about how climate change affects and will-affect his kids.  He is also a WWF Ambassador.

Bernadette: This is why NHL Green works.  Our players, owners and Commissioner Bettman get the connection between climate change and the sport’s heritage of playing outside, on ponds.

GSB: NHL Green is a roadmap other leagues should follow.  We are working to talk with them to see where they stand.

Follow GSB on Twitter @LewieBlau