A Good Start, Big Opportunities Ahead: The Greening Of Sports

Memorial Day marks the end of (just about) the first third of the Major League Baseball season.  It’s a time when teams reassess whether they are going to be contenders, pretenders, bottom feeders, or, in the case of this year’s Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, historically bad bottom feeders.

In the world of North American professional sports teams and leagues, as it pertains to sustainability, I’d say that:

  1. They are more or less in the early stages,
  2. There are hopeful signs (maybe teams/leagues are pretenders now can become possible contenders if they play their cards right),
  3. But there’s a lot more that needs to be done before any sort of victory can be claimed.

I’d venture to say the vast majority of US/Canadian sports fans are unaware of the greening efforts that have been undertaken by the major professional sports leagues and associations, from Major League Baseball to the National Basketball Association, from the National Football League to National Hockey League, from Major League Soccer to the United States Tennis Association.  As to whether they’d care is another question.

In fact, all of the leagues and associations have taken some, what I would call, small but significant first steps, largely with the help of The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its “Greening Advisor” platform.

Beginning in 2004, the NRDC Greening Advisor team has helped the leagues and teams promote/enact energy efficiency, recycling programs, waste reduction, water conservation and other smart operations.

One initiative I’d like to highlight is the NHL’s Green program and its work in water conservation.  Or, more specifically, ice conservation.  Partnering with Rinkwatch.org, an organization at the intersection of pond hockey/backyard skatint and climate science (who knew?), NHL Green asks pond hockey players in Canada and the northern US to document how many outdoor hockey days there are in a given season (they are declining).  While concern about polar bears animates certain folks, the decline in pond hockey days will likely engage a different and sizable population.  Pretty cool, no?

This program, along with those from Major League Soccer, the NBA and others are good starts BUT there’s a long way to go.

You’ll know that the leagues and teams are more green contenders than pretenders, when, they use their massive power to truly engage fans–the ones who come to the ballpark and the even many more who watch on TV.  The numbers of fans are so great and their passion so intense that, if a sponsor can borrow just a portion of that passion towards a green goal, they, the team and league, and the environment would all be winners.  More on what the next steps could look like in Friday’s post.

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5 thoughts on “A Good Start, Big Opportunities Ahead: The Greening Of Sports”

    1. That’s a good question. It’s hard to say but my guess is that CitiField, while not considered at the vanguard of green stadium construction (MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands and Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn are much more highly rated, for example; not sure where the new Yankee Stadium fits in that mix), is likely greener than Shea Stadium was. My guess is based on the notion that energy efficiency and recycling weren’t considered in construction, ca. 1963-64 when Shea was built. So, even though CitiField wasn’t built to LEED standards, LEEDish approaches were certainly used. To really get a legitimate answer, one would have to dig into the methods and materials used in the construction of both ballparks.

      One area that favors Shea is that it was used for both baseball and football whereas CitiField is baseball only. Of course the Jets moved from one shared stadium situation to another so that advantage is largely negated.

  1. I definitely like the fact that CitiField (like its predecessor Shea) is easy to get to via public transportation. That’s a big advantage over everyone arriving by car. But I’m disappointed to hear that CitiField wasn’t up to LEED standards.

  2. When CitiField was constructed (opened in 2009), LEED for open air buildings was in its infancy so there were actually very few LEED certified stadiums at that point. In fact, Nationals Park, the home of the Mets NL East rivals–and reigning division champ–was the first LEED certified major league stadium. It opened a year before CitiField. To me, the bigger concern is that CitiField did not measure up to its NY-area cousins in terms of “greenness” during the stadium construction boom of the late 2000s-early 2010s. If memory serves, I saw an article a couple years back stating that the greenest of the new NY-area stadiums were Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn (Nets and soon Islanders), MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands (Giants and Jets), and Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (soccer’s Red Bulls. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium got lower grades. I don’t recall where Newark’s Prudential Center (Devils) fell in the mix. The renovation to Madison Square Garden was not considered in that piece.

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