The Green Teams Part IV

I’ve been talking about energy efficiency in professional sports for a while now and I realize how little I knew about any of it until recently. I was aware of the NBA’s Green Week and the 49ers efficient new stadium, but I never would have guessed the extent of the industry’s green achievements unless I really wanted to look into it. So I guess it’s a good thing I was curious about this and have an outlet to share my exciting findings with the world!!

As you’ve all learned by now, the NRDC put together a massive report about all things good and green in the sports industry, but they’ve also played quite the hand in helping the various teams, leagues and venues they highlight in the report develop green websites, events and initiatives.

The NRDC, with the NHL, launched a green website, designed to advertise the League’s green events (such as developing community gardens), promote green living tips and announce NHL green contributions (like their donation of 1,600 trees in May 2013 to The Nature Conservancy). The NHL and NRDC have collaborated numerous times to ensure hockey fans around the country are aware of environmental issues and initiatives. 2010 Winter Classic spectators even attended a panel discussion about how going green can benefit the economy.

The NHL’s green initiatives are vast, impressive and encouraging. Tickets are printed on recycled paper; unsold food is given to the Rock and Wrap It Up! Initiative to fight poverty; free public transportation passes are available to ticket holders. The list goes on. As shown in the PSA below, hockey players need ice to play their game and the ice in this world is quickly disappearing. Let’s change that. Let’s keep hockey around. I know I’m not the only who wants that.

I can’t express how awesome I think it is that such a huge, energy-sucking, wasteful industry (before you get mad at me for saying that, think about it for a second) is making major moves to cut its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and landfills. Their accomplishments have been so great that they’re starting to rub off on college sports, too!

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 NCAA’s March Madness now not only has a sustainability committee for the Final Four (pages 32-34), but eligible schools can compete in the Environmental March Madness Tournament, which compares and assesses environmental degree programs, green job and event opportunities and on- and off-campus efforts to build a sustainable surrounding community. A National Champion is selected after three rounds of judging: the Finest Four is picked from the Environmental Eight, which is picked from the Sustainable Sixteen. I got to see 2013's Environmental March Madness National Champion, the Ohio State Buckeyes, at LA’s Staples Center for both their Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight Games. Wichita State may have knocked OSU out of the basketball part of the competition, but the Shockers weren’t ready for the Buckeyes’ environmental domination!

This is great for NCAA basketball, but hopefully there will be more green efforts in college sports as a whole. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conducted a sustainability survey for NCAA athletic departments and while some responses are encouraging, others are not. There is definitely room for improvement, but the important thing is that environmentally responsible endeavors have begun. All in all, as both an energy efficiency enthusiast and a major sports fan, I feel great about where the sports industry is headed and what we will see in the near future.

The Green Teams Part I

America’s favorite pastime is watching sports. Nearly every day of the year, tens of millions of us spend a few hours watching our favorite teams and athletes do what they do best either on huge, flat screen TVs at home or live, in facilities large enough to make each of us feel like an ant. I am one of these people who lap up and get lost in every bit of these crazy, energy-sucking shows. While there has been a lot of negative news surrounding some of the national sports leagues lately, I want to talk about this industry and its concentration on going green in a short series. I know it sounds a bit ironic, but bear with me; it's actually an uplifting and inspiring tale.

Remember these days?
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Bright lights, jumbotrons, packed stadiums. This industry has changed drastically from the small-scale games played in fields and streets and does not sound (or look, if you’ve ever been to a major sporting event) energy efficient in the least. On the surface, it seems like an energy black hole and if I were unaware of everything the industry has been doing over the past few years to increase their energy conservation, I might feel like a hypocrite, supporting the industry so whole-heartedly while I simultaneously sit here rallying for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs every day. But I know some secrets. May I let you in on them?

The NRDC caught on to this new trend in sports to go green and put together a report in September 2012 outlining some of the industry’s greatest efficiency achievements. I love the NBA like it’s my job, so I’ll briefly mention some of its activity first. The Miami HEAT and the Atlanta Hawks were the first two NBA organizations to have LEED certified arenas; the HEAT is on track to further their energy efficiency goals and be re-certified in 2014. The Staples Center in Los Angeles, which hosts hundreds of events attracting millions of fans each year (and is home to my beloved Lakers), received an ISO 14001 certification (for environmental management standards) in 2010, the first arena in the US to do so. The NBA started greening their All-Star games in 2008 with recycling and composting programs, organic cotton apparel for the athletes and basketballs made of recycled materials. The Association also sponsors Green Week each year and launched an awesome website to create awareness and promote their Green Week community projects (beach cleanups, home refurbishments). I knew there were reasons for my love of the NBA beyond my obsession with the game!
Photo source: CONCRETE jungle

This is only a taste of what is happening in this unexpected merger of sports and energy responsibility. The report presents case studies of several other teams and venues from all major sports leagues.

The posts that follow will ensure that all those torn between their love of the game and their devotion to saving the world (or just curbing energy use – no difference really) will never feel like an outcast in either circle again. I promise.

Water And Energy = Sustainability

Water has been a source of conflict, and likely will again. Like energy, so-called "blue gold" should be conserved and used efficiently.

This study by the Natural Resources Defense Council showcases 14 communities - some with a legacy of pollution - that use green roofs, permeable pavement, green space and other methods to preserve water supplies, while also cutting energy consumption, cleaning the air and reducing asthma.

Sadly, none is in California. Still, what the NRDC labels as "Emerald Cities" are doing some pretty innovative stuff, such as developing long-term plans to green the infrastructure.

Consider Portland: Its Grey to Green Initiative supports investment in green infrastructure, which the city complemented with $50 million in stormwater runoff fees to add ecoroofs, plant thousands of trees and to buy natural areas.

Local laws require green roofs on at least 70 percent of new or reroofed city-owned buildings, and Energy star -qualified material on the remainder. Meanwhile, some private developers, responding to incentives, have added 200,000 square feet of ecoroofs to the inventory. Read more here.

In Wisconsin, Milwaukee leaders implemented a plan to promote rain barrels, green roofs and rain gardens, while also creating a green corridor in the city's south side. The corridor features LED lights and solar-powered bus stops that slash energy consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Here's more on Milwaukee's project.

At the other end of the country, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007 started a sustainability plan known as “PlaNYC 2030,” which encompassed housing, open space, transportion, energy, climate change and water quality. Here's more.

Water and energy are closely aligned, and, as we see from these examples, they can share the same stage in a sustainability campaign.

Video of Milwaukee from Rooftops to Rivers

Football season is here. Is renewable energy right behind?

The first question is: Why did it take so long?

Sports leagues in the United States say they will encourage professional teams to embrace renewable energy at their stadiums. It's not a mandate, according to this blog item by Todd Woody in Grist, but a push in that direction by professional sports is huge.

After all, professional sports is big business, a catalyst and a trendsetter. There are reasons why cereal and shoe companies pay millions to have sports stars endorse their products.

Consider this: More than 123 million people attended a professional baseball, basketball, hockey or football game in the U.S. and Canada in 2009.

"Frankly, sports matter," Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Grist.

Cities are starting to put solar panels and wind turbines on buildings, bus shelters, parking garages, and power poles. Some stadiums also are going green - The Staples Center has saved $100,000 in power costs by using solar panels and University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona buys power through a renewable-energy program - but much more can be done.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.
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