It’s been over 20 years since my beloved but beleaguered hometown baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, had a winning record. Circumstances have blessedly changed this year with the team just holding the division lead well into the season. (Hang on Buccos!)
But little did I know that the Pirates are consistent winners when it comes to the sustainability game. Since 2009 the team’s PNC Park has been home to a successful food and organic waste composting program, which in 2012 diverted 646 tons of compostable material from the landfill. These and other of the Pirates' sustainably-minded initiatives were recent revelations to me after being introduced to the work of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), a nonprofit organization that seeks to "help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance."
The Pirates are not alone. Founded in 2010, the GSA has an impressive roster of over 170 sports teams and venues spanning 15 different professional and university-level sports leagues. Many of these teams’ executives, facility operators and players will join with environmental scientists and advocates at the Green Sports Alliance Summit 2013, held in Brooklyn, New York August 26-28. Some of the many notable speakers who will present their experience and expertise include: Nike’s Lisa MacCallum Carter, Winston Eco-Strategies’ Andrew Winston, professional snowboarder Kimmy Fasani, former pro Ironman and vegan-health advocate Brendan Brazier, hockey hall of famer turned environmentalist Mike Richter, The Ohio State University’s Sustainability Coordinator, Corey J. Hawkey and co-founder of the GSA, NRDC Senior Scientist and director of their Sports and Entertainment Greening Project, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz.
We at GRACE are strong supporters of the GSA’s mission to green American sports teams and operations. Applying sustainable principles to the sports world provides great benefits to the teams and their facilities, as well as to the local communities, natural environment and economies that surround them. With their millions of fans, top-tier sports teams and leagues can be exceptional models that showcase what it means to go green, and the GSA Summit 2013 is another step towards that vision.
With so many teams implementing numerous amazing sustainable features and initiatives, it’s worth a glimpse at what these teams are doing to touch each base of the issues we follow closely: food, water and energy, what we like to call the nexus. Below are just three of the many sparkling examples across the sports world, most of which can be found in the NRDC “Game-Changer” report:
Sustainability and efficiency in sports are not passing fads like short basketball shorts, corked baseball bats and touchdown dances (OK, those are still around). Rather they’re part of a part of a maturing industry that seeks smart, sustainable solutions to lower costs, improve performance and create a cleaner, healthier environment.
Food: Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants recently announced that they will be the first team to build an onsite organic garden that will cover 3,000 square feet in the center field bleacher section (that’s right). This “centerfield-to-table project” will bring many fresh vegetable and fruit varieties into stadium eatery menus and onto the plates of thousands of fans.
Water: The National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic’s Amway Center is the first LEED Gold-certified professional basketball arena in North America, and has led to a 40 percent reduction in indoor water use. The installation of high-efficiency toilets, urinals and faucets along with low-flow fixtures like dual-flush toilets has saved more than 800,000 gallons of water annually. The stadium also captures rainwater and air-conditioning condensation for irrigation purposes around the venue.
Energy: The National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles are currently installing 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines to make Lincoln Financial Field the first professional stadium in the United States to generate all of its electricity onsite. Add to that a dual-fuel cogeneration system and energy efficiency measures and it’s no wonder that the Eagles have been an environmental leader in sports since they first started their recycling program years ago. (Kudos go to Eagles co-owner, Christina Weiss Lurie, for receiving the 2013 GSA Environmental Leadership Award.)
Sustainability and efficiency in sports are not passing fads like short basketball shorts, corked baseball bats and touchdown dances (OK, those are still around). Rather they’re part of a part of a maturing industry that seeks smart, sustainable solutions to lower costs, improve performance and create a cleaner, healthier environment. Even if your favorite team isn’t winning on the field this year, they might just be part of the growing number of winners greening their sport. And when sports teams champion sustainability, we all win!
GRACE and its staff members are pleased to participate in the Green Sports Alliance Summit 2013 where two of our resources, the Eat Well Guide and the Water Footprint Calculator, will be out in front. To see the Eat Well Everywhere map specifically designed for GSA Summit 2013 attendees hungry for healthy, sustainable food, click here!