Sports and Sustainability: A Winning Combination!

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about attending your favorite football/baseball/soccer/hockey team's game at their hometown stadium? Sustainable food? Water conservation?  Maybe recycling or composting? No? What about LEED Gold Certifications, green rooftops or farm-to-table menus? Well it wasn't the first thing on our minds either. But over the last few years, more and more, these issues have made their way into the world of sports.

In July, the Sustainable Table and Eat Well Guide team attended the 4th annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Santa Clara, California. The location was by no accident, also home to the new and incredibly sustainable Levi's Stadium – the new home to the San Francisco 49ers. The summit brought together 650 industry leaders to discuss the greening of the sports industry. Built on the theme Winning Today; Playing for Tomorrow: Creating a Legacy Through Sustainability, the program presented the latest in expertise from industry frontrunners in areas including sustainability leadership, composting, renewable energy, marketing, sponsorship, athlete engagement and sustainability reporting to drive better environmental practices and proven solutions that will advance the green sports movement. Alliance members currently represent over 240 professional and collegiate sports teams and venues from 20 different sports leagues.

What we found out at the summit is that there is a lot of improvement that needs to happen in the sports industry and there are many people committed to making that happen! Sports fans are an enthusiastic group of people, and so are the people behind the scenes.

Some highlights that we think you might find interesting:

Will Witherspoon, professional linebacker AND sustainable Shire Gate farmer (yep, farmer!) was at the conference and spoke on a panel called Case Study Presentation - Putting Some Muscle Behind the Movement: Engaging Athletes in Green Sports. We got to meet him too! His farm is Animal Welfare Approved and he is extremely committed to sustainable and humane practices, “As a pro football player, I can’t take over-the-counter cold medicine without letting my trainer know about it. Why would I want my kids eating beef from cattle fed hormones or antibiotics?”

The president of Levi's® Brand gave a rousing keynote talk – Levi’s is clearly excited to participate in the building of Levi’s Stadium. The stadium itself opened a few nights ago and boasts many sustainable features, including a LEED Gold Certification. Its concessions are focused on working with local suppliers, featuring farm-to-table menus when possible and will be composting and recycling as much as they can. There is also a 27,000 square foot green roof (I wonder what they will grow, vegetables?), reclaimed water for playing field irrigation, public transportation accessibility and other green features. They will even display their current energy measurements, water and air monitors and other green stats on a live dashboard for visitors to see.

Green Sports Alliance teamed with the US Green Building Council and San Jose Earthquakes for Green Apple Day of Service at the Aptitud Community Academy school garden. This was also in conjunction with Veggielution, a local nonprofit connecting people through food and farming. Last year Veggielution grew 56,000 pounds of vegetables, with almost two-thirds distributed for free or below market rate. It was a successful day enjoyed by everyone who attended!

Eat Well Guide created a delicious map highlighting restaurants and farmers' markets in the three areas that the summit was focused on. They visited stadiums in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose. Check out the map here (and if you have other sustainable restaurant or farmers' market suggestions for us, please pass them along).

If you are interested in attending next year, the Green Sports Alliance will head to Chicago for their 2015 Summit. It will be held June 29-July 1 at McCormick Place. Early Bird Registration is now open.

Click here to view the 2014  Green Sports Alliance Summit Highlight Video and the Image Gallery recapping the three days of informative and inspiring content.