Pro and College Alike, Teams Blaze a Sustainable Path with Green Sports Alliance

Caption kellygifford

Green on and off the field at Nationals Park.

Did you know that 81 percent of Americans follow sports? That means that from politics to fashion and everything in between, what happens on the field often has repercussions off of it. Big-time sports are also a big-time business that rakes in many (many) billions of dollars. Combine all that with a huge media reach you’ve got an attractive, fan-friendly outlet for promoting positive change. And teams know that their fans want to make positive changes, too. The Green Sports Alliance – formed in 2010 to tap the far reach of professional sports to promote sustainability – includes among its members 139 teams, 147 venues and 10 leagues. Its annual Green Sports Alliance Summit, which starts today in Chicago (with Ecocentric bloggers attending, of course), has grown every year alongside the broader sustainability movement.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for teams, leagues and athletes. They all care about doing the right thing for their business, their community and the environment – and the Green Sports Alliance provides a showcase for their efforts. The Alliance also helps engage fans to let them know about the tremendous sustainability achievements already underway in the sports world.

Here are some winning efforts teams have taken to green their stadiums and their fans’ experience at the game:

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for teams, leagues and athletes. They all care about doing the right thing for their business, their community and the environment.

Baseball: The Nationals
Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, was designed with sustainability in mind. It was the first professional baseball stadium to achieve LEED Silver Certification by the US Green Building Council. The stadium uses water conserving plumbing that saves an estimated 3.6 million gallons of water per year and has an advanced storm water filtration system to help protect local waterways. Field lighting uses energy efficient technology to draw 21 percent less energy over standard lighting. During construction, 5,500 tons of waste material was recycled. The stadium site was a brownfield redevelopment project that helped revitalize an urban area in the nation’s capital.

Baseball: The Mariners
As they say on their website, “[t]he grass isn't the only thing that's green at Safeco Field,” home of the Seattle Mariners . The stadium boasts green features like recycling, composting and energy efficient lighting. The team also uses solar panels at Safeco Field and their training facilities in Arizona (the latter even received LEED Gold Level certification from the US Green Building Council). Since becoming a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance, the Mariners have won multiple green awards and accolades.

Football: The Rams
In the heart of barbeque country, the St. Louis Rams are breaking new ground in sustainable food concessions. In 2014, the Rams announced that they would sell sustainably produced hot dogs from Shire Gate Farm, an Animal Welfare Approved farm in Missouri. Shire Gate is owned by former Ram linebacker (and our hero), Will Witherspoon. Will’s commitment to sustainable farming is best summed up in his own words: “My cattle and laying hens are raised as nature intended, on grass, and aren't fed growth hormones, antibiotics or other unnatural additives. In pro-football, you can’t take over-the-counter cold medicines without letting a trainer know about it. Why would I want my kids eating beef from cattle fed hormones or antibiotics?”

Football: The Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have gone all out with their Extra Yard for the Environment program, which includes initiatives at Arrowhead Stadium like materials recycling and a two-step food waste reduction process that includes the collection and distribution of unused food and the composting of food and non-food items, all in partnership with outside organizations. The Chiefs have also installed 308 solar panels at Arrowhead and The University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex, which produces enough electricity to power eight houses (or cook 1,500,000 bratwursts) and offset 66 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Pro Basketball: The Warriors
The reigning NBA champs, Oakland’s Golden State Warriors, are indeed golden when it comes to the solar power they generate from their practice facility’s rooftop array. Over the course of 20 years, the solar system will provide 25 percent of the facility’s electricity, save an estimated $36,000 a year and avoid the use of 22,000 gallons of natural gas. At the Warriors’ Oracle Coliseum, there have been impressive water and energy savings through improvements that include everything thing from post-event stadium clean ups to a smart building system, to name a few. One unique innovation is the Coliseum’s closed-loop composting program, which takes compostable food and materials to a nearby processor, converts it to mulch and then returns the mulch to the complex for outdoor landscaping.

College Sports: UCLA
The legendary UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team now plays in the newly renovated and LEED-registered Pauley Pavilion, which is also home to the university’s successful volleyball, gymnastics and women’s basketball teams. Among other features at Pauley, they’ve scored big energy savings with a high-performance enclosure that offers better insulation and a unique self-regulating ventilation system that naturally cools – energy-free – the facility when no event is underway. Electricity for Pauley and much of the rest of the campus comes from the Co-Gen power plant (known for using energy and water efficiently), and even gets around 8 percent of its fuel from landfill gas. As California experiences one the worst droughts in its history, UCLA’s Housing and Hospitality Services has committed to water conservation throughout the campus, including Pauley, by retrofitting faucets and toilets with low-flow versions, developing water-smart practices and encouraging the campus community to cut water use.

GRACE and its staff members are pleased to participate in the Green Sports Alliance Summit 2015, where two of our resources, the Eat Well Guide and the Water Footprint Calculator, will be featured. Find sustainable dining options in Chicago hand-picked for GSA Summit  attendees, click here!

Image “Score Tied, Two Outs, Full Count, Bottom of the Ninth” by Kelly Gifford on Flickr used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.