Pro Sports Score Green Points with New Alliance

Opening day for Major League Baseball has come and gone, but just prior to the season’s start, the Seattle Mariners stepped up to the plate before the season started to announce the launch of the Green Sports Alliance. This new initiative, which includes other northwest pro sports teams and was facilitated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), will work to promote environmentally friendly products and practices in all of the major professional sports leagues (baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, football, hockey and soccer).

The new alliance’s stated goals are vague at this time, but as we've seen in previous green efforts, some likely projects will include:

• Installing solar panels
• Using green building principles
• Increasing water conservation
• Recycling
• Sourcing local brews and hopefully, snacks

As far as I can tell, the jury is still out on the details of their food purchasing options Generally, stadiums use large scale catering services (in some cases multiple providers) and though many concessionaires now offer some local and sustainable options (and here in New York, the Mets stadium serves hot dogs and hamburgers from Shake Shack, a local burger joint committed to serving sustainably-produced goodies), there are major league challenges to greening food vendors at such a scale. Seattle fans, will you be having sustainable sushi with your garlic fries at Safeco anytime soon?

Regardless of the actions taken at each team’s ballpark, arena or stadium, the underlying goal of the alliance is education and influence. As anyone who’s ever watched a major league game can attest, stadiums provide the opportunity to reach a large audience and the connection between pro sports and advertising is a close one. Most ticket holding fans are aware of the presence of Budweiser, so Bud’s advertisements, on a surface level, serve up a reminder to purchase their product while you are enjoying the game and on a deeper one, serve to solidify the sports fan’s “relationship” with the brand. However advertising makes you feel, it seems appropriate that environmental advocates take a play from the marketing handbook.

As NRDC’s Allen Hershkowitz notes on his blog, “There are cultural barriers to sustainability, besides financial and technical barriers, and this culture-influencing work is helping to shift perceptions globally about how we should treat the organism that gives us air to breathe and water to drink.” He goes on to add, “Sports matter. Outside of the family, the most influential role models in our society are athletes and entertainers. The most widely watched TV shows worldwide are sports shows. And professional sports leagues are non-partisan businesses, so their embrace of environmentalism helps us deflect ideological and politically inspired attacks on the environmental agenda.”

We'll be following the Green Sports Alliance as their initiative develops and (hopefully) expands out of the Pacific Northwest. Their first summit is in Portland this August; we'll keep you, dear Ecocentric reader, in the loop.