Sustainable Sports

Major League Sports Gulping the Green Gatorade

Flickr / Daveybot

It’s inspiring to browse the headlines on sites like NHL Green and the Green Sport Alliance these days and see the range of sustainability initiatives being adopted by major sporting leagues, teams and facilities.

Whether it’s venue recycling programs, such as those introduced at the MLB’s 2011 World Series or the upcoming Cal Athletics zero-waste games, food waste reduction programs, such as the NHL’s Rock and Wrap it Up! Program, through which over 160, 000 meals have been recovered across the NHL, or innovative energy conservation and generation programs such as the Cleveland Indians solar panels and wind turbine project and the Stadium Managers Association’s Energy Bowl competition.

In fact, check-out this great video from the series Energy Now! that highlights some of the renewable energy initiatives being undertaken by pro football stadiums around the league.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/29972293]

Clearly sports groups see the business case for sustainability on both the bottom line and corporate image. And many franchises have smartly focused on projects that are key “touch points” with fans, like recycling.

But as our colleagues in the sports world are well aware, showing up at the rink is one thing, you’ve got to step up your game if you want to be a regular out on the ice.

Next steps: robust measurement and reporting systems

Flickr / laffy4k

From our vantage point, there is plenty of excellent work and quality discussion around the value of greener sports – see videos from the 2011 Green Sport Summit presentations and panel discussions online – what we’re not seeing to any real degree is compelling and robust measurement and reporting on actual outcomes of green programs.

A quick Google search brings up few results in the realm of sustainability reports from leagues and teams, particularly in North America.

That being said, we did come across the 2010 and 2011 annual sustainability reports from the Saint Paul RiverCentre, Xcel Energy Center (home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild) and their partners. While largely focused on recycling programming, we were impressed to see a section on green purchasing, highlighting the group’s Green Purchasing Playbook that identifies third-party standards like Energy Star and Green Seal across a range of product categories as well as policy guidelines that outline the prioritizing of green product merits over cost. The playbook has paved the way for many products to be switched to greener alternatives. In fact, 65% of the facilities’ custodial papers and cleaners are now purchased to these standards.

We were also pleased to recently come across a run-down of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers sustainable purchasing program including a Green Cleaning Policy, local and organic refreshment sourcing and energy conservation programming.

The Sustainability Report from the Saint Paul River Centre and Xcel Energy Center is an example of a great first step into reporting by the sporting industry. As this field progresses we hope to see more reports aligned with recognized standards, like the Global Reporting Initiative and ISO 20121, bringing more rigor to measuring and reporting on operations and impacts.

Triple-bottom-line Reporting

Reeve Consulting is discussing with one of the major sports leagues creating a triple bottom line report for one of their marquee annual events, creating an opportunity to highlight and hopefully measure innovative sustainability projects within a more defined framework.

Flickr / s.yume

More than raising the profile of the event, such a report will back-up the good news stories with credible measurement, adding weight to the claim that the league is raising their game on sustainability. And beyond reporting on environmental programming, a triple bottom line focus will additionally invite reporting on the social initiatives undertaken by teams and leagues, for example, the Vancouver Canucks for Kids Fund or Whitecaps Youth Summer Camps.

A shout out to Saint Paul River Centre and Xcel Energy Center for taking the first shift, we’re looking to see other pro sports team step up and establish leadership and new benchmarking in this area.

Due North: Strengthening Green & Sustainable Purchasing in the Yukon

Flickr / Arthur Chapman

Various orders of government in the Yukon are committed to reducing the environmental impact of their operations by designing and implementing customized environmental and sustainability policies, projects and programs.

To this end, the Yukon Intergovernmental Committee on Environmental Sustainability (YICES) is focused on identifying opportunities for collaboration to advance a collective sustainability agenda and strengthen individual programs. Recently Reeve Consulting worked with YICES to plan, organize and facilitate a sustainable purchasing workshop in Whitehorse.

Held on October 27th the full-day workshop attracted more than 50 participants, including government staff from four orders of government (federal, territorial, municipal and First Nations) as well as participants from other major organizations in the North such as NorthwesTel, Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon College.

With a focus on increasing support and skills for green and sustainable purchasing, as well as catalyzing a network between various levels of government to strengthen sustainability initiatives, a key outcome of the event was the high degree of enthusiasm that participants demonstrated for collaboration.

Workshop Highlights

The day kicked-off with a welcoming address from Mike Johnson, Deputy Minister, Highways and Public Works for the Yukon Government who highlighted the importance of sustainable purchasing to the Territories strategic objectives of reducing costs, improving services and infrastructure. Johnson contextualized his remarks with the effects of climate change on the North and the millions being spent to repair highways and roads as a result of permafrost break-up.

Key drivers for sustainable purchasing were highlighted in the first session of the day, with a clear overview of the business case and level of support required to develop a successful sustainable purchasing program. Speakers David Knight, Manager, Procurement Services for Highways and Public Works in the Yukon and Melissa Hall, Procurement Advisor, Corporate Services for Aboriginal Affairs  & Northern Development Canada, made compelling cases around how sustainable purchasing is helping to take advantage of eco-efficiencies associated with reduced packaging, product take-back and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – issues critical to northern communities were transportation costs can be at a premium.

To walk the talk, Reeve Consulting worked with organizers to have Madelaine Plouffe, Green Procurement Team Leader with Public Works Government Services Canada in Gatineau, Quebec provide a lunchtime keynote address via video conferencing technology that allowed for a live and interactive presentation.

A preliminary review of the evaluations shows that participants were very pleased with the event. To build on this momentum, YICES is now working on outlining future workshops.

Environment Yukon has linked to many of the presentations from the day on their homepage. Slides from Reeve Consulting’s presentations [PDF] are also available online.

Talking strategy with City of Whitehorse & the Arctic Winter Games

While in Whitehorse, Tim Reeve also took the opportunity to continue some strategic planning with the City of Whitehorse on the development of their environmental sustainable purchasing policy.

Tim also had the opportunity to stop by the offices of the Arctic Winter Games to meet with organizers and offer some thoughts on how they can achieve zero waste goals for the Games in March 2012.

On the Air: using sport to accelerate sustainability

Flickr / woolennium

This week’s Green with Envy radio show focused on using sport to accelerate sustainability. As described by host Peter ter Weeme:

“We all know that sports and physical activity are important to maintaining good health, developing teamwork skills, and fostering relationships and understanding between people and cultures. But there’s a new benefit that’s emerging – a global movement around sport and sustainability. From baseball diamonds to major sporting events, action is being taken to gain a better understanding of the impact sporting events have on the environment, provide inspiration and tools for teams and venues to make changes to reduce that impact, and engage more people in the benefits of sport. Tune into this week’s edition of Green With Envy to hear more about the people making it happen.”

The show started with a topical discussion between host Peter ter Weeme, Tim Reeve and Ann Duffy focused on their experiences integrating sustainability into the delivery of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

Later in the show, Rosalyn Morrison, Chair of the Ontario Summer Games Legacy Committee, shared insights on incorporating sustainability into Toronto’s upcoming Ontario Summer Games and 2015 Pan Am Games. Allen Herschkowitz, board member of the Green Sports Alliance gave some compelling information on the enormous eco-footprint of sporting events followed by some innovative examples of green stadium operations and potential for environmental and financial savings.

Tune in – full audio from the show can be streamed from the Green with Envy website HERE.