Monthly Archives: September 2017

Climate One Radio Episode: The Greening of Professional Sports

Climate One 

To listen click here.

Host: Greg Dalton

Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance
Julia Landauer, Championship NASCAR Driver
Dusty Baker, Manager, Washington Nationals
Jennifer Regan, Chief Sustainability Manager, We Bring It On
Chris Granger, former president, Sacramento Kings
Vivek Ranadive, owner, Sacramento Kings

Interviews were recorded at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Sacramento in June, 2017.

Pro sports is big business. But what are all those overlit stadiums, thirsty soccer fields, roaring engines and acres of hot dog wrappers doing to our planet?

Like other big businesses, major league sports is starting to catch on to the benefits of going green – on the field and in the arena. Greg Dalton visited the Green Sports Alliance Summit to speak with team owners, athletes and sustainability experts who are working to reduce carbon impact of major league sports. And to share that win with their fans.
“While not everyone is interested in science, many people are interested in sports,” says Chris Granger, former head of the Sacramento Kings. “So if we can use our platform to do things that create real change, even on a micro level that’s something we’re going to do.”

Fittingly, the gathering was held at the Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team and the first indoor arena to be certified LEED platinum – the highest level of recognition for environmentally conscious buildings.

Granger spearheaded the building of the arena during his tenure as the Kings’ president, and he was proud to show it off to Dalton. Why go green? Because, he says, the fans asked for it.

“We did about 100 different focus groups, and the number one thing that people wanted –outside of a championship banner — was for Golden 1 Center to be a model of sustainability,” Granger reports. “So this is something that really matters to our community.”

The team’s environmental mission is incorporated into every aspect of the solar-powered stadium – literally from the ground up. It was built on the site of a demolished mall, which was recycled for materials used in the new building’s construction. Nearly all of the food sold is locally sourced; waste is composed or recycled. The basketball court itself is made in part with recycled athletic shoes donated by players and fans.

“You don’t just do solar and say we’re done,” says Justin Zeulner of the Green Sports Alliance. “So you try to figure how am I gonna compost, how am I gonna recycle. But more importantly, how are we gonna engage the fans?”

Jennifer Regan, sustainability director at the consulting firm We Bring It On, believes that for fans, environmental wins are a natural extension of team spirit.

“Sports is the opportunity to tell the story of high-performance, that magical moment,” Regan says. “And that magical moment can be us coming together as people, as fans to celebrate a team, that win — or us winning climate change.

“And so it’s not a far leap to think about us celebrating our wins as a community, at our community gathering place.”

What about a sport that lives and dies by its rabid consumption of fossil fuels – the louder and dirtier, the better? Greg asked two-time NASCAR championship driver Juliana Landauer how the auto racing world can reconcile its blackened, oval-shaped footprint with the goals of carbon reduction.

“I don’t think anyone is trying to say that that the problem doesn’t exist,” Landauer admits. “But what steps can we take to try to offset that? How can we be better?” Although she doesn’t see an all-electric NASCAR in the near future, Landauer hopes that changes in fuel blends and even in the makeup of the cars themselves can be introduced to the track.

Landauer got the environmental bug while earning a science degree at Stanford. An avid recycler and advocate for STEM education, she takes her position as a role model very seriously.

“More than three quarters of NASCAR fans are aware that climate change is an issue,” she says. “NASCAR has, I think, like 80 million fans. And so if you’re able to articulate the importance of doing your own part to offset that, that’s a huge impact.”

Q&A with Steve Page, President & General Manager of Sonoma Raceway LLC

After recently visiting Sonoma Raceway, and seeing all the great work and leadership the venue has demonstrated, the Alliance recently sat down with Steve Page—President and General Manager of Sonoma Raceway LLC—to learn how sustainability and environmental stewardship have taken root at Sonoma Raceway.

Steve Page

Alliance: Steve, can you tell us a bit about your role and time at Sonoma Raceway, and experience in the Sports World?

SP: I’ve been at the Track for 26 years.  It has been my longest career stint, and I hope to spend a few more years here—if I don’t screw it up! Before, I was with the Oakland A’s for 11 years, and I had a 3-year stint in politics as press secretary for Leon Panetta when he was a member of Congress.

The track (Sonoma Raceway) has changed dramatically since 1991.  In 1996, the raceway was purchased by Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports which was a life-changing event for us.  The corporation has invested over $100 million to make it a modern sports facility.  It’s been an exciting ride!

Alliance: In a recent tour of Sonoma Raceway, the Alliance was thrilled to see a variety of great sustainability projects and programs–for example: solar panels, FSC certified wood shade structures, waste management strategies, owl birdhouses, etc.  Are there any initiatives or projects you find most inspiring or successful?

SP: It’s hard to pinpoint one, as they are all part of a larger effort.  The biggest piece of it was the installation of the solar electric facilities.  We are generating almost half of our energy from the solar install.  The most visible manifestation (and the ones we get most comments about) are from the sheep we are using.  We have almost 1600 acres of native grassland, so we must keep that grass short.  It’s been about 8-10 years since we added the “Wooly Weeders” [sheep].


From an aesthetic standpoint, the work we’ve done with Humboldt Redwood provides a new look to the facility and adds comfort and shade.  We’re adding to it each year, and looking to add new things to the fan environments.

Raceway Stands

On the automotive side, we’ve tried very hard to provide a showcase for the latest in Green Automotive Technology—particularly as it relates to performance automotive.  We’ve really tried to go down dual paths with the things we do in a green manner, and use the industry we’re in to showcase technology and greening the automotive world.

Alliance:  As long-time members of the Green Sports Alliance, how would you make the case for integrating sustainability programs to other tracks around the country and world?

SP: Well I think number one, it’s just good business.  The solar system is cutting our electric bill.  The sheep are much more economical in maintaining the property.  These initiatives are good because they are setting a good example, but also have benefits to us as a business.

Alliance:  This year’s Alliance theme was PLAY GREENER™, a theme of guiding sustainability best practice from the sports world to their fans.  As a sport with ample fan engagement time (camping culture for example), how do you communicate your sustainability programs to your fans?  What are some strategies you’ve found most successful, and what challenges have you overcome to be successful?

SP:  What we’ve tried to do is make our green programs an organic piece of what we are as a raceway.  There’s a balance between doing that and being preachy and chest beating.  I think the way you go about it is simply by setting an example.  By doing what we can, by setting an example, regardless of the industry you’re in, is something you should be interested in and integrate into your business philosophy.

I think the biggest challenges we’ve had is integrating it into our business practices.  But when you’re doing things with capital investment, you must put those up against other facility improvements that may have more directly relevant day-to-day revenue.

We’re always mindful of that what we do on the green front must stand on its own in the business component.  For example, Panasonic was a huge foundational partner.  It was a Panasonic solar system, and they have continued to be a key track sponsor.  The green initiatives were important to their involvement.

Alliance:  What can we look forward to in the future of Sonoma Raceway, and your various events/races and projects?

SP: We’re always looking at new ways to physically improve the facility.  At some point, I hope we can increase our ability to generate solar electricity. I think the most exciting places will be in the automotive world—we’re going to be hosting one of the premier automotive events in the world in 2018.

We’re always on the look-out for the products and competition in the world of green racing.  As they come online, we’re always keeping an eye out on what we can keep in our schedule of activities that keeps us in the forefront of the green performance movement.

Thanks to Steve and the entire Sonoma Raceway team for being leaders in the sports greening movement and demonstrating best practices across the racing industry.

To learn more about the sustainability elements of Sonoma Raceway go to https://www.sonomaraceway.com/track/sustainability/


Stadiums Go for Gold with Green Design


Image credit: Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

Sports stadium owners are making big plays for sustainability as the dual economic and environmental benefits of green construction and renovation increasingly make for a winning strategy.

Thirty sustainably designed stadiums across the United States have been awarded or are in the midst of earning Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This third-party green building certification recognizes buildings that conserve water, reduce energy use, cut construction waste and support other sustainability goals.

The AmericanAirlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat basketball team, was the first National Basketball Association arena to earn LEED for Existing Buildings certification. The facility recently achieved LEED Gold recertification.

Momentum is also picking up for green development on the international playing field. The Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit organization of sustainably minded professional sports leagues, teams and stadiums from around the world, includes in its ranks 191 venues that have publicly committed to improving their environmental performance.

These aren’t just feel-good moves, according to Rex Hamre, Vice President of Projects, JLL Americas. “Stadium owners must constantly evaluate two major ongoing questions,” says Hamre. “How can they fill more seats now and in the long run? And how can they continually ensure profitability while improving the fan experience? Green building strategies can help address both questions at once.”

Read the full story here.

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