Blog Archives

Green Movement Must Tap Into Power of Athletes

SportsBusiness Journal
Published July 11, 2016
By Abraham D. Madkour, Executive Editor

“You can use your voice for good, but if you don’t really care about the cause or believe in it, it’s not worth trying to force it.” Brody Leven, Adventure Skier

“You can use your voice for good, but if you don’t really care about the cause or believe in it, it’s not worth trying to force it.”
Brody Leven, Adventure Skier

The green sports “movement” continues its momentum, but sitting in on a day at the 2016 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston last month, there was a clear theme of who’s missing from this progress: today’s athletes.

There seems to be buy-in among many C-level sports executives, and everyone agreed that any successful environmental program comes from the top down. But athletes are a powerful constituency who are largely sitting on the sideline when it comes to supporting environmental and sustainability causes.

There are certainly exceptions: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference has been a leader in this space for years and was honored at the summit with the GSA’s Environmental Leadership Award. He is an impressive young man. Former NBA MVP Steve Nash is another athlete frequently cited for his efforts.

But in moderating two panels — one with team executives, one with current/former athletes and advocates — I was struck by a consistency of message. Environmental and sustainable programs are working on the team level; fans want and appreciate them; and they are good business. Most importantly, CEOs and ownership largely believe it is the right thing to do. But it was said time and again that to increase effectiveness of these efforts, players must become more involved.

As one team executive told me, “We’re doing some great things, but we just can’t get the players engaged.”

There were a number of reasons cited: the difficulty of understanding complex issues while focusing to be the best on the field; lack of financial opportunities tied to environmental causes; and the political and passionate nature surrounding such causes. There also was frustration among athletes for being called out by environmental advocates if they didn’t fully understand the issues or lead a dedicated “green life.” One remarked, “You get criticized for what you drive or the house you have, but you still need to live your life.” Polarization around the issues was cited, as well. One player said he tried to get teammates involved in a green-friendly “tailgate” event, but they hesitated, wanting first to check with their marketing managers in fear of upsetting any segment of their fan bases.

Read the full article here.

(Please note that a subscription to SportsBusiness Journal is required to see full article text.)

The Green Sports Alliance Takes Sustainability on the Road with ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot

Erik Distler-headshot



Erik Distler
Senior Resource Specialist | Green Sports Alliance


In September 2015, the Green Sports Alliance and ESPN launched an exciting collaboration focused on ensuring ESPN’s proprietary events maintain and evolve a legacy of environmental stewardship. First up was tackling sustainability at the ever-popular, weekly college football tradition, College GameDay.

Official ESPN Logo Color Positive Logo

Over the course of the past season, bright and early on the show’s college campus set, along with passionate college football fans and students, sustainability was in action. The Green Sports Alliance traveled with College GameDay throughout the season to help ensure commitments around minimizing the show’s environmental impact were met, and to educate and inspire action through engaging university students, faculty and staff, as well as fans.

Key aspects of this work included: organizing a waste management program focused on landfill diversion through compost and recycling streams; meeting with university leaders and touring campus sustainability highlights to collect best practices and case examples from the season; enlisting student volunteers and sustainability groups to assist in waste diversion; and educating students and fans on broad sports sustainability efforts, and of course specifically at ESPN.

The Green Sports Alliance conducted this work by leaning on its experience, expertise and network within the sports industry, which extends through members from more than 330 sports teams and venues from 20 different sports leagues and 14 countries. The collaboration with ESPN also aligns with the organization’s mission and purpose focused on inspiring the sports industry and its stakeholders to embrace sustainability practices by leveraging the cultural and market influence of sports.

College GameDay has a cemented legacy on Saturday mornings in the fall. The Green Sports Alliance was proud to collaborate with ESPN to attach to this legacy sustainability where, regardless of the game’s final score, everyone wins!