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Alliance Blog: Q&A with AEG’s John Marler

For this month’s Membership Spotlight, we’re pleased to present a Q&A with longtime friend and founding partner of the Green Sports Alliance—John Marler, Vice President Energy and Environment, at AEG.  As April is generally recognized as Earth Month, it’s a great chance to highlight an organization’s commitment to sustainability—especially an industry leader like AEG. Our Membership Manager, Rahul Devaskar (RD), recently sat down with Mr. Marler (JM).

John Marler Headshot

RD: John, always great to connect. It’s been a great pleasure working with you and thanks for making the time to sit down with us today.  Before we get started, maybe you can tell us a bit more about your role and responsibilities at AEG for our readers.

JM: Sure, I oversee two of AEG’s corporate programs, AEG 1EARTH and AEG Energy Services. My team and I run the company’s sustainability program, which includes collecting data from our worldwide network of venues and producing our annual sustainability report. With our partner, Schneider Electric, we also oversee energy and utility procurement and account management.

RD: AEG is known to many Alliance stakeholders for their extensive work in sustainability and your AEG 1Earth program.  Could you tell us a bit more about AEG 1EARTH, and why the organization has committed resources and time to sustainability?

JM: AEG 1EARTH is how we address the environmental impacts of our operations, which includes trying to minimize those impacts, and to raise awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability. We devote resources to sustainability because it’s the right thing to do and we want to be good corporate citizens. But because energy and utilities are generally the second-highest operating cost for a sports and entertainment venue, we also see a clear business case for operating efficiently.

RD: A major thing we see each year is the creation of a very comprehensive Sustainability Report from AEG 1EARTH.  Why is creating such a report so important to your organization?

JM: We want to run a first-class sustainability program and that means being transparent and showing that our efforts are having an impact. We also recognize that our brands have a lot of visibility and influence. We feel it’s a responsibility to show that we’re trying to be better stewards of the environment. It’s one thing if we can reduce our power use at a venue by installing LED lights, but what if everyone who visits that venue in a year goes home and does the same thing? That will have a big impact.

RD: There’s no doubt that a lot of time went into developing the report and AEG has gone to great lengths. Why have you decided to go the extra mile in your research and reporting each year? Any lessons learned from this process, and what have you learned from taking such a deep look at your organization’s footprint?

JM: We have learned that sustainability is all about the data. It’s a cliché at this point, but you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So, we spend a lot of time making sure we’re collecting all the relevant data and making sure that it’s accurate and up-to-date. Because we track our progress on a portfolio-wide, absolute basis, we don’t have room for error.

RD: For any other organizations going through the reporting process, do you have any big picture advice?

JM: Figure out what is material to your organization and your stakeholders and be transparent about it. A lot of times organizations are worried about discussing the obstacles of achieving their set targets and only focus on sharing success stories. It’s important to talk about the challenges of a sustainability program because it allows for an honest dialogue. In order to gain the trust of your stakeholders, you must be honest. The last thing people want is another PR ploy or green washing. Also, very few people will ever read a sustainability report cover-to-cover. Make sure your report is easy to follow.

RD: I notice that your sustainability reports feature some of AEG’s (and AEG teams’/venues’) successes around community engagement.  As a major platform for the Alliance in the last few years, and a personal passion of my own, perhaps you can share more about the importance of community engagement in your sustainability work?

JM: Yes, it’s a value we share with the Green Sports Alliance: leveraging the power of sports and entertainment to help us all adopt more sustainable habits. It’s not enough that we simply improve our performance, telling people about that is part of our responsibility. By engaging with the community and providing education and awareness, we are serving the cause of sustainability better.

RD: Some members have expressed challenges in connecting operational sustainability to community oriented (and often social) objectives.  How has AEG navigated this, and any best practices you can share with our readers?

JM: I agree with this. I think the environmental community could do a better job of framing these issues. At the end of the day, it’s hard to motivate people to act on something like global climate change because it’s abstract and seems far-away. I think the best thing to do is relate the issue back to your audience. I think the NHL has done a great job with this—they have come out and told their fans: “Did you know that our sport got its start on frozen ponds and we may be living in a world without frozen ponds?” That’s a great way to message the issue to hockey fans to get them to understand the importance of what’s going on.

RD: With 2018 underway, what can we expect to see or hear from AEG and AEG 1Earth? Any exciting news coming up?

JM: Honestly, we’re just working as hard as we can to make better progress towards our 2020 Environmental Goals. Beyond that, this Earth Month we’re launching the AEG 1EARTH Ambassadors Program, which is a sustainability leadership program available to full time AEG employees. We’re going to provide training to program participants, so they can build skills, serve their communities, and continue to spread information and awareness about sustainability.

The 2018 AEG Sustainability Report was released April 25. Click here to view and download.

Game Day Garbage: Reducing Food and Plastic Waste

2018.04.25-Game Day Garbage-IMAGE

All around the world, sports fans flock to stadiums, arenas and ballparks to cheer for their favorite teams. With many of these fans consuming food and drinks during events, an enormous amount of waste is generated by the sports industry each year. In the U.S. alone, major league baseball fans create more than 1,000 tons of waste every season—and until recently, all but a tiny percentage has made its way into landfills.

That is changing, thanks to Cargill’s bioplastics joint venture NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of polylactic acid polymer, called Ingeo™️ PLA. The company is enabling more sports waste to be diverted away from landfills.

NatureWorks grew out of a Cargill research and development project in the 1990s. The team came up with a low-carbon-footprint resin, made by fermenting sugar into lactic acid and forming it into hard pellets, which are then sold to manufacturers. The pellets can be used in a variety of products normally made from plastics or fibers, including diapers, coffee capsules, 3D printing filament, cell phone cases, and foodservice packaging. Marketed under the brand name Ingeo™️, some of these products can be designed to be 100% compostable.

At Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins baseball team, located in Minneapolis just 13 miles from Cargill headquarters, the team has partnered with Eco-Products, a foodservice manufacturer, to provide cups, plates, trays, and eating utensils made from Ingeo materials—all of which can make it easier to collect food waste to be sent to compost.

Bottles and cans have long been recycled at the ballpark, but by composting Ingeo-based products more commonly made from oil-based plastics, the Twins have increased the amount of waste diverted from landfills to 90 percent.

All around the world, more teams are taking on the challenge of increasing the sustainability of their game-day operations. Some venues are converting waste into compost, used as mulch on fields and green spaces.

“Over the past several years, a number of sports teams with recycling and composting rates around 10 percent have dramatically increased their rates to 80 percent or more,” said Scott Jenkins, chairman of the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping enhance the environmental performance of sports teams, venues and leagues.

As stadiums expand their use of Ingeo-based goods to reduce landfill waste, NatureWorks is looking to help other industries, like the restaurant sector, minimize their carbon footprints, increase organics diversion and to help make all food service ware more environmentally sustainable.

That’s a goal everyone can cheer for.

View the story here.

MLB Celebrates ‘Earth Day’ by Highlighting Sustainability Efforts

MLB News

MLB Greening Logo (1)

Major League Baseball is celebrating ‘Earth Day’ (Sunday, April 22nd) by highlighting a variety of league-wide sustainability efforts activated by MLB and its clubs. Key initiatives include ‘GREEN TEAMS’ and sustainability-focused activations during MLB All-Star Week in Washington, D.C., partnerships with Arizona State University & Change the Course, front office volunteer efforts as well as efforts led by MLB Clubs.

‘GREEN TEAMS’ & Sustainable Activations During 2018 All-Star Week
Major League Baseball will continue to support sustainable efforts during its Midsummer Classic in Washington, D.C. this coming July. During All-Star Week (Thursday, July 12th-Tuesday, July 17th), MLB will partner with George Washington University and Georgetown University to activate ‘GREEN TEAMS,’ a group of students that encourages environmental awareness during MLB All-Star events. ‘GREEN TEAM’ efforts include a college course with a sustainability focus, collecting recyclables at ballpark and community events, and educating fans on positive environmental practices. ‘GREEN TEAM’ members will also participate in a special All-Star environmental volunteer event at Richard England Clubhouse #14 of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

MLB will also seek to offset the environmental footprint of player travel, to and from Washington, D.C., as well as offsetting energy and water used at Nationals Park by purchasing renewable energy credits and water restoration credits in conjunction with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and the Change the Course program. Additionally, MLB will encourage fans to walk or take public transportation in between events with a special ‘Kaiser Permanente All-Star Green Path.’

Special Spring Training Activations with Arizona State University & Change the Course
Major League Baseball and Arizona State University collaborated on a unique and groundbreaking sustainability partnership during 2018 Spring Training presented by Camping World. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, was the focus site of the “Recycle Rally” initiative that tested and implemented zero waste strategies with the overarching goals of reducing landfill impact, increasing operational efficiencies, and improving the fan experience across all Cactus League ballparks.

MLB also partnered with Change the Course, a national freshwater restoration campaign, to offset 100% of water usage in the Cactus League this year by rehabilitating endangered watersheds. MLB balanced the water footprint of the Cactus League and helped restore five million gallons of freshwater in critically depleted rivers and streams across Arizona. The offset of water funded the Colorado River Basin and tributaries, primarily supporting the Verde River.

Upcycling With Refried Tees
As part of its green initiative, Major League Baseball recognizes upcycling as an innovative means toward a green and sustainable future. In support of those efforts, MLB licensee Refried Tees is proud to display MLB’s Official Green Label on its Twice-Baked™ Apparel. Refried Tees helps teams and licensees cycle surplus inventory back into the marketplace by transforming dead-stock tee shirts and jerseys into stylish apparel such as dresses, skirts and t-shirts.

MLB Front Office to Volunteer at Local Variety Boys & Girls Clubs
April 21st in Queens, N.Y. – In celebration of Earth Day, front office employees at MLB, MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media will volunteer at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Queens, N.Y. Volunteers will be tasked with revitalizing the Club, including planting flowers and building raised planters for the garden, enhancing the media room and building a small, portable library for Club members.

MLB to Donate Excess Food Following ‘MLB FoodFest’
Following the first-ever ‘MLB FoodFest’, Major League Baseball will donate excess food to City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization, dedicated to helping feed the nearly 1.3 million New Yorkers facing hunger. ‘MLB Foodfest’ is a one-of-a kind indoor food festival featuring special selections from each of the 30 MLB Clubs served under one roof. The event will be held over two days beginning on Saturday, April 21st and concluding on Sunday, April 22nd in New York City.

Read the full story.

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