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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.”

Memorial Stadium Works to Improve Sustainability Efforts

By Jenna Puritz, KOMU

2017.08.31-NewsFeed-MO Memorial Coliseum-IMAGE

As a member of the Green Sports Alliance, the athletic department at the University of Missouri is working to improve sustainability efforts.

The events manager for the athletics department said the biggest focus is educating fans and making sure they’re aware of the sustainability efforts and that fans are contributing as well.

“We want people to have to make that choice, so you see a recycle or trash bin and you have to say ‘I have this plastic bottle, and I’m going to choose to put it in one of those bins’,” Tony Wirkus said.

MU researchers released a study today on how much waste is created at Memorial Stadium.

Ron McGarvey, an assistant professor of industrial engineering and public affairs at MU, lead a team of students and other researchers.

“Auditing involves actually setting up a table in the parking lot and tearing open the bag and seeing what you find inside,” McGarvey said. “Whenever we opened a bag we had scales nearby and we would weigh the composition of the bag.”

McGarvey and Wirkus are working toward a broader initiative called “zero-waste.”

According to McGarvey, zero-waste is 90 percent of all the waste that’s diverted away from landfills. In order to determine this waste, people need to know the composition of the waste first, which is what McGarvey’s team did by digging through the waste.

“We examined not only the waste coming out of the stadium, but also we went to the food preparation facility where all the food for the stadium is prepared,” McGarvey said.

The team spent the days leading up to games at the food preparation site, and then audited the waste coming out of the stadium after the games.

McGarvey and Wirkus both said it’s a lengthy process that will take several steps to accomplish the zero-waste goal.

“A big portion of that is fan education,” Wirkus said. “We can put all the recycling containers out there and give out all the blue bags of recycling that we want, but ultimately we need to get the fans coming to the games to buy into that and choose to recycle.”

See the full story here.


Can the Best New Female Racer Make It to Nascar? That’s the $15 Million Question

Bloomberg Businessweek
By Josh Dean

Julia Landauer is just what the sport needs, yet she’s still scrapping for sponsors.



As soon as she could see over the steering wheel, Julia Landauer switched to cars, and it was good. Up to that point, she had been racking up trophies as one of the country’s best young go-kart racers; at 13 she was finally able to see out a car’s windshield while also working its pedals, so off she went in 2005 to the famed Skip Barber Racing School. She took immediately to the upgraded complexity, and speed, of a vehicle that had a clutch and could do 120 miles per hour, and the next year, at 14, she became the first female champion in the 31-year history of the Skip Barber Series, a launchpad for professional racers.

As is the case with all child racers, Landauer’s expensive hobby was funded by her parents, a doctor and a lawyer who got all three of their kids into go-karts because, her father decided, racing was one of only three sports that allowed boys and girls to truly compete on equal footing (archery and sky diving being the others). “The goal was just to get them to take responsibility, to get used to functioning under a little bit of pressure, and to have fun,” says Steve Landauer (he’s the doctor). The Landauers also liked that racing taught their girls to “not succumb to a lot of the social norms about stepping out of the way,” adds Tracy, her mom.

But the Landauers had no idea how talented their oldest child would be until she started winning races—and then didn’t stop. Even before Julia won the Skip Barber Series, she had decided she was going to be a professional driver someday. “By the time I was 12, I was like, ‘I could do this forever,’ ” she says.

And that posed a problem: If Julia really did stick with it, becoming a pro racer was likely to take years and cost tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get to a point where she might start earning money. The Landauers were happy to support their daughter and would keep contributing to the best of their ability, but they weren’t about to go broke doing it. So they began an open dialogue that put some of the onus on her. If Julia wanted to keep racing, she’d eventually have to figure out a way to supplement the costs.

Read the full article.