Going Green: Sustainable Sports

Written by Erika Sobelman, ESLLC 2016-2017

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As a huge sports fan and an environmentalist, I have always found the interactions between the two very interesting. Many teams and committees are adopting sustainability into their leagues and stadiums. For example, the International Olympic Committee adopted the “Environment” as a pillar of Olympism. Arguably the largest sporting event in the world has taken an initiative to start changing their environmental impact, and not many people know about this. Newer stadiums are substituting oil provided energy with cleaner energy options like solar panels at CenturyLink Field and Pocono Raceway and a combination of 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field. Almost all of the five major sports leagues have adopted recycling and composting programs. It is interesting to see one of the major industries in the world take a step in the right direction.

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The National Hockey League is ranked No. 17 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Top 100 list of the largest users of green power. On January 1, 2010, the NHL launched “NHL Green,” a program designed to “enhance the League’s ecological profile, with support from NRDC [National Resources Defense Council], while educating fans about environmental issues.” The NHL is leading the sports world when it comes to “going green.” In 2014, the League released a Sustainability Report that presented the ecologically-friendly tactics that some stadiums use. Denver’s Pepsi Center’s ice plant that the Colorado Avalanche use to prepare the ice for hockey games uses a passive cooling system that utilizes cold air and is very clean regarding energy efficiency and it is very close to DU!

The America’s Cup is the most popular sailing regatta in the world and they have taken initiative to lessen their environmental impact. At the 2013 America’s Cup, they adopted a zero waste, carbon neutral program that helped keep the San Francisco Bay clean after the events. For the 2016 race, the committee adopted a Sustainability charter that included ten points: eliminating single use plastics, maximize reuse and recycling, conserving water, avoiding water pollution, reducing energy/carbon impact, protecting marine habitats, being diverse and inclusive, supporting the local economy, communicating a better future, and sustainability champions. These were bold goals and it seems they did well by them but a report has yet to be released.

Athletes and sports teams are role models to society and when they participate in making the world a more sustainable one, they inspire many people to follow in their footsteps. Sustainability in sports is something that needs to continue as it pushes the urgency of needed to become more eco-friendly to a niche of people who may not be as caring about the earth as others.

“Sport has the power to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

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