Environmental scientist Allen Hershkowitz says there are two statistics that have made him spend the last six years trying to get professional sports teams to take up his Earth-friendly initiatives. First: "Less than 18 percent of Americans say they pay attention to any science, including environmental science," he says. And second: "Fifty-six percent say they pay attention to sports."
Thus we have the Green Sports Alliance, a new partnership brokered by Hershkowitz with the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Storm, Portland Trail Blazers, and Vancouver Canucks, in which the teams will combine forces on greening initiatives like curbed water and electricity use, recycling, and alternative energy.
The Sustainable Energies blog reported the new partnership on Monday. The idea, essentially, is to use sports teams' star power to promote environmental efforts.
"[We're] basically trying to instigate cultural pressure for better environmental protection," said Hershkowitz, who founded greensports.org, NRDC's pro-bono consulting shop for teams and leagues.
The actual environmental steps the teams will be taking are still pretty vague. But at a press conference on Monday, the teams went over some of the steps they already take and discussed a few more, some less ridiculous than others.
Safeco Field already has some 500 compost bins for its biodegradable cups, utensils and trays (per city mandate). The Mariners' recycling mascot - Captain Plastic - will get a sidekick this year - Kid Compost - to educate fans.
The team made less visible changes to its energy and water systems and building controls, which are saving $500,000 a year, Jenkins said. Qwest Field next door, home of the Seahawks and Sounders FC, hired the building-efficiency company McKinstry to help them make similar changes.
The Storm, meanwhile, offers free parking to fans who carpool to KeyArena. And a Trailblazers executive talked up, as only a Portland resident can, the Rose Quarter's grass-fed, locally sourced burgers with Tillamook cheese on buns from a local bakery.
The effort brings to mind some of the greening steps that music festivals like Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, and Coachella have taken up in the last few years, in which recycling and energy conservation have become selling points. But remote events require thousands of people to drive and fly hundreds of miles in fuel-burning vehicles to get to them, which usually grossly outweighs whatever environmentally beneficial procedures are used at the concerts themselves.
Sports stadiums, however, by being located in cities, have a much greater potential to make concrete environmental advances that produce actual results through initiatives like the Green Sports Alliance.
Hopefully, the effort will amount to more than lip service and a new sidekick for Captain Plastic.