A better way to play

Martin Tull, Green Sports Alliance

Martin Tull is the executive director of the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit organization working with sports teams and venues to enhance their environmental performance. Their upcoming Green Sports Alliance Summit will bring together facility managers, sports executives and environmental thought leaders to explore best practices and collaborate on new environmental initiatives.

Sports organizations are, at the heart of their identity, a deeply ingrained part of our communities. As we change, so do they.

The fact that a more environmentally and socially conscious generation is coming up in the world — and is asking to see those values reflected in their favorite team — is evidence of sport’s important cultural role. When teams act on these values and strive to make their venue and their communities a better place, it reinforces their role as community leaders.

But what makes sports teams and venues good messengers to promote sustainability? First, they are highly visible organizations. From the athlete to the team’s activities, they capture the public’s attention on a consistent basis. Second, sports venues are often among the largest public venues in a city. Big opportunities exist to make significant impacts by saving energy, lowering water consumption, increasing recycling and providing positive examples of environmental stewardship.

There are many sports teams and venues across North America integrating conservation and energy efficiency programs. That often prompts someone to ask us, “Who is doing it best?” To me, that’s the wrong question to ask. While friendly competition has proven to be a great driver for change (especially in the sports world), there are substantial differences in regional and organizational resources that impact an organization’s ability to enact change.

A better question is, “What teams are making great strides with the resources they have?” That recognizes that while it may be feasible for Northwest teams to save money composting food waste —due to the accessibility of great local partners like Cedar Grove Recycling — it may be much harder for another venue in a city with less green infrastructure to do the same.

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