Going green: Sports world makes planet-friendly strides as efforts increase

Canadian press In this release issued by The Canadian Press, author Dave Campbell talks about how major league baseball's Chris Dickerson, a Cincinnati Reds
outfielder, was fed up with the amount of plastic water bottle waste that he and his teammates were producing daily. He decided to start a nonprofit called Players for the Planet in 2008, "to encourage
pro athletes to be environmental ambassadors in their communities,
proving the possibility that jocks and treehuggers can co-exist." The article goes on to list other big efforts in sustainability by other professional sports organizations but stresses the importance of making "green" within all professional sports. Yet, the release concludes with the point that there is money to be made while simultaneously improving the environment.



Posted July 22, 2010

By, Dave Campbell, The Canadian Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Dickerson remembered cringing as he looked at the
excess of empty, discarded plastic bottles by his triple-A teammates in
Louisville.

"One guy uses eight bottles a day, whether it's
Gatorade or water or juice," he said, "and all of this stuff is being
thrown in the trash cans."

The sight of all that waste a couple of
years ago was the tipping point for Dickerson, a Cincinnati Reds
outfielder.

"Multiply that by a week, by a year, by the 15 teams
in that league. You're looking at a tremendous amount," said Dickerson,
who developed a passion for ecological issues while witnessing pollution
problems as he grew up in Southern California.

In 2008, he helped
found the non-profit organization Players for the Planet to encourage
pro athletes to be environmental ambassadors in their communities,
proving the possibility that jocks and treehuggers can co-exist.

As
a Minnesota-based sports marketing agency is banking on, professional
franchises — like any profit-driven businesses — are finding more ways
to go green and make money at the same time.

There is a certain
insular, indulgent culture in the sports world that can create hurdles
for social causes like this to take hold. Sometimes, they're masked as
mere symbolic gestures and goodwill-generating promotions for teams. The
sheer enormity of stadiums makes it difficult to keep carbon footprints
small. Players can get caught up in the big-league lifestyle.

"It's
hard to get just any athlete and even then, they're like, 'I love what
you're doing, but I can't really endorse it because I'm driving a big
truck and I have a huge house,'" Dickerson said. "So some of the things
these athletes do aren't necessarily a green lifestyle. They like the
idea, but they're not necessarily that green. I think that's why a lot
of them are hesitant to be part of it."

Dickerson praised the use
of solar power at Fenway Park in Boston and Progressive Field in
Cleveland as progressive ideas he'd like to see replicated more
throughout the majors. He pointed to supportive emails and letters he
has received as examples of momentum. He also insisted real change can
be accomplished in easy steps.

"That's the message we're trying to
get across: It doesn't have to be a huge shift in your daily
lifestyle," Dickerson said. "It's little things like getting a recycle
bin, turning off all the lights when you leave your house, trying to cut
down on your air conditioning, using compact fluorescent light bulbs."

Dickerson
even has a sign above his locker that says, "Trees are for hugging."

In
Minnesota, trees are being planted by the Department of Natural
Resources — 100 of them each time a Twins pitcher breaks a bat during a
game this season in partnership with the team. Target Field, when it
opened this year, was given the highest Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design score for a major league ballpark by the U.S. Green
Building Council.

With Twins CEO Jim Pohlad pushing the issue
during the construction process, an extra $2 million was budgeted for
LEED features. Architect Populous and builder Mortenson helped factor in
features like a rainwater recycling system that's used to irrigate the
field and wash the seating area.

By the team's estimate, 20 per
cent of customers take mass transit, and more than 400 people ride a
bike to games.

"We didn't know we'd be building new bike racks,
but certainly that's a good problem to have," Twins president Dave St.
Peter said.

Arguments can be made that sports, by size alone, are
simply anti-green.

"You can always look at things in different
contexts," said John Carmody, director of the Center for Sustainable
Building Research at the University of Minnesota. "Should we have four
teams sharing one stadium? Should we be building a stadium at all? But
the more realistic and pragmatic approach is that various organizations,
like baseball teams, have their needs. We aren't questioning whether
they're having a field. We're saying that within the context of having a
field, we're going to make it as sustainable as possible."

Baseball
isn't alone. As the green movement has begun to mesh into mainstream
society, the pace of environmentally driven activities has picked up
throughout the industry.

The NHL touted sustainability initiatives
at the draft last month in Los Angeles, like receptacles for
recyclables at Staples Center and leftover food donations to a downtown
homeless shelter. The recently retired Scott Niedermayer became
unofficially known as hockey's treehugger, the captain of the Anaheim
Ducks and Team Canada who tried to persuade teammates to drive hybrid
vehicles as he does. Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference recently
took a Sierra Club-organized tour of the oil spill site in Louisiana to
help raise awareness of environmental issues.

The NFL's
Environmental Program helps plant trees around the communities that host
the Super Bowl and seeks to reduce waste and carbon emissions around
the annual event.

In April, during the NBA's Green Week, players
wore socks made from 45 per cent organic cotton during games. The Dallas
Mavericks gave away reusable grocery bags for fans who brought plastic
trade-ins. The Phoenix Suns, for a game against the rival Spurs, handed
out 10,000 "Beat San Antonio" signs for fans made out of paper certified
by the Forest Stewardship Council as being eco-friendly.

"As
athletes you have more of a platform for anything you may want to speak
your mind about, something that's close to your heart," said Twins
pitcher Kevin Slowey. "It's neat to hear somebody like Dickerson
stepping forward and doing that. I think everybody appreciates it
certainly. You look at the canisters in here, the recycling's always
full, and it's a neat thing. It doesn't take a lot to make a difference,
and I think that's maybe the message that translates the best: a little
bit goes a long way."

This is big business, though. The name of
the game, even with every best intention, still revolves around the
other kind of green.

"At the end of the day, the industry will
move only if there's money to be made," said Mark Andrew, founder of the
Minnesota-based sports marketing agency GreenMark. "You can actually
make a profit by doing right by the environment."

GreenMark's
mission is to put sports organizations in touch with green businesses to
create sponsorships. GreenMark, which also counts the Boston Red Sox
and San Francisco 49ers as clients, connected a company that specializes
in clean-water innovation, Pentair, with the Twins to implement the
rainwater recycling system for Target Field.

Pentair's profile was
raised, and the team gained a major sponsor.

"Sports has lagged
behind the rest of the private sector in implementing truly green
practices and operations," Andrew said. "However, they're catching up
and sports as an industry is doing a much better job than they were."

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