Green Sports Alliance — “A better way to play”

Green Sports Alliance LogoThe Green Sports Alliance (GSA) was launched by Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder and sports team owner), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 6 professional sports teams, and 5 sports venues.

I first learned about the Green Sports Alliance while researching Greening Super Bowl XLVII which led me to the GSA and NRDC websites.

Green Sports Alliance

The mission of the Green Sports Alliance is “to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance”.

The GSA provides an opportunity for sports organizations and partners to pool their knowledge and best practices, work on joint initiatives, and engage their fans. Members are required to collect data and make it available to other GSA members. Sports are all about statistics so measuring performance would seem to come naturally. The 4 main areas of focus are listed below with a few examples of green actions:

  1. Energy – reducing energy use by installing onsite renewable energy, LED lighting, offsetting energy use via Green-e certificates, encouraging carpooling and using public transportation.
  2. San Francisco 49ers Go Green LogoWaste – diverting waste from landfills via recycling and composting, compostable food serviceware, and donating excess prepared food.
  3. Water – reducing water use with efficient irrigation methods, native plant landscaping, low-flow fixtures, and onsite wastewater treatment.
  4. Purchasing – using electronic media instead of paper, purchasing products with recycled paper or plastic content, sourcing food locally, and buying green cleaning products.

Why would a sports team or stadium care about going green?

  • Save money
  • Attract sponsors
  • Attract tenants and entertainment clients
  • Enhance fan experience
  • Strengthen community ties
  • Build local economy

“The motivation for sports to engage in greening is simple. The games we love today were born outdoors, and without clean air to breathe, clean water and a healthy climate, sports would be impossible. In fact, nature is the ultimate source of all economic value.” – NRDC Game Changer

Green Sports Alliance Success Stores

As an example of the positive impact GSA has had on sports, a few success stories from the GSA news feed are provided below.

Ohio Stadium, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, with a capacity of 102,329 became the largest stadium in the country to implement a zero-waste program. The highest diversion rate during one game in 2012 was 98.2%. Only 447 pounds of waste went to a landfill.

Ominlife Stadium Wastewater Treatment Wetlands - Photo Credit: Biohabitats

Omnilife Stadium in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, is the first stadium in the world to integrate a 100% wastewater treatment and reuse program. 136,000 gallons of wastewater is collected on game days, filtered via wetlands and other methods, and then reused for toilet flushing, irrigation, and stadium cleaning.

The National Hockey League launched the Green Slapshots Blog to highlight sustainability achievements around the league and call on fans to do their part.

Washington Redskins FedEx Field Solar Panels - Photo Credit: Jeremy Borden - Washington PostSeveral NFL team stadiums have installed onsite solar energy systems including, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Jets, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Philadelphia Eagles.

A NRDC report published in September 2012, Game Changer How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment, includes topics such as why greening sports matters, a sports greening timeline (see below), a series of case studies, and recommendations for implementing a sports greening program.

Greening Sports Timeline

  • 2003: Philadelphia Eagles team up with NRDC on the first green renovation of a professional sports stadium.
  • 2004: NRDC Trustee Robert Redford suggests NRDC become the nation’s principal environmental advisor to professional sports.
  • 2005: Major League Baseball (MLB) and NRDC develop the first league-wide greening program.
  • 2006: NRDC produces online “NRDC Greening Advisor” tool to provide location-specific greening advice for each MLB team.
  • 2007: National Basketball Association (NBA) partners with NRDC on a greening program.
  • 2008: NRDC joins forces with the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
  • 2009: Major League Soccer (MLS) and NRDC team up on a greening program.
  • 2010: Vulcan Inc., owned by Paul Allen, and NRDC initiate and found Green Sports Alliance.
  • 2011: Green Sports Alliance is officially launched.
  • 2012: “NRDC Greening Advisor” tool is enhanced for use by all leagues, NHL and NBA roll out league-wide programs.

The Bottom Line

The professional and collegiate sports industries are well positioned to spearhead environmental initiatives, disseminate information, and positively influence millions of people.

  • People all around the world attend or watch professional and collegiate sporting events.
  • Athletes are often looked up to as role models.
  • Sports cross political, social, cultural, religious, and economic boundaries.
  • Fans are often loyal and passionate about supporting their teams.


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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

One thought on “Green Sports Alliance — “A better way to play””

  1. Wow,
    I would have not naturally assumed the sports community would be so “leading edge”! But I’m glad they are!

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