Representatives from the major professional sports leagues in North America came together today to announce the launching of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA).
With public endorsements from league commissioners, and from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, it is the first time that teams from Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) have collaborated on a common agenda to reduce their impact on the environment.
The GSA was conceived of and initiated by NRDC and representatives of Paul G. Allen's sports teams in the fall of 2009. Mr. Allen, a founder of Microsoft, owns the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers and is co-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC.
Founding members of the GSA include MLB's Seattle Mariners, NFL's Seattle Seahawks, NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, NHL's Vancouver Canucks, WNBA's Seattle Storm and MLS' Seattle Sounders FC. Members of the GSA representing sporting facilities include Safeco Field (Seattle), Qwest Field and Qwest Field Event Center (Seattle), KeyArena at Seattle Center (Seattle), the Rose Garden (Portland) and Rogers Arena (Vancouver). These organizations are working in close partnership with the NRDC, the U.S. EPA, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Portland State University to identify and adopt innovative environmental initiatives and share information about best practices and opportunities to measure and reduce their impact on the environment.
Joe Abernathy, President of the Board of Directors of the Stadium Managers Association, (and the Stadium Operations Manager at Busch Field in St. Louis,) also weighed in favorably on the formation of the Green Sports Alliance: "The Stadium Managers Association is very excited to hear about the formation of the Green Sports Alliance. Their objective of developing an advanced environmental model for sports facilities aligns with our objective to assist stadium managers in achieving the highest levels of facility operations. The Stadium Managers Association looks forward to working with the Green Sports Alliance on these common objectives of enhancing the efficient and sustainable operations of stadiums." (See below for statements by league Commissioners and US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.)
The commitment by six professional leagues to enhance their environmental profile in a meaningful and public way marks a watershed in the history of professional sports. This type of inter-league collaboration is unprecedented. And it also marks a watershed in the history of environmental advocacy; forty years after the first Earth Day, environmental advocates have finally joined their cause with the one of the most culturally influential sectors on Earth, professional sports. Hopefully, all professional leagues worldwide will follow their lead.
Since 2004, NRDC has been a leader in the greening of professional sports and entertainment. In 2004 NRDC helped green the Philadelphia Eagles football team's Lincoln Financial Field. We began collaborating with professional sports more widely in 2004 and in 2008 NRDC initiated the launch of the Broadway Green Alliance (http://www.broadwaygreen.com/) that has brought together all Broadway theater owners and scores of productions throughout the nation in behalf of environmental stewardship. In 2009 NRDC launched the Music Saves Mountains Campaign (http://www.musicsavesmountains.org/) to protect the Appalachian region and we initiated and have overseen the greening of the Motion Picture Academy Awards and GRAMMYS since 2007.
There are cultural barriers to sustainability, besides financial and technical barriers, and this culture-influencing work is helping to shift perceptions globally about how we should treat the organism that gives us air to breathe and water to drink.
As the principal environmental advisor to Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), the NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and one of the advisors to the National Football League (NFL), NRDC's work greening North American sports leagues is the most comprehensive and successful sports greening initiative in the world. As a result of NRDC's work, more than 100 professional teams have adopted environmental initiatives at their stadiums or arenas, and countless "Jewel Events" by the leagues have benefitted from NRDC's guidance and expertise. (Go here and here for more information about NRDC's work greening professional sports.)
Sports matter. Outside of the family, the most influential role models in our society are athletes and entertainers. The most widely watched TV shows worldwide are sports shows. And professional sports leagues are non-partisan businesses, so their embrace of environmentalism helps us deflect ideological and politically inspired attacks on the environmental agenda.
What a contrast it is today to witness the embrace of environmental stewardship by all the major professional sports leagues in North America, while political ideologues in Congress and in many state governments attack environmental science and attack as well the work of our essential environmental protection agencies. Politically inspired attacks on environmentalism not only ignore scientific facts, but run counter to mainstream American culture.
Besides helping to accelerate a cultural shift in how Americans view environmental issues, I believe that this work is helping to make a meaningful difference on the multi-hundred billion dollar supply chain of professional sports. The environmental message that team presidents, commissioners, and stadium operators are sending to the marketplace is potent: to do business with professional sports, environmental criteria must be part of your business. That message is being heard by the chemical industry which helps maintain professional contest fields, the food and beverage industries which feed the fans, the energy industry, the auto and consumer products industries that provide energy to and sponsor league and club events.
Below are the statements in support of the Green Sports Alliance by the six Commissioners of professional sports leagues in North America and from Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
From MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig
"Major League Baseball applauds the leadership shown by the Seattle Mariners' environmental efforts. Their participation in the Green Sports Alliance demonstrates the commitment made by MLB and our Clubs to act in environmentally-sensitive ways. We support all the members of the professional sports community working to advance this important cause and wish the Green Sports Alliance the best of success."
From NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
"The NFL is proud to support the greening efforts of the Seattle Seahawks. Environmental stewardship is important to the NFL and all our clubs, and the Seattle Seahawks are a leader in this area. Enhancing the sustainability of professional sports is a worthy goal, and we wish the Green Sports Alliance great success."
From NBA Commissioner David Stern
"The Seattle Storm and the Portland Trail Blazers are helping to lead the way on the greening of professional sports and the NBA and WNBA are grateful for their leadership. Their participation in the Green Sports Alliance holds the potential to further the greening of professional sports nationally and we wish the GSA the best of success in this important endeavor."
From NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
"The NHL strongly supports the greening efforts of the Vancouver Canucks. Their participation in the Green Sports Alliance brings teams together from all professional leagues in the Pacific Northwest and aligns with the NHL's environmental initiatives. This effort holds the promise of even further greening of professional sports."
From MLS Commissioner Don Garber
"Major League Soccer and MLS W.O.R.K.S. are proud of the tremendous work Seattle Sounders FC are doing in conjunction with the Green Sports Alliance. Our league prides itself on giving back to the communities that support our clubs, and enhancing the environment is an initiative that all of us at MLS support."
From EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
"EPA commends the founding members of the Green Sports Alliance for recognizing the importance of protecting the environment and stepping up their green game. We thank them for their commitment to protecting our health and the environment. We hope that their efforts and the work toward environmental innovation will inspire their many fans and fellow teams to make choices that protect our people and our planet."
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon and led by Executive Director, Martin Tull, the GSA will host a Green Sports Summit in August of 2011 in Portland, which will bring together facility managers, event producers and marketing directors with environmental leaders such as NRDC to share best practices and discuss opportunities and challenges the teams face in their respective cities.