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Why Sports Matters to Successful Green Programs

April 16, 2014
One of the great challenges most green teams will face is gaining the support and participation from employees who are vital to success.  Employee engagement can’t be taken for granted.  We can’t assume that everyone will jump on the bandwagon because we disseminate factual information.  Most people need an incentive.
One incentive or motivation is our human nature for social connection—our desire to belong, to be part of a group.  I think sports are a great example.  Whether it’s a  soccer team of third graders, a college basketball team (UConn Huskies!!), or a professional baseball team, people who may seem to have little in common come together over their shared support for their favorite sport or team. Workers in the office from the mail room to the executive floor may not understand the intricacies of each other’s jobs, but they can converse comfortably and knowledgeably with each other about the weekend football games.
I think we can shamelessly exploit our near-universal fondness for one sport or another and generate more support for sustainability because “everybody’s doing it” by taking every opportunity to publicize the greening of sports. If sustainable habits and practices are taking hold in our beloved sport, it’s a smart strategy to play this up with employees who might be more easily persuaded to be an active  fan of green when “everybody’s doing it”, especially their favorite sport or team.  Before you judge this a cheesy tactic, take a look at what the sports world is doing. 
Ohio State home football games have had a zero waste goal for four years.  In 2012, they achieved a 95 to 98% success rate in diverting waste from landfills by recycling and composting.  Pretty impressive when the team draws 100,000 fans per game. The Portland Trail Blazers NBA basketball team play in a LEED Gold certified arena,  purchase more than 95% compostable food and beverage containers, divert 80% of waste from landfills, and use bikes and electric vehicles for onsite operations, just to name a few things.  In 2005, Major League Baseball was the first professional sports organization to team up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to build a sustainability partnership program.  All teams are involved.   Since then, virtually every major sport has teamed up with the NRDC to reduce their environmental impactMLB,  NBA, NHL, USTA, NFL, MLS, NLL, and the NCAA. NASCAR is the latest to sign on.
The NRDC has a website devoted to greening sports with news and information.  Also, they have developed a tailored Greening Advisor for each sporting group.  The steps that have been taken across all sports are exciting.  Just to cite two--Yankee Stadium obtains 100% of its power from wind farms.  The NBA annually has held green awareness weeks and has a NBA Green website with news about team green events, activities, and tips for fans. 
We can find leaders throughout industry sectors and green teams shouldn’t hesitate to use those examples to build support in their offices.  I think using sports to inspire and ignite “green team” support  can be an effective year-round strategy.  The NRDC website says it best:  “No matter what jersey your favorite team wears, there's one color that every sports fan can root for: green.”
I am so enthusiastic about this topic that GWG will devote blogs throughout the year consistent with the season of a particular sport to spotlight the steps and results that are being achieved. 

Follow college sports?  The NRDC has also issued, “Collegiate Game Changers, How Campus Sport Is Going Green. “  Read more.

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