Get in the Game

Thirteen percent of Americans say they follow science; 65 percent say they follow sports.

Representatives of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and NASCAR gathered at the White House yesterday for a half-day conference on “Greening the Games.” The panelists talked about the fact that sports stadiums and arenas across the United States are cultural icons – think Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, the Superdome – and that they offer an extraordinary opportunity for an education in sustainability.

Facilities and operations managers across the spectrum shared stories of the changes they have made, both big and small, that are adding up to significant dollar savings.  The Philadelphia Eagles (BOO!) have saved over a quarter of a million dollars on their energy bills through lighting changes and solar panel installation, the Portland Trail Blazers recycle more than 90% of their stadium trash, and NHL players ponied up their own money to offset emissions from their extensive travel.

A NASCAR official proudly touted their use of (American) ethanol.  Stressing that performance doesn’t have to be sacrificed for sustainability, he quoted No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. as saying, “the transition to 15% ethanol was seamless’.  NASCAR as the poster child for sustainability? Who’d have thought it?

At a time when we are experiencing record-shattering temperatures, historic drought and an unkind economy, the inspiration offered yesterday from the sports world was most welcome.  Perhaps we can take a page from their book – and ignite the competitive nature of the American people to achieve a sustainable world.

These teams are learning from one another, they are sharing their successes and challenges, and they are definitely keeping score.  Some people say it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.  For professional sports teams – the competition to be the ‘greenest’ is on – and make no mistake – they are in it to win.