A recent report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlights the sports industry's efforts to "green up", and how they are encouraging fans to do the same. The report pulls together a collection of case studies of the most successful and prominent initiatives by the industry.
Key findings from the case studies:
- All Commissioners of professional sports leagues in the United States have made commitments to environmental stewardship and are actively encouraging the teams in their leagues to incorporate sustainable measures into their operations.
- 15 professional North American stadiums or arenas have achieved LEED green building design certifications, 18 have installed on-site solar arrays, and virtually all have developed or are developing recycling and/or composting programs.
- Among all sports leagues, Major League Baseball has the best-developed environmental data measurement program, followed by the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
- Of the 126 professional sports teams in the five major professional North American leagues, 38 teams have shifted to renewable energy for at least some of their operations, and 68 have energy efficiency programs.
- All of the large sports concessionaires that collectively feed tens of millions of people each year have developed environmentally preferable menus for at least some of their offerings.
- All Jewel events, including the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the NBA playoffs and finals, the MLS Cup the US Open Tennis Championships and all of the league All-Star Games, now incorporate greening initiatives into their planning and operations.
- All leagues educate their fans about environmental issues, in particular the need to recycle and to reduce energy and water use.
Leaders in the industry feel that sports leagues are in a unique position of influence when you consider the millions of sports fans worldwide who follow their favorite team's every move. Sports bring an amazing number and variety of people together in ways that not much else can, which means teams and leagues have a unique chance to get the message across about the importance of sustainability planning and actions. NRDC also hopes that the report will point out to fans, sports professionals, and supply chains used by the sports industry that these green initiatives are actually effective strategies for saving money, strengthening community ties, and even enhancing brand development, in addition to being better for the environment.
We still have a long way to go in implementing sustainable practices in all aspects of society, but the sports industry is beginning to do their part, embracing the influence they have and setting an example.