FACT SHEET: Tackling Climate through Sports
Sports and recreation are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme-weather events. Millions of athletes, from children to professionals, play sports that are directly impacted by weather and climate. A number of athletic facilities and infrastructure are in low-lying, flood-prone regions. Extreme weather and climate change can affect the health and performance of athletes and pose risks to spectators and event staff.
Individuals and organizations across the country are stepping up to take action on climate change through sports, from the greening of athletic facilities, to preparing for the impacts of extreme heat on players, to educating and engaging fans. The theme of climate change and sports aligns with the Administration’s leadership on climate change efforts under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, as well as the priority on health and wellness through fitness and sports.
This summer, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a call to action, asking for ideas from citizens and organizations from across the country on how leadership through sports can be used to cut carbon pollution, enhance climate resilience, and increase public understanding and awareness. The White House also hosted a roundtable on climate change and sports that brought together athletes and representatives from teams, leagues, companies, and athletic organizations to discuss how to act on climate change within this community.
Today, on the inaugural Green Sports Day and in line with the Pittsburgh Penguins' visit to the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup victory, OSTP is announcing a set of exciting new actions by Federal agencies and outside organizations who are using innovative approaches to tackle climate change through sports.
- Department of Energy (DOE). DOE, in partnership with the Green Sports Alliance and the National Institute of Building Sciences, will convene a workshop in November at the M&T Bank Stadium, bringing together sport stadium and arena owners and operators, building professionals, and other sports-industry stakeholders to examine and identify the opportunities and challenges in advancing the design, construction and operation of high-performance sport facilities. The workshop will focus on developing a strategic vision and roadmap for delivering better facilities that are built and operated to incorporate energy efficient strategies and technologies that help accelerate adoption of clean energy, protect the environment, increase resilience, save money, and inspire sports fans. DOE will release a report following the workshop that identifies existing resources, assesses the current state of the facilities, showcases best practices and case studies, and identifies a solutions-oriented path toward more sustainable sport stadiums and venues.
- Department of State. Working with U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, State Department’s Sports Diplomacy Division sends Sports Envoys—former or current American professional athletes and coaches—overseas to hold sports clinics, participate in community outreach activities, and engage youth in dialogues on the importance of leadership and respect for diversity. The Sports Diplomacy Division will support at least five Sports Envoy programs on the environment in 2017 and 2018, with more than 800 people expected to participate. These programs will include Green Races (5K runs) and other activities that inspire the local community and Embassy staff to recycle, plant trees, and run and bike to work, as well as encourage people to eat locally produced food throughout the year. The State Department intends to issue a new cooperative agreement, following an open competition, to advance implementation of environmentally themed sports exchanges that promote the “greening of sports”. These exchanges will build capacity and expertise in both the sports and environment spaces around the world.
- Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation will launch a new community-based program to restore and revitalize Pittsburgh City and County Green Parks this spring. Through Operation Restore, Penguins' employees, partners, and fans will engage in tree-planting efforts to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and will conduct park cleanups, playground builds, and paint revitalization. Social media will be used to engage young members of the community in a call-to-action to maintain and restore areas in and around Pittsburgh.
- National Hockey League (NHL®). NHL, through its partnership with Constellation, will launch the NHL Greener Rinks initiative, to measure and evaluate the environmental impact of the greater hockey community. The NHL will survey community ice rinks throughout North America to better understand the current state of the game’s infrastructure, and will build a platform to communicate best practices and new technologies that are advancing the environmental sustainability of arenas. Through the partnership, the NHL will support emission-free energy developments and carbon reduction projects, counterbalancing its total estimated footprint—550,000 metric tons CO2 equivalent—through Renewable Energy Credits and carbon offsets.
- 11th Hour Racing. Through the platform of the 2017 America's Cup sailing race in Bermuda, and in partnership with the Land Rover BAR America's Cup professional sailing team, 11th Hour Racing will raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on invasive species through a celebrity-chef culinary event focused on lionfish as a sustainable seafood choice. 11th Hour Racing will also engage tens of thousands of fans and young people in this campaign through their dedicated Exploration Zone at the team base in the America's Cup Village, where they will communicate about the effects of a warming ocean and share solutions to increase the resiliency of coral-reef ecosystems.
- 55 South. 55 South, a sailboat racing team sponsored by 11th Hour Racing, will race around the globe in the 2017–2018 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) to raise awareness about climate and ocean-health issues. 55 South will develop a team sustainability plan for 2017–2018 to reduce or offset carbon, track and minimize energy and water use, and decrease waste; work with VOR to create and implement sustainability training for other teams, including best practices for the shore/support team; create a platform to engage with classrooms and sailing centers around sustainability; and publicize metrics from teams’ environmentally responsible practices and identify areas of improvement. They will be the first team in the VOR to track and offset the carbon footprint for all team operations.
- Green Sports Alliance. In January 2017, the Alliance will launch Measure It!, a new initiative designed to increase the number of sports teams, leagues, and venues who measure and report their energy, waste, and water-reduction efforts. The Alliance will aggregate these data for future industry benchmarking to create new, more ambitious targets for all Alliance members, representing more than 400 sports teams and venues from 20 different sports leagues and 14 countries. In June, at the 7th annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Sacramento, the Alliance will invite members to help design new industry goals for teams, leagues, venues, and higher education using baseline data aggregated in the intervening five months.
- How Low Can You Go? Challenge. The How Low Can You Go? Challenge, an initiative started by educators from Broward County Public Schools, seeks to empower students to cut energy use, waste, and water use in classrooms through school- and district-wide competitions. How Low Can You Go? has partnered with the Miami Heat, and winning teams are recognized at games during NBA Green Week. This year, the Challenge is collaborating with the Florida Green Schools Network and CLEO Institute, and will expand to all of the school districts in Florida, reaching thousands of students.
- I AM PRO SNOW. The Climate Reality Project’s I AM PRO SNOW program brings winter sport athletes and mountain residents together to fight climate change. Its 100% Committed Campaign helps cities, resorts, and other businesses in winter sports and mountain communities worldwide commit to shifting to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. To date, the cities of Aspen and Salt Lake City, and 15 businesses and resorts, have made the commitment. By the end of the year, I AM PRO SNOW will expand its pledge to at least 10 new resorts, businesses, and communities.
- Korey Stringer Institute. The Korey Stringer Institute, which works to prevent heat-related illness and death among athletes, soldiers, and laborers, is announcing that this spring they will release the first-ever safety-score ranking of states by how well they address issues related to the leading causes of sudden death in sport, including heat-illness prevention, recognition, and treatment in secondary-school athletics. This information can help states identify potential areas of improvement in their policies and apply best practices associated with protecting young athletes from the impacts of heat.
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the future home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, is set to achieve Platinum LEED certification once construction is complete. The Stadium will be the first sports facility to achieve all water credits available for LEED. The project is also committing to further restore natural water systems wetlands and damaged watersheds, through the pursuit of a new LEED Pilot Credit strategy titled Water Restoration Certificates (WRC). Through this effort, the stadium will purchase WRCs locally from the Flint River in Georgia’s water supply, providing for a 100 percent regional impact and monetary benefits for the local watershed. Other sustainable design features for the stadium include multiple public rail-line stations within a mile, solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations to cut down on emissions from transportation to the stadium, a retractable roof, and 4,000 solar panels, estimated to produce 1.6 million kilowatt-hours per year—enough to power 160 Atlanta homes.
- Pac-12. The Pac-12 Conference and its member universities are committed to minimizing the impact athletic events have on the environment and taking a leadership position to promote sustainability through college sports. The Pac-12 will host the first-ever college sports sustainability summit—the Pac-12 Sustainability Summit—in June 2017 in Sacramento, California, as part of the annual Green Sports Alliance Summit. This event will bring together sustainability officers from across the conference to design new collective initiatives and share best practices to transform college sports into a platform for environmental progress.
- Portland Trail Blazers. In 2010, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers home arena, the Moda Center, became the world’s first existing multiple-purpose venue to be retrofitted to LEED Gold standards. Today, the Trail Blazers are announcing that they will replace 230 mercury-based light fixtures in the Moda Center with mercury-free LED units. This change will save nearly 940,000 kilowatt hours per year; offset almost 450 tons of CO2 emissions; and generate nearly $60,000 in annual energy savings —a 60 percent increase over previous efficiency efforts.
- Protect Our Winters. Protect Our Winters (POW), a group of professional athletes focused on educating and engaging people about the importance of combating climate change, is announcing an expanded version of their student climate-assembly program, "Hot Planet/Cool Athletes," with new science, actions, and athlete voices. The program will bring professional skiers, snowboarders, climbers, fly fishers, and surfers into middle and high schools to give a presentation on climate change and the associated impacts on sports and communities. Interested students will be invited to join the POW Student Alliance and take on meaningful, measurable projects in their school. The program is free and available to any school that is interested. POW's goal is to reach at least 15,000 students in 2017.
- San Francisco 49ers. In August 2014, Levi's Stadium became the first professional football stadium to open with LEED Gold certification for new construction. Today, Levi's Stadium is announcing that the venue has achieved LEED Gold Certification for Operations and Maintenance of an existing building, making it the first-ever NFL stadium to be LEED Gold certified under the two respective categories by the U.S. Green Building Council. The stadium is also lowering greenhouse-gas impacts from concessions through their new 4,000 square foot rooftop farm and educating kids on sustainability through its free school STEAM field trip program, serving 60,000 Bay Area K–8 students each year.
- San Francisco Giants. This off-season the San Francisco Giants will be installing LED Field Lighting, replacing all 556 of their current lighting fixtures with LED lights. This change will reduce their current per fixture wattage by over 50 percent from 2250W to 960W, resulting in a cumulative reduction of 717kW for the entire field lighting system.
- Sports4Climate. The World Bank's Connect4Climate program will engage athletes globally under the #Sport4Climate Initiative. With partners, they will launch a social media campaign with more than 100 Olympic and Paralympic athletes in the lead-up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 22 (UNFCCC COP22) meetings in November around the "1.5C: the record we must not break" campaign (#1o5C) to challenge the international community to accelerate negotiations in order to not exceed the 1.5°C target for average global temperature rise. Connect4Climate also commits to holding an event on action for climate engagement at COP22, highlighting the role of the sporting community and the creative industries in supporting climate action.
- Sustainable Business Partnerships and Green Sports Alliance. The Sustainable Business Partnerships and Green Sports Alliance will host three Climate & Sports Youth Summits in 2017 in order to empower students with the knowledge, tools, and leadership skills to take on the role of Youth Sustainability Champions in their respective schools and communities. Inspired by college and professional athletes, middle and high school students will develop and carry out action plans over six months following the summit and will measure impact by analyzing energy and waste data before and after the projects. This program will target over 300 students from California, Colorado, and South Florida, with the potential to impact additional students through peer networking.
- The University of Chicago. The Department of Athletics and Recreation, Office of Sustainability, and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Chicago will launch an initiative this fall to enhance the environmental sustainability of the campus athletics program. Through a series of experiential learning courses in environmental studies and public policy, students will research the behavioral and operational aspects of energy use, water use, and waste management and develop recommendations for reducing the environmental impact of athletic events and operations. A student-athlete sustainability council will implement the sustainability recommendations in collaboration with faculty, staff, facilities operators, University administration, and external partners. The year-long project will culminate at the University Athletic Association's Outdoor Track and Field Conference Championship Meet on Earth Day 2017, for which students will design and lead the event and measure and report greenhouse gas mitigation and waste diversion.
- The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) Environmental Center and the Green Sports Alliance (GSA). Building off of CU Boulder’s commitment to maintain a 100% water-balanced, water-consumption goal for its athletics program, CU Boulder and GSA are partnering on the launch of a new College Sports Water Resiliency Challenge. The Challenge invites college presidents, chancellors, and athletic directors to pledge ambitious water-resilience goals for their campus sports programs. Modeled after successful programs in the Pac-12 Conference, the Challenge focuses on: conserving and reducing water use in athletics facilities and on sports fields through smart-water infrastructure and management practices; partnering with communities in reducing water use; and partnering with students, non-governmental organizations, and companies through Change the Course on restoring rivers, wetlands, or groundwater ecosystems to enhance climate resilience.
- U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). USTA is launching its first-ever environmental messaging campaign targeted at its more than 700,000 individual members and more than 7,800 organizational members across the United States and culminating at the 2017 US Open. The campaign will integrate the environmentally conscious work being done at the US Open Tennis Championships, as well as at its new USTA National Campus, with practical advice to USTA members on what they can do to help lessen their environmental impact throughout the year. Elements of the campaign will include environmental tips, education on the impact of everyday activities, and engagement of USTA’s executives and athletes to provide similar messaging at the grassroots level of the organization.