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Alice Henly’s Blog

College Sports Follow the Lead of NHL Green

Alice Henly

Posted November 4, 2013

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The NHL has one of the strongest environmental programs of any sports organization worldwide, and its uniquely powerful cultural influence provides much-needed business leadership in ecologically sustainable practices. 

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NHL Green’s many environment-related accomplishments to date include:

These programs indicate the League’s embrace of greener energy, water, waste, and procurement practices, while engaging fans and helping to improve the environments of NHL communities across North America. The NHL’s leading work in sports greening has earned recognition by the U.S. EPA, Beyond Sport, and Communitas Awards.

The NHL’s commitment to environmental stewardship offers a strong model not only for professional sports greening efforts, but also the growing collegiate sports greening movement as well. More and more college sports are adopting greener practices and educating millions of college sports fans about the importance of protecting the natural ecosystems we enjoy and rely on.

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In particular, collegiate hockey rinks across the country are following the NHL’s lead and becoming champions of the sports greening movement. In doing so, they are helping to reduce emissions of global warming pollution, protect habitat, save energy and water, reach millions of fans with environmental messages, and train future business leaders in environmental stewardship.

Below are a few snapshots of environmental accomplishments at college hockey rinks to date, drawn from NRDC’s latest Collegiate Game Changers report:

University of Colorado Boulder: The University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) is building a new Recreation Center to exceed LEED Platinum standards and approach net-zero energy use. The building reuses waste heat from the center’s hockey rink to heat two indoor pools and other areas of the building. This reduces the building’s energy demand and annual operating costs while helping to achieve zero net energy consumption.

Yale Hockey RinkYale University: Yale’s athletics department has pursued a variety of greener initiatives at their Ingalls Rink, home of the 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey National Champions. These efforts include upgrading the entire arena to waterless urinals, installing energy-efficient hand dryers, and pairing recycling and trash receptacles throughout the facility.

Penn State University: Penn State’s new Pegula Ice Arena is expected to consume 18% less energy than an average campus building. Penn State anticipates that the rink will achieve LEED Gold certification thanks to a variety of environmental features.

Bowdoin rink.jpgBowdoin College: In 2006, Bowdoin College’s Watson Arena became the first ice hockey arena in the United States to achieve LEED certification. During construction of the facility, 82% of all construction waste was diverted from landfill, 40% of new building materials came from within 500 miles of the construction site, low-flow water fixtures were installed which reduce water use by 22%, and a reflective roof was added to reduce energy demand.

Williams College: Williams College implemented a range of energy efficiency measures at their hockey rink, based on a student’s senior thesis, to save approximately 230,000 kilowatt-hours annually (cutting the rink’s energy consumption and costs in half). 

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According to the players, the upgrades significantly improved the rink’s air quality, the ice is smoother and more consistent, the building is colder, and the lighting is sharper. Next, Williams Athletics is pursuing LEED green building certifications, onsite solar, and improved waste diversion.

Harvard University: This year, Harvard is replacing their 700-watt arena fixtures with 358-watt LED fixtures at their hockey rink, basketball court, track and field facility, and weights center. This lighting upgrade of more than 150 fixtures is estimated to save the athletics department 256,357 kilowatt-hours and more than $32,000 annually. 

As observed by Alexander Wolff in his Sports Illustrated article “Going, Going Green,” ecological threats are already transforming when, where, and how we play sports. “As global warming changes the planet, it is changing the sports world.... Global warming is not coming; it is here. As temperatures around the globe increase, oceans are warming, fields are drying up, snow is melting, more rain is falling, and sea levels are rising. All of which is changing the way we play and the sports we watch.”

The NHL continues to be a vital environmental role model in the U.S. and Canada, raising the level of environmental awareness among millions of sports fans and many young hockey players.

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Today, both professional and collegiate sports industry leaders are enhancing how business is done and helping to expand students’ expectations about sustainability. This is helping to shift the environmental movement from scientific discussions of climate change or biodiversity loss to mainstream conversations about the future of our energy, food, and medical systems.

Learn more about the NRDC Sports Project at and @NRDCGreenSports. Download NRDC’s Collegiate Game Changers report for more information on the burgeoning college sports greening movement.

This blog was originally published on NHL Green's Slapshots blog at  


(Photos courtesy of Yale University, University of Minnesota, Bowdoin College, and Williams College.)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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