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NHL Clubs Celebrated by EPA for Cutting Food Waste and Fighting Poverty

Alice Henly

Posted May 5, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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New York RangersCan you see a connection between professional hockey and fighting hunger? NRDC and the National Hockey League can, not to mention Syd Mandelbaum, founder of the non-profit Rock and Wrap It Up! food recovery program.

Last week four NHL clubs—the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and New York Rangers—were recognized by the U.S. EPA for their impressive contributions to Rock and Wrap It Up!. The EPA honored Rock and Wrap It Up! and the NHL clubs with the New York (Region 2) Environmental Quality Award, the EPA’s highest recognition awarded to the public for environmental protection.

The NHL began partnering with Rock and Wrap It Up! in June 2010, sharing its mission to fight hunger and poverty by collecting unused food after large sporting events, rock concerts and school events then donating it to local food banks and charities.

Since joining the program, the Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres have diverted 14 tons of prepared food from landfills to local food banks and homeless shelters. This food has provided over 21,000 meals for the homeless and destitute, while also cutting landfill emissions by about 102,665 pounds of CO2 equivalent.

“We are the first sports league to join the program,” says Bernadette Mansur, senior vice president of NHL public affairs. “Every one of the 30 NHL clubs in North America now donates to needy shelters, all prepared but untouched food after every game. Many arenas also donate leftover food from all arena events. To date we've distributed 103 tons of food across North America and have provided 163,000 meals to those in need.”

There’s often enough food leftover after a single game to feed hundreds of people. Watch NY Rangers defensemen Brian Boyle and Steve Eminger help feed the hungry after a game by recovering over 300 meals at Madison Square Garden for donation to a local church.

With those impressive league-wide stats it’s no surprise that the EPA has recognized the NHL’s impressive efforts to cut food waste before. In March the EPA also honored the NHL with the Region 5 Environmental Quality Award for the contributions of four clubs in the Midwest—the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. By the close of the 2010-11 NHL regular season the EPA will have recognized 11 clubs in total, less then a year after the league joined the program.

NHL Green

The NHL first decided to partner with Rock and Wrap It Up! in consultation with the NRDC.  “NRDC has been an adviser and true friend to the NHL in our pursuit of the League's greening initiatives,” says Mansur. “We have been involved with the NRDC for over four years and during that time we have made enormous strides as a League, executing consistent, sustainable and successful green initiatives.”

“These accomplishments are very meaningful,” says Allen Hershkowitz, NRDC’s senior scientist in charge of greening sports, “not only because of the impressive on-the-ground changes, but also given the visibility and influence of the organizations involved. Little by little, these accomplishments add up, and send a consistent, environmentally and socially responsible message to the supply chain.” 

NRDC works with all of the major professional sports leagues in the U.S. to find ways to reduce their environmental impact by cutting waste, energy and water use. And it turns out hockey clubs aren’t the only ones involved in Rock and Wrap It Up!. There are also eleven Major League Baseball teams, five National Football League teams, and two National Basketball Association teams all involved in the Sports Wrap! program.  Watch the NY Yankees getting in on the action by redistributing prepared concession food to feed the needy. Who knows, with the NRDC’s guidance the entire NBA or NFL leagues could be next.

Over its 20-year lifetime, the Rock and Wrap It Up! has collected more than 250 million pounds of food, donated to over 43,000 agencies and fed 500 million people across North America. Thanks to their massive commitment at all arenas across the continent, after less than a year the NHL has already made a huge impact in cutting food waste, reducing CO2 emissions at landfills, and feeding the impoverished.

The gauntlet has been thrown, so watch out for the next major sports league to take up the challenge. 

Photo Credit: CS Smith/Flickr

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Comments

Syd MandelbaumMay 12 2011 10:27 AM

Yankees and Mets have been part of us for 6 seasons as are every NY,Philly, Toronto teams along with 60 other teams.

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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 NRDC.org.

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