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White House to Focus on Greening of Sports

Ed Chen

Posted July 16, 2012

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Presidents make a practice of hosting Americans from all walks of life. But few visitors generate more excitement at the White House than sports superstars.

One such gathering occurred on March 30, 2001, when President George W. Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, presided over an East Room celebration of the careers of some 60 Major League Baseball Hall of Famers.

On Thursday, another exciting sports-related event will take place within the White House complex. It won’t have the star-power of Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan. But it will be more meaningful.

It’s a half-day conference to spotlight the sports industry’s innovative successes in embracing sustainable practices—practices that demonstrate the huge economic and environmental benefits of going green. The four-hour event, hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will include panel discussions featuring people who have great stories to tell.

This is a movement near and dear to NRDC.

We played a major role in launching it.

Nearly a decade ago, NRDC Trustee Robert Redford and senior NRDC scientist Allen Hershkowitz (and now also director of our Sports Greening Project) recognized that greening sports facilities would be a high-profile way to raise public awareness of how easy and beneficial it is to use energy more efficiently--much more efficiently.

NRDC soon found receptive ears among the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles, and we were off and running.

Since then, big sporting events that have gone green include the NBA Finals, NHL’s Winter Classic, the NCAA Final Four, Major League Soccer, and the U.S. Open tennis championship. Most recently it was Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in Kansas City on Wednesday.

(By the way, it isn’t just sporting events that we have helped green. NRDC also played a key role in greening the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2010. And we oversee the greening of the Academy Awards, the Grammys and more than 40 Broadway theaters.)

In the run-up to these events, organizers team up with our experts to examine all purchasing decisions, transportation choices, energy use and waste management policies--searching relentlessly for ways to reduce their environmental impact in a cost-effective way.

The results are eye-popping. Between 2006 and 2009, for instance, the Seattle Mariners reduced Safeco Field’s use of natural gas by 44 percent and electricity consumption by 17percent, saving over $1 million in just over three years. And since partnering with NRDC in 2008, the U.S. Open each year has recycled 18,000 tennis ball cans and replaced 2.4 million virgin fiber-based napkins with 100percent post-consumer recycled content napkins. And during the NCAA Final Four basketball championship weekend in 2011, officials recycled more than seven tons of paper, bottles and cans; composted 1.5 tons of food waste; and donated unused food to local charities.

As we like to say, no matter what jersey your favorite team wears, there's one color that every fan can root for: green.

To learn more: 

The ‘’Sports and Sustainability’’ Conference begins at 9 a.m.; it will be live-streamed on

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John HarropJul 16 2012 12:31 PM

I am a fan of a soccer club in the UK called Forest Green Rovers - we play in the 5th-level national league below the Premier League where teams like Manchester United.
FGR is an increasingly green club, down to its chairman Dale VInce, who has joined up with Gary Neville (ex Man Utd) to form "Sustainability in Sport".
Interview here:

and more information on FGR here:

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