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Red Sox, Chiefs Among 20 Pro Teams Joining Green Sports Alliance

The Green Sports Alliance, formed barely four months ago to up the green game of major league sports, has quadrupled in size with 20 pro teams, 19 venues and more joining the coalition.

The nonprofit group named several of the new teams and venues yesterday that have been added to its roster. It also announced that at least three of the six U.S. professional sports leagues have signed on to the Green Sports Alliance; the specific leagues that joined will be disclosed later this summer.

The alliance is focused on reducing the environmental impact of pro sports, its venues and operations, and getting fans to join the effort. The group wants to build upon and accelerate progress made by leading teams to manage waste and increase recycling at sports events, make facilities more energy efficient and engage the millions who attend and watch games.

As work by teams has shown, the results of popularizing green themes can be impressive. AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, now recycles more than 75 percent of its waste. As the first MLB team to install a solar installation, it has avoided more than 180,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by tapping renewable energy. Lighting retrofits have cut energy use by more than 171,000 kilowatt hours.

The Green Sports Alliance launched in March with the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Storm, Portland Trail Blazers, Vancouver Canucks and their home venues -- Safeco Field, Century Link Field and Event Center, Key Arena at Seattle Center, the Rose Garden and Rogers Arena -- as founding members. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Bonneville Environmental Foundation joined the founders as key environmental partners in the coalition.

The coalition is an outgrowth of the NRDC's work with pro sports leagues and teams over the past seven years. In creating the group, the founders and their partners acknowledged the vast cultural influence of sports, teams and athletes -- and announced their intention to harness that power to drive public awareness and action on sustainability. “Outside of the family, the most influential cultural role models in our society are athletes and entertainers,” NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz told GreenBiz when the alliance was established.

By taking the coalition approach, sports leagues are following the lead of many other multibillion dollar industries --  from apparel companies to cement-makers -- beginning to address environmental issues. 

The impacts go well beyond the ballpark or football field. Sports teams, players and their venues are heavily sponsored by global brands whose logos are emblazoned on everything from players' uniforms to the stadiums. Those companies are eager to capture the attention of the huge audiences that attend games, watch their broadcasts or listen to them on the radio. Association with positive messaging around green themes also benefits the firms.

NRDC's goal in working with industries that help shape culture -- be it sports, country music or the Grammys -- is even broader. "We're interested in influencing the supply chain for all those industries," Hershkowitz said today. "Our target is to get to the supply chain of professional sports."

The new members of the group, which include two universities, include:

• Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park
• Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Clinic Courts and Lake Erie Monsters, Quicken Loans Arena
• Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
• Detroit Lions, Ford Field
• Florida Marlins
• Kansas City Chiefs, Kauffman Stadium
• Minnesota Twins, Target Field
• Philadelphia Flyers, Wells Fargo Center
• San Diego Padres, PETCO Park
• Seattle Thunderbirds, ShoWare Center
• St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium
• Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Pete Times Forum
• Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field
• Washington Stealth, Everett Silvertips, Comcast Arena
• Arizona State University
• University of Washington

The three leagues and the other new teams and venues that have joined the alliance will be named later when details related to some of the new members are fleshed out.

All six of the major pro leagues in North America -- MLB, NFL, MLS, WNBA, NHL, NBA -- provided statements of endorsement when the alliance formed. Green Sports Alliance Executive Director Martin Tull declined to indicate which three of the six have joined and said a follow-up announcement is expected soon.

The coalition also announced on Wednesday plans to hold the first green summit on environmental responsibility and pro sports in North America. The three-day gathering next month in Portland, Ore., is expected to draw team executives, league officials, operations directors from leading ballparks, stadiums and arenas, sponsors, and sustainability professionals.

"We're bringing together constituencies, who don't normally gather on the subject (of environmental performance), to brainstorm and take it from there," said Tull. "We see this as the beginning of a much longer conversation."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user post406.

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