ESPN is committed to “Making Every Day Earth Day,” and a big part of that comes from our work with the Green Sports Alliance. Front Row sat down with Green Sports Alliance Co-Founder & President Allen Hershkowitz — named to the 2015 Sports Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential People in Sports list — to learn how sports is driving environmental responsibility.
Tell us about the Green Sports Alliance.
Green Sports Alliance (GSA) is an international coalition of teams, venues and leagues that use the power of sports to advance environmental stewardship. We do this through three strategies: One is looking at operational practices of teams, venues and events. Second, we focus on the supply chain — everything from the textiles of jerseys to packaging of the equipment. And third, we try to engage fans to help spread awareness about urgent ecological issues and ultimately teach them ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
Sports is not political and neither are we. Rather than lobbying for change, we leverage the cultural influence of sports to advance ecologically better practices. We also seek ways to help the sports industry find cost-competitive options to save expenses on water, waste and energy.
How does GSA support ESPN in its sustainability efforts?
First, let me say that being able to work with ESPN is a privilege. Together, we’re identifying ways during major company events that we can leave a community even better than when we had arrived. So we partner with ESPN Corporate Citizenship to reduce our energy, water and waste at events including College GameDay, X Games and the ESPYS.
– Allen Hershkowitz
We do this by enhancing waste diversion efforts like composting and recycling, donating leftover food to local charities, driving environmentally conscious products and using renewable resources for our power supply.
ESPN doesn’t have a big environmental footprint, but what’s so compelling to us is the company’s reach. When Production operates in a responsible fashion it sends a message to other networks, and eventually fans as well. Green operations at ESPN events also help influence suppliers, such as requiring low VOC [Volatile Organic Compound] paint or making sure the pizza boxes get recycled. Little things like this lead to big effects when they’re done week after week.
What role can sports play in helping the environment?
Sports is one of the most influential platforms available to drive home “green messaging” — in fact, while only 16 percent of Americans have an affinity to follow science, 71 percent follow sports. So there’s a huge potential for people to learn about the environment through sports platforms.
For example, if a fan goes to a game and sees the recycling receptacles or solar panels, it sends a message from a trusted source that environmental responsibility is important. So the next time you go to a baseball game or watch the US Open, notice their extensive green efforts — it’s amazing how far we’ve come as an industry.