Apr 27, 2012

For the Love of Sport

I love sport.  When I’m not working with our Focus the Nation partners or helping to guide F2A projects, I’m usually breaking a sweat or cheering on one of my beloved teams (Go Timbers!). So when Sasha told me that the University of Oregon F2A team wanted to concentrate on sports and energy, I was thrilled.


The University of Oregon (UO) athletic program has a long history of excellence and is located in a city that is affectionately nick-named “Track Town, USA.” UO is also a leader in sustainability and noted for its environmental initiatives.  So where do these overlap?  How can the UO apply its success in sustainability with its excellence in sport?  And why does it matter? 
Luckily, Focus Coordinators James Walton and Weston Cooper were not pondering these questions alone.  The Green Sports Alliance is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help sports teams, venues, and leagues enhance their environmental performance.  GSA was founded in 2010 and has already reached 13 leagues and over 90 venues and teams.  With the help of GSA and the UO Athletic Department, the UO F2A team made a clear case for incorporating sustainability and sports at the collegiate level at last night’s “Focus the Nation Sports and Sustainability Summit.” 
“Without a clean environment, athletic achievements are hindered,” Walton’s opening words that would resonate throughout the forum.  Sporting events are a major part of the University’s culture, but are also a major impact on their carbon footprint.  Stadium lights.  Water bottles.  Beverage containers.  Scoreboards.  Televisions.  Loudspeakers.  Refreshments.  Transportation.  These quickly add up in the course of a 4-hour game, or 3 day Olympic Track Trial.  But with 58% of people paying attention to sports, and only 18% to science, these events also represent a great opportunity to change citizen behaviors.  
The UO Athletic Department takes sustainability seriously and has conducted a full sustainability report of their current operations.  They know where they are improving, and they know where they need to make improvements.  Now they just need the creativity to generate solutions.  Which is where the innovative, dynamic students come in.  How can we change behavior and reduce the energy consumption of sports operations without impacting the sporting experience?  It’s a big challenge, but as GSA Executive Director Martin Tull remarked in his keynote last night, the energy and problem-solving creativity of the UO students is inspiring.  
The power of sport has overcome discrimination, broken stereotypes, and united countries.  Solving our energy crisis?  This may well become sport’s next accomplishment.

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