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Major league sports help overcome barriers to sustainability

Teams offer case studies in green industry possibilities

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 12:45 am | Updated: 1:37 pm, Tue Nov 13, 2012.

LIHU‘E — In looking to get a message out to Americans about the importance of going green, researchers turned to professional sports.

In 2005, actor and greening activist Robert Redford called on the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) to get the message out by working with professional sports leagues in the United States.

“Sports is the ultimate cultural unifier and if you want to change the world, you don’t emphasize how different you are from everyone else,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. “We need to bond through our common connections, not emphasize our differences.”

In a presentation at Kaua‘i Community College Friday afternoon titled, “Overcoming Barriers to Sustainability,” Hershkowitz noted that while only 13 percent of Americans follow science, more than 61 percent identify themselves as sports fans.

“People of all genders, races, religions go to sporting events,” Hershkowitz said to about 50 people on the KCC campus. “We can reach everyone through sports.”

Six years ago, the NRDC started working with major league sports leagues, stadiums and teams to create one of the most visible and influential collaborations in the history of the environmental movement, according to the

NRDC website.

By working with the sporting industry, the NRDC has saved leagues and teams millions of dollars through greening measures, helped 15 stadiums in North America to achieve LEED green building design certificates, worked with sponsors to install numerous onsite photovoltaic systems at both stadiums and training facilities, and developed recycling and composting programs — even changing toilet paper to a product that uses recycled materials and is safer to the environment.

“We want to mimic nature through biomimicry,” Hershkowitz said of what would be an ideal ecological environment, noting that a simple spiderweb is five times stronger than steel, waterproof and noncombustible. “We need to mimic the natural processes of nature.”

Hershkowitz said teams were also donating unsold food leftover from sporting events to help feed the hungry and turning spoiled food into compost, which keeps it from ending up in a landfill where it would create methane.

“Every day, 90 million tons of pollution are emitted in the atmosphere,” Hershkowitz said of pollution overall. “Even stopping all the pollution, you will still have adverse effects for years to come.”

Hershkowitz called on industries to change the way goods and services are produced, noting that the best run and most profitable companies are also the most ecological.

“We need to make our way of thinking intregal to the world. This will make jobs,” he said of leveraging the results of the sporting industry to educate millions of people about possibilities in the green industry.

He said one team set a goal of greening their facility within five years, but accomplished it within two years as the savings quickly mounted.

“There is no one big thing we can do. All we can do is small things and they take time,” Hershkowitz said of trying to tackle what feels like overcoming an overwhelming set of circumstances to becoming green. “If you give yourself 10 years, you’ll accomplish it in five.”

• To learn more how the National Resource Defense Council impacted the greening of major league sports, go to www.NRDC.org/sports to read the entire report online.

• Dr . Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resource Defense Council will again present “Overcoming Barriers to Sustainability” from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday at Kaua‘i Community College, in the OCET building, rooms 106 C & D.

• Laurie Cicotello, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or business@thegardenisland.com

© 2015 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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