U.S. and Canada Sports Organizations Offer Varying Green Sports Day Actions

U.S. and Canada Sports Organizations Offer Varying Green Sports Day Actions
December 19, 2022
Posted by:
Shay Strawser


Labor Day vs. Labour Day

A constitutional democracy versus a parliamentary system.

Yes, there are differences between friendly neighbors (neighbours?) the United States and Canada.

Add another one to the list — the way the two countries observe Green Sports Day.

Now, most people, beyond those deeply involved in the Green-Sports movement, do not know that October 6 is Green Sports Day. It had an auspicious launch on that date in 2016 at the Obama White House, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Green Sports Alliance. But beginning with the dawn of the Trump Era in 2017, Green Sports Day largely receded from view.

That began to change in 2021, thanks to some enterprising athletes, entrepreneurs, and academics in Canada who led a youth-targeted climate education program on what became Green Sports Day Canada.

This year, the USA, thanks to the Green Sports Alliance, got back in the Green Sports Day mix while the Canadians worked to build on their 2021 foundation.

GREEN-LIGHTING GREEN SPORTS DAY IN THE USA The Green Sports Alliance (GSA), which helped midwife the birth of Green Sports Day in 2016, was eager energize a re-boot in the United States this October 6 after its five-year hibernation during the Trump Administration and the COVID-19 pandemic.“We want to make Green Sports Day the fall equivalent of Earth Day,” offered Roger McClendon, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The thing is, most people don’t know about it so we encouraged our member teams and their venues to take a number of steps before and especially on October 6 to build awareness and draw attention to many other green actions those teams are taking.”Lighting stadium and arena lights green on Green Sports Day was clearly the highest profile of these actions. The GSA was not sure how many teams and venues would participate since this was a new initiative.“Going into Green Sports Day, we thought maybe 50 or so venues would participate,” shared Shay Strawser, the GSA’s associate manager of communications. “Social media and other outreach helped double that number as 105 venues lit their lights green, including the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Target Center in Minneapolis, and Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium. All of the carbon emissions generated by the lighting were offset by our offset partner, South Pole. Beyond the green lighting, a handful of teams took on-field greening actions.”

Q2 Stadium, home to Austin FC of MLS, bathed itself in green lighting on Green Sports Day 2022 (Photo credit: Austin FC)

The GSA knew that there would be some teams that would not give the green light to lighting their stadiums green on October 6, but would want to participate in Green Sports Day in some way(s). To facilitate this, the organization produced an easy-to-use playbook to help teams and venues across the country (and in other countries) share their environmental- and climate-forward actions with fans, media and other stakeholders.“The playbook included suggestions of specific greening actions teams could announce and/or take on GreenSportsDay,” Strawser noted. “We also provided tips on how to share their Green Sports Day actions on social media and with local traditional media outlets, encouraged teams to join the ‘Play to Zero’ initiative that provides hands-on solutions to help map the journey to net-zero energy, water, and waste, and offered support for on-the-ground activations. The #GreenSportsDay hashtag generated 40,000 impressions on the day and the Philadelphia Eagles and Austin FC of MLS were among the teams that issued press releases about their Green Sports Day.”Growing Green Sports Day’s awareness and impact in 2023 and beyond is a top priority for McClendon and Company.“Our goal is to take Green Sports Day to another level entirely,” McClendon asserted. “To do so, we need to get athletes and corporations involved and so that will be a big priority going forward.”FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STEPS UP TO SUPPORT GREEN SPORTS DAY CANADA IN YEAR 2When a team of academics, athletes and other Green-Sports practitioners got together to develop last year’s first-ever Green Sports Day Canada (GSDC) program, they sought support from the Canadian Government.The Ministry of Heritage and Sport Canada had launched gender equity and ‘safe sport’ programs in recent years; and the planners worked hard to get the the agency’s backing for GSDC 2021. Things were going according to plan until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election for mid-September, which meant that the expected funding largely evaporated.Fortunately, flexibility turned out to be a hallmark of the Green Sports Day Canada braintrust as they shifted from in-person to virtual programming, with highlight being a vibrant, half-day virtual summit.Fast-forward to this year and the planners again to the went to the Canadian Federal Government for funding for Green Sports Day Canada 2022…and beyond.“The difference between Green Sports Day Canada 2021 and 2022 was that the Federal Government was able to take co-ownership of it this time,” said Dr. Madeleine “Maddy” Orr, co-director of the Sport Ecology Group, program director of the Masters in Sustainable Sport Business at the University of Loughborough and one of the driving forces behind Green Sports Day Canada. “The Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Sport helped drive things, which allowed us to move from a piecemeal first year to a more integrated program in 2022. And even more important than that, we can expect to be part of Canada’s National Sport Policy, which will be renewed in February for the next decade, which should have the effect of exponentially growing Green Sports Day Canada’s impact!”This last point is worth a deeper dive. As Dr. Orr explains, “The National Sport Policy governs everything in sports that is publicly funded in Canada. Which is basically the entire sports system, including virtually every university program, every sports club from to the community to elite levels, and the governing bodies.”Circling back to October 6, 2022, the Green Sports Day Canada gang, fresh with some government funding, was able to build upon the foundation set in 2021. According to Seyi (‘SHAY’) Smith, a two-time Olympian¹, an EcoAthletes Champion, founder of Racing To Zero YYC², and a member of the GSDC leadership team, theirs was a three-pronged approach. The first was broadly accelerate the Climate-and-Sports conversation in Canada by “finding more athletes and other sports leaders who are climate curious, and educating them on the good and bad that is happening when it comes to climate and its impacts on sports.” The other two were centered on October 8, 2022:#2: Share what is happening in Green-Sports in Canada on Green Sports Day Canada to as wide an audience as possible. To do this, the organizers hosted two virtual 45-minute panels:

  • ‘From The Front Lines’ featured climate-active Canadian athletes sharing their experiences. “Julie-Anne Staehli, an Olympian at Tokyo 2020 in the 5000m run, talked about the ReRun Project,” Smith offered. “It donates lightly unused shoes from elite runners to local organizations, giving them a second life. Doug Lynch, a retired NHL and European pro hockey player from BC, an EcoAthletes Champion and the founder of Zenkai Sports, an environmentally-friendly performance apparel company, talked about how climate change is impacting athletes now, including the sense that some prospective elite athletes are reluctant to pursue a career in their sport because of the climate concerns around the air travel, apparel and more.”
Julie-Anne Staehli leads the pack (Photo credit: Team Canada)
  • ‘Administrators and Decision Makers’ was designed to show attendees how Green-Sports is working for them. Scott Welch, the executive director of the Loopt Foundation, shared the idea that our clothes, especially athletic apparel, need to turn into a force for good. Kelly Ann Paul, CEO of the Canada Games, told the story of the new, sustainably-built rowing center that was built for the 2022 Games in Niagara Falls. “The rowing center management is striving to operate as close to Net Zero as possible”, noted Smith. And Aurelien Morel of Velo Quebec/Quebec Cycling discussed the organization’s ‘Green Charter’ which works to inject environmental sustainability into every aspect of its operations.

#3: Develop and implement a climate-and-sports focused school engagement program on October 6.Martha McCabe, a swimmer for Canada at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, and founder of Head To Head, an organization dedicated to connecting Canadian Olympians with youth across Canada to impart winning habits on and off the field, and Melissa Humana-Paredes, 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Tokyo 2020 Olympian in beach volleyball, as well as an EcoAthletes Champion, teamed up with other Olympians, including Seyi Smith to lead cleanup projects across Canada for over 3,000 students, from 4th grade and up.

GSB’s Take: Both the Green Sports Alliance in the USA and Green Sports Day team in Canada can be proud of their efforts to generate awareness of and action on Green Sports Day 2022. Both groups would no doubt agree that this year was a starting point and that there is tremendous opportunity to grow the scope and impact of GSD south and north of the border.To do so will require that 1. athletes take a more active role in Green Sports Day efforts in the USA, 2. major local and national media cover the events in both countries, and 3. climate-active corporate sponsors step up to fund in-person and virtual initiatives.If/when this happens, we could be well on the way, as Roger McClendon mentioned, to seeing Green Sports Day become the Earth Day of the Fall.

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