There are few things that people follow as closely as professional sports. It is thus not surprising that teams and players frequently dominate news cycles either for their athletic achievements or (perhaps more frequently) their scandals. DeflateGate, Lance Armstrong’s doping, sexism at the Indian Wells tournament; all are closely followed and remembered long after their resolution.
A group of teams and athletes are getting together to try to harness that spotlight for good. The Green Sports Alliance (GSA), founded in 2010 and based in the Pacific Northwest, is striving to bring sustainability to professional sports. Since its inception, it has been slowly but steadily collecting participants and is now at over 150 teams and 160 venues.
More directly, the GSA is trying to use the popularity of sports as a platform to bring greater public awareness to environmental issues, while simultaneously lessening the impact of sporting events on the environment. The latter issue in particular — one that has been largely ignored up until now—is gaining momentum across the sports world. The NHL, for example, disclosed its carbon footprint in 2014 and purchased carbon offsets to cover the emissions for the subsequent season.
The GSA certainly is not flawless or the silver bullet solution that will give environmental issues the publicity they need and deserve (as discussed at length in a recent Pacific Standard article). But the more advocates the better — particularly high profile ones—and the more sustainable actions the better — particularly ones in locations with notably high carbon footprints.
We should of course disclose certain conflicting interests in encouraging the GSA: the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners and Storm are all founding members. It is a natural marriage; Seattle is a city of folks passionate about the environment and one with famed relationships with its sports teams.
As much as we commend the teams’ contributions to reducing emissions, however, noise pollution is a different matter: we are planning on breaking the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd noise at any stadium for the third time this coming football season.