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Professional Sports VS. Climate Change

Fantasy footballers across the country were crossing their fingers in 2015, hoping they would draft Tom Brady, JJ Watt, Eli Manning, DeSean Jackson, or Muhammad Wilkerson. Did you know that 100% of these prolific players play under roofs that are powered by the sun? So, why is it that only 10% of sports fans consume renewable energy, less than 1% drive a hybrid or electric vehicle and less than 1% power their home turf with solar panels?

In a world where political partisanship is barring major climate policy, professional sports are paving the way for mass adoption of a “green” lifestyle.

The first major sustainability agenda came from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where the Olympic village became the world’s largest solar powered suburb and the games recycled upwards of 60% of all waste. The idea quickly spread when GMs and CFOs realized that minimizing a stadium’s carbon footprint didn’t just save the planet, it saved their wallet. American Airlines Arena (home to the Miami Heat), saved $1.6 Million in one year alone and attracted $1 Million more in “green” sponsors. Today, 28 stadiums use renewable energy, 20 are LEED certified and nearly all 154 professional sports teams in America are committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

The trend is even setting at the athlete level. Professional winter athletes, including many gold medal Olympians like Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark and Maddie Bowman have championed the “Protect Our Winter” movement; uniting professional athletes against climate change. Leilani Munter, named one of the top 10 female racecar drivers in the world by Sports Illustrated, uses her racecar to advertise causes she supports and is encouraging the racing industry to adopt cleaner fuels.

The potential impact the sports industry could have on climate change does not lie in offsetting their carbon emissions. In fact, professional sports are calculated to only create 2% of all the carbon emissions in the US. However, they can make a huge impact on the owners of one of the largest carbon footprints in the country: sports fans.

With sports deeply entrenched in the American soul, it is inevitable that athletes and sports franchises stand to be influential role models. Professional sports have created trends across the board: from Air Jordans to fighting domestic violence. However, sports fans still emit 3.8 billion tons of carbon annually, so why haven’t they followed in their heroes footsteps?

“They don’t know how easy it is” says Jeff Wolfe, President, TerraPass. Companies like TerraPass and the Green Sports Alliance have been working with sports franchises for the past few years to aid in reducing and offsetting their carbon footprints. “Franchises have been working to make themselves greener with solar panels, efficient light bulbs and recycling, but that cannot offset their entire footprint, and that is where we come in” says Wolfe. “The purchase of offsets, WRC®s and RECs are a way to financially support renewable energy and other environmentally sustainably projects, thereby mitigating part (or all) of your carbon footprint.”

If every American sports fan merely switched to LED light bulbs, 97 million tons of C02 would be avoided and $19 billon would be saved. There are other ways to join the team (if you prefer to maintain your current lifestyle). TerraPass is a sustainability partner for this year’s biggest game and is providing fans the opportunity to neutralize their carbon footprint through carbon offsets. Fans can make a pledge starting at $2 (or 240 miles worth of driving). The average American home could offset their entire carbon footprint for just $200 a year.

As Shoeless Joe Jackson once said, “If you build it, they will come.” Professional sports have built a fight against climate change, now it is time for you to come.

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