Published in Private Colleges and University Magazine

Do you know how much water is used every time your school has a major baseball or football event?  Likely if you search the records, you can get an idea and while it will probably be a considerable amount, it’s nothing like the amount of water – and other consumables such as energy, fuel, waste generation, etc. – used at a large sports facility.

Just to give you an idea of the amount of water that might be used at a large sporting event, let’s use Petco Park in San Diego as an example. Home to the San Diego Padres, Petco Park used 704,616 gallons of water just from March 3th, 2015 to April 1, 2015.  That averages out to about 24,000 gallons of water per day and because California was on the fourth year of a very serious drought when these amounts were recorded, this was even after measures had been taken to reduce water consumption.

Oh, and by the way that 704,616 gallons of water – just for that 27 day period – cost Petco Park $7,800.  At this rate, they are likely using more than eight million gallons of water per year which would be costing them somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 annually.*

If we were to take a look at the amount of energy this and similar large sporting venues consume each year, the amount of waste they generate, the amount of fuel used – resulting in greenhouse gasses – to deliver goods and supplies to the park, the numbers would likely be just as staggering…staggering and very simply no longer sustainable.

This is why, about six years ago, Paul G. Allen, one of the co-founders of Microsoft and owner of two sports teams, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks decided it was time to start “greening” the professional sports industry.  His ownership of these two teams allowed him to see firsthand the environmental impact of large sports venues and through his efforts, the Green Sports Alliance was born.

The Green Sports Alliance not only set out to find ways to reduce this consumption and to use things like water, fuel, and energy more efficiently, it also set out to develop “practices and solutions”  according to the organizations website, to help find ways to address these challenges in cost-competitive and innovative ways.  Their key focus is to inspire sports leagues, teams, and venues to embrace renewable energy, healthy foods, recycling, water efficiency, and other practices that protect the environment and natural resources.

And we should note that the Green Sports Alliance is not just focused on more efficient ways to use natural resources.  The organization also wants large sporting venues to find other ways to green their facilities starting with the cleaning.  For this, the Greener Cleaning Handbook was created by Stephen Ashkin, often referred to as the “founder of Green Cleaning” and president of The Ashkin Group, a Green Cleaning advocacy organization. The handbook, which is freely available to all organizations including schools and universities, offers instruction and advice to help the managers of sports venues implement Green Cleaning strategies.

The Influence of Professional Sports

What would happen if Petco Park announced they had cut their water consumption by 30 percent?  Or if they posted signs indicating the park now uses 40 percent less energy today it used five years ago.  And what if they also posted signs that to protect the health of their patrons, only green-certified cleaning products were used to clean the entire facility?

Do you think Padres fans would take notice?  Do you think these fans would be appreciative of these steps?  Would these steps influence these thousands of fans to become more consumption focused in their own personal and business lives?

The answer to these questions is yes, yes, and yes.  We know this for many reasons starting with its size. The professional sports industry is the 14th largest industry in the U.S. and is expected to be valued at more than $73 billion by 2019.  It is estimated that nearly 60 percent of Americans identify with a professional sports team; 76 percent of upper income men are sports fans; and that many Americans even choose where they live based on the local sports team or sports environment.**

That translates into influential power.

But we also know this from history, according to Ashkin because of the acts and deeds of some of the most iconic, inspirational, and influential people in professional sports. “Most of us know that Jackie Robinson helped brake the color barrier in professional baseball and that Billie Jean King propelled pay equity for women’s sports.  And many historians now believe it was Mohammad Ali that helped mobilize opposition to the Vietnam War when he said, in 1966, ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.’”

We could say today that the influence of professional sports is even stronger. One of the results of the Internet and more specifically social media is that professional sports has been able to transcend countries and politics, socioeconomic and religious barriers, and unite people around the glove in all walks of life. This was not possible fifteen or twenty years ago.

Impact on Your Students

The young people attending private schools, millennials as well as the upcoming Generation Z, don’t conform to the older generations.  For instance they are not as interested in just “getting a job” to get by as were previous generations. Instead they are keenly focused on what the job entails and if it will prove rewarding.  But even more, they are very focused on the values of their potential employer, especially when it comes to green and sustainable issues.

And this is where you come in. According to Ashkin, these young people want the schools and universities they attend to reflect these same values they have. “And with the ‘greening’ of professional sports, we can expect Green and sustainable issues to become even more important and compelling issues for these generations.”

Public schools do not have to change as quickly to address the changing views of future generations.  Many, just by the way they are organized and administered, are like large ships in the ocean and changing directions can be a very slow and tedious process.

“But private schools are in the business of providing a quality education and often a better education than that available in some public schools,” says Ashkin.  “And because they are a business, they must stay nimble and make changes quickly and as necessary to attract upcoming generations. As the professional sports industry goes Green, these students will make Green and sustainable issues even more important than ever before.”


Sidebar: Facts about the Green Sports Alliance

Started: 2010

Number of Alliance members: more than 300 sports teams and venues

Number of sports leagues involved: 20

Number of countries where teams or venues are members of the Alliance: 14


*The park was reluctant to provide this information; it was obtained by a local television station using a public records request and released because 70 percent of the park is owned by the city of San Diego.

**Based on Gallup Poll surveys starting in 2000.


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