Our Daily Dread: Feeling earthy, doing something about it

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WePlayGreen.org VP of corporate development Jennifer Corace is joined by Jack Cassel and Chris Dickerson in handing out company produced recycled canvas bags at Kevin Costner’s Super Bowl party last January in Tampa, Fla.

The path that led us to tracking down Cincinnati Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson for a story today (linked here) on his eco-friendly project WePlayGreen.org (linked here) started with a call out of the blue to the Tucson, Ariz.-based Global Sports Alliance USA (linked here).

It was an organization that I came across in trying to figure out what was being done sports-related for Earth Day — especially in Southern California, where surfers are concerned daily with the water quality, skiiers are concerned with global warming and golfers should be more concerned about courses that use reclaimed water and pesticides that could be counterproductive to the liveihood of a playing surface. Any sport played outdoors is much more earth conscious, but the fact that indoor facilities can do just as much work with recycled cooking oils, low-flow toilets and recycled napkins and corn-based cups and plates is just as necessary to talk about.

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The first person I ended up talking to at the non-profit GSA-USA, the year-old offshoot of the 10-year-old Global Sports Alliance based in Japan (linked here) was organization president Jane Poynter (pictured here, linked here), whose background in developing technologies for extreme environment led to her being part of a Biosphere 2 experiment — living two years sealed up in the artificial world (bio linked here).

She explained the mission statement of GSA-USA: “We are trying to use the appeal of sports to mobilize action and aweness in the environment. It’s really grass-roots, primarily volunteerism, working with community leaders spread out across the country.”

From the membership organization chart, all who participate as an “ecoplayer” is part of a team led by a team leader. In Los Angeles, that title belongs to a martial arts enthusiast, Shin Muroi, but Poynter points out that Southern California is in need of more volunteers in an effort to get the message out about this coalition.

Sports, Poynter says, is a perfect starting point to put issues of global caretaking on the front burner.

“I don’t know a single person who isn’t interested in some sports of some kind, no matter what background or ability,” she said. “So that’s a great entryway. The other thing about sports is that people need a clean environment to have a healthy experience. The two go hand in hand. They should be intrinsically connected.

“With billions of people around the world excited about sports, there’s a fantastic platform in which you are able to talk to people. You can also get high-profile athletes involved who can make a statement to their fans and make them pay attention.”

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As an example, Poynter explained how she was in the process of writing a book, supported by the United Nations, called “Champions for Change,” about athletes who are socially conscious — snowboarder/skateboarder Shawn White, for example. World champion freeskieer Alison Gannett (linked here), who is a global cooling consultant dedicated to climate change solutions. Then there’s women’s soccer team member and Stanford grad Natalie Spilger came up with an inspiring idea called greenlaces.org, which are made of 100 percent post consumer recycled plastic. There’s also Lewis Pugh (linked here), an ocean swimmer based in England who has swam across the North Pole. Which, you really should not be able to do, but the fact there is so much polar ice cap melt, his feat was to prove a point.

That led to a discussion of Dickerson, whom Poynter found by her own research of those athletes doing more than just talking the talk.

“Here’s another athlete moved by what’s going on in his own environment, enough to start their own non-profit,” she said. “That’s pretty cool. He grew up in California, out on the beach, and was devastated by the amount of trash. He was sidetracked a bit by his career, but he found a way to incorporate it with playing baseball.

“Doing the research for this book and finding athletes who take to heart this cause, you have to include baseball. It’s so American.”

Sports also lends itself to more environmentally-minded folk because of the idea of “with sports, comes the idea of being a good sportsman and sportsmanship,” said Poynter. “Although not everyone is a good sportsman, the concept itself has not been corrupted. We all know what it means in some sense. It means fair play, honesty, strong values, playing on a team in some cases. Along with that, we’re saying it doesn’t make sense if we don’t leave a ballfield in a better condition than how we found it.

“We’re trying to expand the definition of sportsmanship to include ‘care for the environment.’ We are loooking for people to expand on what they’re already doing in sports, whether they’re a surfer or a cyclist or anyone who participates in outdoor or indoor events. They can take from the resources we have and use them. That’s ultimately what we’re after. And that will spill over not just into other sports, but into people’s life away from sports.”

And by the way ….

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As you were watching the Lakers-Jazz game last night, the Angels had a “Green Day” at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night during their game with Detroit that featured giveaways made of recycled materials, vendors showcasing environmentally responsible products and services, as well as the collection of recyclable bottles and cans during the sixth and eighth innings. Ever fan got an Angels banner made of recycled materials. Fans who brought a recyclable item received a free gift — Angels tickets, movie passes, etc.

“Besides putting a winning team on the field, Angels baseball is also committed to having a winning team off the field,” said Angels President Dennis Kuhl. “And that means making a commitment to our community by promoting environmentally-safe practices within the family-friendly setting of Angel Stadium. For the last couple of years we have been working closely with our facility personnel, food service and merchandising partners to utilize environmentally friendly products and services throughout the ballpark. Green Day is one more way the Angels can promote greater awareness and support for the standards of environmental stewardship.”

Last Saturday, the Angels also had its first Electronic Waste Recycle Drive for old TVs, computer monitors, laptops and cellphones. The team also gave away 400 tickets to last night’s game for those who dropped things off. All proceeds from the recycling benefitted the Angels Baseball Foundation.

So…. no more stories about the rats-in-the-trash problem they’ve had at the Big A, OK?

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  • http://www.fairtradesports.com christinacottingham

    It’s great that professional athletes like Chris Dickerson are getting involved and bringing awareness to fans of the importance of saving the environment. We’ve recently brought an eco-certified line of sports balls (basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, and more) to market that are certified Fair Trade too. Please stop by our blog at http://www.fairtradesports.com if you are interested in learning more about what we do.

    Christina Cottingham
    Email: christina@fairtradesports.com
    Blog: http://www.fairtradesports.com
    Fair Trade Sports
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