Thursday, August 7, 2014

NHL leads the way in going green

Pond hockey + global warming = no fun!
Given my background in Green politics and the environmental movement, it’s not unusual for media to seek my comments on a topical “green” issue. But when CTV tapped me two weeks ago to comment on a new NHL report, I thought they had the wrong person. I have never claimed to be any kind of authority on professional sports, and no-one would mistake me for a hockey superfan!
But this particular report did have relevance for me, and I hope many people pay it heed. Created in line with the Global Reporting Initiative, it features a comprehensive look at the footprint of operations right across the League, including a full carbon inventory.
Many times we see glowing corporate reports highlighting some specific reduction of waste or pollution, but if presented without context, it may simply be a greenwash. Sure, they might have reduced how much waste there is per unit of a particular product, but if overall production is up, then footprint has increased! The media were very curious as to whether I would see this initiative as genuine, or just another corporate greenwash.
The way to know a report is not a greenwash is if they follow these steps. First, they have to undertake a full, enterprise-wide evaluation. Second, they have to commit to specific reduction goals. Finally, they have to periodically re-measure their footprint, report on their progress, and make new commitments going forward. This NHL report does those things, so I am confident that it is a solid and sincere reduction initiative.
The report stems partly from a growing awareness of the negative impact of climate change on the sport of hockey, feeding a desire to be part of the solution instead of the problem. It notes the waning of free outdoor skating for young players, as shorter, milder winters cut deeply into use of frozen ponds and backyard rinks, a problem noticeable here in Barrie. Clean water supplies are also vital for amateur and professional hockey, yet various forms of pollution, as well as climate-related conditions like drought, threaten water sources worldwide.
Surprisingly, flying teams to games isn’t the biggest part of the NHL footprint, although many players address it with carbon offsets. Instead, 80% of emissions come from facilities – stadiums, rinks, and offices. The report lists a number of ways facility managers have used new technology or better practices to reduce garbage, water or energy use, or emissions.
Fan emissions aren’t counted, but you can do your part by carpooling or taking transit to games, or even biking or walking where practical.
I know our Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a big hockey fan – he even wrote the book on it – so I really hope he reads this report and learns two key facts. First, climate change is real, and is already having a negative impact on his beloved sport. Second, many examples in the report prove that rather than harming the bottom line, reducing emissions or using cleaner energy more efficiently cuts costs and increases profitability. It’s past time to roll out these lessons throughout the economy instead of being paralyzed by a fear of spending a few bucks to save many.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "NHL report might score one for climate change awareness" and "NHL report nets one for climate"

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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