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August 27, 2014

“Green Athletes” unite for different kind of sport

This summer, Waste Management participated at the Green Sports Alliance Summit, which for four years has promoted sustainable best practices among facility managers and marked the victories taking place during our favorite pastimes. Over the course of three days we celebrated venues like CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, where, during a championship season, fans helped achieve a 90 percent diversion rate—that is, material that is not sent to the landfill. Then there was Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, where thanks to proactive planning and teamwork, employees implemented award-winning programs around recycling, energy efficiency and water conservation. It was also an opportunity for us to share our own experiences with the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where for two years in a row we achieved zero waste status, at the highest-attended tournament on the PGA TOUR (more than 500,000 fans this year).

The summit is a terrific occasion for like-minded professionals to swap ideas, stories and goals on how sporting venues can be more sustainable. And in order to help spur those conversations, my team did something a little different for this year’s event. At our booth, stationed around all sorts of activities, we posed a series of questions to attendees and broadcasted their answers at the event and online. Participation was solid and the feedback very positive. That’s because people we spoke with (and Instagrammed) were excited, and not just about what they were doing for their teams, but what lay ahead.

For my part, I tried to communicate the approach we take at Waste Management to reach these goals. And while the approach we advocate is simple to describe, it’s typically not easy to execute. It starts by first knowing your goals and then developing a strategy that helps you meet those aspirations. It involves taking programs beyond recycling – to working with vendors to reduce unnecessary items before they ever have a chance to become waste. It includes finding the right balance between what’s right for the environment and what’s economical for the bottom line.

Thanks to the Green Sports Alliance for organizing this event. We look forward to becoming more involved next year, and in the years to come, as more teams commit to sustainable practices and more people embrace the title of Sustainable Athlete.