US Tennis Association Serves Up Green

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced Monday, during the opening of the US Open, that it would be making efforts to initiate long-term environmentally sustainable projects to reduce it’s carbon footprint at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (NTC) in New York.  Environmental consultants Environmental Resource Management assisted in the plans to green up the center, which include energy efficiency and management, green outreach to fans, increased recycling, environmentally-sustainable product sourcing, and more efficient transportation.

“Big-time sporting events provide a unique platform to educate fans on green initiatives, and we feel that the best way we can educate is to lead by example,” said Arlen Kantarian, Chief Executive Officer, Pro Tennis, USTA. “We have a plan that will lessen the environmental impact of the event and heighten the environmental awareness of those who attend it.”

Constellation Energy will provide wind credits through Green-E to offset the entire amount of electricity used during the US Open. US Tennis has partnered with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to give away wallet-sized cards with green living tips at the US Open.  The NTC will have convenient plastic and aluminum recycling for spectators and players.  And napkins and other paper products at the tournament will be made from between 30 and 90% post-consumer waste.

Among the tennis-themed efforts, all tennis ball cans will be recycled, and all used balls will be donated to youth tennis programs in the area after use at the National Tennis Center.  Tennis stars such as Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, and Bob and Mike Bryan will film public service announcements urging fans and spectators to go green.  Shopping bags at the US Tennis souvenir store will be reusable, souvenir-style bags.

That the Bille Jean King NTC was chosen as the flagship site for sustainability is no surprise.  King herself is the founder of Green Slam, an organization dedicated to increading sustainability efforts at sports venues and sports equipment manufacturers.

These efforts are a good start, but there are few steps that reek of greenwashing.  Personally, the whole bottled water recycling efforts being sponsored by Evian bothers me.  What about getting rid of bottled water altogether?  Seriously.  Are fans (or athletes, for that matter) too good to drink out of Nalgenes?  This could be an opportunity for some real innovation in greener sports-venue hydration.  Second, transportation is provided by Lexus, and only 20% of the fleet will be hybrids.  Lexus hybrids are some of the least-efficient hybrids on the roads.  This is hardly significant energy savings.  However, it’s important that efforts are being made, and I’d be interested to find out more about how the USTA plans to up the ante at future Opens.

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