The National Hockey League has been running its second annual #NHLGreen Week campaign all this week, beginning on the 11th of March and culminating this Friday, the 17th, on St. Patrick's Day, the greenest day of the year! The campaign strives to highlight the large carbon footprint of professional sports and features events, action plans and key information on how the NHL is fighting to reduce their own and that of their fans. With environmental issues more and more at the forefront of political and social movements, the NHL's actions are a beacon of reminder to all that there are indeed many ways we can work to reduce our own impact on the planet and, moreover, a hopeful starting point for other professional sports leagues and organizations to consider their actions as well.
On its face, hockey is arguably the best sport to advocate for the environment - it was born on the lakes and ponds of Europe and North America, where people came together to compete as friends and communities, eventually growing into the global sensation that it is today. Olympics, international and national and all the way down to community leagues, all hockey stems from the same birthplace: the pond! How many of us have built slapdash rinks in our backyards each winter so that we can invite friends and family out to play with us? How many people have sought refuge in their favourite team during the dreary, seemingly never ending winters? It's a safe bet that it's the majority. Without the bounty and abundance of the natural world, our game would be nothing, and in that realization, the preservation of that bounty and abundance becomes a starkly clear priority.
To this end, the NHL has taken drastic steps to reduce the environmental footprint of its business. Anyone who's ever been to a game, seen the sheer amount of people converging on the rink, can attest to the impact even one game can have. From the staggering amount of electricity used to light the arena, the CO2 and other carbon emissions of the thousands of cars to the weight of trash from the concessions, every aspect of the production can be scrutinized and improved upon, and that's exactly what the league has done. Starting with the release of an official NHL Sustainability Report in 2014, steps have been taken to reduce the environmental harm of the game.
Here's NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talking about the importance of the initiative itself and spreading the word.
Some of the steps the NHL has taken thus far include:
1) Restoring more than 70 million gallons of fresh water to North American streams and rivers in partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
2) Counterbalancing environmental impacts through renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets for three straight years.
3) Recovering one hundred tons of prepared but untouched food annually by clubs league-wide and donating it to help feed people rather than landfills.
4) Aiming to offset 126,000 metric tons of C02 emissions from landfill, composting and forestry projects for the 2016-2017 season alone.
The most important thing the league has done, arguably, is in actually issuing the sustainability report itself, opening it's doors to public scrutiny and accountability as it moves forward. Perfection is impossible, but the pursuit of perfection is what sports is all about and in directly addressing the issue at hand and saying, "this is how we're trying to improve," the NHL is not only working to do their part, but setting an example for major professional sports as a whole for how best to move forward and address a very serious issue.