We just returned from the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) Summit and couldn’t be more excited about what we learned. The GSA really delivered this year with their lineup of speakers, the events, and the content. We were able to tour Soldier Field, interact with several industry leaders, and hold meaningful conversations about sustainable business practices and the work we’re doing helping teams reduce their trash to landfills. Though we have a long list of takeaways, here are six reasons why we’re fired up after attending the Summit:

1. Prince Ea’s “Dear Future Generations

Rapper and activist Prince Ea presented to GSA Summit attendees at Soldier Field and all we have to say is, “WOW”. His passion is contagious and we were so inspired by his call-to-action. If you haven’t seen his apology “Dear Future Generations”, stop what you’re doing and have a quick listen.

Prince Ea warned, “If we don’t all work together to save the environment, we will be equally extinct.” He also encouraged us to Stand for Trees and take care of our planet; to stop making excuses and make a change. He boldly stated, “When the rivers are all dried up and trees cut down, man will then realize he will not be able to eat money.”

Shawn Heinrichs also presented at the Soldier Field event alongside Prince Ea, where he revealed the trailer for his new documentary, Racing Extinction. Heinrichs is a marine conservationist, among a slew of other things, and his film exposes the two worlds driving extinction of species. We can’t wait to see it.

2. The focus on women in the industry

The GSA was asked to make women a more integral part of the Summit and they delivered. This year, our very own Della Simpson was chosen as a moderator for the Women, Sports & the Environment Symposium to discuss how women are championing a sustainable future through the use of sports. The session was full of good conversation and we loved the focus on bringing younger individuals on board to help drive sustainable change throughout organizations across the sports industry. While we loved having a session dedicated to the amazing women in this field, we hope that next year, the Women’s Symposium will be an even more integral part of the entire Summit.

3. Disney’s “Environmentality”

On average, Disneyland recycles 81 million sheets of paper per year. That's enough to build a trail from Disneyland Resort to Walt Disney World Resort and back, twice. This was just one of the nuggets Beth Stevens, one of the keynote speakers at the Summit, shared about The Walt Disney Company’s sustainability efforts. She spoke to the fact that sustainability and social responsibility are ingrained in the way Disney does business. We also learned that the company calls their sustainability efforts an “environmentality”, a mindset that roots back to Walt Disney himself. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Disney’s sustainability practices going forward.

4. The stacked lineup of athlete speakers

We loved all of the engagement from athletes at this year's event. Seeing well-known athletes like Andrew Ference from the Edmonton Oilers or Caroline Gleich, a big mountain and powder skier, stand up and speak about sustainability issues was really inspiring. We loved hearing former NFL player Will Witherspoon’s share stories of Shire Gate Farm, his sustainable cattle farm, and Ference’s Carbon Neutral Challenge for his fellow NHL players. We also enjoyed listening to Gleich about her involvement in several organizations driving climate change, including Protect Our Winters, whose mission is to unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change. We believe that the public support and encouragement from athletes across sports arenas, from hockey to skiing, racing and surfing, will help our community reach a much more widespread audience, and we couldn’t be more fired up about it.

5. The “Champions of Game Day Food” report

During the Summit, the GSA launched their latest Champions of Game Day Food report. The report highlights 20 stadiums that are adopting sustainable food practices and offering healthier food to fans. This includes suggestions for menu planning, sourcing local fare, using compostable utensils and equipment, and reducing food waste. Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Padres, Cleveland Browns, and Boston Red Sox participated in the study as featured case studies. We love that the GSA is using its leadership to bring together these teams and provide a framework for other venues who are looking to do something similar. We should also mention that the GSA also released their Greener Cleaning Playbook, which highlights sustainable cleaning practices for sports stadiums. We learned that each year, six billion pounds of chemicals are used in the commercial cleaning industry alone. We hope that the GSA’s playbook will help not only the sports industry, but also other commercial organizations, adopt more sustainable cleaning practices.

6. The Yankees hitting one out of the park

(Image courtesy of Danny Wild)

Though announced in early June, we were excited to see Doug Behar and the Yankees presented with the GSA Environmental Leadership Award at the Summit. They have done amazing work green initiatives at Yankee Stadium, including neutralizing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their natural gas consumption, committing to 100% recycled paper products and eliminating paper operations and maintenance manuals, and diverting roughly 80% of trash to landfills through their recycling and composting program. We were thrilled to see their efforts recognized with the award. Congrats, Yankees!

Thanks for a great summit, GSA. We are already looking forward to next year's event!

Image: Flickr/Green Sports Alliance