You could say that the NHL is a game changer in the world of sustainability.
You could also say that they have a vested interest in the health of the environment. NHL vice president for corporate social responsibility, Omar Mitchell, said, “We need cold weather; we need fresh water in order to play. Therefore, our game is directly impacted by climate change and freshwater scarcity.”
And, so, the NHL Green was born.
The NHL Green is the league’s mandate to promote their sustainability mission across the league. And, you could spend hours reading about the greening initiatives of each individual NHL team, which is pretty amazing considering how large-scale some of the projects are. Take, for example, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s hydroponic garden or the Minnesota Wild’s youth hockey gear reuse program. These are just the tip of the iceberg for programs across leagues, and it’s pretty clear that the NHL is being taken seriously as a leader in the sustainability space.
You know NHL Green is a big deal when the founder of the Green Sports Alliance says, "NHL Green is one of the most important environmental initiatives being implemented by any organization of any kind in the world.”
We’ve had the pleasure of working with teams like the Lightning and Wild on repurposing their old materials into products (check out the latest - hockey bags made from last year’s Winter Classic banners), which goes to show that they’re considering all sorts of ways to live out the NHL’s sustainability mission, including reuse of old materials.
What’s so incredible about the NHL’s commitment to sustainability is that the entire organization has not only made it a priority, but lives, breathes, and truly believes in the mission. Here are a just a few of the league’s current initiatives that help make them a leader in sustainability across pro sports:
The NHL and Constellation Energy have teamed up for a second year to reduce the league’s environmental footprint. They are working together to help the NHL reduce and offset emissions, promote recycling programs, and encourage fans to get involved.
Andrew Ference - player and self-proclaimed, eco-athlete - can be found on several videos promoting the partnership with Constellation Energy.
In 2012, the NHL Green partnered with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to create the Gallons for Goals program, a pledge to restore 1,000 gallons of water to freshwater rivers and streams for every goal scored during the regular season. To date, the NHL Green has helped restore over 6.5 million gallons of water to a critically dewatered river. Their progress can be tracked in real-time on the NHL Green website.
"Water is in the DNA of the NHL...Many of our players grow up skating on frozen ponds. Freshwater scarcity affects their opportunity to learn and play the game outdoors."
-Bernadette Mansur, Senior Vice President NHL Green and Executive Director of the NHL Foundation
This year, the league celebrated its very first NHL Green Week. From March 12-18, teams across the league discussed what they’re doing to help reduce their environmental impact. This included a talk from NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference about the league’s sustainability mission.
Throughout the week, the league highlighted several initiatives, including the donation of unused food, a commitment to restore 7.5 million gallons of water to the Colorado River, and a plan to bring greening practices to community rinks. Hopefully, this was the first of many NHL Green Weeks to come.
“Our hope is we can use a community rink to actually achieve significant reductions in our environment impact and lowering the cost of the game. That's why these things are not only the right thing to do, but it's also important to us and our business."
The NHL is no stranger to donating unused food and, in turn, diverting food waste from landfills. In 2015, Boston Bruins’ owner, Charlie Jacobs, won the 2015 Environmental Merit Award from the EPA for the work of his team in donating food to over 10,000 people in Boston.
The Bruins partnered with Rock and Wrap it Up! - an organization making waves across the country for partnering with sports teams, concert venues, and more to donate unused food. In total, the Bruins and Rock and Wrap it Up! donated over 16 tons of food. In fact, the NHL asks that all 30 teams donate rather than compost unused food as part of its NHL Green mission.
This year, the NHL All-Star game took place on January 30 in Nashville. Through their partnership with Constellation Energy, the NHL offset all greenhouse gas emissions generated from the game through renewable energy sources. The NHL and Constellation also partnered to offset the emissions generated at the 2016 Bridgestone Winter Classic, which happened shortly after the NHL received the 2015 Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA.
We love following the NHL (especially now, during playoff season) and admire that they’re setting the tone for professional sports leagues on how to walk-the-walk when it comes to protecting the environment.
Photo: Flickr/Matthew Deery