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Volume 20 No. 42
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Arena sees steps as good business

The Portland Trail Blazers’ Moda Center sits in one of the greenest cities on the planet so it stands to reason that the team is one of the leading sports teams in sustainability strategies.

The LEED Gold certification of the Moda Center is testament to the Blazers’ approach to sustainability, but the benefits lie not just in environmental responsibility but also in economics.

The team has spent roughly $650,000 on sustainability efforts since 2008 and has saved some $3 million in lower energy and waste disposal costs, according to Justin Zeulner, senior director of sustainability and public affairs for the Blazers.

“Whether you believe in climate change or not, this is good business,” Zeulner said.

To reduce the Moda Center’s carbon footprint, the Blazers have installed energy efficient water and electric systems, including low-pressure plumbing fixtures and low-energy lighting that has cut their energy and water usage by 30 percent.

The Blazers also are focused on recycling, with about 90 percent of the team’s 2 million pounds of annual waste diverted out of landfills and into recycling and composting bins. There are no garbage cans in the Moda Center. Instead, the team replaced the 300 trash bins with recycling stations throughout the arena.

“It is important to engage fans,” Zeulner said. “Fans decide what goes in what bins.”

The Living Wall highlights the arena's sustainability efforts.
Photo by: Portland Trail Blazers

But it is not just recycling and reducing the carbon footprint that is part of the team’s sustainability efforts.

Concessions stands are being stocked with organic and hormone-free food from local restaurants and vendors.
Currently, 90 percent of the arena’s food is locally or organically grown, with the goal set at 100 percent. Nearly all of the team’s purchasing deals are done with vendors that can supply compostable and recyclable products.

The team also encourages alternative transportation. It supplies bike shelters and 26 electronic vehicle charging stations, and encourages fans to carpool and use public transportation to get to games.

The sustainability agenda is so aggressive that even the smallest, back-of-the-house environmental improvements are addressed. Consider that the arena’s housekeeping crews use non-toxic cleaning supplies.

“These are good business decisions,” Zeulner said of the Blazers’ sustainability efforts. “There is a community engagement strategy. That connection is another goal to realize. It is who we are.”