Sustainability essentials: Measure, reduce and offset
Were I to address this year’s Summit, as I’ve done in the past, this is what I would tell attendees: Our current political situation, combined with worsening biological realities, make it essential that all sports organizations commit to addressing the two greatest ecological threats to ever confront humanity — climate change and biodiversity loss. Deferring work on these worsening issues is no longer a responsible option.
The good news is that there are two simple but meaningful steps that sports organizations can take to help address these two critical ecological issues:
1. Measure, reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Assure that the forest-based products you buy are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (more on this in my next column).
With the controversial withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by the United States prominently in the news, sports organizations can still support that agreement by measuring, reducing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Calculating greenhouse gas impacts can be performed by in-house accounting staff or by consultants. The typical cost for a consultant to perform a greenhouse gas analysis for an office, venue or event is in the range of $2,000 to $3,000.
An outline of the simple process used to measure greenhouse gas emissions includes the following steps:
■ Establish a baseline year for data compilation and calculations (2016 or earlier).
■ Review all operations to identify the sources of direct (on-site) energy-related emissions (known as Scope 1 greenhouse gas impacts) and indirect (off-site) energy-related emissions (Scope 2). Also include easily quantifiable emissions related to business travel and waste management (Scope 3).
■ Collect annual data for the years under review for: electricity purchased (kilowatt hours and cost); natural gas use (in British thermal units and cost); fuel oil and/or diesel use (gallons) and cost; fuel use associated with company-owned vehicles; renewable energy production (kWh generated by on-site wind or solar panels); amount of refrigerant gas leakage; energy used to chill water and produce or purchase steam; fuel use associated with employee business travel (miles and travel type); waste disposal and convert into greenhouse gas emission impacts; amount of renewable energy certificates or carbon offsets acquired.
■ Obtain the greenhouse gas “emissions factor” from your utility or the U.S. EPA (Emission factors reveal the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with each unit of energy consumed at a specific venue) and then compile total energy use by type (direct and indirect sources) and from waste management. This will allow you to calculate total greenhouse gas emissions associated with all impacts.
■ Identify opportunities to reduce energy use and calculate the greenhouse gas reduction benefits and cost savings associated with doing so.
■ For the impacts that cannot be reduced, buy verifiable carbon offsets equal to the amount of greenhouse gases calculated.
Prepare a spreadsheet capable of adding future years’ emissions (and additional Scope 3 sources where feasible).
Once greenhouse gas emissions are calculated, it is a simple step to develop longer-term plans to reduce those emissions.
No sports league or team in the United States has issued any public statement about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. However, it is fair to assume that U.S.-based leagues and teams hosting sustainability programs support the spirit and goals of the agreement, and carrying out the steps outlined above would be a meaningful expression of support for it.
Even small steps are important, (indeed, it is all we can do) so starting with only one venue or one league office is still a useful — and easy — way to go.
Allen Hershkowitz is a founding director of Sport and Sustainability International.