This Earth Day, it’s important to give credit to the professional sports teams who are making waves in protecting our environment. One team leading the way is the Miami Heat, who for nearly a decade, has worked tirelessly to bring sustainable efforts to their team’s practices and arena.
The NBA arena with the highest level of LEED certification is the Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena. Home to All-Stars, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, earlier this year, AmericanAirlines Arena became the world’s first sports and entertainment facility to achieve LEED Gold recertification.
Becoming the first arena in the world to achieve LEED Gold recertification was no easy feat for the Miami Heat. According to the Heat’s operations and sustainability coordinator, Jackie Ventura, the performance of the team on a number of green and sustainability factors was considered over the five-year period between it achieving its initial certification and its recertification. “From becoming certified to the recertification, it was all about keeping up our own standards and maintaining those standards,” Ventura noted.
The impact of the standards that the Heat maintained over the five-year period are notable. For instance, the outfitting of AmericanAirlines Arena with efficient plumbing fixtures allowed for the saving of nearly 4.2 million gallons of water. Landscaping designs added another 190,630 gallons of water saved. Furthermore, recycling efforts during the 2013-14 Heat season alone resulted in 330,810-pounds of waste being diverted from the landfill.
For the Miami Heat, the team’s sustainability measures serve two important purposes: Protecting the environment of the community the team calls home and promoting the team’s business interests. “Our sustainability practices are definitely important to the Heat from a business perspective. I like to say, ‘Green equals green.’ When you are consuming less, you are being fiscally responsible, because it allows you to be able to hold onto money that you maybe otherwise would have spent on other projects and instead, create new initiatives within your organization. It’s also important for us to show our community that we care about the environment. Our economy in Miami is driven by tourism and tourists come here for our beaches, which is the environment. If we are hurting the environment, we are hurting our community,” Ventura explained.
In terms of why leagues should take their All-Star Games green and why teams should turn their arenas green, the National Resource Defense Council provides some guidance. In a 2012 report, “Game Changer: How The Sports Industry Is Saving The Environment,” the NRDC argued that greening is a wise business decision for teams and leagues. To make this argument, the NRDC pointed to examples showing that greening creates financial savings, attracts sponsors, strengthens community relations provides competitive advantages and attracts fans.
While all of the “crown jewel” events in sports, such as the NBA All-Star Game, World Series and Super Bowl, employ greening measures, there is still more that can be done by all teams and leagues in this regard. Teams whose arenas haven’t achieved LEED certification should be motivated to do so. Furthermore, teams and leagues must continue working towards creating zero waste and zero carbon emission footprints. Yet, as teams and leagues work towards those goals, the success they’ve accomplished in creating more sustainable sporting events should be celebrated.