Sunday, April 21, 2019

Yankees Highlight Groundbreaking Sustainability Initiatives

Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Sunday, ahead of Earth Day, the Yankees highlighted their current sustainability initiatives and celebrated that they are the first major North American sports team to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.

Yankees Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations Doug Behar  and Yankees Environmental Science Advisor Dr. Allen Hershkowitz were joined by special guest Satya S. Tripathi, the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of New York Office at UN Environment at the press conference to discuss these exciting environmental issues.

Doug Behar, Satya S. Tripathi, and Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. Photo by Jason Schott.

Tripathi is a development economist and lawyer with over 35 years of varied experience. He has served with the UN since 1998 in key positions in Europe, Asia and Africa in the areas of Climate Change, Human Rights, Democratic Governance and Legal Affairs.

Tripathi said, "I think this is a watershed moment for three reasons, the first being that the Yankees represent everything that epitomizes human excellence, the supreme dedication to a cause, and hard work, and most importantly, being healthy, and that's what people come here to celebrate and watch, excellence in motion.

"That's what the planet needs more than ever before. The planet is unhealthy, it's unwell, and it needs all of us to put our best efforts to make it healthy again so that it lives and breathes for us, and we don't realize that, and that's the first thing. 

"The second is that it needs everybody to contribute their mind to saving the planet and not being so concerned about little expenses that might occur, but in the long room, it all pays off. That's the second thing, that preserving the scarce resources we have is extremely important. Third, as we know from the many reports that have come out recently by celebrated scientists the world over, we have roughly ten years to turn the corner. Otherwise, everything is going to go downhill from 2021. That's why this is a seminal moment.

"The Yankees are possibly one of the best teams in the world in any sport, and it starts with them. I only hope with all sincerity, that it inspires every other sport, every other team on the planet, to follow suit and to change course."

Earlier this month, on April 3, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced that the Yankees became the first major North American sports team to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The Yankees are the first major North American sports team to sign on to the Framework, the aim of which is to bring greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

The team joins numerous prominent international organizations committed to the Framework, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the French Tennis Federation-Roland Garros, Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, Rugby League World Cup 2021, Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, UEFA, World Surf League, Formula E, and others.

The Yankees, and other signatories to the framework, commit to support the following principles:
  • Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
  • Reduce overall climate impact;
  • Educate for climate action;
  • Promote sustainable and responsible consumption;
  • Advocate for climate action through communication.
Dr. Allen Hershkowitz was appointed the Yankees Environmental Science Advisor this past January. This position is the first of its kind in professional sports. The appointment represented a defining moment in the Yankees' decades-long commitment to sustainability, and deepened an existing dedication to environmentally-friendly practices and community-wide awareness.

With Dr. Hershkowitz as Environmental Science Advisor, the Yankees are advancing their efforts and invest in the development of best practices that can be adopted by organizations across the sport sector. He will seek to guide a number of new and existing environmental initiatives for the Yankees and at Yankee Stadium, with a primary focus on the areas of energy use, waste management, water conservation, and food services.

A widely recognized leader in the environmental science sector, Hershkowitz served as a Senior Scientist for 26 years at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and was a force behind some of the organization’s most effective initiatives. He is Chairman and Founding Director of Sport and Sustainability International, and the co-founder and past President of the Green Sports Alliance. In these roles, he has spearheaded sustainability programs in partnership with organizations that include Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the United States Tennis Association, Major League Soccer, NASCAR and many professional and collegiate teams.

Dr. Hershkowitz said, "I just especially want to thank the Yankees, the ownership and leadership of the Yankees for embracing this issue. I've been doing environmental science research for over 35 years and, when I first started my work, if we got a quote in a newspaper once every month or two, we were thrilled. To be sitting in Yankee Stadium now, with the UN alongside, to talk about environmental stewardship is just an extraordinary circumstance for me to be in. It's an incredible evolution in the proliferation of understanding in responsible environmental behavior. It really is a privilege to be here. The importance of this is not the Yankees reducing their environmental footprint because, frankly, the environmental footprint of the Yankees is tiny when we look at the data.

"The cultural influence of the Yankees is extraordinary, and as a scientist, I can tell you that the most important thing we could do to advance responsible environmental stewardship is change cultural assumptions, change cultural expectations about how we relate to the planet. How should we relate to the ecosystems that give us clean air to breathe? How should we relate to the biological systems that give us clean water to drink? We should be treating those with the utmost care and respect, so we have some work to do.

"As my colleague from the UN just pointed out, we are at a critical moment. The fact is that there's a lot of disruption taking place around the planet and we're the cause of a lot of that and we can be the solution to that. Let me just remind us all how, you know, life is a very rare thing in the universe. We've sent telescopes - actually three years ago, I think we actually sent a satellite out of our solar system - I mean, for the last 60 years, we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars sending projectiles into space looking for one thing: signs of life somewhere else in the universe.

"It's Earth Day tomorrow, and let me just tell you that the only place in the universe where we have ever found life is here on Earth. In a very narrow ten-mile band, five miles up from the surface of the Earth to five miles down to the bottom of the sea, that's the only place in the universe we found life, Those of us here in this room, I mean, among all forms of life, we're a very privileged form of life, human beings in a relatively affluent industrialized society.

"To use this particular platform of the Yankees, one of the most visible organizations on the planet, to try to help protect life on Earth, it's a very powerful moment. It's a very meaningful event, and I want to applaud the Yankees for doing that. I work around the world, Europe, Asia, South America, the Yankees are one of the most environmentally responsible sports organizations in the world, whether you're talking about carbon management, whether you talk about waste management, whether you talk about water conservation, actually, obviously, fan education.

"The question is, how do you educate people? How do you change people's minds? How do you affect behavior? You have to tap into trusted networks. People trust the Yankees. The Yankees are not viewed as a political debate society. They are known to be performance-based, not political, so for them to say, this matters to us, for them to join the Green Sports Alliance years ago, for them to join Sports Sustainability International years ago, now to affiliate with the United Nations, the Yankees have used their platform in an incredibly responsible way, and I want to applaud the ownership, and in particular, a shout out to Doug Behar, who runs Yankee Stadium and he's always looking for every angle to make Yankee Stadium more efficient, economically and ecologically."

Yankees Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations Doug Behar said of what the Yankees do on a daily basis in terms of sustainability, "This is certainly, in our minds, a watershed moment in what we do here in sustainability. We've come a long way - this is my 22nd year with the Yankees - and had the privilege of working at the old Stadium. At that time, we were doing what we thought was all you could do, which was some recycling, cans bottles, glass, cardboard, some environmentally safe cleaning products, but from an infrastructure standpoint, we knew that when we were designing this facility, we had a lot of opportunity to be socially responsible and environmentally intelligent with what we did and how we built this facility.

"We took the opportunity at the time and looked at all the technology that existed at the time and try to incorporate them where they made the most sense. One of the things, and the interesting thing when we talked about technology, is how quickly it evolved. At the time, the middle light on that table was the most efficient light you could buy at the time, and when we installed it, we saved about 35 percent of our energy consumption just by using that light, but shortly thereafter, within a few years, the LED technology came on board and we realized we had another opportunity. While we didn't have to change our lights, we thought it was the right thing to do. At left is an example of the lights that we use for our sports lighting today, and we save 70 percent over the very efficient lights we installed just a few years before then. Technology and opportunity, and we're constantly looking at what's out there, and we're very fortunate to be in a position to do something."

The Yankees displayed ecologically intelligent aspects of Yankee Stadium, which is recognized as one of the most environmentally intelligent and healthiest sports venues in the world.

These included various examples of the different high-efficiency LED lights used around the Stadium, with the current ones on the left.

Photo by Jason Schott.

Other items included a cook stove similar to one of the thousands that have been provided to communities in need in Africa as part of greenhouse gas offsetting, reusable tote bags that will be made available in Stadium gift shops in the coming months in advance of New York’s upcoming ban on single-use plastic bags, and items related to the Yankees’ extensive recycling and composting programs.

Photo by Jason Schott.

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