Tennis fans have likely spent hours focused on the blue tennis courts during the U.S. Open, realizing little the efforts behind the scene to make sure the sport is green.
“Our courts may be blue, but we’re thinking green,” the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said in a statement outlining a range of initiatives at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to ensure sustainability.
For example, all 70,000 tennis balls used during matches and practices at each Open are donated to community and youth organizations, over 1 million bottles are recycled each year, and enough electricity is offset to power at least 600 houses, the sporting body states proudly on its website.
From tennis court surfaces made from 17 percent post-industrial recycled content, to food, paper, and drink container recycling, plus incentives to encourage fans to use public transport, the U.S. Open has become a model of sustainability.
“The commitment and expansion of the U.S. Open Green Initiatives will ensure that the world’s highest annually attended event is the most environmentally conscious,” said Jon Vegosen, chairman of the board and president of USTA, in a statement on the website.
Vegosen is also the chairman of the U.S. Open, which garners over 700,000 visitors during the annual two-week event.
The initiatives have made the national tennis center’s namesake, Billie Jean King, proud. “We are taking a big step with the home of the U.S. Open becoming one of the first in the tennis community to take significant action to positively impact the environment,” she said in a statement, adding that she hoped it would inspire other tennis centers to follow suit.
Tennis is not alone among U.S. sports to champion sustainability, as the big national sporting bodies are similarly aligned.
“The sports industry is now using its influence to advance ecological stewardship,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council in a recent report on the issue.
The report, titled “Game Changer: How the Sports Industry Is Saving the Environment,” presents a series of case studies on some of the most successful greening initiatives in the country’s top sporting leagues.
The report notes that all commissioners of professional sports leagues in the United States have made environmental commitments.
“In my two decades as commissioner, I have seen our sport take important strides forward on this essential issue,” stated Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig of Major League Baseball in the preface of the report.
“As we strive to fulfill our social responsibilities, the national pastime will continue to protect our natural resources for future generations of baseball fans and to set an example of which they can be proud,” continued Selig.
The report rated Major League Baseball as having the best environmental data measurement program among the nation’s sporting bodies, followed by the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
Among the initiatives is the greening of the big sporting stadiums, according to the report, with all the top stadiums and arenas developing recycling or composting programs and 15 of the top venues achieving national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certifications.
According to the report, of the 126 professional sports teams in the five major professional North American Leagues, 38 teams have moved to renewable energy and 68 have energy efficiency programs.
Significantly, the sporting bodies are committed to educating fans about environmental issues, particularly in reducing energy and water use and recycling, the report said.
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