« Back to Home Page

Sign up for the 3p daily dispatch:

The Courts Might Be Blue But the US Open Is Thinking Green

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments

us-open-logoUnderlying the general excitement of 700,000 fans that populate the two-week 2009 US Open – Elite Athlete Eye Candy! Unseeded Player Dreams! Open Seating Options! – is the USTA’s ongoing, long-term commitment to greening its enterprise.

What’s the sweet spot? According to Rita Garza, Senior Director of Corporate Relations, USTA, “Outdoor tennis and a concern for the environment is a natural fit. We’re just making the connection.” 2009 marks year two of the center-wide greening initiative and the USTA’s operational strategy takes a strong external and internal approach in an number of obvious and behind the scenes ways.

Walking through grounds of the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – the world’s largest outdoor tennis facility – it’s hard to miss the 500 blue recycling bins, one to partner with each conventional garbage can around the 42-acre campus.

Walking through grounds of the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – the world’s largest outdoor tennis facility – it’s hard to miss the 500 blue recycling bins, one to partner with each conventional garbage can around the 42-acre campus.

How did the USTA get this green ball rolling? Garza was quick to point out that the USTA was hyper aware of a need to be authentic, “We did not want to be guilty of greenwashing or launching any false programs so we developed relationships that helped us get off the ground” Garza says Billie Jean King’s passion for the environment has been the guiding force in building the alliances that the USTA needed to get its strategy in place. It was through her that they connected with Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the NRDC and James Margolis of ERM to learn about environmental impact, best practices and stakeholder leverage. ERM advised Garza and her team to focus on five areas: recycling, energy, transportation, paper products, and fan outreach and messaging.

What does this look like? Let’s say one puts down one’s 100% PCW program to buy a snack in the general concession area. One can no longer grab 25 paper napkins to go with it. Napkin dispensers dispense one 90% PCW napkin at a time and paper towel dispensers are motion sensitive. What’s powering that motion sensitive dispenser? Wind. 100% of the tournament’s electricity is generated by wind turbines.

Courtside, fans can look up to the jumbotron to see Billie Jean, Venus and the Bryan Brothers talk about the importance of taking public transportation, recycling and buying organic foods. The constant edutainment is also featured on videoboards throughout the campus. Does that voice sound like it belongs on Thirty Rock? It does. Alec Baldwin, who joins Billie Jean King as a spokesperson in the campaign, speaks up in another PSA for the USTA sustainability initiative.

Behind the scenes, in two of the USTA’s kitchens composting systems have been set up and are running smoothly. Retrofits help to achieve greater efficiency in dividing solid waste from recyclables and streamline collection. But perhaps the single most game-changing and play USTA made is their goal to recycle the 18,000-20,000 tennis ball cans that are used during each US Open.

The USTA has a long standing practice to repurpose its US Open tennis balls. The balls are used throughout the year by various USTA programs and then, donated to programs for children and to senior citizen facilities who use them as nonskids for walkers. However, the cans have presented a huge problem – because of the metal ring that serves to keep the contents pressurized – even though sports equipment manufacture Wilson developed their new 25% PET can.

Thanks to their relationship with the NRDC, they were able to connect with Sims Group, New York City’s preferred reclycler. At their New Jersey facility, Sims was able to slice off the metal rim, making the Wilson cans 100% recyclable.


▼▼▼      2 Comments     ▼▼▼

Newsletter Signup
  • Robb

    Saw Alec Baldwin interviewed about this, sitting courtside at the US Open, looking nice and relaxed. A little light on the details, but it’s good the green space has a decent spokesman or two.

    Robb Hughes
    Head of Sales & Marketing
    Green Meetup
    Buy Organic, Green, Eco-Friendly Products Here!

  • http://www.greentimes.com.au Stephan

    Good to see that there is also attention for the environment in sports. Many athletes function as role models for a big part of the population, therefore they can set a great example. Hopefully this trend will keep on growing.

    For more information on going green, have a look at this Green Journal.