The Calgary Flames and other NHL teams are making the effort to be environmentally responsible

In a city where oil and gas is king, the Calgary Flames and Scotiabank Saddledome management are going against the grain by implementing new practices in an effort to become more environmentally responsible.

The Flames have been previously scrutinized for their environmental practices.

In a 2010 CBC report, the Flames were singled out for not recycling the plastic cups used on game nights. A team representative has said that was due to the city not having the facilities for that recycling.

But now, as the city makes a shift towards environmental sustainability, so too does its hockey team.

“We don’t stand on a soap box to tell everyone how great we are,” Mark Vaillant, the Calgary Flames’ green committee member said. “We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Last season the Scotiabank Saddledome started the “Go Green” program that saw 60 recycling receptacles installed in the main concourse level.

Photo by Max Shilleto

Last season, because of the city’s revamped recycling facilities, the Saddledome successfully launched a “Go Green” program.

This saw the plastic cups replaced with biodegradable cups. Sixty recycling bins were also installed for fans to dispose of their new containers.

“We wanted to give the 1.5 million fans that go through this building every year the opportunity to be the catalyst for diverting waste from landfills,” Vaillant said.

“Maybe five or ten years ago there was one place doing it, and it was very hard to get any momentum,” the spokesman continued.

“But now you see more and more people making that change.”

Additionally, if the Saddledome seems brighter to you, it may be because of the energy efficient LED lighting that has been installed in different parts of the arena.

This past September, the Flames, in a partnership with RONA, also unveiled a newly refurbished rink in Dover that uses LED lighting to cut back on energy consumption as well.

Operating out of the fifth oldest stadium, and the third coldest of the NHL cities, the Calgary Flames face challenges other teams don’t have in being part of this shift.

As a result, the Flames aren’t able to cut back on electrical costs, or install green technologies in the same way that other sports teams have been.

However, there is still more the Flames and the Saddledome could be doing.

For example, Fenway Park, the legendary 100-year-old baseball stadium and home of the Boston Red Sox, installed solar panels to help heat the stadium’s water.

And the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Kings, is doing the same.

Meanwhile, according to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Montreal Canadiens’ home, the Bell Centre, has a 10-member team to sort recyclable from the regular garbage receptacles.

The Canadiens have also installed low flow fixtures in their 258 washrooms, which resulted in a 20 per cent reduction of water use.

In response, Peter Hanlon, vice president of communications for the Calgary Flames said; “We are doing certain things in arena, such as motion sensors on electrical and plumbing in several of our public washroom facilities now.”

Those changes are in keeping with an overall environmental commitment by the league.

It was two years ago that it promised to become more green-conscious by partnering with the defense council and introducing the NHL Green program.

The program was created with hockey’s close ties to nature in mind.

Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s director of sustainability said via email; “Most of our players learned to skate on ponds and outdoor rinks, and accordingly, we take seriously our responsibility to preserve the conditions that fostered our beloved game.”

At the beginning of the 2010-2011 season the league’s food recovery program was implemented in all of the NHL’s 30 arenas.

The league stated the initiative has diverted 210 tons of leftover food on game nights from landfills to local shelters. This equated to 320,000 meals to North Americans in need.This year, the NHL has teamed with Sterling Planet, a company that helps businesses reduce their carbon footprints.

According to Mitchell, the partnership reduced the league’s greenhouse gas emissions by 97 million tons.

Mitchell credits players such as former Flames defenceman, Andrew Ference for bringing attention to environmental issues and living a sustainable lifestyle off the ice.

“We don’t stand on a soap box to tell everyone how great we are. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Mark Vaillant, Calgary Flames’ green committee member

Ference, who now plays for the Boston Bruins, has been described by some as an “eco-warrior.”

In his “National Geographic” web series, “Beyond the Puck,” Ference talks about being an environmental activist – which includes riding his bike to and from games and practices at the TD Bank Garden. When bicycling is impossible during Boston’s winter, Ference drives an electric sports car, made by Fisker. And for a pre-game meal, only the best organic ingredients will do.

It was with the Flames that Ference started hatching his plans to make his fellow NHLers environmentally responsible, as well.

After a breakfast with environmental expert David Suzuki, Ference decided to partner with the NHL Players Association to offset carbon emissions one player at a time.

That effort has included getting NHL players to purchase carbon credits, offsetting the nearly ten tons of greenhouse gas emissions they are estimated to produce each year.

At a recent news conference in Seattle, Ference explained his initiative this way: “Either you respect your kids, your neighbors, your city and our future – either you respect it enough to get off your a** and do something about it or you don’t.”

Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee is appreciative of such efforts. “I think we’re starting to move in the right direction,” Barlee said.

Barlee, who enjoys sports as much as anyone said, “As a society there are many things we can do to address climate change in our own lives. If we engage in better retrofits, if we use public transportation and if we practice better energy conservation it could be a huge step to reducing our own carbon footprint.”

mshilleto@cjournal.ca

What do you think about the Calgary Flames’ effort to “go green”?