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Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:58

NHL is talking about climate change and perhaps hockey fans will listen

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The environmental impact of hockey will most likely not be on the minds of passionate fans when they attend a game, but the National Hockey League’s first ever sustainability report may change that.

The 2014 NHL Sustainability Report was released on July 21 to highlight the league’s efforts over the past few years to start reducing the impact of the sport on the environment.
The report commits the NHL to the reduction of its own environmental impacts and to the promotion of a broader movement towards sustainable living that will benefit the planet.
“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman writes in a letter of introduction to the report.
According to the NHL, this is the first ever sustainability report produced by a major sports league in North America. The preparation of the report is a result of the NHL Green Initiative, which was established in 2010 to promote green business practices throughout the League.
A key purpose of this initial report is to create an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions from the various hockey operations as a way to gain a better understanding of the League’s environmental footprint.
“Effective management of energy, water and waste begins with measurement,” the report states. “To develop a clear environmental strategy, we must first understand current League consumption, particularly in terms of energy and water usage, and the scope of our waste stream.”
The NHL’s carbon footprint is approximately 530,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, which is generated from business activities and travel for more than 182 game days, 1,230 regular-season games, over 60 playoff games and almost two million miles of team air travel per season.
These greenhouse gas emissions amount to 408 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per game or 56 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per attendee.
The report notes the NHL’s carbon footprint is much smaller than other industries and economic sectors. The global economy emits 90 million tons of carbon every day and the largest coal power plant in the United States generates 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The report also details water consumption within the League. Each rink uses 12,000 to 15,000 gallons of water to create a NHL regulation ice sheet and total annual water consumption in the League is 321 million gallons.
Various initiatives to reduce the League’s ecological footprint is highlighted in the report. These vary from a demand response program to reduce energy use at NHL venues to waste diversion and recycling programs at arenas. NHL clubs are already achieving a landfill avoidance rate of 28.7 per cent through the annual diversion of 3,121 tons of waste.
The report reflects on the broader reason to address greenhouse gas emissions because climate change might make it more difficult for future hockey players to learn and play the game outdoors.
Former New York Ranger goaltender and now environmental champion Mike Richter writes in the report’s afterward that the impact of climate change is already felt in backyard ice rinks. He refers to a 2012 research paper that found a 20 to 30 per cent decrease in the length of the Canadian skating season over the past 50 years.
Last month, the federal government quietly released a new report about the impact of climate change on Canada. The report states unequivocally that the country’s climate is changing and that future climate changes are inevitable.
The report, Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector perspectives on impacts and adaptation, refers to the impact that the changing climate will have on the country’s natural environment, economic sectors and the health of Canadians.
For example, the agricultural sector will have longer and warmer growing seasons but there will also be increased losses from invasive pests and diseases. Climate sensitive diseases such as Lyme disease are already expanding northwards and some parts of Canada will experience high air pollution levels.
Climate change remains a politically-contentious issue in Canada and North America, resulting in a skeptical public that finds it difficult to distinguish between partisanship and fact in the debate about climate change.
A clear message from a major sports league on the reality of climate change can hopefully make a difference in creating a better public understanding of the issue. The influence of sports on culture and society is well known, which means the NHL’s focus on sustainable business practices can help to foster a broader awareness about the impact of human actions on the environment — whether we are at work or home, and even when we are playing or watching our favourite sport.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Matthew Liebenberg