It's time to bring sports programs into the climate action gameGil Friend president and CEO , Natural Logic, Inc.
Will Duggan sustainability marketer, Sports4.org
Generative feedback-performance feedback that changes behavior-offers a powerful missing link for campus greening efforts. Using the culture of sports, which fosters competition, personal excellence, and pride, can help turbo-charge those sustainability efforts.
The National Carbon League (NCL) creates and celebrates intercity "coopetitions" (cooperative competitions), anchored and promoted by each city's professional and intercollegiate sports teams, to track and reward the residents who can prevent the most carbon from entering the atmosphere.
The NCL is based on two premises:
In 1948, J.M. Juran, one of the fathers of Total Quality Management observed that, "to be in a state of self-control, a person should be provided with knowledge about what he ...is supposed to do, what he is actually doing, and what choices he has to improve results wherever necessary.... If any of these three conditions [is] not met," Juran noted, "a person cannot be held responsible."
Unfortunately, in most organizations, one and sometimes all of these conditions is lacking. We fly blind and yet expect performance from people and organizations, even though it's clear, from Juran's formulation that most of us are not in a "state of self-control... [and] cannot be held responsible." But if we're to have any chance of success in the battle against climate change, we have to be both self-controlled and held responsible.
It is a problem that is easy to remedy, both technically and culturally,and the remedy offers a powerful boost for campus greening movements across the country and around the world.
The key is to combine (1) the behavior-changing power of real-time, generative feedback that communicates performance and progress, (2) the challenge to excellence offered by inter-collegiate and professional sports, and (3) the competitive spirit conveyed by the iconic, often place-based, power of sports marketing.
Everyday carbon-saving actions directly translate into measurable carbon savings. Campus-wide efforts are tallied via Web and mobile technology to add up to large-scale reductions of a metro-region's environmental footprint. Carbon-saving scoreboards and messaging are integrated into game experiences and sports coverage to provide sports audiences with upbeat and ubiquitous reminders for saving money and the planet.
The Carbon League will host coopetitions at many levels: between schools (e.g., UCLA vs. USC), campuses (SUNY-Binghampton vs. SUNY-Stony Brook), conferences and leagues (Pac-10 vs. the Big Ten, NL East vs. NL West), and among major sports leagues (NFL versus MLB versus NBA)-all on the basis of quantified per capita carbon savings. There are countless opportunities for awards, rewards and recognitions throughout the system.
As professional and college participation is established, the NCL will expand to tally and celebrate efforts by minor league teams, and high school and youth sports to inspire measurable carbon-savings by neighborhoods, families, and local businesses.
A Visual Tally
A sustainable community requires behavior change as well as technology change. Ubiquitous, interactive sustainability scoreboards can make it easier.
Clear visual feedback on "How are we doing" in relation to various sustainability goals is one of the most effective drivers of change. It can acknowledge successes, making our individual "drop in the bucket" actions add up to something significant, highlighting slippage, and encouraging cooperative competition between neighbors, businesses, and cities to do better.
What if we had that sort of feedback, for the results we care about, at every level of the region-from university systems to campuses, from classroom buildings to stadiums to dorms, from towns to cities to regions?
The proof is in the Prius: people's driving behavior changes, not because of fines or financial incentives, but because of live, relevant, visual feedback on the impacts of their actions.
The Inter-Collegiate Carbon League™ (ICCL)
As a generative feedback mechanism, a sports scoreboard is a pretty remarkable thing. For players and spectators alike, it quickly tells the story. Are we winning or losing? How much time do we have? What's the immediate need? At a glance, a scoreboard provides what's needed to get into the game.
While college campuses have been steadily moving up the sustainability path, college sports programs have been failing to keep up. That is a shame. They have a lot to add in helping to inspire, measure and celebrate campus progress.
A survey of NCAA Athletic Department Sustain- ability Practices conducted by Mark McSherry3 indicates that athletic departments are falling behind in what we would call basic "operational greening." According to the Survey, only 10 percent of FBS [NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision] athletic departments have developed a strategic sustainability plan with short- and long-term goals... less than 10 percent of the surveyed athletic departments are currently measuring or planning to measure the athletic department's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions... andless than 5 percent are measuring recycle rates and setting recycle rate goals for all operations of facilities and events.
Even worse, with few exceptions, athletic departments are failing to leverage their unique and iconic "inspirational greening" power to help drive climate action into the mainstream.
The idea that climate action can benefit from the integration of a sporting sensibility is not new. America's Greenest College Campuses, the EPA's Green Power Challenge, and Duke's Eco-Olympics are examples. And back in 2007, the University of Florida measured and counteracted the carbon emissions generated by their game with Florida State.
But the ingredients of the basic powerful mashup have yet to come together. College campuses are unrivaled centers of sustainability innovation. College sports, at both intra- and intermural levels, are powerful engagement and communication engines. The sports culture of "keeping score" helps fuel and focus performance. At the very least, college sports properties should be leveraging this combination to explore ways of securing green sponsorship dollars.
Get in the Game
Current technology enables trend analysis, display quality, and interactive experience that Buckminster Fuller could only dream about. Emerging technology enables dynamic, real-time and near-total information access and transparency, and generative feedback systems that can shift behavior, much as Prius drivers inevitably change driving habits in response to their dashboard's real-time gas mileage readout-regardless of incentives.
Planetary challenges require deployment of these interactive trending tools as broadly and rapidly as possible. Distribution of engaging, reality-based, planetary trending through distribution channels can change paradigms and behavior.
The NCL will accelerate progress on climate action by: