Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs Are Going Green!

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst ISeptember 20, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16:  Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles downcourt against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 16, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs are going green, again! No, the Raptors are not permanently adopting those strange-looking St. Patrick’s Day jerseys that make them look like some bizarre version of the Boston Celtics. And no, the Maple Leafs aren’t going to the green and white hues of the original St. Pats uniforms, although if they’d win like the St. Pats, I could go for it!

The teams and the ACC are going green in ways that will really make a difference.  Our beloved Air Canada Centre created a committee dedicated to reducing their environmental impact called "Team Up Green."

We should all realize the ACC has the impact of a small city on our environment. But not just any small city, a small city where virtually everything its citizens use each day is disposable—and without a window in sight, energy use is at a premium. 

Each year, 20,000-plus people inhabit this city for 90 visits by the Leafs and Raptors, with everyone hoping for 16 more visits from each team. (Can someone get on that effort, please?) And this doesn’t include the numerous other events like concerts that happen regularly.

As Team Up Green is a corporate creation, it includes some marketing-oriented “green washing;” a bit of worthwhile “green promotion;” and a significant measure of genuine “green initiatives” that will make a big difference. But as anyone who truly gets involved in green corporate initiatives knows, going green can be good for both the corporation’s bottom line and for our community.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Ltd. looked at three areas that could have the biggest impact: energy, waste and water. Then, like all good corporations, they assigned the effort a timeframe and a budget.

The original plans called for $5 million over three to five years. In April, they upped that to a $5.5 million budget. This is not some token effort. A lot of good can be done with a budget this size.

Perhaps the most significant and unexpected effort being made is the attempt to divert 100 percent of the garbage created at the ACC from landfills to compost and recycling streams. This ongoing effort has been making a big difference.

Fans may have noticed the three-station waste collection bins in the ACC asking fans to separate their own garbage into cans, bottles, paper and food waste. But most people still just toss everything into the big round bins that are everywhere. 

So the ACC employs people to sort the garbage for us! (Since they made a video showing this, they must want us to know—but I’m not sure they should’ve let this secret out!)

In 2008, the ACC diverted 25 percent more garbage than the previous year, or nearly 237 tonnes of plastics, glass, paper and organics.  And while it does cost the ACC money to accomplish this, they are saving the cost of dumping this garbage in landfill sites.

Since the City of Toronto closed its landfill site in 2002, a waste management initiative to encourage Toronto’s commercial customers to decrease garbage while increasing recycling and organics collection was implemented.  

You can safely take this to mean that the ACC had good reason to implement their plan. But this still does not take away from the fact that the ACC choose a route that was best for both the ACC and our city.

The ACC goal was to reach 100 percent diversion of waste this season. Don’t forget to find out if they make it!

Not every effort MLSE has put forward will receive the same support as its waste management program. There are examples of corporate green washing as well.

Last season, the Toronto Raptors and the NBA promoted the wearing of organic t-shirts by the players for a brief period. They looked fairly silly, and the effort didn’t in the least seem very green.

This type of temporary effort that doesn't lead anywhere is unfortunately typical of some big corporate efforts to appear more “green.” But if it isn’t followed up with a related effort such as changing promotional and retail t-shirt suppliers to a fair-trade organic source, it has little real meaning.

The Leafs and Raptors do provide some good examples of how a corporation can use its influence to promote worthwhile causes including green initiatives.

This spring, MLSE teamed up with the David Suzuki Foundation to promote awareness of environmental issues.  They arranged for donations to the foundation as part of an in-game event, provided “green” gift bags to fans, and offered CentreSport discounts on merchandise to fans who took public transit to the game.

The ACC even dimmed their lights in honour of Earth Hour, albeit with some limitations for safety.

While this promotional effort can be construed as just another form of “green washing,” it holds real meaning when followed up by action. The ACC’s environmental initiative includes a re-engineering of their mechanical and electrical operations with the goal of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

By investing in energy-efficient technologies to make the ACC more environmentally friendly, the MLSE is showing that they mean business in their green efforts. MLSE is creating changes that will be good for our city and good for their bottom line.

And in keeping with MLSE’s greener image, included in the construction of the new Maple Leaf  Square is 230,000 square feet of environmentally-friendly LEEDS certified office space. The only knock anyone could make on this project is why didn’t they take the next step and LEEDS certify the condo and hotel space as well?

The Rogers Center visible from gate five of the ACC has begun implementing their own green initiatives to reduce energy consumption, and is even looking at solar power generation. A little friendly annual competition between these two important facilities to see who can be the most green would provide a great example to our entertainment district and our citizens!

Hey MLSE and Rogers—what do you have to say?


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