Their Courts May Be Blue, But the US Open Is Thinking Green

Photo Courtesy of aloshbennett/Flickr Creative Commons

To most people, the end of summer means the start of a new school year, cooling temperatures, and changing leaves. For tennis enthusiasts like myself, however, the only thing that truly matters about the end of August is the US Open (particularly when you’re anxiously awaiting a Federer-Roddick rematch after July's epic Wimbledon final…). Nearly 700,000 fans pour into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens during the two-week tournament and that means lots of water, waste, and energy. Well, not anymore. The United State Tennis Association is revolutionizing the environmental impact of big sporting events this year with a set of Green Initiatives that is taking eco-consciousness to a new level.

The USTA is implementing these initiatives in almost every aspect of the tournament, from the food in the concession area to the players’ transportation. Even your ticket to the grounds will be printed on paper containing 30 percent post-consumer waste (PCW). The group hopes their efforts will “have an impact on reducing the carbon footprint of the 2009 US Open” while helping to “educate tennis fans to the benefits of being more eco-friendly.” Notable initiatives include:

? Recycling receptacles (plastic and aluminum) scattered throughout 100 percent of the grounds, including the private players-only areas.
? Recycling of approximately 18,000 to 20,000 Wilson tennis ball cans
? The 60,000 Wilson tennis balls used during the tournament will be reused for National Tennis Center programming and then donated to community/youth programs
? Constellation Energy, the complex’s electricity provider, will offset the US Open’s energy use through Green-e Certificate wind Renewable Energy Certificates
? A partnership between the USTA, Natural Resources Defense Council, GreenSlam and MTA will provide 125 free $4.50 MetroCards to fans to encourage the use of public transit to the stadium
? 52% of the player transportation fleet will be made up of hybrid vehicles
? The 2.4 million napkins used in the concession area will contain 90 percent PCW
? All US Open marketing information, Daily Drawsheets, parking passes, and coupon books will be printed on paper containing 10 to 30 percent PCW
? Concession area utensils, plates, cups, etc will be made from bio-based products
? Kitchens will include composting programs
? Excess cooking oil will be recovered for use as biodiesel fuel
? 10 percent of the food will be seasonal and come from local farms located in New Jersey, Long Island and upstate New York

The USTA’s Green Initiatives are bound to add up not only in terms of a smaller environmental footprint, but also in terms of encouraging the fans to practice eco-friendly behavior. Visitors will be bombarded by public service announcements and interviews about going green from renowned tennis player Billie Jean King, top American tennis player Venus Williams, and actor/tennis enthusiast Alec Baldwin. The association estimates their use of recycled paper alone will save 28 tons of wood, 60 million BTUs of energy, 9 tons of CO2, over 87,000 gallons of wastewater, and over 5,000 pounds of garbage.

We know many major sports arenas and teams are trying to reduce their environmental impacts, like the Washington Nationals did by incorporating a bicycle valet at their stadium (which one of our readers pointed out a few weeks ago in a previous blog post), but to our knowledge, none have gone as far as the US Open this year. What other green initiatives have you heard about or seen at major sports events recently?

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