The Impact of Green Sports Facilities

Sports facilities provide a high-profile platform for green cleaning

Even some of the most ardent sports fans may not realize just how much influence sports has had on shaping our culture, including our views on community and social issues. For instance, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by being the first African American to play Major League Baseball, and to the surprise of many team owners, most fans accepted him, which led to more African American baseball players joining the major leagues.

Examples like this show the impact of athletes and professional sports on our culture and social views. But what does this have to do with the professional cleaning industry?

The Growing Trend

We now see examples of major sports venues operating in a more sustainable and environmentally preferable manner. For example, when fans go to AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA; Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA; TFC Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota; or more than 300 other collegiate and professional sports venues, they are likely to see that these facilities proudly let visitors know they are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. Venues are working to conserve energy and water, increase recycling and composting, serve locally grown and healthier foods, purchase greener products, and of course, protect athlete and fan health by implementing greener cleaning programs.

Fans see firsthand the steps these venues have taken. Experiencing these steps encourages millions of people—including business owners and employers—to adapt and implement similar strategies in their own homes, businesses, and organizations. After all, if the teams that they cheer for are going green and specifically using greener cleaning practices, then they should follow.

By-the-Book Implementation

In 2015, the Green Sports Alliance published its Playbook on Greener Cleaning to help sporting facilities easily and cost effectively implement a new green cleaning program or improve an existing one. More than 100 people contributed to the development of the playbook, including experts in cleaning, public health, environmental protection, green procurement, and sports facility cleaning and operations to help address the unique needs of sports facilities.

The Playbook on Greener Cleaning provides implementation strategies, green product purchasing recommendations, advice on selecting a service provider, suggestions on worker training requirements, guidance on measuring and reporting of progress, and other issues. It also includes a number of case studies so sports facility operators can learn from each other.

Looking Ahead

In 2016, the Green Sports Alliance is launching a series of half-day workshops based on the playbook. The workshops will include a back-of-the-house tour of the host facility. In addition to helping pro and collegiate sport facilities, the workshops will target schools, YMCAs and YWCAs, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, municipal recreation leagues, military bases, and other facilities where kids and adult athletes play.

Because of the role that sports plays in our society, these workshops should shine a positive light on the cleaning industry and the importance of cleaning for health, while reducing negative impacts on the environment.

Workshops are already scheduled in Atlanta, GA, hosted by the Atlanta Falcons and in Saint Louis, MO, hosted by the Saint Louis Cardinals. Other workshops across the country and in Canada are also part of the game plan.

The lessons learned from the workshops will be used to create a training program to help introduce and implement greener cleaning in sports facilities large and small all across the country.

Sports truly have the ability to change the world, or at least to help continue the greening of the cleaning industry through example.

Posted On February 25, 2016

Stephen Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at

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