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The US Open Leading the Way in Event Sustainability

By Colton Dirksen
September 8, 2010
File under: Business News, Business Profiles, Carbon Emissions, Consumer Awareness, Green Practices

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Photo Credit: Philip Hall / usopen.org

The US Open and its players have been influencing America’s opinions for years.  Think about it…

Who else could popularize jean shorts other than Andre Agassi?  Roger Federer’s brand is so powerful that Nike simply includes an RF on their clothes and the sales jump.  And John McEnroe’s famous temper tantrums continue to star in commercials 20 years after he retired from the game

And the USTA is capitalizing on this iconic status…in a good way.

Their goal: Make green trendy.

How It Started

Three years ago, the USTA decided it was imperative to green the US Open.  With 750,000 fanatics charging through the gates to the US Open in just two weeks, even small changes to the event’s sustainability could yield a significant impact.

Rita Garza, Senior Director of USTA Corporate Communications teamed up with Joe Crowley with the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Facility Operations, Bina Indelicato of Eco Evolutions and Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the National Resource Defense Council, to determine where the USTA could make the greatest strides towards sustainability.

Working with a 10-year-old venue which isn’t equipped with many of the recent designs and advances in sustainable building, the team found that they needed a multi-faceted approach.

Retro-fitting the current venue with sustainable offerings and training the 7,000+ staff on greener practices was essential, but the team also realized they had as much power, if not more, through the social influence of their iconic players and sponsors.

Social Change

The USTA is in a unique position to introduce new products to a captive, mainstream audience. They are making the most of this opportunity from a sustainability and sponsor perspective.

By greening the US Open tournament grounds and educating their fans on the value of living green, they not only had a captive audience, but an informed consumer who better understands the value of product sustainability.  This is an incredibly attractive audience to high-end sponsors, such as Mercedes, who are introducing new green products.

A good example is Stoneyfield Farm, who was the first organic food vendor at the US Open.  Gary Hirshberg, Stoneyfield’s CEO, claims that their market share tripled in NYC after the first year they were a sponsor.  With Stonyfield consumers purchasing two-to-three times the yogurt of a typical consumer, every new convert becomes incredibly valuable.  This is what the US Open offers sponsors: informed, power-users.

A few other sponsors who have been able to help in the reduction of the US Open’s footprint, while touting their new green products, include:

  • f-cell.jpgMercedes: Their new B-Class F-CELL, an electric car with a 250 mile range, ushers players around, reducing the event’s footprint.
  • IBM: Reduced energy consumption by 40% to power the usopen.org
  • ESurance: Distributing 125 MetroCards to fans to encourage mass transit to and from the tennis center

Looking at the bigger green picture, Dr. Hershkowitz believes there are cultural barriers to sustainability.  In order to truly capture people’s attention, green has to be cool.  And the US Open is doing its part by capturing the cache of tennis.   ”People won’t buy sustainable products for green-sake…it must be personal.”

As a fashionable and iconic event, when the US Open goes green, it’s a giant step towards green being cool.  And if the USTA can make money in the process, then bravo.

Decreasing the US Open’s Footprint

Learn more on the USTA’s steps towards event sustainability tomorrow.

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