Photo: Erik Forsberg (On Flikr: hepp)

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors and Toronto FC, made a major commitment to become more environmentally friendly in 2008, investing over $5 million over the past five years into reducing their overall carbon footprint at the Air Canada Centre, their home arena. An ongoing commitment to sustainability has brought them into a partnership with Just Energy, enabling them to offset 100% of their emissions and decrease their carbon footprint by 30%.

Just Energy is one of the largest natural gas and electricity retailers in North America and has developed programs to educate their customers on the impact of carbon emissions. They share ways to minimize emissions through outreach efforts at Just Green Community.

I was recently invited to tour the Air Canada Centre to take in a Raptor’s game with other environmental media and see these sustainable initiatives in action. Leading the tour of the arena was Bryan Leslie, Director of Team Up Green and Building Operations, who showed us their energy reduction efforts. They’ve made improvements in water management and lighting fixtures, and have re-engineered their mechanical and electrical operations.

They also have implemented a sophisticated waste diversion program to divert 100% of the garbage created at the ACC from landfills to compost and recycling streams.

Each attendee of the game was encouraged to visit www.justgreengame.com and register to have their travel to and from the arena carbon-neutralized for free by Just Energy.

I was able to ask the C.E.O of Just Energy, John Hartwick a few questions at the game about the efforts that have gone into making the ACC more sustainable:

Jessica Kuepfer: What are some of the biggest green initiatives on the horizon for Just Energy in 2013?

Ken Hartwick: We are one of the largest active marketers of renewables in the wind, solar and biomass industry. One of the things we are focusing most on in 2013 is increased customer awareness of renewable energy and continuing to provide quality, sustainable products to our customers. This means increasing our marketing and outreach on the importance of environmental care.

JK: Tell us a little bit about what went into starting Just Green and what do you see for it in the future?

KH: Our marketing group came up with it as a solution to the issues of recycling and emissions for our customers. Recycling is in the beginning stages of becoming the norm and we want to keep giving options to consumers. Doing little things more frequently is what is going to help make recycling become more common. We are hoping to engage with people beyond our customer base to educate and inform on ways to live a greener, carbon-free lifestyle.

JK: JustEnergy has teamed up with the Air Canada Centre. How are sustainability and sport linked for JustEnergy?

KH: The Air Canada Centre has been very proactive in the greening of their building operations and has an active concern for the emissions caused by the fans travelling to and from their games. The arena’s initiatives have really impacted people’s carbon footprint in coming to their events.

Secondly, there is the sports side of things. Athletes are looked up to and a wide fan base can see that their favourite sports team supports the environment and encourages them to do the same.

JK: What were some of the steps you took to make the ACC carbon neutral?

KH: The main things we looked at were heating, cooling and the electrical system. We tested for the carbon impact of the building itself and took a look at the average distance that people traveled to come to our events which was 25 km. We focused on the best way to offset the carbon used by the building and consumed by the sports fans.

A huge part of our mission is to communicate these efforts to those who come to our events and share how they can do it too. We discuss carbon offsets in [terms of] how many cars are taken off the road or how many trees are planted and engage with people on that level. More of our efforts can be seen at the Just Green Community website.

JK: What are your long-term goals for the sports teams and venues that you are partnered with from a sustainability point of view?

KH: We are the largest reseller of renewable resources so the Air Canada Centre is the first of many that we are going to get. There is a broad entertainment sector and other partners who want to encourage their participants to be more active on the greener side of things; for instance, they have made efforts to green the superbowl in Texas.

JK: Do you see the focus on sustainability changing sports in any way?

KH: The Air Canada Centre actively encourages their athletes and entertainers to promote the concept. As more people become aware of the importance of environmental protection and restoration, the demand for responsible entertainment changes. Many children and teenagers are active fans of the sports heroes and to see the athletes and entertainers focusing more on social responsibility and endorsing environmentally friendly practices allows their audience to grow up thinking it is the right thing to do.

JK: What made JustEnergy the most suitable energy company to instigate these changes to the Air Canada Centre?

KH: We are the biggest renewable reseller in Canada and our company believes it is the right thing to do. We live out our message and all of our employees are passionate about creating a positive change in the environment.

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Thank you to everyone who entered for the giveaway for professional cyclist, Kathryn Bertine’s latest book. There were some very thoughtful answers to the question of key elements to finding solutions for major environmental issues.

Here is one of our favourites:

Kathryn's words reminded me of how fundamental personal connections are to activism and environmentalism. We're not talking about abstract ideas here: harm to the environment harms us, our loved ones and our livelihoods. Without a thriving earth we are nothing. But it's easy to forget that when we don't have a personal, practical connection to the issue. When we have personal experiences that make environmentalism less abstract and more personal, that's when we become advocates for the environment and agents of change. – Subscriber Keren Gottfried

The winner of the giveaway (chosen at random) is Sarah Boon, who tweeted:

Our next giveaway is for a PELA iPhone 5 case made from "flaxstic," a plastic created from agricultural waste. Check out Julie's post on flaxstic for details!

Jessica Kuepfer is the Advertising and Outreach Liaison at A\J, and a fresh graduate from the University of Waterloo with an English major and French minor. Off duty, she is reading, outside training for her next marathon, or sharing her experiences on her personal blog.

 

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About the author

Jessica is A\J's Advertising and Outreach Liaison, and a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo with an English major and French minor. She's also a fitness instructor, marathon runner and volunteer with Greening Sacred Spaces.

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