Thursday, February 16, 2012

AC34’s Sustainability Plan - It's Good...

The final version of the America’s Cup Event Authority’s (ACEA) Sustainability Plan published today, all 51 pages ( It’s just one of the ELEVEN implementation plans that are part of the Host City Agreement with the City and County of San Francisco. Like most everything else AC34 it’s aggressive but one that looks certain to leave a positive legacy for San Francisco, as well as for sporting events in general.

Jill Savery, ACEA’s head of sustainability, is leading this relatively new area of sports and sustainability for AC34. Her bio’s impressive.

The 39-year old Olympic gold medalist (synchronized swimming, 1996, Atlanta), 8-time World Champion and International Hall of Fame Inductee, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Management from Yale and recently returned to the US after leading the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games sustainability work program of a London-based NGO. She has served as a co-opted Expert to the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012.

Savery explains that what ACEA decided to do was to narrow the broad scope of what was feasible to work on into five themes. The Plan demonstrates how AC34 delivery organizations intend to achieve sustainability objectives via these five themes:

Energy and emissions - optimizing use of energy and minimizing associated air emissions

Resource efficiency - maximizing natural resources and land use

Natural Habitats and Wildlife - Protecting and supporting biodiversity

Inclusion: providing an inclusive and welcoming event experience plus maximizing legacy benefits for the City

Engagement: raise sustainability awareness

“This process is becoming international best practice for major events and hopefully allows people to get their hands around what it means to be sustainable with an event,” Savery says.

And she knows tangible results are key.

“It’s easy to have lofty goals and make commitments, but how do you follow through? On a basic level, we begin by working in areas that are in our direct control, for example, any vendors we contract with, we let them know what our guidelines are.”

The most tangible of these guidelines is a no brainer for a city already known for its stringent environmental policies and procedures - AC34 will be the first event in San Francisco to prohibit single-use plastic bags and plastic water bottles at its event sites throughout the City.

“We can influence and communicate to spectators that things are different in San Francisco and to bring their own bottle for water because they certainly wont be able to buy water in plastic bottles at the venues we control.”

Instead, the event will offer up a water refilling station like at the America’s Cup World Series event in San Diego. According to that vendor, he poured 1300L of water into reusable containers - for free.

“That's equivalent to saving 2600 single use 500mL plastic water bottles,” Savery says.

An example of projects being pursued on a more complex level under the Plan, her team is working with a group of City departments to foster electric vehicle infrastructure and to figure out how AC34 supports the City’s objectives there.

For cynics of accountability, Savery plans to develop a suite of KPIs - Key Performance Indicators - to measure, for example, energy use and gas emissions but also items like the number of activities used to engage the public, all which will be reported publicly. It’s a new model of reporting for events that she’ll use in tangent with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), another new tool for sustainability reporting to an event.

“There’s not a day goes by that there isn’t an event of some sort in San Francisco and we’re hoping what we learn we can leave for future events,” she says.

When it comes to the reality of sailing as a ‘green’ sport, between looking at how modern boats are produced and the amount of energy burned on the racecourse with support boats etc., sailing events are hardly green.

Savery doesn’t disagree but says it’s true of sports across the board.

“As an industry we’re starting to look at how equipment is produced, events themselves, spectators traveling, the waste, etc. It’ll take a long time before you’ll be able to say the entire industry is sustainable, but the exciting thing is that we’re making a start,” Savery concludes.


NB: AC34’s Sustainability Plan is the product of public input and partnerships with many agencies including the City, the Department of Environment, SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency), SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission), the Port, ACOC (America’s Cup Organizing Committee) experts like David Lewis from Save the Bay, the OEWD (Office of Economic & Workforce Development), and the Mayor’s Office.

Jill Savery is from Concord in the Bay Area. She started her work in sports and sustainability about 10 years ago thanks to her passion for sports which will “never go away”, and passion for the environment and sustainability. After the past few years living and working in London, she’s thrilled to be working on these initiatives with the America’s Cup 34.**

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