November 4, 2022
On November 17, we will explore Sport's Role in Social Justice in the US at Beyond Sport United 2022 with a focus on Civic Engagement, Health and Well-being and Climate and Environmental Justice. Ahead of the event, we spoke about going beyond sport to make a powerful social and environmental impact with Official Partner, One Tree Planted.
In a recent MIT study highlighted by the 2022 BBC Green Sport Awards, researchers found that for the past 70 years sports has been the most influential industry in the world. With this powerful role comes a massive opportunity to go beyond sports by taking targeted sustainable actions that will leave a lasting legacy and impact on communities and the environment.
Read our interview with One Tree Planted's Senior Manager of Urban Forestry, Tanner Haid, who shared his insights on how urban forestry provides a uniquely impactful way for sports organizations to give back.
How can sports organizations leverage sustainable actions and go beyond sport?
Going beyond sport looks different for everyone. Some organizations are making an environmental impact by implementing single-use plastic reduction and recycling programs at their venues, while others are leading community clean-ups or planting trees. Over time, these seemingly “small” activities add up and collectively they can make a huge difference.
For example, the Atlanta Braves are "Pitching in for the Planet" by creating 20 community orchards across metro Atlanta. These neighborhood-based orchards will increase access to fresh, healthy food for urban residents while expanding tree canopy and promoting environmental sustainability.
What is urban forestry and what do you see as the opportunity for sport within it?
At its core, the term urban forests refers to the trees we live with - from individual street trees and urban green spaces to shady school groves and suburban forests, urban trees are ecosystem powerhouses. The services they provide include air pollution removal, stormwater pollution capture, carbon sequestration and urban heat regulation.
We don’t have to choose between urban communities and green space. We can have both. And that’s where urban forestry comes in. It provides a potent one-two punch for sports organizations and athletes that want to make a difference for the planet while also giving back to their communities.
By 2050, 68% of the world’s population - more than 6.5 billion people - will live in urban areas, including nearly 400 million people in the United States alone. And data shows that low-income communities and communities of color have 41% and 33% less tree canopy, respectively, than whiter, more affluent communities. By planting high-performing urban trees, sports organizations can help address environmental injustice in underserved communities.
One Tree Planted uses the Tree Equity Tool, developed by American Forests, to determine where the need for trees is the greatest. Our Urban Forestry program works to address environmental justice and help achieve tree equity by planting high-impact trees in the communities that need them most.
What can sports sustainabilty through urban forestry look like for the sports industry?
Sports venues are often located in areas with low tree equity scores. Teams, leagues and athletes can go beyond their sports to support urban forestry to address environmental injustice in the underserved communities where they play each season.
Momentum is growing and in partnership with OTP and Players for the Planet, leaders in the sports industry are emerging:
- The Oakland A’s and player Tony Kemp joined volunteers as they planted 50 mature trees along the MLK Regional Shoreline in Oakland in September 2022.
- St. Louis Cardinals' shortstop Paul DeJong collaborated with One Tree Planted and Players for the Planet to plant 200 trees in St. Louis’ Forest Park — one of the largest urban parks in the country and an important natural resource for the people of St. Louis.
- In celebration of California Clean Air Day, LA Kings employees planted trees in Lynwood, CA as part of the team's ongoing efforts to promote the responsible use of natural resources and advance sustainable practices.
The evidence is clear: there is a massive opportunity for leagues, teams and athletes to leverage their influential positions to make a huge impact in the community through urban forestry. One Tree Planted is looking forward to sharing more information about this exciting work at Beyond Sport United!
One Tree Planted (OTP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. Their projects span the globe and are done in partnership with local communities and knowledgeable experts to create an impact on nature, people and wildlife. Reforestation helps to rebuild forests after fires and floods, provides jobs for social impact and restores biodiversity. Many projects have overlapping objectives creating a combination of benefits that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.