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US Open Green Initiatives, US Open, August 27, 2008
   

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2008 US Open Green Initiatives

US Open

August 27, 2008




BILLIE JEAN KING

JANE BROWN GRIMES

DANNY ZAUSNER

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ


CHRIS WIDMAIER: We have a very important announcement regarding the US Open today, and I'm going to ask our Chief Executive Officer of Professional Tennis for the USTA, Arlen Kantarian to start it.

ARLEN KANTARIAN: Welcome, everybody. We have a pretty special announcement here today, and it's not about blue courts, it's not about instant replay, it's not about the competition on the court.

It's about a bigger issue that I think is facing us all today. I think many of you are familiar with our mantra here at the Open about creative innovation and our status as a world class event.

I think today we're going to try to bring this innovative spirit to something that's more important than what's just taking place on the court. I think we all know big time sporting events create an enormous platform, a unique platform, to educate a large number of people by example about green initiatives.

You're soon going to hear about our plans to decrease this event's impact on the environment and increase awareness of many of these programs. And to do that, I think you know everybody up here. Our President and Chairman of the Board, Jane Brown Grimes, our head of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, our Managing Director, Danny Zausner, and, of course, the one and only Billie Jean King.

I'm going to turn it over to Jane at this point to hear more about it.

JANE BROWN GRIMES: Great. Thanks, Arlen. Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for being here with us today. As you heard, we're going to talk about the greening here at the US Open, an effort that is very personally important to me, and I can assure you important to everybody at the United States Tennis Association.

Our commitment with this global platform of the US Open, we have the ability to drive important and long‑standing change, and we really need to take advantage of that opportunity.

Given the size and the scope of this event, we actually have an obligation to both lessen the environmental impact of our event and heighten environmental awareness of all those that we reach. This includes our fans, our sponsors, and our vendors. And you'll be hearing more about this.

But I'm here to assure you that this commitment to this cause is significant and meaningful and has come over a number of years. The USTA has been looking hard at different areas of our operations, including energy efficiency, where we've made real reductions in usage. Of course, recycling, with more materials being recycled than ever before.

Transportation. Nearly of 60% of our fans now come to the Open via public transaction. And other critical areas that will help reduce our carbon footprint that you're going to hear more specifically about.

As the national governing body of tennis, it's important that we bring this commitment to all our operations, not only here at the home of the US Open, but our headquarters in White Plains and to our programs spread across the country.

In fact, we plan to draw up a blueprint of best practices that will share with our 17 sections around the U.S., and to the events in the U.S. that we have an operating interest in. Our greater hope is that our efforts will inspire other sports events around the world to engage in these important actions.

We want to set standards, not just follow them. And now, allow me to turn things over to the managing director of this entire facility, Danny Zausner, who will play a critical role in the execution of these green initiatives, and he will fill you in on the details. Danny.

DANNY ZAUSNER: Thank you everyone. Thank you for being here today. As Jane mentioned earlier, we're not new to the commitment to the environment. In the past several years we focused on three key areas: Parks preservation, energy efficiency, and recycling initiatives. We've taken our existing efforts, and now with the help of our new partners, Environmental Resources Management and the Natural Resource Defense Council, we are bringing a much more dedicated focus and dedicated approach to all of our greening initiatives.

Let me start detailing some of our specific efforts. We've expanded our partnership with Evian to include the recycling of more than 500,000 plastic bottles and 20,000 aluminum cans. With our energy partner, Constellation Energy, all of the electricity used during the tournament over a three‑week period will be supplied by wind power for the first time.

700,000 people use a lot of napkins. In fact, over 2.4 million napkins this year alone, these napkins will be comprised of 90% post‑consumer waste.

In partner with NRDC, we'll distribute a hundred roundtrip Metro cards to fans each day of tournament. We've worked closely with Lexus, our transportation provider, and 20% of the Lexus fleet on‑site during the tournament will be hybrid vehicles.

Thanks to a new procedure, we can now, for the first time, recycle the 20 to 25,000 Wilson tennis ball cans, and as always the 70,000 plus Wilson tennis balls will be reused in our tennis programs at the national tennis center over the course of the next 12 months.

As you will see in front of us, we've displayed today highlights from our organic product line, including organic cotton T‑shirts with exclusive designs by Heidi Klum and our very own Billie Jean King.

Believe it or not, the hats you see are made from plastic bottles. Not totally, but each of these hats actually contain the equivalent of two 20 ounce plastic bottles. If you want exact information on this, we have scientists from the NRDC to help better explain this than I probably can.

To help our fans reduce the use of plastic bags in their everyday life, we are offering a reusable tote bag for only $5. In fact, in only the first two days of the tournament, we're thrilled to tell you that the bag has become one of the most popular items that are being sold.

I mentioned park preservation earlier. We're committing a portion of the proceeds from this organic T‑shirt line to benefit Unisphere, Inc., which just happens to be the very organization that helps maintain Flushing Meadows Park.

Last but not least, NRDC has helped produced several player PSAs featuring, Billie Jean King, Venus Williams and Bob and Mike Bryan. These PSAs will be shown around the grounds on video boards and on USOpen.org.

At this particular time, we're going to show you two of those PSAs.

(Showing video.)

DANNY ZAUSNER: We couldn't accomplish all of these initiatives without the involvement and support of our many partners, and I'd like to introduce to you our most significant partner and friend, Billie Jean King.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Thanks, Danny. Thanks, Jane, thank you, Arlen.

It's a great day today. How I got involved personally, is two years ago on August 28th, '06, when the national tennis center was named, my name ‑‑ I get so embarrassed when I talk about this.

Anyway, when they named this 46‑and‑a‑half acre Corona Park, which is a public park, after me, I was walking off the court, and I thought how lucky I was to be alive that they hadn't named it posthumously.

As I walked off the court, I thought, you know, I've got to do something within one year. I want to do some initiative, something that will make a difference, make at least an announcement. About two or three months went by, and Pam Derderian called me, and she and Nancy Becker do green shows throughout the northeast. We started talking about it and about environment and all that, so I said, Well, God took care of this initiative, because let's do something.

Four of us came up with the idea of GreenSlam, Ilana Kloss was the other person. The four of us got it started. But one of the great things is I met the other people at NRDC, Frances Beinecke, and also Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, who is here today.

I had talked to Jane, and Jane really was concerned with the environment and making the US Open green. We talked, and also Arlen and Danny, and this was going to be tremendous for your legacy, Jane, as the president of the USTA that all of us are working together. So it's fantastic that we all got in the room, the USTA, ERM, NRDC, and GreenSlam. A few months ago.

This partnership has worked together very quickly, really kept our egos out of it. Also, Mark Wilkins is here from ERM. He's the global managing partner, and he was there. I mean, all these people worked together in making it happen. It's just so exciting, because what we're trying to do is make a difference.

And you say the PSAs. We were able to get those players during Team Tennis actually to do it. So everything's been happening really fast. But finally, if we just take small steps it will lead to big change, and it's really great this partnership is together.

It's a very exciting moment for me personally. And just to hear Danny what's happening through the operations of the US Open and of course what Jane talked about will be national reaching, because of the different sections that are involved, the different events that go on every single day at the grass root level, as well.

I know at GreenSlam, our job is really to inspire the fans and the athletes and the industry to create positive environmentally things happening.

So those are the things that we really care about. So I guess, really, we should go and just open it up, I guess, right, to questions.

But I just wanted you to know where I was coming from personally, and how GreenSlam got started thanks to people calling me.

RITA GARZA: Thank you very much, Billie Jean. I'd like to introduce Mark Wilkins, Global Managing Partner for ERM, and Dr. Allen Hershkowitz from NRDC. You heard a lot of information Danny shared with you as well as Jane and Billy Jean.

So if you have a technical question, we may direct it to our technical advisors because that's what they've been so wonderful at with us. I'd like to open it up for questions now to answer any questions that you had.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Well, what are we doing? Come on.

RITA GARZA: We're opening it up to questions.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Can I say one thing? A lot of people know what green is? We say the word "green." What does that really that mean? It's really doing small things every day. Today I went to the deli and forgot my eco‑bag to carry my stuff in.

So I told the people, Don't give me the bag. I'll figure out how to carry what I'm buying. That's just one little thing.

RITA GARZA: You need that tote bag, though.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yeah. I know. We have those eco‑bags. Those $5 eco‑bags are going fast.


Q. Just two questions. One is about how much these shirts cost, because everything here is very expensive, and I think it would be very good idea to sell these things in order to have the most, biggest promotion at the fair price. I think it's important. I think it would develop more the name and these shirts and these bags and whatever. That's one thing. The second question is if, while I really appreciate this initiative, I'd like to know if this is only American or if Billie Jean King, since she's an international icon, is she thinking about developing this in all these Slams? Because I think all the other Slams would need the same kind of...

BILLIE JEAN KING: Absolutely thinking global, no question, with GreenSlam.net.

JANE BROWN GRIMES: I can speak to that a little bit. Next week Thursday and Friday are the Grand Slam committee meetings. They all meet here, and I chair that meeting because we're at the US Open.

In my opening remarks I make a few statements in general about the event and how it's going, but you can be sure that I'm going to be talking about this initiative and some of the things that we've been doing and how important we feel it is that this has become global.


Q. And about the price of the items?

JANE BROWN GRIMES: I'm going to look into that. I don't know if we have an answer for that here.

CHRIS WIDMAIER: T‑shirts are approximately $40, and you and I will debate later if we're expensive or not.

BILLIE JEAN KING: A lot of layers involved.


Q. I have two questions. The first one, do you know how many water bottles did you go through last year at the event?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Do you have a clue?

RITA GARZA: 500,000 last year. That's what we determined as our baseline. Between 5 and 650,000 last year. That was what we sent to recycle.

DANNY ZAUSNER: And that's all beverages.


Q. Was that sold and also supplied to players and media?

DANNY ZAUSNER: Correct.


Q. This was for the NRDC folks. How does tennis stack up against other big sports events in terms of carbon footprint? Is it relatively light? Better than football? How does that go?

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: Thanks for the question. The 14 days of events here actually as an event does not ‑‑ we're actually measuring. It's about 2,000 megawatt hours.

Obviously 14 days of an event here is a less carbon footprint in general than 181 baseball games. Also at baseball games, typically a higher percentage of the fans show up by automobiles. Fan participation, fan attendance, is one of the single largest carbon‑emitting factors at an event like this.

The fact that 60% of the participants coming here come by mass transit is quite extraordinary. In fact, that exceeds even the best ‑‑ Boston Red Sox, for example, right in downtown Boston has some 50% of its fans coming by mass transit. So having 60% of the people coming here by mass transit is quite extraordinary.

And just remember, as Danny pointed out, this year, all the facilities are powered by wind, renewable energy, which is having a zero carbon impact as it concerns the facilities' impact here.

So the powering of the lights and the operations for these two weeks is being allocated by the New York Power Pool from wind supplies.

CHRIS WIDMAIER: Next question.


Q. All this sounds terrific. Am I wrong when, they were bringing in the celebrities the other night and every time I see the official vehicles they are these great big SUVs?

DANNY ZAUSNER: 20% of the fleet is by hybrid.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I've been talking to the Lexus people. They're selling them so fast, we're lucky to have 20%. They usually use the bigger cars when there's more people. They always ask how many people when I call transportation. How many people? Because they'll send a much smaller car when there are less people. If there are more people then they'll send the bigger one.


Q. We need smaller people?

BILLIE JEAN KING: Yeah, we do. That's a whole other issue. That's an obesity issue.

DANNY ZAUSNER: Different press conference.

BILLIE JEAN KING: But they've been very ‑‑ they've been keeping ‑‑ I've noticed this year they've been keeping track of how many people are coming out like they really want to know. So we're getting the smaller cars if there's less of us, and the bigger ones when they do need it.


Q. I had another question about the wind power. How is that actually working, and where are the wind turbines? Where's that actually coming from to power the facility?

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: We had a question about where is the wind coming from, the wind power coming from and how is it getting allocated to this particular event. The New England and New York Power Pool allocates energy to specific facilities constantly every day.

The wind farms in Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, which are part of the New England Power Pool, are allocated to particular locations every day by the Power Pool. Typically wind has not been allocated to this part of the city from those facilities.

Because of a specific request made by the USTA to educate the media and its fans about the value of using wind today and in the future, a specific request has made to the Power Pool through the USTA's energy supplier, Constellation Energy, to allocate wind needed to power the event for the event specifically.

So the wind facilities are in place and working. They don't necessarily and in the past haven't been allocated to this facility. The USTA has sought to amplify the visibility of wind power using the leverage it has by having this international media event to amplify information about it, and asking the New York Power Pool to supply wind to this and let people know that they could also be asking their utility to supply their homes and businesses with wind.

The more people making that kind of request, as the USTA has done, the more market demand for it there will be, which helps people make investments into that nonfossil, fuel‑emitting technology.


Q. Another question on the wind power. I know, for example if you want to do this through your home electric bill, you agree to pay an offset. You agree to pay higher price of electricity to invest in the wind energy. Is that what's happening here? Is there an offset being paid?

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: Actually the supplier of energy to the facility has made a donation. The answer is yes. Typically wind is more expensive right now than fossil fuels, and this also relates to the gentleman's question about the price of the clothing that's environmentally preferable.

I think one of the important things to understand about this initiative here is they are trying to advance the environmental initiatives in spite of the fact that it is usually often cheaper to do things that pollute. It costs more often to do things that are environmentally beneficial.

The fact is that globally over $1 trillion a year goes to support the use of fossil fuels, deforestation, environmentally harmful subsidies, saturate our marketplace.

For the USTA to say, We're going to figure out how to get wind here at no additional cost to our fans and to this event, we're going to try to figure out how to get recycled paper here in our napkins, in our yearbooks, in our game day programs, at no additional cost to the participants here, that's hard.

There's a cliché: It's easy being green. Frankly, it's not often easy being green, because the existing manufacturing infrastructure, the existing energy supply infrastructure has been built up over decades or centuries actually based on polluting subsidies.

So the offset ‑‑ the additional price was offset, donated by Constellation Energy to the USTA.


Q. What are the areas for improvement? What green initiatives would you like to see in place over the next five years or ten years?

JANE BROWN GRIMES: I'd certainly like to up the recycling. As more materials become recyclable, and this is really ‑‑ although we've been working on this for two years, and certainly in terms of energy saving we had already put some things in place. In terms of rolling it out here at the event, this is our first year. It's only the beginning. It will grow.

But certainly the recycling area is the one I'd like to get to 100% recycling, and we're certainly not there at this point. Danny, I'm sure you can add.

DANNY ZAUSNER: I think it's also important for us to point out the USTA didn't wait for greening to become fashionable to really get into this game. We're in a public park. It was a decayed park in the '70s. The USTA came in and built this beautiful facility, which is 46‑plus acres.

The mayor of the city has an initiative to plant a million trees, and we're at the forefront of that. We've been planting trees all over the place. You're not going to find a greener tennis facility probably in the world, certainly not in this country, and that's a big part of what we're doing.

The construction that we do, we use recyclable materials whenever possible. We've got a great relationship with NYCERTA. ERM has helped us put a gap analysis together in terms of where we can do better. These are some of the initiatives we've taken on to narrow that gap as much as possible.


Q. Are you having any influence with the manufacturers of like the tennis balls or the cans or the water bottles to make them more easily recycling?

DANNY ZAUSNER: We were working with Wilson to make sure those balls could be recycled. Our friends at NRDC helped us find SIMS as a recycler to actually remove the cans off site and be able to recycle them. So that was a huge thing for us this year.

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: We have a meeting with Wilson tomorrow.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Wilson actually is environmentally in the lead of that. I also went to the SIMS factory actually in Roseville, California, to see how they're separating the different metals and the different ‑‑ anything E, anything E.

In your computers, they're separating all the pieces, and it's quite extraordinary just to see what they're trying to do to help environmentally. I spent about a couple hours there. It was enlightenment.

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: By the way, you hit the single most important aspect of this whole initiative, is that the USTA has been studiously attempting to send market signals to the supply chain, to the vendors of beverages, to the vendors of paper, to the waste management companies, that they view environmental impacts as a liability to the brand of the USTA.

I mean, I don't need to tell anybody this. There's not many brands in the world as prestigious as the USTA. To have environmental liabilities is not on their agenda. So by telling, you know, Lexus, we want to phase in the introduction of hybrid cars over the next few years, by telling the people who produce their draw sheets that we want 30% post‑consumer recycled.

I mean, switching 2.4 million napkins to 90% recycled content reduces greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. I don't know of anything comparable.

I mean, we've done the Oscars, we've done the Grammys, baseball, basketball. I don't know of anything comparable at that scale of achievement. That's enormously valuable to the paper industry supply chain, because once they hear it from organizations like the USTA they know the market is really changing in that direction.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Leadership.


Q. In Italy we are not able to schedule anything. Are you able to schedule, in ten years, in five years, how to recycle a champion like Billie Jean King? (laughter.)

BILLIE JEAN KING: I think ‑‑ in this country it's Patrick's job, Patrick McEnroe.


Q. Can you amplify a little bit what you're saying about recycling tennis balls? They get used on the court and then they get sent to the USTA. Do they actually get taken apart and the materials are recycled, or...

DANNY ZAUSNER: It's a little confusing. It's the cans themselves that we're recycling. The balls we're reusing and then we literally donate them to schools and hospitals to put them on the bottom of walkers. All the balls have a final resting place.


Q. What's the average life of a ball here?

DANNY ZAUSNER: On this site here we can use a ball throughout the next 12 months before we donate them to the organizations.

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: He's making it sound easy, like they're recycling 20, 30,000 tennis ball cans. Those are made of three different materials. The base is polyethylene terephthalate, there's an aluminum ring, and a high density polyethylene lid.

Three different types of materials is going to recycling facilities is actually a complicated endeavor to separate. The fact that the USTA managed to arrange for that, logically collect them here from the courts to a place where no one will see them on the grounds, to a processing facility, to a manufacturing plant, I mean, it really is frankly quite an extraordinary achievement.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Aren't they also using soy ink on the balls now?

JANE BROWN GRIMES: He's talking about the cans.

BILLIE JEAN KING: I know. I'm talking about the tennis ball now. Cans, tennis ball, whatever. I think the soy ink is an improvement. I mean, just slowly but surely they're just doing more and more positive things environmentally.

Also, with equipment, you can just keep reselling it and give to schools. Just think how you can reuse things that are like in your garage or closet. Get them out and try to figure out how can you keep using them in a positive way and not go buy something new all the time.

DR. ALLEN HERSHKOWITZ: To Billy's point about the ink and what she experienced this morning at the grocery store, I think it's critical for all of us to remind ourselves that the situation we face, 70 million tons of global warming pollution in the atmosphere ever day year, and more tomorrow, one degree Celsius away from the world being the warmest it's been in a million years.

It's not the result of one bad actor. It's not the U.S., it's not China, it's not India. The situation we face, the ecological pressures we face, are a result of millions of decisions by consumers and corporations being made day in and day out. So whether it's soy ink on a tennis ball, that matters. Whether it's changing napkins, that matters. Whether it's recycling a tennis ball can, that matters.

So the fact that the USTA has looked ‑‑ I mean, to know about the ink on a tennis ball can or to know what's happening on a tennis ball or what's happening ‑‑ it's just underscores the attention to detail that the USTA has brought to this endeavor.

It really reminds us that really everything has to be reviewed.


Q. I'd like to know, since we are in a technological era and we are all using computers now more than papers ‑ but we still waste a lot of paper everywhere, especially we as a journalist ‑ I'd like to know if there is any thought about how to not waste all the papers that's every day we throw? I mean, should we throw it in some separate places? Because every day there are tons of paper that once we have read the transcripts, whatever, we don't need them, we throw it. Maybe we throw it together with a can or with something else, I don't know.

CHRIS WIDMAIER: I'll make sure I point out where they are in the media center. Obviously our area is one of the places with a lot of paper. As you know, we've moved a lot of things to e‑mail rather than paper. We're also trying to use certified, you know, forest‑friendly paper to produce things. So.

Dr. Hershkowitz's point, we try to, every step of the way, look at it and see how we can have an impact.

I have to now conclude the press conference because we have to start turning it over for tennis players.

BILLIE JEAN KING: What? What? (laughter.)

CHRIS WIDMAIER: I'd like to take a moment and ask the three principals to come out. We'll take a quick photo.

BILLIE JEAN KING: By the way I wrote a book, and it's on 30% post‑consumer waste material.

JANE BROWN GRIMES: And Billie Jean is signing everything with green.

BILLIE JEAN KING: Marilyn Monroe used to sign in red, but I'm signing in green.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports




 

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