You might think the stereotypical sports fan and nature lover look nothing alike. That one might prefer the roar of the crowd to the peaceful outdoors. That the other would opt for tofu instead of the jumbo hot dog. But there have always been those with a love of sports who also care about the environment.
Like former President Teddy Roosevelt: a hunter who became one of America’s greatest conservationists.
The organized sports we watch and play are naturally resource-intensive. We build facilities that need energy to run, with playing surfaces that require resources to maintain. A prime example is the pristine sheet of ice at a hockey rink – the result of clean water and a cooling system working together.
Best of both worlds
Plymouth goalie Aubrey Organ has played hockey since she was seven. She’s been caring for the environment even longer than that.
“I would go to rinks when I was younger and see these massive piles of snow outside from the Zamboni. I wanted to go sledding on it. My mom would say, ‘no, that’s gross.’ I understood later on, that was just a bunch of water being wasted.”
A senior captain whose GPA suggests she’s a contender for the academic equivalent of the Vezina Trophy, Aubrey developed a senior project that combined a love of saving pucks with a passion for saving water.
Inspired by the debut of Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena – which collects rainwater to use for the ice – initiatives such as NHL Green and the sustainability work of longtime Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, Aubrey started Rink Redemption, which focuses on reducing water waste in the hockey community as well as in homes.
“She’s trying to reach the hockey community to inspire rinks to move in this direction,” explains Robin Buchanan, Aubrey’s mom and the founder and executive director of Project Green Schools. “But the people – players, families, community members, students who go to the rinks – can bring those practices home.”
Water scarcity might not rate for New Englanders the way it does for people in other parts of the world. But in the United States – particularly on the West Coast – it’s an issue. Even locally, think about summer drought periods where towns impose bans on watering lawns.
And while building new ice rinks that harvest rainwater or cool the ice using climate-friendly technology – like that employed at the recent Beijing Olympics – is a major goal, Aubrey says, “I realize that a bigger impact can be made if multiple people are doing small things.”
It starts with a pledge. Incremental changes – like turning off the water while brushing your teeth – are part of a bigger picture.
“There are a bunch of different tools,” Aubrey notes, citing water bottle refill stations in public places or high efficiency toilets and shower heads in homes. “Some are obviously way more expensive than others. But you don’t have to be spending thousands of dollars to build a giant cistern for a rink to make a difference.”
“The small goal is the pledge,” Aubrey says. “It’s easy for people to do. The medium-scale goal is education: spreading the word. I think connecting it to sports helps, because a lot more people connect to sports than the idea of water conservation.”
“In the future, the larger goal would be buying equipment for rinks to implement these ideas.”
Aubrey was encouraged when Bob Sweeney and the Boston Bruins Foundation jumped on as a partner.
“It was originally just a pledge and trying to go to a Bruins game to educate people about water conservation. A lot of people enjoyed hearing about it and have been supportive. Now we have multiple partnerships: events with Maine, Providence, and Boston. We’re doing public skates. It’s just kind of gone crazy and a bunch of people are involved.”
Aubrey will be supported by a team of six local players at TD Garden for the Bruins-Maple Leafs game on Tuesday, March 29th.
And with Earth Day coming up next month, Rink Redemption will hold two events in April: at the Maine Mariners on April 16th and the Providence Bruins on April 19th. With the support of those teams and organizations like the Maine Water Utilities Association, discounted tickets and perks are available for the upcoming games.
The Providence event will feature a postgame contest between two local teams, while Aubrey plans to drop the puck in Portland on what Maine’s Governor Mills is proclaiming “Rink Redemption Day.”
With a dozen events planned for this year, Aubrey hopes to continue the momentum, even with college on the horizon.
“I think this will take on a life of its own,” Buchanan predicts.
“Seeing what’s happening now,” says Aubrey, “in the course of like, four months, is incredible.”
“Hopefully, this becomes a national thing.”
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can talk pucks or tree hugging with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.