Courtesy of Jill Savery
At the America's Cup event, a sign for Offsetters, a Canadian company that helps organizations reduce and offset their climate impacts.
More recently, Savery was the Head of Sustainability for the 2013 America’s Cup regatta in San Francisco.
In that role, she developed and implemented a sustainability plan aimed at achieving a carbon neutral, zero waste and sustainable event. She worked with the sailing teams, sponsors, staff, vendors and construction crews to minimize potentially negative impacts in the city and on the waters of San Francisco Bay.
“These were brand-new concepts for a majority of the people involved in the project,” she said. “How do you get people to slow down for a moment, understand these new concepts and integrate them into what they’re doing?
“It’s a big challenge, especially because you’re under a time crunch, a budget crunch, and you’re trying to deliver a high-quality product — the sporting event itself.”
The carbon neutral targets were achieved through a carbon management strategy that included measuring greenhouse gas emissions, reducing emissions as far as possible, and then compensating for unavoidable emissions through carbon credits. Reduction measures included using renewable energy and biofuels, using electric golf carts at the venue, and encouraging spectators to walk, bike or take public transit to the event. “The bike valet was a huge hit among spectators!” Savery said.
Organizers also chose not to use single-use plastic drinking bottles. “It had never been done before for an event of this scale,” Savery says. “Plastic pollution in the marine environment is a major problem, and it’s creating gyres of plastic in our oceans. We educated spectators about plastic pollution and walked the talk by not using single-use plastic at the event venues.”
She helped the organizers achieve a model event in terms of sustainability. It was certified as a Platinum Level Clean Regatta by the conservation group Sailors for the Sea, making it the first event to receive their highest rating.
The fact that Savery made the connection between sustainability and sports her specialty is no real surprise. It’s why she came to F&ES in the first place.
As an Olympian, she knew all too well how much waste occurs during sporting events, and that opportunities for improvements existed in many areas — including energy use, transportation and public engagement.
“I tailored every class I could around these issues, focusing on major sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup,” she says.
For her thesis project, she worked with F&ES Professor Stephen Kellert to explore the value of large-scale sporting events as a platform to educate spectators about sustainability decisions.