COLUMN: Sustainability shouldn't be a publicity stunt

Thursday, April 21, 2011 | 11:53 a.m. CDT
The players on the Gatorade Cooler Talk team include Brian Nordli, Vinnie Duber, Rob Givens and Matt Kane

Editor's note: This team-written column is one in a series of five about Earth Day, all written from a different life perspective.

NBA Green Week is over.


Four sports enthusiasts take a break from talking gridiron and hoops to focus on other world issues. You can take the fan out of the sports, however, you cannot take the sports out of the fan, and these guys look at the rest of life from behind their catcher’s masks. They wear their hockey pads and basketball shorts to a political debate and discuss issues you might talk about around the water cooler — or in this case, the Gatorade cooler.

Vinnie Duber, Rob Givens and Brian Nordli all have experience covering sports for the Missourian. Matt Kane covered public safety for the Missourian. Duber is currently a copy editor at the Missourian, and Nordli is a former copy editor.

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What do you mean you haven't heard of NBA Green Week?

It's the now-annual seven-day stretch each April when the NBA stamps a stylized recycling logo on its hardwood courts and forces its players to don warm-up T-shirts with the aforementioned logo. See? Green!

As Earth Day 2011 approaches, the NBA's pathetic excuse for environmental awareness is a perfect illustration of how "green" has gone from an advocacy to a corporate trend. The problem is, that trend typically doesn't include actually doing anything that helps the environment or prevents unsustainable activities.

The NBA has the distinct opportunity to reach a very large audience, with more than six games a week nationally televised. But instead of doing anything with a legitimate impact, the association just shows off the accomplishments of a talented graphic designer.

Truthfully, the information is there — if you dig deep enough. The NBA has a "green" website and links to several teams that also have their own Internet space dedicated to listing activities fans can partake in to help the environment, but only after a plethora of clicks and links. Where is this information during the nationally televised broadcasts of games? Instead, we get short video segments of players helping to plant a tree in some neighborhood from several months ago. In fact, the NBA "green" page has three pictures, two of which are identifiably from at least two years ago.

The NBA isn't alone in its hollow pitch for environmentalism. Remember that 100 percent decomposable Sun Chips bag? It happened to also be loud. In the end, the company tossed the idea because people couldn't stand a little bit of noise with their Sun Chips. And then there's NBC's green peacock icon during its own "green week." That's right, changing the color of the logo from gray to green is its big contribution to environmental awareness.

The idea of being environmentally friendly has gone from a realistic goal to a public relations stunt. And, while useful tips can be presented through announcements at stadiums and informative websites, there's little push for the average viewer on the other end of the television to do something. Except maybe to purchase one of those awesome NBA Green Week warmup T-shirts.

Make Green Week mean something, NBA, or don't even bother.

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