X-Games Opened My Eyes

More than I ever thought, businesses are serious about sustainability. And I'm not talking just small businesses - I'm talking about big corporations like Disney, ESPN, and Aspen Ski Company. I know this because I recently was at the 2010 Winter X Games in Aspen, seeing behind the scenes, meeting the people responsible for environmental projects, and generally witnessing first hand through observation and conversation how serious these companies are getting about environmental stewardship.

I journeyed to the X Games this year wearing two hats: I’m an Educator with ACE (Alliance for Climate Education) and also our new National Campaigns Manager. ACE was invited to bring our sweet climate change assembly and our new Do One Thing (DOT) campaign to Aspen to support some of ESPN’s environmental initiatives. This was an amazing experience for a number of reasons! It’s easier to illuminate the experience in video – so if you're interested, check out a short clip of some of our live reporting last week:

Here’s the scoop on what the companies I mentioned at the start are doing to lower their carbon emissions and raise their voices for a future safe from climate change:

Aspen Ski Co has dedicated millions of dollars and countless staff hours to environmental conservation and protection initiatives and have more in the pipes. What’s more, they recently joined BICEP (Businesses for Innovate Climate and Energy Policies), to take their environmental initiatives to the next level. BICEP companies are getting serious about clearn-energy and climate lobbying and Aspen Ski Co joined because they know their business depends on a safe and predictable – not warming – climate. Aspen Ski Co knows that climate uncertainty means business uncertainty, so they are taking action.

Disney and ESPN have formed something called their “Environmentality Initiative,” which is a program to preserve environmental health, promote environmental sustainability, and raise awareness about responsible environmental stewardship. We hung out with Fabian DeGarbo, ESPN’s Senior Manager for Global Sustainability, for much of the weekend and got some inside information about all the efforts to minimize waste, conserve energy, and minimize the environmental footprint of the X-Games. They’re getting serious with composting, waste diversion, and saving tons of energy. They’re doing so much, I think they’re giving Bonaroo a run for their money!

My experience at the X Games taught me more than I thought it would. For one thing, Shaun White is a beast on the superpipe. More relevant to my line of work: businesses recognize that clean energy and environmental sustainability lie at the core of their success, now and in the future. I was thrilled to see three giant companies - that many of us admire and respect already – recognizing the threats and opportunities that our changing climate presents and bringing a bold plan for a cleaner, brighter future.

And friends in the movement – if I can share an idea that I’ve just come to realize, it’s this: businesses can be our allies in the fight against climate change – with the exception of perhaps the Chamber of Commerce and a few others. They’re influential, powerful, and self-interested. If we frame the conversation correctly, that what’s good for the planet (and human health) can be good for business, we’ll find some loud and powerful voices shouting on the behalf of fair, responsible, and just climate and environmental policy.

Make friends. Build consensus. Change the world.