Op-Ed: Sports, Sustainability, and the AVP Manhattan Beach Open

This article was first published on thembnews.com.

Growing up in Santa Barbara surfing, hiking, and camping, I’ve always felt at home in the outdoors. I was introduced to beach volleyball in high school. My love for the sport and its beautiful setting led me to chase my dream of playing professionally.

As a pro beach volleyball player, I’ve been fortunate to travel to beaches all over the world, and live and compete in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve spent more time at the beach than anywhere else – it’s literally my home, office, and refuge. It’s been very special to be able to train and travel with my 6-year-old son. My goal is to work to protect the beaches that have given me so much, so that my son can enjoy them with his kids the same way I’ve been able to.

This has led me to explore how I can use my platform as an athlete to scale environmental impact through sport. Through my journey, I’ve realized that athletes have a direct and trusted relationship in sports with the fans, sponsors, and leagues. When athletes speak up and work with their leagues on issues they care about, this is one of the largest megaphones in the world. Sports and athletes have a massive opportunity to bring people together to educate and inspire positive change.

Working to make sports more sustainable matters. It means understanding the environmental impacts of an event, and changing operations or creating new programs to reduce any negative impact on the environment. For example, organizers are able to minimize the event’s carbon footprint, and in doing so show fans how they can make simple changes in their lifestyle that does right by our planet. Signage for fans with easy-to-do best practices and positive reinforcement can go a long way, especially at a beach event full of avid fans that also want to protect our beaches and oceans but may not know how to get involved.

This month, at the world-famous Manhattan Beach Open, our goal is for at least 90% of the waste generated to be reused, recycled, or otherwise recovered. So that materials avoid the fate of a landfill, our partner, WM [Waste Management], will place recycling and organics containers throughout the event to make it easier for guests and athletes to recycle items like empty water bottles and soda cans.

Guests will also be able to recycle food waste and vendors will serve food in compostable containers. In addition, we’re working with WM to train the merchants and staff to maximize recycling waste diversion efforts. Everybody can do their part, even if it’s something as simple as tossing an empty water bottle can into the proper container.

We’re also working with WM to measure and reduce water consumption and our greenhouse – gas -emissions footprint. We’re using solar generators for the very first time at this year’s AVP Manhattan Beach Open.

Climate change is real and we know we are in a difficult position. We need to change the way we live to ensure that our kids, and theirs, can enjoy our natural world like we’ve been able to. We cannot delay change at their cost. One thing I’ve learned is that none of us are going to save the world or destroy it as individuals. But our individual and collective actions do truly matter. Each of us inspires and affects the people around us through our family and friends, work, and our local communities.

Changing the way sporting events are run offers an opportunity to leverage the multiplier effect of sports and athletes to inform and inspire millions of people. The AVP Tour and WM are taking an important first step in this process for beach volleyball at the Manhattan Beach Open on August 19-21.

I’ve seen how much the beach volleyball community wants to support these initiatives and I am excited and optimistic to see this will grow in our sport and the global sports community at large.

Jeremy Casebeer is a professional beach volleyball player working to use his platform in sport to scale social and environmental impact. He is the Project Manager for the AVP Tour and WM Sustainability Plan, focuses his sponsorships as an athlete on sustainable brands that share his values, is an ambassador for Parley for the Oceans and the Forest Stewardship Council, and is on the Board of Players for the Planet and AVP First.