15 Green Sports Stars
Check out our roster of green sports stars, then pitch your own suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
At seven and a half feet tall, NBA star Ming isn’t afraid to stand up for endangered species. He’s spoken out against the hunting of sharks for their fins, a delicacy in his native China, and has denounced illegal animal poaching in a public service announcement for eco-group WildAid.
David “Calamity” James
He earned his nickname with some high-profile errors, but this English Premier League footballer makes no mistake about his thoughts on reducing his carbon footprint. In fact, he argues that FIFA should be kicking around environmental directives to the entire league.
The NFL team launched their “Go Green” environmental initiative in 2003 and since then have been touching down all over their home city to help plant trees and reclaim green space. They’ve also added their cleats to the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and they throw hints at their fans about recycling and reducing waste.
Rock-star climber Hill wants to climb every mountain and shout about protecting the great outdoors. At her Boulder, Colo., home, she’s installed solar panels on her roof, and when she goes out on speaking events, she helps raise money for a local environmental group, the Global Greengrants Fund.
A Brazil native, this pro skateboarder rolled onto the environmental scene as a founding member of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition and founder of a program that gets organic foods and farming into schools. A 12-time medal winner at the X Games, Burnquist also works to ramp up sustainability efforts at action-sports events.
El Hijo del Santo
This Mexican wrestler is a real-life caped crusader, campaigning with environmental nonprofit Wildcoast to protect coastal areas, promote cleanup of the contaminated Tijuana River, and support gray whale conservation efforts.
A five-time Olympic gold medalist, this retired swimmer is diving headfirst into environmental issues as he begins a second career as a TV host and producer for two new environmental shows on an Australian network.
This eight-time world champion surfer doesn’t think healthy oceans are a pipe dream. He aids the coral cause with his Kelly Slater Invitational competition, which helps raise funds for Reef Check, an organization working to protect and rehabilitate coral reefs worldwide.
A world-class cross-country skier, Renner knows that a healthy snowpack is vital to her sport and getting more endangered as global warming looms. As part of a new campaign with the David Suzuki Foundation, Renner is partnering with other winter-sports athletes (like her hubby, alpine ski star Thomas Grandi) to Play It Cool.
Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team
The members of this biking bevy train on polluted roadways, so they know firsthand the dangers of environmental degradation. That’s why they’ve pedal-pushed for wind-power credits to offset their home electricity use and travel emissions — making them the first carbon-neutral pro sports team in the U.S.
This Aussie athlete caused quite a controversy when she waved the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian national flag during an Olympic victory lap, but you can’t dispute her commitment to the environmental cause. The gold medal-winning runner pounds the pavement as an ambassador for Landcare Australia, helping to restore waterways around the country.
A legendary big-wave surfer, Hamilton isn’t willing to ride the tide when it comes to protecting the ocean he loves. Last year, he partnered with Pierce Brosnan to bring the surfing community and Hollywood together to protest a liquefied natural-gas terminal proposed for an offshore area near Malibu, Calif.
Tammy van Wisse
This world-record-breaking marathon swimmer goes the green distance as an avid campaigner and public speaker on environmental issues. In 2000, she spent more than three months freestyling the full length of the Murray River in Australia to generate funds and support for clean-up efforts.
A Namibian sprinter, Fredericks has said he breathes at least twice as deeply when he’s running, so air pollution is a major threat to his health and athletic performance. To help clear the air, he’s been involved in efforts to green the Olympics and the athletics industry in general, including work with the United Nations Environment Program.
Billie Jean King
In the tennis match of life, this legendary player is serving up a grand slam for the environment in the form of a green housing and fitness community to open in Palm Springs, Calif.
Sure, some stars and teams are going green. But what about sports events themselves? Here are a few that are scoring some serious eco-cred:
The athletes may be going for the gold, but the Olympic Games themselves are going for the green. The 2006 games in Turin, Italy, were climate neutral; Vancouver won its 2010 bid with a sustainability plan; London 2012 will emphasize eco-efforts and create a new urban green space; and as for the 2008 games in Beijing, well, officials are just trying to make sure the athletes can breathe. But hey, it’s all about trying your best, right?
For the last 14 years, the biggest of all U.S. sporting events has incorporated green elements; this year, organizers kicked off an effort to plant trees and buy renewable-energy certificates, aiming to completely offset the contest’s greenhouse-gas emissions. This calls for an end-zone dance!
Last year, the FIFA World Cup organizers kicked around some lofty environmental goals. The tournament was climate neutral, the fans were encouraged to take public transit, and various arenas where the games were played used solar power. Score!
Indy Racing League
When it comes to car-racing events, we’re still far from the environmental finish line. But the Indy Racing League has waved the starting flag with an effort this year to switch all the IndyCars to 100 percent ethanol, a fuel made from corn rather than petroleum. And they’re off!
Think we missed the net? Leave a comment letting us know who you think should have landed on the list.
Sarah van Schagen contributed to this list.
Get Grist in your inbox