Q&A: NHL’s Matt Bradley on Playing for Team Earth

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With Earth skating on thin ice due to climate change, some hockey players in the U.S. are taking steps to reduce waste and carbon dioxide emissions.

Matt Bradley (left), a right-winger for the Washington Capitals in Washington, D.C., has encouraged his teammates to recycle and drink from reusable bottles. He’s also taken part in the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s Carbon Neutral Challenge, which offset more than 4,200 tons of carbon emissions in the 2009 season. (Read: “Do Carbon Offsets Do More Damage Than Good?”)

Some sports stadiums, including hockey rinks, are also greening their playing fields by adopting LEED certification, a third-party verification of their green building operations and performance.

Green Guide spoke with Bradley about his environmental leadership.

Can you summarize what your actions have been so far?

As far as what I’ve done with our team, a couple years ago I noticed there was no recycling of our [plastic] water bottles and Gatorade bottles. So I just suggested we get some bins, and instead of throwing them away just start recycling them. The next step last year with the team was we bought reusable bottles, and [we’re] trying to cut down on using [bottled water] and [are] instead using filtered water in our room.

Has the team been using [the reusable bottles]?

Not everyone is, but most of the guys are. And same with the recycling, the players and staff have really come on board and done a great job.

What inspired this?

About five to six years ago I may not have been thinking as much about living a green life, and my wife Sasha has been a big influence on that. I have a cottage back home on the lake and I’ve noticed changes over the last little while [that are] not for the better. [For instance], there has been more algae in the water lately and not as much snow in the winter. It’s something that is now very important to me and my wife and stuff that I think everyone can do.

How have you gotten involved with the NHLPA Carbon Neutral Challenge?

I was involved with our team as far as getting our guys on board with it. Basically what it is is we buy back our carbon output … Obviously we fly everywhere and we have a pretty big carbon footprint, [so we] offset our stuff with wind energy and other things like that. In our association we have 770 players and [somewhere in the] mid-700s signed up for it. It was a real successful thing.

Leading the sustainable lifestyle isn’t that easy all the time. Can you say what sacrifices you’ve made that have been tougher than just recycling?

Most of the stuff we do is not that hard. My wife and I are hoping in the next little while to build our house back home as close to off-the-grid as we can, and even that isn’t a hard thing to do. It’s a choice you have to make. To me a lot of it is choices, and it’s not a big inconvenience a lot of the time to make the right choice.

I ask that because there’s a lot of greenwashing out there.

That’s true, and I think a lot of companies throw green around to sell products and often I wonder if it’s just a marketing ploy or if they do care … There’s a big difference between saying you’re going to do stuff and actually doing it.

What has been the response from your fans?

The team has done a good job publicizing what we’re doing and [it will] hopefully have a trickle effect. They’ve had emails about people starting their own recycling programs, and I’ve been to some schools talking about green living.

Why has hockey gotten attention for having an environmental ethic? Why not other sports?

A lot of us are from more rural towns and cities and maybe we’re closer to nature back home. We can maybe see the changes that have been more apparent to us than people living in the city.

Do you continue to find ways to make your life more sustainable?

Yes. The biggest thing you do is to make wherever you live as green as possible. I think with everyday that goes by there [are] new things you can learn or do or new choices you have to reduce your footprint.

I imagine you’ve probably heard there’s a climate change meeting coming up next month in Copenhagen. Do you hope there’s going to be some legislation that comes out of that that would reduce emissions?

Yeah, I understand the machine is tough to change, but you can argue that everyone has to live on our planet, this isn’t something that only affects certain people. … In the end I think we all have a responsibility to do the right thing. I know change is tough sometimes on a large scale but hopefully morality wins out in the end.

–Christine Dell’Amore

Note: This Q&A has been edited for length.

Related:

–How to go on a carbon diet.

–Test your global warming IQ.

Photograph courtesy Melissa Molyneux

Human Journey

Christine Dell'Amore, environment writer/editor for National Geographic News, has reported from six continents, including Antarctica. She has also written for Smithsonian magazine and the Washington Post. Christine holds a masters degree in journalism with a specialty in environmental reporting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her book, South Pole, was published in 2012.