Businesses go green for the same reasons people go to the gym, give or take a little “good PR” here and some “unfair media representations of the ideal body” there. Both moves are provoked by some combination – the percentages differ from instance to instance – of guilt, a desire to eliminate a certain amount of flab, and recognition that the latter not only expiates the former, but will make a lot of things better going forward. And so, in a downturn that – in this increasingly tortured metaphor – is the sort of economic equivalent of bathing suit season, sports-centered mega-development Chelsea Piers is slimming down, greening up and embarking on something of an energy diet as part of their Green Initiative.
If a lot of the changes that Chelsea Piers is touting – LEED-certified cleaning products, on-site recycling, local foods featured at the on-site cafeteria and restaurant – seem cosmetic, that’d be because they are. There’s a difference between a gigantic development like Chelsea Piers making its supply chain more sustainable and deploying natural cleaning products and, say, a NBA franchise making a big deal out of doing it. There’s a certain branding benefit to be gained for both, of course. But considering how heavily this complex – which includes film and TV studios, multiple ice rinks, soccer fields and basketball courts, a bowling alley, a huge gym and bunch of other things we’re leaving out because it’s a parenthetical and already really long – taxes that supply chain and how much cleaning needs to be done to keep it from smelling like, you know, a gym…well, then the cosmetic changes start to seem a bit less so. If that were that, though, we’d term this a mild greenwash and move on. After all, energy consumption is where Chelsea Piers could save the most. But on energy consumption, Chelsea Piers seems to be getting it right, too.
They’ll see an obvious benefit from switching to more energy-efficient lighting, of course: entities big and small (and serious and non-serious) will undoubtedly be looking for green props on this particular front in coming years. But the purchase of green energy credits to entirely offset the Piers’ enormous electric bill is money-where-mouth-is stuff, especially when coupled with a real attempt to streamline energy consumption. “We aim to investigate every green option complex-wide,” Chelsea Piers executive vice-president David Tewksbury told Fitnessbusinesspro.com (what, you don’t read it?), “and hopefully serve as an example of the way a large business in New York City can operate in a more eco-friendly manner.”
Chelsea Piers touts its status as the sixth-largest purchaser of green energy by megawatt hour in New York, and while it’s always a good idea to bring some suspicion to these sort of self-high-fives, this looks pretty good to us. And so despite all the easy waste/waist and bottom line/bottom jokes spinning through your author’s mind at present, we’ll just say that we hope it all works out. (Sorry).