"Green Initiatives" at the US Open: By MY Numbers.

Before heading off to the US OPEN this year, I was delighted to check out the new "Green Initiatives," that I read about on the US Open website. There was also a post in NY Mag's Grub Street blog titled, 'Sustainable Food at the US Open, by the Numbers.' It stated this: "the USTA has embarked on a green mission (Hybrid transportation for players! Organic T-shirts!) this year. Food-service provider Levy Restaurants is sourcing over 30,000 pounds of produce from farms in the metro area, plus North Eastern seafood."

Green Tennis? I was excited to check out just how accessible these new 'green' initiatives at the open would be. But I must admit, before I left I ate a sturdy whole wheat bagel smothered in almond butter and maple syrup. Even with tennis, I'm never optimistic when it comes to stadium food. And inspired by NY Mag's "organic numbers" I took a few tally's and counts of my own. Check out what I ate, saw and experienced at the 2009 US Open. By my Numbers...

"Green" Food? Where? Well just as I guessed, the green, sustainable food at the US Open was hidden away and pretty inaccessible. True, there were the easy-to-find sit-down restaurants and cafe, but they required a 'restaurant pass' or long wait in a line to get into. So, to no surprise, most hungry tennis fans, I'd say 90% of the ticket holders, chose to eat at the fast food vendors, featuring every kind of fried food you could imagine...

They had it all: pasta, pizza, wraps, hamburgers, hot dogs, seasoned waffle fries (the crowd favorite), french fries, pitas, Carnegie Deli eats, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Cuppa Spotta with Illy Coffee (no soy milk), pretzels, pretzel sticks, chicken fingers, mojitos, popcorn, sushi, burritos, soda, beer, wine in plastic cups and even a sad-looking chopped salad bar. I felt like I struck gold when I found a quiet pile of fruit and nut bars at the coffee stand, they were US Open branded. Besides some pathetic-looking fresh fruit, the fruit and nut bar was the healthiest and most economical munchie I spotted. The bar wrapper in my photo is empty, because it was gobbled up.

My Numbers: the food. Sitting in my Ashe stadium seat I did an unscientific tally on the food I saw coming up the bleachers. In about a 30-45 minute period here is what I saw stroll up the bleachers:
32 waffle fries (and Mr. HHL thought I even missed a few)
11 Souvenir Cup alcoholic beverages
9 beers or soda
8 burgers
8 coffees
7 Freschetta pizzas
6 giant pretzels or sticks
4 french fries
4 hot dogs
3 nachos
3 popcorns
2 chicken fingers
2 deli sandwiches
3 plastic cups of red wine
1 banana

...and the guy with the banana was wearing Birkenstock shoes. Nice touch.

By my Numbers: the Organic Wear.
So "organic T-shirts" was one of the features highlighted in the NY Mag post. However, I couldn't find ANY organic tees when I trolled the many souvenir apparel shops. So when I got home I searched the US Open tennis store for organic and here is what I found:

1 organic T-shirt.
Details: US Open 2009 Venus Williams Women's Organic Tee

By my Numbers: Paper and Plastic.
Too many to count: paper 'souvenir' logo-encrusted fans piled up on the non-recycled garbage.
Too many to count: Giant US Open logo-ed plastic bags. Why not give discounts to those who bring their own canvas bags?

By my Numbers: Green Transportation.
The Open website says this: "Hybrid vehicles will make up 52% of Lexus's player transportation fleet (up from 20% in 2008)."

I didn't see any hybrid's waiting for players. I saw a few lined up Cadillac's. But no hybrids in site.

My advice to Really Go Green at the US Open:
* Get soy milk for the coffee stands. Serve Eco-friendly, Fair-Trade coffee.
* Give discounts for people who bring their own bags for merchandise (a la the way Whole Foods does).
* Replace a few of the fast food vendors with local 'healthy' vendors.
* Smoothie and juice bar perhaps? Less alcohol, more juice! This is a kid-friendly event.
* Instead of selling Evian plastic bottles, have an Evian On-Tap station where people could fill up their own water bottles.
* Include (accessible) paper recycling stations.
* Give discounts on the 'healthier choice' food options. When the $6.50 waffle fries seem like the best bang for your buck, they are pretty irresistible.
* Highlight the 'green features' much better, it was nearly impossible to find the 'salad bar' and 'fresh fruit' for sale.
* Replace the grab-n-go cookies with more of those grab-n-go fruit and nut bars.

Side Note: I am a huge tennis fan. I love the US Open. I have a long history as a tennis player, USTA ball girl and high school Varsity Tennis player (photo in this post). I greatly enjoy the US Open each year I attend. But there are a lot of downfalls to this event. The "green initiatives" just didn't live up to my expectations. Tennis is such a healthy, fun and good-for-you sport. I hope the tennis fans can have a happy, healthy good-for-them experience at the Open.

More US Open 2009 Photos:

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