Speaker Spotlight with Garry Gilliam | Former Player, Seattle Seahawks; Founder, The Bridge: Eco Village

We look forward to having you at GoGreen on April 6th speaking on our Sports Venues Take The Climate Pledge: Commitments and Action session. As a former player for the Seattle Seahawks playing in the venues that we will be discussing, can you share with us your view on how our local sports venues should lead the way on climate commitment, support the community and create positive long lasting environmental change?

Sports venues, teams, and athletes must recognize that what they do for climate and for social equity is not only about their immediate impact, but is also about their platform to showcase positive change.

In terms of climate, the physical venue should be a positive example – or showcase features – which are not only sustainable behind the scenes (with reduced energy footprints, efficient water consumption, low waste infrastructure), but also sustainable in ways that engage fans or through visible features that can be seen from outside of the stadium or that gets media attention.

Not only should the building lead the way on climate, but the front office of the teams that play within can have a huge impact on climate action as well. The front office staff must come together to talk about sustainability goals to determine what makes sense for them – If they’re based in San Diego, maybe it makes sense to have a goal related to plastic ocean waste, for example. They must also understand the material impacts within the organization and take strides to address those… What is producing the highest carbon emissions, where are they consuming a lot of energy, where are there inefficiencies in water use?

When creating commitments, it’s so important that teams don’t avoid the difficult topics – For example, yes – sports teams travel a lot and therefore their emissions may be higher than other types of businesses. However, this is an opportunity to overcome that fact instead of avoiding it. Until we get more strategic with setting our schedules, teams can have the power to at least offset their carbon emissions, even if they can’t do much to avoid it.

Once a set of commitments are defined, it must be owned by the highest levels and responsibilities to achieve those goals must be integrated into each element of the business. There are so many opportunities for teams to leverage their brand partnerships to showcase the brand’s sustainability commitments; social media and communications can use their voice to bring attention to climate-related information or events; fan engagement can host environment-related promotional events; food and beverage can renegotiate contracts to integrate sustainability goals into their supply chain. 

The ability to perform a sport is so mental that many of the factors that feed into performance are not even understood or recognized. While good athletes can focus their minds, the built environment can hugely impact the effectiveness and ability to do so. The physical venue should not only be environmentally sustainable, but should also promote health and wellbeing for the athletes inside. This is about designing an environment that supports mental and physical performance (air quality, light quality, acoustic comfort), while not being wasteful with resources. These qualities will impact the coaching staff and back of house support staff that are also critical to the athletes’ performance. 

When a venue does all of this well, it inherently touches the surrounding community. The ‘Community’ team within a front office is usually pretty good at creating local partnerships for philanthropic efforts – It’s time that they integrate the environment into an element of their work to address climate justice. This can be done through the commitments that the team has already established, integrating their climate goals into strategies to align with the community. This creates long-lasting positive change while enhancing the team’s legacy. 

Above response by: Kristen Fulmer | CEO & Founder, Recipric; Head of Sustainability, The Bridge

You are the Founder of The Bridge: Eco-Village, a real estate development company that acquires old properties like schools, malls, and warehouses, then turns them into “eco villages” in the inner city. Can you tell us your Eco-Villages are a model for venues/business/buildings, as sustainable and self-contained mixed-use communities?

In many inner cities throughout the country there are a lot of issues which have been recently identified as systemic oppression and systemic racism.  Essentially what that is showing is that it’s magnified the gap between different socioeconomic statuses, races, genders and more.  This gap has continued to grow in different sectors and throughout generation after generation and the most affected community is the black community. We hear about these issues often through redlining, food desserts, lack of representation of black individuals in Fortune 500 companies, lack of funding towards certain school districts, lack of home ownership rates, high obesity and cancer rates and although there are programs and institutions out there to help combat these issues separately, unless we are approaching these issues holistically and working on all these issues as a whole, rather than separately, the black community will continue to struggle. It’s too big of a system to combat, you have to create an entirely new system to eradicate the old, this is what The Bridge is doing through systematic empowerment. 

The Bridge is combating this system that oppresses certain communities and bridging the gap through our five main pillars, Work, Eat, Live, Learn and Play.  If you want to start to impact a community, you have to create a space for the community to be empowered by providing them a space with all of the different aspects they may be lacking- financial literacy courses, healthy restaurants and grocery stores that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, technological equipment such as 3D printers, affordable and safe housing, etc.  The Bridge is  not only identifying problems in underserved communities, but providing an actionable plan to solve these issues promoting empowerment within these struggling communities.   

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is an important issue that we focus on and create action around at GoGreen Conference. Can you tell us how The Bridge is creating a system of empowerment for black americans and people of color? How does The Bridge help to create communities and neighborhoods facing challenges around food security, access to healthcare, affordable housing, adequate paying jobs, training and education, transportation, sustainable infrastructure (power, water, waste) and inequality?

The way that The Bridge is pursuing a lot of those different areas is through the built environment. If there is a need for a grocery store in a community, then build a grocery store in the community and figure out why there is not a grocery store to begin with in that area.  In most cases, it’s because the disposable income in that community isn’t high enough to justify a performa being successful for a grocery store and/ or the population density is not high enough in that area.  However, that doesn’t mean that the residents in that community do not deserve a grocery store, so it’s up to us a development company, who is about empowerment, to make these communities more attractive for other development companies to put the grocery store there.  How do we do that? That’s directly linked to the “Learn” pillar of The Bridge where we teach the community credit repair, setting a budget, saving tips, teaching how to invest money and teaching how to use your money as a tool to bring in more money ultimately creating more disposable income.  Although one of the main pillars of The Bridge is to educate the community through the Learn pillar, we’re also not just going to sit and wait for another developer to bring a grocery store to the underserved community we are transforming. We will partner with the local bodegas and restaurants, and provide the produce right on site to the community by building the space to allow local entities to offer their services. This also works similarly to The Bridge providing quality community healthcare.  Although we don’t specialize in healthcare, we will build the clinic and space and partner with a local healthcare provider to bring in the personnel and equipment.  We as a development company are in the business of building these much needed places and sparking those partnerships and collaborations to bridge the gap and provide these services to underserved communities.  Essentially, we build the space, create the partnerships and provide the programming and the education that promotes economic restoration for the community.

If you’d like to hear more from Garry – register to join us at the virtual conference on April 6th! See the full schedule and grab your tickets here.

One response to “Speaker Spotlight with Garry Gilliam | Former Player, Seattle Seahawks; Founder, The Bridge: Eco Village

  1. Garry M Gilliam Sr.

    This is awesome, I am so proud of the Bridge, even though my son is a CEO.

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