$10 for your broken hockey stick

by Jul 11, 2012

As a sports fan who works at a sustainability-focused ad agency, I’m pretty aware of the sustainability efforts of the major U.S. sporting leagues (football, baseball, basketball and hockey).

For example, four major league baseball stadiums are LEED-certified Silver, while one NFL stadium is 100% powered by renewable energy. In April, the NBA held a Green Week to raise awareness about the environment, and around the same time, the NHL incorporated measures to offset the environmental impact of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

But I found something very interesting when I took a closer look at one sport –or more accurately, one specialty sporting retailer. Consider it a sustainable supplier story. Those of you who don’t follow hockey may not know that many players now prefer a composite stick made from carbon fibers, epoxies and fiberglass, instead of the traditional wooden hockey stick.

In fact, more than three million composite sticks are produced annually – and each year, the number of broken composite sticks that end up in landfills continues to grow.

Enter hockey equipment retailer Total Hockey. After recognizing the problem, they launched a program called HockeyGreen last year. For each broken composite stick collected, they provide a $10 discount on the purchase of a new stick.

The interesting part of this story is they really don’t have a solution to the real problem. You see, carbon fiber is expensive in its raw state, and can be recycled cost effectively and more easily on a large scale (such as in airplanes), but not so easily in small quantities like a single hockey stick. So part two of HockeyGreen is to incentivize recyclers to provide a solution by offering the T Prize, a $100,000 award “for the individual or company that can develop an economically viable process for the extraction and reuse of carbon fibers from composite hockey sticks.” The prizewinner will be announced sometime later this year. In the meantime, Total Hockey continues to compile sticks.

I love the fact that an enterprising company identified a sustainability problem, took a risk, and ultimately found a way to engage and compel consumers and recyclers to work toward an end-of-life solution. In the end, Total Hockey may even discover a way to actually make money recycling composite hockey sticks. And that’s the way it should be.

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About the Author

Jim Lyza

Jim is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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