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Billie Eilish Eco Sneakers and Climate Protests: Sustainability Spotlights of the 2023 US Open

The 2023 US Open showcased sustainability through Billie Eilish's eco-friendly sneakers sported by a star player and climate activists disrupting a match to protest fossil fuels. We explore these stories and more top green initiatives at the landmark tennis tournament.



The US Open tennis tournament came to an end after a competitive two-week match series. The New York-based tournament showcased a growing momentum around sustainability in sports. From eco-friendly gear to recycling initiatives, efforts were on display to reduce the event's environmental impact. As the tournament marks 15 years of its sustainability program, here are the key green takeaways from the 2023 US Open.



Billie Eilish's Sustainable Sneakers Light Up the Court


Prior to competing, tennis star Victoria Azarenka gave fans a sneak peek of her Nike x Billie Eilish sneakers. The red, white and black shoes come from the singer's collaboration with Nike on the Alpha Force Low, a retro basketball shoe.



The Billie Eilish version incorporates eco-conscious designs and materials, like synthetic nubuck, recycled polyester, and chopped-up foam scraps. These sustainable features help reduce waste compared to typical athletic shoes.


Azarenka's Instagram post sporting the sneakers highlighted the crossover between music and sports style. It also underscored the demand from fans and players for sustainable fashion on and off the court.



As the sports world increasingly embraces eco-innovation, expect more athletes to sport gear made from recycled plastics, natural materials, and other solutions to lower environmental footprints.


Climate Protesters Disrupt Play with Court Drama


Climate advocacy group Extinction Rebellion NYC staged an attention-grabbing protest at the tournament's marquee Arthur Ashe Stadium. During a match between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova, activists unfurled banners decrying fossil fuels and delaying play for 50 minutes.



One protester, Sayak Mukhopadhyay, proceeded to glue his bare feet to the court floor while chanting slogans. He and another man were arrested and charged over the dramatic demonstration.


While frustrated by the interruption, Gauff acknowledged the non-violent nature of the protest in her post-match comments. Mukhopadhyay controversially interpreted her response as "support."



Sports arenas provide high-visibility venues for activist groups to spotlight their causes. As climate concerns mount, we may see more impassioned pleas emerging even at traditionally staid tennis events.


The global Extinction Rebellion group has been associated with past demonstrations like hurling food at and gluing themselves to famous artworks, spray-painting the yacht of a Walmart heiress and blockading the route into and out of the Burning Man festival.



A Decade of Driving Sustainability


The US Open has actively worked to enhance sustainability for 15 years through its pioneering green initiative. Efforts have slashed the tournament's emissions by over 130,000 metric tons, equivalent to removing 1,390 cars from the road annually.



Waste diversion has also accelerated, with over 6,500 tons redirected from landfills. Composting food scraps into agricultural compost and donating surplus meals display the event's social and environmental commitment.


Partners like Wilson, Evian and Polo Ralph Lauren have joined the sustainability push through recyclable gear, reduced plastics and clothes from recycled bottles. The LEED-certified Louis Armstrong Stadium also boasts energy efficiency, water conservation and green building materials.



While critics contend that the enormous event can never be fully green, the US Open provides a model for continual improvement. Its comprehensive efforts toward sustainability have catalyzed awareness while reducing the tournament's eco-footprint.


Tennis Tackles Plastic Waste One Ball at a Time


With nearly 100,000 tennis balls used at this year's tournament, the US Open highlights the vast waste generated by a seemingly benign fuzzy orb. Most balls end up in landfills due to limited recycling options.


Wilson's Eco Overcap for ball cans cuts plastic use by 50%. But systemic solutions are still lacking for spent balls, of which over 300 million are produced annually worldwide.



Some initiatives aim to address the mounting waste, like donating used balls to community tennis programs or re-purposing materials through upcycling. Ultimately, developing new recyclable or compostable ball materials may be needed.


As awareness grows around plastics' environmental impact, sports leagues feel increasing pressure to find eco-solutions. The tennis world has an opportunity to rally around resolving one of its most pervasive sustainability challenges.


Pursuing Progress as a Global Sporting Event


With its massive crowds and worldwide scope, the US Open models ways for major sporting events to progress on sustainability, even with inherent impacts. From venues to partners, advancing innovations across operations helps curb the tournament's footprint.



Showcasing sustainability also spotlights tennis as a leader among global sports pursing an eco-conscious future. These efforts can create ripple effects into supply chains, sponsorships, infrastructure, and fan behavior worldwide.


While challenges remain, the US Open's comprehensive green initiatives exemplify the role sporting events can play in driving sustainability. As climate concerns escalate, sports must utilize their leverage as unifying global platforms to accelerate solutions.



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