Black + Gold go green

Offsides and offsets
By SEAN KERRIGAN  |  November 7, 2007

071109_ference_main
HE GIVES A PUCK about the environment.
As a kid in his native Alberta,  NHL defenseman Andrew Ference was always outdoors — like a lot of Canadian kids, he loved snowboarding, skiing, and skating. Now in his eighth NHL season, Ference came to the Bruins this past February in a trade with the Calgary Flames.

Warmer winters might not seem like such a bad thing here in Boston, where lighter snowfalls mean less to shovel off the sidewalk, but up north, where winter (and winter sports) is an essential part of the culture, the change is much less welcome.

The Canadian mountains “went from seeing absolute walls of snow as you drove up,” he says, “to now, where there are brown patches everywhere.”

Ference’s eco-epiphany didn’t happen on a ski slope or frozen pond, though, but instead on a surf board off the California coast in 2002.

“There was a refinery down the shore, and I could taste the gasoline in the water,” he says. “You realize at the end of the day that spewing things into the atmosphere or the ocean isn’t right. Debate all you want, but it’s not good.”

A lifelong recycler — and cycler: he rides his bike to the Garden on game days — Ference decided to up the ante. His family traded in their traditional cars for hybrids, and he and his wife, Krista, switched to an organic, locally grown diet and started buying wind-generated electric power.

But while he was green at home, life on the road was a different story. When you’re traveling on team charters for much of an 82-game pro-hockey season, a lot of the eco-details are left out of your hands.

So this past year, while still with the Flames, Ference floated the idea of hockey going carbon neutral to a handful of his Calgary teammates, and contacted the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver for advice. Suzuki, a veteran Canadian broadcaster and environmental activist, helped Ference & Co. calculate the amount of greenhouse gas NHL players produce per season. Factoring in air and bus travel, as well as hotel accommodations, Suzuki estimated that the league averages 10 tons of CO2 emissions per player — on top of the 22.5 tons a typical American creates per year — and recommended that the players purchase “gold standard” carbon offsets to cancel out the negative impact.

Since coming to Boston, Ference has taken his effort even further. He’s had some “great meetings” with the NHL’s players’ association, and says that the union is asking its members to consider taking up the cause. Here in the Hub of hockey, 18 Bruins (off a 23-man roster) and two coaches recently agreed to join Ference’s carbon-neutral crusade.

And while he admits that not all of his teammates might embrace environmentalism to the degree he does, Ference contends that if a seed is planted, and a jock who maybe never thought about his impact on the Earth starts to make even little changes, some good will come out of it.

“A lot of guys, if they try something, do something, they’ll stick with it. It’s just a matter of a little push,” says Ference. “It’s not about being completely granola or a complete saint, but it’s a start.

“Charity’s easy, giving money’s easy. I’ve always been impressed by athletes who actually go out and do the work,” he adds. “Action is always more impressive.”

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