by Kyle Stack / @NYsportswriter

When a sports league describes itself as going green, most people might assume that it refers to money. For the NBA, Green Week means enriching the environment.

In partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the NBA began its second annual Green Week Apr. 1 as a celebration of the various efforts the league and all 30 teams make toward practicing energy conservation. The event, which runs through Apr. 9, includes new gear for players.

nba_greenadidas has outfitted all NBA players with 50 percent recycled polyester shooting shirts featuring the NBA ‘Green’ logo and headbands, wristbands and socks made from 45 percent organic cotton were also provided to the players for Green Week.

Even though Green Week is in just its second year, the NBA has worked with the NRDC since 2006. Kathleen Behrens, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs, explained how the partnership was formed.

“We reached out to them to have them help us identify ways in which we could improve our environmental issues as it relates to our offices, events and to help our teams do the same,” Behrens said.

The office assessments included the NBA altering its waste and recycling processes, changing its purchasing habits of paper and other office supplies and analyzing its energy footprint at All-Star Weekend, which included an installation of recycled carpet for the three-day Jam Session.

Then Green Week began last year. While every NBA team participates in some sort of ‘green’ practice as part of its day-to-day operation, Green Week permits the NBA, along with the NRDC, to promote its efforts on a larger stage.

“With the NRDC’s guidance, we developed Green Week as an opportunity for our teams to communicate to our fans about ways that all of us can live and work ‘green,’” Behrens said.

One of the most prominent highlights of Green Week is the celebration of an announcement earlier this year that the Portland Trail Blazers’ Rose Garden Arena will become the third NBA arena to receive LEED Certification — and the first major league sports facility to receive LEED Gold Certification.

“It’s a great affirmation that the steps our teams are taking are really going to have a positive impact on the environment,” Behrens said.

The certification, which is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council under their Leadership in Energy and Environmental program, recognizes buildings for its energy, water and natural resource conservation.

Among the steps taken by the Trail Blazers to garner that recognition included the installation of recycling stations in Rose Garden Arena which diverted roughly 1,000 tons of waste from local landfills annually; a partnership with Pacific Power and Northwest Natural to purchase 100 percent renewable energy programs for the Rose Garden; and the team subsidizing public transit passes for its staff and utilizing bike and electric vehicles for on-site operations.

Behrens explained that the league and its teams will continue to push the envelope with its ‘green’ practices. The Orlando Magic expect its new arena, Amway Center, which is set to open in October, to become the fourth NBA franchise to receive LEED Certification. Solar panels at practice facilities and arenas are also in the plans for various teams and teams will still be encouraged to explore partnerships at local levels, such as the Trail Blazers’ relationship with Pacific Power and Northwest Natural.

“We continue to look for things that are new and different and to rely on the advice and support of the NRDC to do that,” Behrens said.

And the NBA will continue to take the lead in sound conservation habits. The NBA Store in New York City will accept used athletic shoes Apr. 5-10; any person to bring in a pair receives a 20 percent discount on their purchase of new athletic shoes. NBA employees will be able to donate cell phones in exchange for calling cards at T-Mobile-provided collection bins in the league’s offices in New York City and New Jersey. There has even been a microsite set up, www.nba.com/green, in which NBA fans can learn more about the NBA’s ‘green’ efforts.

Here is information on the more notable ‘green’ efforts of various NBA teams:

Charlotte Bobcats:
They have more than 200 recycling receptacles throughout Time Warner Cable Arena, and they joined HandsOn Charlotte for a community garden clean-up event Apr. 1.

Dallas Mavericks:
The Mavericks established a ‘Guard the Planet’ initiative last season to raise fan awareness about environmental protection. They offer recycling through America Airlines Center, and they will host their second annual e-cycle drive at the arena Apr. 9. Fans who have old TVs, handheld devices, cell phones, PDAs, computers, keyboards and any other electronic device can drop them off in exchange for a chance to win a pair of tickets to a Mavs first round game in this season’s playoffs.

Denver Nuggets:
Among the features at Pepsi Center include an arena-wide recycling program, energy-saving lights, designated hybrid-only parking spaces close to the arena, sensor lighting in office areas and restrooms to reduce energy waste, fryer oil from restaurants and concessions that is filtered and sold for re-use as bio-fuels and additives for animal feed, the installation of fans that recirculate warm air and save energy and the Blue Sky Grill, which features solar-powered lighting.

Houston Rockets:
Houston runs a Green Team program during every home game in which volunteers collect recyclable trash from fans. The Rockets also host a recycling program for every home game in which they encourage fans to bring a feature ‘item of the month’ to recycle in exchange for discounts at the team shop. They also plan on working with HP and Rebuilding Together during Green Week to renovate a home for a local family using environmentally-friendly materials.

Los Angeles Lakers:
The Lakers hosted Eco-Night Apr. 4 in which they hosted Verizon Hope Line Program, which encourages people to recycle their old phones and accessories to benefit domestic violence shelters. Staples Center also features many ‘green’ aspects including water-free urinals and over 1,700 solar panels installed on its rooftop.

Orlando Magic:
Orlando is constructing Amway Center, which they hope will become LEED certified. It will be designed to use 20 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than arenas of a similar size. They will run a compact florescent lightbulb giveaway Apr. 7 for the arena’s first 500 fans. The fans will receive a voucher upon entry and can exchange it for a lightbulb outside the arena starting in the third quarter.

Phoenix Suns:
The Suns launched an recycling program throughout US Airways Center in partnership with Waste Managment in 2008. The arena also features solar panels on its parking garage.

San Antonio Spurs:
Arena-wide recycling was added to the AT&T Center this season and all staff members have a desk-side recycling bin.

Washington Wizards:
The Wizards will add recycling bins to the Verizon Center’s main concourse for Green Week and they distributed reusable grocery tote bags to fans who attended their Apr. 4 game.