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Jeremy Casebeer on Sustainability and WM Partnership

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Jeremy Casebeer is one of the most universally-loved AVP players. His two-toned mustache, bullet train serve, and fiery energy are just a few of his notable features. Another? His fervor for sustainability and conservation.

Jeremy’s passion for the planet began early and organically. “I was lucky,” he says, “to grow up with the mountains and the beach as my backyard in Santa Barbara” The Casebeer family was active and outdoorsy, opting for hiking, camping, and surfing on the weekends.

Jeremy experienced natural beauty in his everyday life and eventually learned more about it. “I had an environmental science teacher in high school,” Jeremy says, “who was one of the most engaging, funny, and cool teachers ever. He lived in a geodesic dome up in the mountains. We once took a trip to Santa Cruz Island to build a greenhouse and plant endemic species.”

On that trip, surrounded by friends and an inspirational instructor, Jeremy got a taste for a life spent improving the planet. It was transformative to see what California was like before civilization – how people, invasive species, and other factors have changed topography, temperature, flora, and fauna.

Jeremy craved more knowledge, so he studied environmental studies at UCLA. Though protecting the environment was still high on his list upon graduation, Jeremy put a traditional job on hold to focus on beach volleyball. We’re all grateful for that.

But he didn’t need to shelf his passion. While playing, Jeremy attended a transformative Jack Johnson concert. Johnson’s ‘green’ rider – the list of needs an artist provides a venue – required sustainability efforts. While many rockstars ask for certain foods, alcohol, lighting, or space – Johnson prioritized the earth in his demands. Utilize renewable energy and clean generators and turn off the onstage lights between acts. Ban single-use plastic and ensure vendors are using locally-sourced foods and environmentally-friendly practices.

Jeremy was inspired. “It made perfect sense. That’s how we can bring that into our events.” He’d found a way to combine his two life goals, beach volleyball and environmental conservation, into creating the first sustainability plan in pro volleyball.

Of course, these things don’t happen overnight. Jeremy pitched his ideas to the AVP, and they were on board from Day One. But a plan is only possible with the right partners. The AVP spent time looking for a choice partner to bring this plan to life. They finally met their match in WM.

WM has been a presence in the sports space for years. They’re involved with multiple leagues, marathons, and sports, but their biggest event is the WM Phoenix Open. It’s one of the most well-known PGA Tour golf tournaments, mostly because it’s a raucous party that lasts all week. Think 6 Man meets Coachella for an entire week. But now, with WM as the title sponsor, the epic rager has morphed into a sustainability billboard.

The February golf tournament is the largest zero-waste sporting event on earth. WM and the tournament host, The Thunderbirds, work closely with vendors to ensure they adhere to the best practice and industry standards, from building their booths to each ingredient. No trash cans are on site – only compost and recycling.

WM came on board with the AVP in 2021 and got to work. Leadership oversaw operations for the 2021 season, including vendors, food, electricity, water, and the waste stream. They then provided a creative report with recommendations. And we all got to work.

The 2022 MBO became the AVP x WM pilot project. Portable Electric piloted the first solar generators ever at beach volleyball tournaments. The AVP brought in local clubs to volunteer and help educate fans about recycling and composting. If you attended MBO 2022, you’d remember composting and recycling bins around the venue and plant-based cutlery and drinkware.

We even ran an on-court game testing people’s recycling knowledge – which item goes where and how to recycle only clean, dry, recyclable materials. Not gonna lie – I learned that plastic bags were not recyclable from those games. Even Jeremy learned that recyclables shouldn’t be bagged. They need to be loose. Pro tip: reuse brown paper bags to recycle and then dump them in the bins.

All those seemingly small efforts made a massive difference. With over 60,000 people making their way through the venue, those small steps diverted literal tons from landfills. And it educated attendees (and staff) on best practices moving forward. “It isn’t glamorous, but it makes a really big difference,” Jeremy confirms.

“It was a small first step,” he continues, “but sports and athletes have the opportunity to reach people in a nonpolitical, nonshameful way. The feedback was awesome from players, staff, and fans. I’d love to run it back, bring in more, scale to the other Gold Series, and then all the events.”

Jeremy’s long-term goal is to work toward zero-waste events (90% of materials diverted from landfills), reduce energy consumption, and prioritize renewable energy sources, similar to the Jack Johnson concert that sparked his initiative so many years ago. Then he wants to scale it to the greater beach community, moving into the college and junior tournaments.

“It’s not that much effort to provide water refill stations at junior tournaments,” he says. “And it’s not that much effort to do a 15-minute beach cleanup before and after every tournament. You get 50, 100, 150 people plus their friends and family, doing a 15-minute walk to clean things up. It just makes sense, and it’s something everyone wants to get behind.”

Jeremy makes a great point. Our sport, by nature, requires engaging with actual nature. Enjoying the beach is one of the many incredible beach volleyball benefits. It’s literally built into the name. Cleaning our beaches, preserving and protecting them is something anyone who enjoys the beach can and should get behind. The beach volleyball community is a ripe group of willing participants.

“It’s super simple,” Jeremy says. “Just take care of the places you enjoy. I’ve spent more time at the beach than literally anywhere else. More time at the beach than in the home I grew up in. Why wouldn’t you want to leave it better?”

“And it’s not a massive lift,” he continues. One of Jeremy’s biggest frustrations is the messaging around sustainability. It’s tainted with politics, shame, and misinformation. It can feel doom and gloom, too hard to execute, or too expensive.

“Ten years ago,” he says, “all the solutions and products were more expensive and harder to find. There was a lot of friction. Now, most of them are better, on par with price, easy to find, and they’re cool! So that feels like they’re starting to shift.”

“The hardest part is making the business case for it,” he continues. “[To prioritize sustainability], we have to change how we do things, spend more time with vendors, and tell them what they can and can’t bring into the tournaments. It takes some time.” But Jeremy knows – by bringing in sponsors who care and are invested in the cause, engaging with athletes and fans, and telling impactful stories – one little sports league can make a real change.

Interestingly, one of the companies on the cutting edge of sustainable product creation is Footprint. I had no idea the company whose name is on the 2022 AVP Phoenix Championships arena was such an eco-friendly powerhouse. Their mission is to eliminate single-use plastic. They’re only eight years old, and yet their plant-based material company is successful enough to buy the rights for a massive NBA arena. Clearly, there’s plenty of interest in sustainability to make it economically business-friendly.

Jeremy sees this shift in interest, knowledge, and global corporations as a significant moment and opportunity for beach volleyball. “It’s cool to see sustainable companies getting involved in sports,” Jeremy says, “and sports are embracing them, too.” It’s an opportunity to create a new sponsorship category, partners like Footprint, WM, and more.

This is just the beginning of the AVP’s efforts to better the beaches we so love. With passionate players like Jeremy, revolutionary companies like WM, and the support of our fans, the AVP can make significant strides toward a better world.

 

 

Category: Athlete Stories, Current Season, Gold, Lifestyle

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