After the world trade center attacks in 2001, the world was changing, and Lew Blaustein was changing with it, but in a different way.
Before September 11th, 2001, New York native Lew Blaustein was happily working in the field of his dreams: sports. He has been a sports fan his entire life, wanting to be a professional athlete when he was young, just like many kids. But, Lew notes, “on the playground I was never really the first pick,” and soon realized that he was not destined for a career in the MLB or the NBA. In the early 2000s, Lew’s life was good; he was working for Sports Illustrated Kids in advertising sales, he was roughly in the middle of his career, and things were going well. However, it would take a very significant event in American history to make him rethink his path.
Lew was always in favor of environmental protection but only really considered himself a “lowercase E environmentalist.” Since he was young, his passion had always been sports— supporting New York teams such as the Yankees, Knicks, and Jets. He notes that some of his greatest idols growing up were Joe Nemeth, Walt Clyde Frazier, and Willis Reed. Later on in his life, Blaustein would add people like Al Gore and scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe to that list.After the 9/11 attacks, Blaustein felt fortunate that he did not know anyone in the towers personally, but he felt a tremendous sense of loss for his city and country. When describing what it felt like, Lew said there were “no words” to explain such a tragedy. But this experience sparked something new inside him: he felt a call to action—as every great leader does following a crisis. With a renewed sense of patriotism and an invigorated feeling that he personally needed to take action, Blaustein searched for what he could do to take the plunge. Still, he didn’t find the outlet for his newfound energy immediately: “I felt like I had to do something but I didn’t know what that something would be.” Shortly after, a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times entitled “Green Is The New Red, White, and Blue” would make the difference for Lew Blaustein. Friedman noted that the United States accounted for only 4% of the world population, but 25% of its energy consumption, much of it coming from Saudi Arabia. He then asserted that the Saudi royal family would buy off its Wahhabi right-wing extremists with some of its U.S.-based oil revenues. And the Wahhabis would use some of that money to train people to fly planes into buildings—17 of the 19 9/11 attackers were from that group. Friedman’s conclusion: We were fueling the wars on terror; we were fighting by our insanely profligate energy use. “Friedman’s piece was the impetus for my patriotic green journey,” recalled Blaustein. “I bought a hybrid car, changed out all my lightbulbs and became a vegetarian 90% of the time.” The more Lew researched, the more he learned about climate change. He learned that this whole environmentalism thing was more extensive than these geopolitical issues and even more significant than the US’s war on terror. Blaustein eventually realized more had to be done. He thought to himself, “I have to do something about this with my work because you can go vegetarian and all you want, but that ain’t going to make enough of a difference.” Lew quit Sports Illustrated Kids in 2005 and looked for a new angle in his career. Green jobs at the time were limited, many of which were manual jobs such as installing solar panels on roofs, but Blaustein noted how that type of job isn’t meant for everyone, “you don’t want me anywhere near a roof, let me tell you.” So Lew thought, “what am I good at?” Marketing, communications and sales. He recognized that green organizations and companies were going to need that soon. So he became a consultant in 2005 to “help companies and nonprofits with a legitimate green product or service to create their green story, tell their green story, and sell their green story.” Since then, he has worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society and companies like Whole Foods, Starwood Hotels, and British Telecom. In 2013, Lew launched GreenSportsBlog (link) to combine his passion for sports, environmentalism, and his ability to write. Since then, the GreenSportsBlog has only grown in size and scope, adding a podcast called the GreenSportsPod, and guests such as NFL player Gary Gilliam, quarterback Josh Rosen, and Brewers pitcher Brent Suter. GreenSportsBlog paved the way for Lew to create his new non-profit organization, EcoAthletes (link). His connections with athletes that he interviewed led him to believe that there is a bloc of people within the sports world that cares deeply about the environment and climate change. And that group has the platform and the potential to make a huge impact but has not been brought together yet. EcoAthletes officially launched in April of 2020 and currently has partnered with 26 athletes called EcoAthletes Champions, spanning four continents who play 15 different sports. EcoAthletes is looking to dramatically grow the number of athletes to speak out on climate. The nonprofit plans to launch a series of “Climate Communications for Athletes” workshops, funded by donations from brands, foundations, sports federations and more to educate its Champions. The goal is to help athletes feel comfortable and motivated to use their platform to advocate for climate action, helping them overcome internal obstacles. “Athletes list three main obstacles to engaging on climate,” said Blaustein. “It’s too science-y, it’s too political, and I fly a lot and will be branded a hypocrite for talking about reducing carbon emissions. Or workshops help diminish those ‘brakes’ to climate action.” EcoAthletes has now partnered with the Global Climate Pledge because of mutual interests in climate action. This partnership highlights the intersection and collaboration that is possible when motivated organizations join forces. The missions of both EcoAthletes and the Global Climate Pledge have only been strengthened and will continue to since this relationship began and will only continue to strengthen each other. Lew Blaustein started as just a guy from New York who loved sports and his country. Now Lew gets the opportunity to collaborate with MLB and NFL players on how to take action against one of the largest issues facing humanity to date. Talk about a meteoric rise. How will Lew continue his journey? Stay updated with Lew and EcoAthletes on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.