For NBC Sports Boston reporter and anchor Trenni Kusnierek, sports are only part of the picture. An avid runner and mental health advocate, Kusnierek is also passionate about supporting the environment—and about The Nature Conservancy.
How long have you been in Boston?
I moved here in September 2012. Seven-plus years later I feel like a Bostonian! (Though I still root very hard for the Brewers and Packers.)
For you, having grown up in the Midwest, in Wisconsin, what was the biggest adjustment to living in the Northeast?
I lived in New York City from 2008 to 2010 so the Boston adjustment wasn’t a huge culture shock. The biggest difference for me, and one that I quite frankly enjoy, is the non-invasive attitude of people here. In the Midwest, people will strike up a conversation with you anywhere. Here, people are a little more careful and keep to themselves. And it’s not because Northeasterners aren’t friendly, they are just a little more discerning. Plus, the population is so huge out east so you are always surrounded by people. Sometimes you just want to get lost in your book or podcast, and people here are very respectful of that solitude amongst millions.
How did you get into journalism?
Watching Jane Pauley on the TODAY show as a kid. From the time I was eight years old I wanted to be a television reporter. I was always curious and talkative. It seemed like a natural fit right from the start.
What do you think might surprise people most about your work as a sports reporter and anchor?
That I’m as intensely interested in politics and current events as I am in sports. I think sports reporters often get put into a box. In the industry we are known as the “toy department.” Every morning the first thing I listen to is NPR. One, it’s important to know about the issues facing our society. Two, listening to and watching news shows makes me a better overall reporter. I’m reminded that there is more to life than wins and losses.
Could you tell us about a story you’ve worked on in the last year or two about which you felt particularly passionate?
NBC’s work around a documentary titled Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports. I am a committed mental health advocate and to see my network recognize the importance of this issue and dedicate resources across the country to educating sports fans on behavioral health brought forth an immense sense of pride.
How did you become interested and involved in environmental causes or conservation?
I love to travel and seeing how climate change is affecting citizens worldwide is sobering. When I traveled to Russia for the Winter Olympics in 2014, and it was 65 degrees in February and the mountain venues didn’t have enough snow for competitions, I was floored. Two years later in Thailand, I saw the effects of pollution on the once clear oceans. Closer to home, I’ve had far too many friends displaced because of extreme weather like flooding and forest fires in areas that had never been affected before. At some point you must look around and realize we are part of the problem.
Quote: Trenni Kusnierek
Why do you support The Nature Conservancy?
Because I wanted to be part of the solution. I can't talk publicly about the need to care about the environment and not act on my words. The Nature Conservancy is battling climate change alongside conservation, protecting land and water, and working to find solutions in both cities and rural areas to help mitigate the damage we have done.
What role does connecting with nature play in your day-to-day life?
I’m a runner and I love to hit the roads outdoors. Access to trails, paths, and drinking fountains with clean water is something we often take for granted in the United States. I remember traveling to India in 2011 and not being able to run outside because the pollution was so bad. (This is gross, but you would blow your nose and dirt would come out!) I don’t want to be forced indoors unless there is a blizzard!
You’re a strong advocate for mental health awareness. Do you find a connection between mental health and nature and the outdoors?
Yes, a million times yes! While I love to run, I also love to hike. There is something soothing and head clearing on the quiet mountain trails across the country. Even on popular trails, you can hit spots where the silence envelops you in the most peaceful way. And nothing is better than inhaling the smells of pine mixed with freshly fallen leaves in autumn.
You’re an avid traveler. In terms of natural world, Is there a place you’ve traveled you’ve just loved above others?
This might be a “what have you done for me lately” answer, but I fell in love with the remote parts of South Africa. I went on safari this August and loved it more than I ever imagined possible. Seeing animals in their natural habitats brought forth a visceral sensation of joy I wasn’t expecting.
Do you see awareness of environmental issues in sports? Have you noticed a change in that level of awareness over time?
Much more than 10 years ago. Almost every stadium, arena or ballpark has shown some initiative to “go green.” The Red Sox have their own rooftop garden and often serve things in the suites and the press box that are grown locally. Additionally, their trash system includes recycling and composting. The Yankees recently hired an environmental science advisor. Teams know this is an important issue and recognize sports as a way to reach people on important issues.
If readers take away one thing from this conversation, what would you want that to be?
You can be part of the solution. There are opportunities all around us to enjoy nature and take care of her. Swap out plastic straws, cups, utensils and bags for the reusable version. Break the single use plastic habit. With single-cup drip coffee makers, use reusable filters. Do you love sparkling water? Try a home soda maker. Don’t fear the electric car.
You don’t have to do it all at once, but every little bit helps.