Sporting Kansas City stadium with all green lighting.
Children's Mercy Park Sporting Kansas City's Children's Mercy Park has implemented new sustainability practices as part of their commitment to their Sporting Sustainability platform.


Giving Nature a Sporting Chance

Sporting Kansas City's sustainability platform scores for conservation

On game days at Children’s Mercy Park, an exercise in conservation innovation swings into action. Nearly 20,000 Sporting Kansas City fans entering the stadium pass compost bins on their way to their seats. When they order food from concessions, their hotdogs, popcorn and nachos arrive in containers that are striped attractively in Sporting Blue—and are recyclable and compostable.

The changes are subtle and substantial, adding to fans’ experience while diverting nearly 50% of the waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. “We have a responsibility to our fans and our community to take care of the places where we live and work,” said Jon Moses, Sporting Kansas City Vice President of Corporate Partnerships.

“Sports bring people together, and that platform gives us an opportunity to tackle issues that are important to our fanbase and make a difference that goes far beyond the pitch.”

A scarf with the Sporting Sustainability logo with the soccer field in the background.
Sporting Sustainability Sporting Kansas City's sustainability platform raises awareness around the importance of recycling and composting, renewable energy sources and water conservation.

Collaborating for Sustainability

Along with his role at Sporting KC, Moses joined the board of trustees for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri in 2024. TNC was among five organizations and companies in 2018 that joined the steering committee of Sporting Sustainability, a collaboration the team launched to focus on sustainability in the Midwest. TNC supports smart solutions that align with our mission to create a world where people and nature thrive. Sporting Sustainability has created new ways to demonstrate real-world strategies to a large audience.

“Sporting Sustainability has shown there are a lot of ways to integrate nature-friendly practices into everything we do, whether that’s through the collective strength of individual actions or the leadership of large organizations,” said Adam McLane, TNC’s state director in Missouri. “We’re excited about the progress we’ve seen and the potential of the partnership in the future.”

Through this partnership, TNC hopes to advance the understanding that individual choices are made every day around food waste, water conservation, recycling and composting, and how those choices impact our natural resources. “We commend Sporting Kansas City on taking the step to recognize these impacts and how they can use their platform to make a difference for people and nature,” said McLane.

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Tackling Food Waste

Early on, steering committee members identified the reduction of food waste as an avenue for significant progress. Food waste accounts for as much as 40% of the United States’ food supply, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Along with the squandered opportunity to feed people, wasting food also wastes water, labor and energy resources. It is the single largest type of waste in landfills across the nation, and it is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Sporting Sustainability began with an educational campaign, highlighting small actions individuals can take to reduce food waste and use less energy. Thousands of fans pledged to take part. They followed tips for recycling, carpooling, composting and cooking at home. In the first year alone, participants who took the pledge reduced their collective household food waste by 159,360 pounds. For comparison, it takes 1,752,960 square feet of cropland—or nearly 23 soccer fields—to grow this amount of food.

After the program celebrated its first five years, Sporting Sustainability began looking for ways to take it even further. Food waste at Children’s Mercy Park seemed like a natural next step. 

Food containers with the Sporting Kansas City logo and colors.
Reimagined Food Containers During the 2023 season, Children’s Mercy Park debuted eight different types of compostable or recyclable food containers. By 2024, that number has grown to 15. © Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City

Environmentally Friendly Options

Mark Handler and Kellen Smith, both members of the partnership marketing team at Sporting KC, said giving fans environmentally friendly options when they come to the stadium carries over outside the stadium as well. Through a partnership with Huhtamaki, a global packaging company whose North American headquarters is less than 30 minutes from the soccer stadium in Kansas, Sporting Sustainability reimagined the way the club handles food and beverage service.

At the beginning of the 2023 season, Children’s Mercy Park debuted eight different types of compostable or recyclable food containers. By 2024, that number has grown to 15. The ability to design the containers with the team’s logo and colors was an added value. It was Huhtamaki’s first sports team partnership and could serve as a test case for expansion to other venues.


A man standing next to a recycle and compost bin at the soccer stadium.
Waste Warriors In 2023, Sporting Kansas City introduced recycling and composting bins at Children's Mercy Park as part of its Sporting Sustainability effort. © Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City

Along with the containers, 32 compost collection bins were strategically placed around the stadium during the 2023 season for fans to use. The number of bins will nearly double throughout the 2024 season. The changes also include operational innovations. Regular visitors to the stadium are probably familiar with the short announcement at the end of matches, instructing them to leave containers at their seats. Staff then sweep through, ensuring recyclable and compostable materials reach the right bins, rather than putting that responsibility on hurried fans.

Quote: Mark Handler

If the program is at its best, there’s just so much potential for it to influence the community positively. It's bigger than Kansas City.

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Sustainability has continued to progress throughout the life of the program. Its steering committee has grown to 10 and the scope of the program is bigger than ever. Smith and Handler are looking toward 2026 when Kansas City hosts FIFA World Cup matches at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium as another platform for growth. The arrival of thousands upon thousands of soccer fans from around the globe offers a valuable opportunity to promote sustainable practices in sports to a worldwide audience. It’s the power to use sports to make a difference in all aspects of life that keeps driving Sporting Sustainability forward.

“If the program is at its best, there’s just so much potential for it to influence the community positively,” Handler said. “It’s bigger than Kansas City.” 

A video board with a blue and green background and text asking the question, How many pounds of compost does Children's Mercy Park produce each year? with three answers to choose from.
A Partnership for Nature and People Recycle and compost bins have been placed throughout Children's Mercy Park as part of Sporting Sustainability's efforts. Each year, with the help and commitment of fans, the stadium produces 106,000 pounds of compost.

The lessons of nature-friendly practices extend through the team’s Sporting Club Network, an affiliate program with 150,000 youth athletes and 65 youth teams and associations across seven states: Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Michigan.

Sporting KC has helped introduce TNC and Sporting Sustainability to more and more people with annual theme nights at Children’s Mercy Park. Fittingly, that has grown, too. In 2024, Sporting Sustainability took center stage throughout April, stretching what had been a one-game event into an entire month.

Meet Sporting Sustainability Ambassador John Pulskamp

In 2021, Sporting Kansas City’s John Pulskamp became the third-youngest goalkeeper to win a Major League Soccer regular season match, but his love of nature started even earlier. The Bakersfield, California, native grew up treasuring the outdoors. Whether it was playing soccer, spending time with family or swapping stories with surf and ski buddies, he’s felt the pull of nature all his life. Now, he’s dedicated to encouraging others to connect with the world outside—and protect it for future generations.

A small group of people using shovels to plant trees in a grassy field.
Connecting with Nature John Pulskamp is the Sporting Sustainability player ambassador, encouraging others to connect with the world outside and protect it for future generations. © Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City

How did growing up in California shape your interest in the environment?

I think when people grow up with an access to the outdoors or nature in general, just being outside and living a lifestyle where they spend time outside, they will naturally develop an appreciation for the natural world. And with that appreciation comes a desire to protect it and to be active. When you are aware of how nice some things are that you have, I think that's a big motivator to keep that privilege, because it is a privilege. It's something that is finite. It's something that people have to be active in keeping around, not only for ourselves, but future generations.

Was your family interested in nature?

So, I grew up with a family that instilled in me from a young age to appreciate the natural world, to appreciate what the Earth is and its natural state. That's not something that was one generation. That's coming from my grandparents and their parents. It’s the kind of stuff that gets passed down. They must've been motivated to not only enjoy those experiences, but then to think, “I want my kids to be able to enjoy this the same way I'm enjoying it.”

And that's where conservation efforts go into it. Once we all appreciate what's available to us, we also have to think about the future generations. Will they be able to appreciate this in the same way? Is this going to look the way it looks now? Is this going to be even available? Is access going to be allowed?

So, that's what people have to think about: Don't take for granted what we do, whether it's the parks or something as simple as going outside in your neighborhood and having a bunch of old growth trees. It all counts. Don't take those things for granted, and think about the future generations when you're appreciating those things.

It’s like honoring your ancestry and those who protected this for you.

Exactly. No one wants to be the generation that really messes it up, right?

And it’s righting some wrongs that came with the industrialization of the Earth, which brought so many positives, but like most things in this life, it's never black and white, right? Society advances, and it brings a ton of positives—don't get me wrong—but we also need to take those positives with the negatives and address the negatives and try to mitigate them as much as we can.

Composting and recycling programs have drastically reduced food waste at Children’s Mercy Stadium, which is an example of the positive impact soccer can have on nature. Do you think soccer as a whole can play a big role in promoting sustainability and educating the public?

I think it's 1,000 percent a space where those things can develop. And I think that's actually one of the things that makes soccer unique compared to other sports.

Every year, soccer is developing more and more in the states, but when we look at other countries that have been embedded in this game and interwoven with this game for centuries, you really see it's not just a sport, it's part of the culture. It's interwoven in society. It's really part of who people are.

The sport is unique in that sense that it is a community. When you support a club, that is your community to a degree. We’re getting more of that in the United States. We’ve seen it especially in the last five years. All of a sudden, people are really identifying with teams and getting involved, in multiple aspects of their life, not just game day. It really is developing a community around the sport.

So, whenever you have that kind of mass community, habits are going to be developed as a whole. You know, obviously there are individuals amongst the community who will be different, but as a whole, you will see trends within certain communities—those kinds of general trends. So, if you can establish that to be a productive, environmentally friendly community, then 1,000 percent, soccer will play its role in that.

How can people get started in their daily lives?

I’m huge on people just being outside, because that's where people find the connection with the natural world. Even if it is on a mowed lawn with lines in a box stadium, you're still outside. You're exercising. You're getting the endorphins going.

What interests you about the role of ambassador for Sporting Sustainability?

I think just meeting like-minded people and, even more so, meeting people who this would be completely foreign to and giving them that push out the door. And just talking about these different things and brainstorming different ideas with these people about things we can do in the future.