Winning the ‘Green Race’ with Canada’s Best Racing Team’s Joey McColm

October 2, 2015

John Shegerian: Welcome to anther edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us today – the first time ever we’ve had – this is Joey McColm. He is a pro race driver. We have never had a green pro race driver before so this is a special edition of Green Is Good. Thank you for joining us today, Joey. Joey McColm: Oh, I’m absolutely honored to be on the show. John Shegerian: And you’re from Canada’s Best Racing Team, and to learn more about Canada’s Best Racing Team, it’s www.CanadasBestRacingTeam.com. Before we get talking about Canada’s Best Racing Team and your life as a pro race driver – which is very exciting and I really want to ask you a lot of questions – talk a little bit about where did you get your environmental consciousness from about being sustainable. Joey McColm: Well, I’ve always been racing, and I’ve been racing from a young age, but I wanted to connect my racing into the engineering world so I started studying engineering in university, and while I was studying engineering, a lot of our projects had to be focused on sustainable design. John Shegerian: Ah. Joey McColm: So I really fell in love with always looking at those options, looking at those initiatives, looking at how to create more efficiency, and I grew a strong passion for environmental sustainability. But at the same time, I’m trying to sustain a racing career, so now I have two passions in life and I want to bring those two passions together. It didn’t really hit me until I was at the track one day and we had a rain delay, so there was a lot of time to kill and I was just walking up and down the paddock area and I saw this garbage can. I don’t know why. It just struck me and it was my “aha” moment. It was something so simple. But there was this garbage can and it was overflowing with plastic bottles, Styrofoam plates, everything that a race team would kind of consume during a day, and even our race team, we would consume a lot of plastics and a lot of just garbage. And it hit me, and I thought, “There has got to be a better way to do this.” Then I thought, “Well, I’m going to school for this; how can I combine these two passions of life?” Because if I don’t, I have this fear that racing is not going to exist in 20 years. John Shegerian: That’s a great point. Joey McColm: That was the moment it hit me, and since then, it’s just been these progressive goals. I think when we started out, it was I wanted to change the rules as fast as I could. John Shegerian: Of course. Joey McColm: But it has been a process, and I think – looking back on it – we’ve come a long ways but we still have a long way to go. John Shegerian: How many years ago was that epiphany moment when you were walking in the paddock area and saw that overflowing can? Joey McColm: That was 2010. John Shegerian: Wow. Joey McColm: So it’s going on six years ago now. John Shegerian: So you said you grew up racing cars. Did you come from a racecar family or a driver family, or how did this happen growing up doing this? Joey McColm: It’s funny you mention that, actually. Nowadays, a lot of drivers are coming from families that are second or third generation. John Shegerian: Unsers. Andrettis. Joey McColm: Exactly. I’m actually a first generation. John Shegerian: Come on. Joey McColm: My dad was just involved. He was a mechanic, so I was always working on cars with him. He would take me to the racetrack on a Saturday – our local tracks – and that’s where I kind of fell in love with racing, and then I pestered my parents for years to get a go-kart and they finally got me one. My mom was actually away on vacation visiting her parents, and my dad and I went over and we bought a car and we built this racecar within the weeks she was gone because she was really against it. John Shegerian: That’s great. Joey McColm: So when she got back, we had this racecar sitting in the garage and we were like, “We’re going racing mom!” and that’s where it kind of all started, and since then, it’s just been a journey. John Shegerian: How old were you when that happened? Joey McColm: I was 15 when that happened. John Shegerian: Fifteen years old. Where did you grow up in Canada? Joey McColm: Just outside of Toronto, in a region called the Durham Region, in a town called Ajax. John Shegerian: Now – like you said – being green but also wanting to be the fastest racecar driver is a balancing act, and you are a trailblazer in the racecar industry doing this. Joey McColm: Right. John Shegerian: So talk a little bit about your epiphany and the evolution, your journey the last five or six years. How have you both maintained and grown your successful racing career but also become known as the green trailblazer with regards to environmental consciousness with Canada’s Best Racing Team? Joey McColm: Right. Well, like I said, it’s been a process and a journey. John Shegerian: Yeah. Joey McColm: I thought it was going to be easy, which – I mean – it’s obviously not. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: But when I had this epiphany, and I left that race, what I did immediately is I contacted Earth Day Canada. John Shegerian: OK. Joey McColm: I reached out to the president – Jed Goldberg at the time – and Keith Treffry, who was the director of communications, and I requested a meeting with them, and I told them, “Hey. Look, this is what I am, this is what I’m doing, this is what I’m going to school for, I just want to come meet you.” John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: So I came in and I met with Keith, and within two minutes of telling him kind of who I am and what I do, I think he wanted to kick me out of the office, but I said, “No, listen. I want to create a change from within,” and he heard me out and he really fell in love with the story and he thought, “You know what, that’s exactly what Earth Day is about is creating that change from within and inspiring that change.” So from there, he actually brought me back in to meet with the whole team. Every member of Earth Day Canada, we got into a big circle right in their office. I couldn’t believe they took an hour out of their day to do this. John Shegerian: Wow. Joey McColm: And I told my story, and we went around in the circle and they all kind of questioned why I wanted to do this. John Shegerian: Yeah. Joey McColm: Because this was so unorthodox. “How can we partner with a NASCAR driver? We don’t know about that.” John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: But they all agreed and thought this is what Earth Day is about and this is why we want to create Earth Day every day in no matter what we do. So my story to them – I had one really good question come up out of it and it was, “You want to be racing and you want to be green and you say you really care about environmental sustainability, then why don’t you just leave racing?” I said, “Well, that doesn’t really accomplish anything, because whether I’m in racing or not, racing is still going to be there.” John Shegerian: That’s right. Joey McColm: So I think we need to create champions from within. I’m only one person. John Shegerian: That’s so smart. Joey McColm: And the whole goal, even just around this alliance, is to create that change from within and inspire more people and more athletes, more drivers to be a part. So when I started that journey, I started working with their Eco Kids and Eco Mentors programs working with the kids. We started a program called “Eco Driving.” And with NASCAR, there are so many rules that we are bound to so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do or focus on as far as the cars go themselves, but we could focus on how we get to and from the track, what kind of waste we’re producing at the track and then what we’re doing within our communities. So that’s where the focus began. Then I met a member at the Air Canada Center who was part of the Green Sports Alliance and he invited me. He said, “You’ve got to come down and check out the Green Sports Alliance,” so I came down two years ago to Brooklyn and I met some amazing people and I left so inspired and we went back, and that’s when we created Canada’s Best Racing Team. John Shegerian: Really? Joey McColm: It was about a year-and-a-half ago, and it was built on environmental initiatives and environmental foundations, and then within a year-and-a-half, we’ve expanded to three NASCAR Canada teams and one Trans-Am team in the U.S., and we just continue to grow, and it’s all built on an environmental foundation. John Shegerian: Now give the other side of that great story that you just shared. What about NASCAR? What were they thinking when you were doing all this? Joey McColm: Well, funny enough, NASCAR actually has a NASCAR Green division. John Shegerian: OK. Joey McColm: So that started up a few years ago. When I first started looking into this movement, I was kind of one of the first to get into it. With NASCAR Canada, it’s much like – I relate it to football a lot because you have the NFL in the U.S. and we have the CFL in Canada. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: So NASCAR Canada is kind of like the CFL to the NFL. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: For NASCAR U.S. So we still fall under the NASCAR umbrella, but we’re kind of a global division whereas NASCAR in the U.S. has its main three series. So they started the NASCAR Green program for the main three – the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series – and now they’re expanding that, and I think you’re going to hear some news soon that is going to come out about NASCAR growing their green division even more. John Shegerian: Wow. Joey McColm: I know they have a summit coming up in September that I am going to be attending, and it’s going to be – I think – really exciting because now, especially with the NHL and other sports leaders and leagues, NASCAR is right up there and NASCAR is No. 1, No. 2 when it comes to sports, and they’re going to do that when it comes to green. John Shegerian: Let’s talk about all the great initiatives you’re doing at Canada’s Best Racing Team. What is your Plug’n Drive program? Joey McColm: Well, that’s actually a program that we’re just involved with. It’s a program that is based out of Toronto, and what they do is they educate people on all the options for EV and hybrid vehicles. So we work with them as an ambassador to take part in their programs to help educate just on the different options that are out there to the everyday person. We think – when we need to switch to environmental – it’s going to cost us so much money, it’s really hard to do. It’s not like that anymore, so there is an education process and so that’s where we’re trying to help. John Shegerian: Every time I am in Canada – Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto – these are very green cities. I’d be shocked to hear that the population in Canada is not excited about what you’re promoting. Joey McColm: I mean the population is hugely excited. It’s just a matter of getting our story out there more. John Shegerian: Got you. Joey McColm: It’s a matter of storytelling and engaging and visibility – and, especially, engaging. We have such great success with engaging with our young fans. For kids and teens and even now university students, green is second nature. I mean, it’s not even a second nature. It’s just a way of life. John Shegerian: Isn’t that great? Joey McColm: We call it “second nature” because we’ve adapted and we’ve realized we have to change something whereas they grew up with them and it’s just what we do. John Shegerian: So I know you helped facilitate a program called “Eco-Driving.” Share with our listeners and our viewers what Eco-Driving is. Joey McColm: It was a really neat program, actually, that we went across to different high schools in the Toronto area and we engaged with students about 15-, 16-years-old who were just starting now to drive, or they had to think about how they were going to get to and from places. How are they getting to and from school? If they want to go to the mall, how are they getting to and from that? Then, for them, it was kind of like a trickle up effect because then they would go home and question their parents. “Hey mom and dad what kind of car are we buying?” “You really should look at this model because it has better fuel efficiency.” “We don’t really need to take the car, we can walk.” “We don’t have to take the car everywhere, we can bike to school.” So it was just a matter of educating them about the different possibilities of transportation in their lives and also what that effect was – what fuel efficiency is. To them it’s: “I just get in the car and I go somewhere.” OK, well, how about understanding that impact? And that’s basically what that program was about. John Shegerian: That’s wonderful. How many green drivers now are there that are like you that are green ambassadors and eco-leaders in Canada? Joey McColm: In Canada, I don’t know of too many. I know we’re trying to inspire – or to create this change and to create a movement, and I think over the last year-and-a-half other drivers, other teams are looking at our team and going, “Wow, we can do this.” John Shegerian: “We can do this.” Joey McColm: And I look up to – like Leilani Munters is a great inspiration of ours. She is doing great things in the U.S. and what she wants to do with her racing, and we look up to other NASCAR teams that are doing some pretty cool green initiatives, so we have always got inspiration out there and we want to be like them. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about your relationships now that you went to Brooklyn a couple years ago and you’re here today in downtown Chicago at this. What are you doing here today at the GSA, and what do you hope to continue to do with GSA in the future? Joey McColm: Well, we recently actually became a member of the Green Sports Alliance. John Shegerian: Great. Joey McColm: It’s about eight months ago roughly. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: And that has really helped us just create a foundation. So we were built on this environmental foundation, but now we need a structure, so Green Sports Alliance is providing that help to us to create that structure and to create more goals moving forward so that is very exciting. John Shegerian: Yeah. Joey McColm: What I’m doing here this week is actually speaking on fan engagement. So aside from being very environmentally focused with our race team, Canada’s Best Racing Team is also built on engaging with fans. We’ve got this great story that we’re going to tell. We had this six-year-old little girl reach out to our team, and she designed a racecar – because we actually expanded to three cars this year and one of our teams is driven by a female. John Shegerian: OK. Joey McColm: Erica Thiering. She is such an inspiration to so many little girls out there, and this one little girl tweeted a 3D rendering model – so she designed this car in 3D and tweeted it out to us. John Shegerian: How old is this young girl? Joey McColm: Six years old. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh. This is great. Joey McColm: So she tweets out and says, “Erica, I think this should be your paint scheme,” and it’s this pink car with blue stars. And this is what we’re all about. We’re all about engaging, and we encourage fans to tweet us and we want them to know that we’re listenting all the time. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: So we thought, “Wow, that’s really cool,” and we shared it and we liked it and we said, “Wow, what amazing talent.” Then about a month after that, we actually had to come up with a paint scheme for Erica’s car so we thought, “You know what? That little girl’s paint scheme was phenomenal. I think we should surprise her.” So what we did was we invited her to an event. We said, “You’re going to get to meet Erica.” That’s all we told her. John Shegerian: Wow. Joey McColm: She came to the event, and we had so much media there and we had so many people and the car was covered up and we unveiled the car and she was like, “Oh my god! That’s my racecar!” And we dubbed it “Racecar by Ava,” so it’s got the hashtag #racecarbyava, so if you go on social media and hashtag #racecarbyava, you’ll find so much stuff. John Shegerian: A six-year-old whose name is Ava. Joey McColm: Ava. And she is now her own little celebrity. Actually, when she comes to the races with us, she’s signing autographs. John Shegerian: This is great. Joey McColm: People know her. People want her autograph. Other little girls are inspired by her. John Shegerian: She is Canada’s Best Racing Team’s mascot. Joey McColm: Well, she is our graphic designer now. John Shegerian: She is a graphic designer. That is such a great story. So that is fascinating. Fan engagement – as you say – and getting visibility for all your eco efforts is so critical. Do you have – for Canada’s Best Racing Team – someone who is just in charge of social media? Joey McColm: Yes, we do actually. That was one of the first people we brought on. I have got a bit of a background in it, so that’s why I started. I said, “We’re going to focus this team on engagement and social.” John Shegerian: So smart. Joey McColm: “And everyone wants to converge on social media, so that’s how we’re going to talk to them.” We also talk to fans at the track. John Shegerian: Sure. Joey McColm: We’re going to be very social. John Shegerian: Yeah. Joey McColm: So what we did is, it became too much for me to handle so I brought on someone just to manage social media. John Shegerian: Brilliant Joey McColm: And she has been just awesome. John Shegerian: And so if people want to see the car that Ava designed, they can go on www.CanadasBestRacingTeam.com and check it out. Joey McColm: That’s right. John Shegerian: Share a little bit about economics because, Joey, the world comes down to economics whether it’s sustainability or any successful business venture. And, obviously, Canada’s Best Racing Team is a business venture. Who are your sponsors? Are they as excited as you are about all of your eco efforts? Joey McColm: Definitely. We’ve got many, many partners, and if we sit here and list them all, I’d be talking all day. John Shegerian: Share a couple of them that – give a little plug. Joey McColm: We’ve got TSE Stores. It’s a country hardware store. It’s all about the farmers and all about green and living off the land. John Shegerian: Perfect. Joey McColm: They’re such an amazing supporter of ours. We can’t thank them enough because they support everything we do. John Shegerian: So that is just a great example of who one of your sponsors are. Joey McColm: Yeah. John Shegerian: They tie back to the land and where this all comes from anyway. Joey McColm: Exactly. John Shegerian: So they are so thrilled with everything that you are doing. Joey McColm: Yeah. And then you talk about the economics of it. Our headquarters has a massive solar roof. We actually produce one-and-a-half times the energy that we consume. John Shegerian: Come on. Joey McColm: So we’re selling back to the grid. John Shegerian: So you’re carbon positive? Joey McColm: Well, we’re carbon positive where we’re – yeah, we’re good positive, when it comes to consuming electricity at the race shop. John Shegerian: Right. And your race shop is where actually? Joey McColm: It’s just outside of Toronto. John Shegerian: It’s right outside of Toronto. Joey McColm: Yeah. John Shegerian: And you have three cars now that are racing under Canada’s? Joey McColm: So we’ve got three teams that consist of six NASCAR Canada cars and we have another team in the Trans-Am series, which races in the U.S., and that consists of one car for now and we’re looking to grow that as well. John Shegerian: Do you ever race in the U.S. and does the U.S. ever race in Canada? How does that work? I don’t understand all of the great racing stuff. Joey McColm: It goes for leagues and divisions. So what we compare ourselves to – I’ll compare it to football, but I’ll also compare it to hockey. We’re like the AHL to the NHL, so our goal is to move into NASCAR U.S., but we also have the Trans-Am team in the U.S., so I will participate in races in the U.S. and my aspiration is to participate in more races in the U.S. John Shegerian: How about outside of Canada besides the U.S.? Do you travel internationally, also? Joey McColm: Not yet. We do want to. John Shegerian: That’s coming. Joey McColm: I mean, obviously, we want to become global. John Shegerian: Right. Joey McColm: So maybe five, 10 years from now. John Shegerian: Got you. Are you the only race car driver who is a member of GSA? Joey McColm: We are. We were – as far as I know – the first NASCAR team. I know Andretti Formula E team has joined as well, and I’m really looking forward to working with them to encourage more teams. The strength is in numbers. The fact that we have taken this initiative first really – to me – doesn’t mean anything. I want to see more race teams, I want to see more race facilities, I want to see more racing bodies take on these initiatives and join organizations like the Green Sports Alliance to get that help that they need to advance further. John Shegerian: Any last words for our listeners and viewers out there that are young that want to either get involved with sustainability or get involved with racing or become a professional athlete like you before we have to say goodbye today? Joey McColm: Reach out to us. We’re always listening – @CBRTINC on social, @JoeyMcColm on Twitter, and if you have any questions, just ask us. We’re more than happy to answer them and point you in the right direction and provide any feedback and mentorship. That’s what we’re all about. We work with so many kids and it’s exciting. I’m going to a race this weekend in Montreal, and I’ve got this little boy who is local there and he approached me a couple of weeks ago and he just inspired me to do something. I said, “Look, you’re going to come and you’re going to be a part of our pit crew.” He is only 11 years old. John Shegerian: Wow. Joey McColm: But he just loves racing, and I want to mentor this guy. So these are the kinds of things that we do. John Shegerian: And you could introduce him to Ava. They can hang out together. Joey McColm: Exactly. John Shegerian: That is awesome. For our viewers and listeners out there, to learn more about Joey McColm and Canada’s Best Racing team, please go to www.CanadasBestRacingTeam.com. Joey McColm, he is obviously winning the green race and truly living proof that Green Is Good. Thank you so much, Joey. Joey McColm: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure being on here.