NASCAR's Green Efforts Make It a Sustainability Leader in Sports

Five years ago, NASCAR realized that it stood in an important position when it came to becoming a leader in the nation's green movement. Hosting races across the United States where fuel was consumed and emissions were sent into the atmosphere, the motorsport sanctioning body took a look at its business platform and recognized that it could turn those environmental harms into benefits. With that realization in the midst of the United States' economic crisis, NASCAR Green was born in 2008. "NASCAR seemed to be uniquely positioned to take the green movement to a new level, which was to not only do the right thing by the environment in terms of conservation and good citizenship, but also to be a unique demonstration platform to show how the green movement can be very smart and strategic business," said NASCAR's managing director of green innovation, Mike Lynch.

Since 2008, NASCAR Green has existed to reduce the environmental impact of the sport. It accomplishes this through focusing on initiatives aimed at reducing waste and emissions along with working to create power. Perhaps what is the most impressive about NASCAR Green, is the way it has been embraced by NASCAR's nearly 60 corporate partners. Recognizing the arsenal of power it had in the companies who serve as the sport's corporate partners to truly make a difference in environmental conservation, early in the program, NASCAR began inviting its corporate partners to participate in the program. Today, 22 of NASCAR's partners are involved in NASCAR Green.

The impact of NASCAR teaming with its partners to build NASCAR Green is seen in the success of the program. For instance, through the help of its corporate partners, NASCAR has built the largest recycling and tree planting programs in sports.

Recycling is perhaps the movement that the most NASCAR partners have jumped on board to support. Coca-Cola Recycling, Coors Light, Creative Recycling Systems, Goodyear, Liberty Tire Recycling, Sprint and Safety-Kleen have all adopted measures to help NASCAR utilize recycling on its tracks and at its races. The collective benefit of these programs is nothing short of impressive. Take for instance the fact that Coca-Cola and Coors Light have recycled more than 15 million beverage containers at NASCAR racetracks since NASCAR Green launched or that Goodyear and Liberty Tire Recycling recycle more than 120,000 Goodyear race tires from NASCAR's top-three national series each year, and you quickly realize the impact that recycling has on NASCAR's sustainability efforts.

Another recycling effort at NASCAR's racetracks demonstrates the program's commitment to developing methods that not only make the environment cleaner, but help minimize the sport's impact on it. With the assistance of Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc., 200,000 gallons of race-used oil are collected and re-refined from NASCAR races annually. "I don't want to know what they did with used motor oil before we got here. Everyone has come full-circle and now you can go and recycle used motor oil and put it into new motor oil and it's perfectly good," noted Safety-Kleen's director of motor sports, Drew Patey.

NASCAR's tree planting program has similarly shown the sanctioning body's commitment to making an environmental difference at each of its tracks. This year, over 8,000 trees will be planted thanks in part to UPS, who has committed to planting over 1 million trees in 2013 alone, and the Arbor Foundation. UPS and the Arbor Foundation will plant 90 trees in each market where a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is held this year. "Being efficient and utilizing as few resources as possible to get the job done is what we are all about. We are a large transportation network with tens-and-thousands of trucks and hundreds of airplanes. That has an environmental impact. We work in the most efficient way possible to minimize that impact," said UPS's director of global sponsorships and sustainability communications, Betsy Wilson.

An external effect of NASCAR Green has been the impact the program has had on consumers and NASCAR fans. In a 2012 study commissioned by NASCAR and conducted by Toluna, it was shown that NASCAR fans are 100 percent more likely than non-fans to view their household as very green. This number was up from 70 percent in 2011. In 2008, the number of fans and non-fans who viewed their households as very green was equal. "What has happened, is that five years after we started NASCAR Green, we have learned that in focusing on the fans and our corporate partners and how they can become more green was the right thing to do. In a time period when the country moved in a green direction, NASCAR fans have gone twice as far," said NASCAR's Lynch.

With fans growing more committed to the green movement, NASCAR's efforts have also shown that the sanctioning body and its corporate partners continue to see the growing importance of protecting the environment. "If you are going to hold athletes and the teams out as examples to kids, then the environment is a fair thing to hold out as an example. In order to be an example, you have to practice what you preach. Over this five-year period, we've seen a lot of other sports properties find ways to offer up their visibility to help spread the word," Lynch explained.

This week, NASCAR will further offer up its visibility to bring attention to issues facing the environment when it holds its second NASCAR Green Summit delivered by UPS in Chicago. The summit features an impressive roster of speakers, ranging from former U.S. vice president Al Gore to General Wesley Clark and NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France to former Stanley Cup winning goalie Mike Richter. To learn more about the summit, click here.

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