As the movement to green professional sports continues to broaden its reach, (witness the recent launch of the Green Sports Alliance), those of us involved in this noble work continue to be inspired by the strong commitment to environmental stewardship shown by Major League Baseball. Much of the credit goes to Commissioner Allan H (Bud) Selig, who has marshaled and motivated incredible talent at MLB League headquarters in behalf of ecological progress. According to Commissioner Selig, "Baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities and caring for the environment is inextricably linked to all aspects of the game. Sound environmental practices make sense in every way and protect out natural resources for future generations of baseball fans."
The most recent example of MLB's commitment to environmental stewardship and fan education is being implemented and prominently publicized at the 2011 All Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Diamondback's Chase Field. For this event, watched by 100 million viewers and virtually every pro-sports vendor in the nation, MLB has prioritized environmental attributes when it selected materials ranging from paper for tickets and programs to wood and other materials used as building supplies.
To help reduce All-Star Week's environmental footprint, the 2011 All-Star Game itself, as well as the All-Star Workout Day, the Home Run Derby, the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and the All-Star Futures Game are being offset with "Green-e Certified" renewable energy credits. MLB All-Star FanFest, the largest baseball fan event in the world, will be held at the LEED Silver Certified Phoenix Convention Center and will also be offset with "Green-e Certified" renewable energy credits. MLB All-Star FanFest volunteers are also receiving complimentary METRO light rail passes to encourage their use of public transportation.
Over the past few years the Diamondbacks and Chase Field have implemented a number of energy efficiency initiatives, including the replacement of less-efficient electronic components with new Energy Star certified products and LED equipment. Earlier this season, the D-backs built a solar shade structure that covers more than 17,000 square feet of the Chase Field plaza. The solar shade structure provides shade over the ballpark's heaviest used entrances while also generating solar power. During the 2010-2011 off-season, the ballpark roof of Chase Field was recoated with an Energy Star certified material which improves the ballpark roof's reflectivity rating and thermal emittance rating, which helps to reduce the heat island effect in downtown Phoenix.
Moreover, the Diamondback's already well-developed recycling program, which has been in place for several years, is being enhanced for the All Star Game: in-stadium messaging will encourage fans to recycle, "All-Star Green Teams" will circulate throughout the stadium during all ballpark events to collect recyclables from fans, and 100 new recycling bins will be installed at the ballpark for All-Star Week and will remain at Chase Field permanently. Food waste and food-soiled paper from the stadium will be turned into compost, which can be used as fertilizer. This is the first time a composting program has been implemented at an MLB All-Star Week and it is estimated that 66 tons of material will be diverted from the landfill through recycling and composting efforts. Continuing an initiative pioneered by MLB and NRDC in 2008, the red carpet used in the All-Star Red Carpet Show is manufactured with 100% recycled plastics, not from petroleum.
Besides promoting recycling, in-stadium messaging by MLB is running NRDC inspired messaging on its LED boards and an NRDC PSA to promote other ways fans can be more environmentally conscious. And an NRDC Eco-Tip of the Day is running on the Team Green Program landing page on MLB.com.
Perhaps my favorite greening effort by MLB at this year's All Star Game is the League's development of a greenhouse at a local veterans home that will enable the veterans who reside at the home to grow fruits and vegetables and help make their budding horticulture program a success.
You can read more about the great environmental work that the Diamondbacks and MLB have done at this year's All Star Game by going to MLB's Team Greening Program, but I would be remiss in not reminding you that this important work comes on the heels of previous path breaking environmental initiatives launched by MLB. For example, last year MLB announced the launch of a comprehensive software system developed in collaboration with NRDC that is designed to collect and analyze environmental data related to stadium operations across the 30 Clubs. It was the first time a professional sports League anywhere in the world implemented a program to consistently collect data for the purpose of documenting environmental practices, and for sharing information about environmental best practices at stadiums. The four categories of environmental data being collected by MLB include 1.) Energy use 2.) Waste generation 3.) Water use, and 4.) Paper procurement.
Forty years after the first Earth Day brought Americans of all persuasions into the streets to celebrate Mother Earth, the environmental community's relationship with professional sports has matured: millions of fans -- and businesses -- have been educated to the fact that MLB cares about environmental stewardship, a messaging accomplishment that is impossible to quantify. As a result, the supply chain of professional baseball and millions of fans are getting the message that our Earth is in need of better stewardship. How good it would be if members of Congress paid attention to this important cultural shift.
Bravo to Major League Baseball. Personally, I've always loved baseball, and I've played the game throughout my life. But today I once again feel a special admiration for that great League, and I urge all professional Leagues and teams, indeed all companies and all Americans to follow the lead established by our National Pastime, and take stock of your impacts on the Earth.
To learn what you might do, go to the award winning NRDC Team Greening Advisor for MLB, and click on your favorite team. A toolbar on top can guide you as you seek to lighten your ecological footprint.