Renewable Energy Helps To Power America’s Pastime

In America’s baseball parks from coast to coast, fans are learning about what it takes to go green. That’s because Major League Baseball (MLB) teams all over the country have started eco-friendly programs in MLB’s first league-wide eco-initiative.

The initiative has been named the Team Greening Program (TGP) and was developed in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It was designed to help orchestrate the eco-friendly projects that almost all the MLB Clubs are starting to implement.

“MLB’s greening initiative is good for the environment and the bottom line,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “Their work will save energy, reduce waste, and make the organization, the teams and the stadiums all run more efficiently. By launching the NRDC Team Greening Program for Major League Baseball, the League is showing tremendous leadership, using its influence to show the world the importance of environmental protection and green business practices to protect and preserve this historic game for future generations.”

As part of the program each club received an individualized web-based software tool called the NRDC Team Greening Advisor for Major League Baseball. The software gives each club advice in different areas of operation such as energy and water use, how to purchase environmentally sound products, how to improve concession operations, recycling, and transportation.

“The NRDC Team Greening Advisor for Major League Baseball should be used as a guide with ideas, suggestions and proposed policies for all Major League Clubs…Many of our Clubs have already begun working to protect the environment,” said MLB’s Executive Vice President, Administration & Chief Information Officer John McHale.

The Boston Red Sox have installed solar thermal panels that will replace 37% of the gas previously used to heat Fenway’s water and reduce yearly CO2 emissions by 18 tons. Also, the fields mowers are switching to biodiesel. The Sox are making other eco-friendly changes as well. For instance, they have a new Green Team, a group of 30-50 volunteers who collect recyclables between innings. Food and beverage containers at Fenway Park are made of recyclable material, the grease from the restaurant will be recycled and finally, the organization has made a commitment to buying more locally grown items.

“By taking on the hard work needed to green one of America’s most historic landmarks, the World Champion Boston Red Sox are demonstrating smart ecological leadership that will resonate far beyond the baseball diamond,” said senior scientist with NRDC Allen Hershkowitz. “This greening initiative will have a beneficial and lasting impact on our Earth, and establish Fenway Park as a powerful and positive symbol of environmental responsibility.”

Like the Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates have adopted the use of a Green Team as part of their own extensive recycling program. Their recycling program is part of a greater team greening program which they have dubbed “Let’s Go Bucs. Let’s Go Green.” Others initiatives within the program include the use of corn-based beverage cups by the concessions stands and restaurants within the ballpark, and removing the majority of non-biodegradable elements used in utensils, plates, napkins, and trays. PNC Park will also be more energy efficient with the installation of motion detection to turn lights on and off. Also the lights themselves will be low voltage energy-efficient bulbs.

“We are not launching this program because ‘going green’ is a popular trend. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do,” said Pirates Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting. “The measures being put into place at the ballpark will have an immediate positive impact. These initiatives not only make sense for the environment, but they make good business sense as well. This is another example of our systematic approach to improve our operations, both on and off the field.”

As part of a larger Team Greening program, the Seattle Mariners went carbon-neutral for their game against the Baltimore Orioles which took place on Earth Day by purchasing carbon offsets from NativeEnergy and “green power” credits from the Seattle City Light Green Up program.

“We know that just buying carbon offsets isn’t enough,” said Mariners Chair and CEO Howard Lincoln. “This is not a one-time event for us. We are committed to a comprehensive program of recycling and conservation so that we are operating Safeco Field and the entire Mariners organization in a way that minimizes our impact on the environment.”

The Mariners have employed several programs within their Team Greening initiative. All diesel groundskeeping equipment now runs on B-20 biodiesel. They have an energy-efficiency program that has reduced natural gas use by 36 percent and electricity use by 18 percent. They also have an extensive recycling program that includes the recycling of food waste by working with Cedar Grove Composting.

“With the high volumes and fast pace of operations on game days, the Mariners have proven that even the largest commercial business can make food waste programs a success,” said Cedar Grove Composting owner and CEO Steve Banchero. “This outstanding leadership sets an important example for Northwest businesses and residents. Through their efforts, the Mariners have diverted 100 tons of recyclable organics, resulting in the removal of 93 metric tons of C02 from the environment. The best part is that the nutrient rich compost created from yard and food waste is used to grow healthy plants and gardens throughout the region, locally closing the recycling loop.”

While the clubs of MLB should be applauded for the steps they have taken, these programs barely make a dent in the ecological footprint of most teams. Many of these teams view their programs more as a means to set an example, educate their fans and encourage them to make eco-friendly changes in their own lives.

Even the Red Sox, who have a very extensive program, are dedicated to the education of their fans. Their new Green Team, who in addition to collecting discarded plastic bottles between innings, is educating fans about recycling. The Pirates have also geared their programs toward the education of their fans and local businesses.

“The ‘Let’s Go Bucs. Let’s Go Green’ program is a way that we can utilize our position within the greater-Pittsburgh community to raise awareness of this important issue,” said Pirates President Frank Coonelly. “We hope that our program will appeal to our fans and area businesses by demonstrating how these green initiatives can be simple activities that any business or household can do.”

Audra Clark is a intern and a student at Franklin Pierce University.

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