2011 Green Sports Alliance Summit: MLB’s Growing Sustainability Street Cred

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MLB teams, such as the St. Louis Cardinals, are implementing sustainability programs and collaborating via the Green Sports Alliance.

The fields of Major League Baseball are a trademark shade of deep green—and increasingly, so are its team and venue operations. As one of the first professional sports leagues in North America to put a major emphasis on sustainability, MLB is blazing trails and creating best practices for sports organizations and venues worldwide to follow.

Listening to Commissioner Bud Selig speak on the connection between sports and environmental stewardship, it’s clear he and MLB get it:

“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.”

Teams have been implementing their own greening programs for many years, but recently the National Resource Defense Council and MLB moved to create a more centralized platform for league-wide adoption of sustainable best practices—the MLB Green Tracks program. Teams and venues were challenged to assess their current status on sustainability. They measured and then tracked several key targets in a centralized reporting system, including: energy use and efficiency, water use, recycling and diversion rates, and impact on community (carbon pollution, resource consumption, etc.). By making the information accessible to all within the league, MLB fostered friendly competition, with many teams working hard to “keep up with the Joneses.”

So what are you favorite teams and ballparks up to these days? Have a read through some of MLB’s most exciting and impactful sustainability initiatives:

  • The Seattle Mariners now divert over 80 percent of their waste! They have removed almost all trash cans at Safeco Field and replaced them with Compost and Recycling bins. The Mariners also switched to all compostable food containers within the park, and worked with their composting facility to generate “Safeco Field Compost” to give away to fans on Earth Day 2011.
  • The 2011 MLB All-Star Game festivities are in Phoenix this year, and together with the National Resource Defense Council, MLB and the Arizona Diamondbacks are really pulling out all the stops. Among other things, All-Star Game events will be offset with “Green-e Certified” renewable energy credits and fans will be provided with tips through out the week to live more sustainably. Even the red carpet is getting the green treatment—it will be made with 100 percent post-industrial recycled nylon yard.
  • The Diamondbacks also installed a cutting-edge solar shade covering 17,000+ sq. ft. of Chase Field’s plaza. It not only provides cover from the intense Arizona sun, but also generates solar power for the field’s facilities.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals host Green Week each year in order to educate Cardinals fans about the teams green initiatives and encourage them to take steps to be more sustainable in their daily lives as well. Green Week 2011 at Busch Stadium featured an electronics recycling drive and the offsetting of energy use with RECs (renewable energy credits) for the entire week’s games. The Cardinals also boast a 30 percent waste diversion rate and have lowered energy use over 15 percent in the past five years thanks to their ongoing “4 A Greener Game” program.
  • The Texas Rangers are irrigating their field with surrounding lake water and collecting grass clipping to spread as mulch or put alongside creeks to hold bare soil. They’ve also substantially increased game day recycling efforts by providing 120+ recycling bins around the ballpark and ensuring all trash collected from the stands after games is sorted for recyclable items.

So next time you’re in the mood for a family friendly, and likely eco-friendly, summer activity, consider supporting MLB’s sustainability efforts by taking in a game at your nearest ballpark (via public transit where possible!) and taking advantage of their green initiatives.

Fans in Portland, Oregon and the surrounding area can also learn more about the success and potential of sustainability programs at professional sports organizations at the Green Sports Alliance Summit Opening Program and Reception, August 1, 2011 at Gerding Theater. This event is open to the public and features speakers from the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Seattle Mariners (MLB), St. Louis Cardinals (MLB), Nike, NBA and more.

Registration for the Green Sports Alliance Summit Opening Program is required. Cost to attend is $35/$20 for students with a valid ID. For more information, please visit the event website.

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