Going Green for the Team

Global warming, left unchecked, will have a huge impact on most sports, since a great many are played outdoors during the summer (for now) — or rely on cold weather and snow during the winter.  As this CAP post suggests, some sports teams are trying to green up the game.  The picture is a view from home plate at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium, Major League Baseball’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified ballpark.

Major League Baseball’s postseason playoffs began this week with Wednesday’s match up between the Phillies and Rockies. But regardless of who wins the whole league has managed to come together for the environment’s sake.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group, has worked with MLB on several sustainable initiatives. Through an online greening advisor the council has developed individualized green solutions for all 30 MLB teams. The MLB efforts range from using recycled paper to purchasing renewable resources like wind and solar power for ballparks. The league is showcasing its environmental work on the MLB website.

The Washington Nationals may not have made the playoffs, but they have MLB’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified stadium, which was awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. The council awards bronze, silver, and gold certifications depending on how many sustainable elements are incorporated into a building’s design. The Nationals stadium’s high-efficiency field lighting, low-flow plumbing, and green roofs garnered it a silver ranking.

The National Basketball Association’s first step toward sustainability came in April 2009 with Green Week, which featured community service projects, an online auction of autographed Spalding basketballs made from 40 percent recycled materials, and a footwear drive to donate gently worn athletic shoes to youth programs in southern Africa. And the Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats, and Chicago Bulls wore green uniforms made from 45 percent organic cotton during the week to raise environmental awareness.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is joining the action, too. The 1970 Clean Air Act barred the general public from purchasing cars that ran on leaded gasoline, but racecars were exempt. Still, the sport is phasing out leaded gasoline to show its support for the environment. NASCAR has also initiated a new tree-planting program that aims to offset the industry’s carbon emissions: Every time a green flag is dropped at the beginning of a race 10 trees will be planted.

Unfortunately, many of the sports world’s environmental efforts are out of necessity. In the past few years climate change has shortened ski season and outdoor summer football practices have become almost unbearable due to sweltering heat. Athletes from all fields are realizing that they need to join the environmental cause if they want to hold onto the sports””and the planet””they enjoy.

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4 Responses to Going Green for the Team

  1. Nancy says:

    How about net-zero-energy baseball and football stadiums? When I see thousands of lights blazing at night games at Fenway Park, I want to scream. Empty stadiums could produce energy during the day with solar or wind that would make up for the enormous energy use at night. Offering recycling boxes for your plastic beer cups during the game just isn’t enough.

    Sorry to say that I’ve never heard of a pro-environment athlete. They lead very large lifestyles, driving hummers and living in gigantic homes. Can you name a major athlete who has spoken out about climate change? If only we could have a few athletes speak out, fans might start to pay attention.

    When I see Tom Brady driving a Prius, that will make my day!

  2. R Grillo says:

    Rockies Phils game canceled because of snow and extreme cold.

    [JR: Comment left in because of snowjob and extreme inanity.]

  3. Richard Brenne says:

    I’m sorry, Joe, but while we can hope for the future, to date the mainstream (i.e, almost all non-self-propelled racing) sports world’s response to climate change, peak oil and all other human-induced mega-problems has been not only laughably inadequate, but immensely harmful.

    Lauding NASCAR and the entire universe of motorized sports is a PR spin of mind-numbing proportions. So they plant 10 trees for every green flag they drop to begin a race. How does that compare to the thousands of RVs, SUVs and other consumptive vehicles driven an average of hundreds of miles to park and party at the NASCAR races most weekends, attended by up to 300,000 motorheads at a time? How does it compare to promoting the idea that recreation or sports must be motorized to be enjoyed? If trees could laugh at this spin, they would.

    Among NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball players, I believe Canadian point guard and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash drives a Prius, but I know of no others, and I’ve asked in a lot of knowledgeable circles. (There could be others, but a good guess is that they’re less than 1% of all the players in these leagues.)

    In fact, these athletes idea of being green might be to take the regular stretch limo rather than the Hummer stretch limo to their various evening’s entertainments.

    And Tiger Woods has a 155-foot yacht and equally luxurious and consumptive private jet, has had Buick from worst-car-karma GM as one of his two primary sponsors, and all this to knock a ball around golf courses that are rarely public, but elitist, historically racist and anti-Semitic golf clubs. They also use scarce freshwater resources, often in deserts, and more pesticides-per-acre than probably any other form of recreation.

    And when I asked Nike’s Tinker Hatfield (their head of design and one of their most senior and influential executives) who we should try to get involved with climate change, he told me Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong, but said that Tiger would be too busy, or as you put it, “focused.” (By the way, I think each of those could do better at his sport than he could do at theirs, and he’s probably the most athletic elite golfer ever, which tells you a lot about the sport – though I would pay to see John Daly ride the Alpe d’Huez stage in the Tour de France.)

    While engaging open-minded, progressive, thoughtful and considerate celebrities like Steve Nash and the others mentioned is an important tactic I’m working on, lauding those who are the least of these things, as Tiger Woods has been to date, sends exactly the wrong message.

  4. Matt Dernoga says:

    Now if only they didn’t have Exxon Mobil’s name all over their stadium