Green Becomes Official Color of Baseball
Sunday, July 20, 2008
NEW YORK -- When baseball's legendary greats came rolling up Sixth Avenue this month for the annual Hall of Fame parade, the familiar red carpet was distinctly green.
That's not talking about the hue.
The carpet, stretching for 20 blocks through Midtown, was made entirely of recycled fiber and manufactured using solar and wind power.
"We did the Oscars. We advised the Grammies. But this is our first green red carpet!" said a clearly excited Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the nonprofit environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The red carpet was just the most visible manifestation of the greening of America's pastime.
Across the country, baseball parks now have recycling bins for plastic cups, and solar panels are providing at least some of the energy. Men's rooms are being fitted with no-flush urinals to save water. Grounds crews are switching to chemically benign cleaners, and vending machines are being made more energy-efficient. Teams are even taking the environmental impact into consideration when they decide how to travel for road games.
Baseball attracts close to 80 million spectators every year. They drive cars to the ballparks, consume bottled water and beer in plastic cups, use restrooms with paper towels and tissue -- and generally leave behind a mess to be cleaned up after every game. Add to that the electricity needed for lights and air conditioning and vending machines and the scoreboards, and the result can be a huge toll on the environment with every game. That is what the league is aiming to address.
"The bottom line is, I think, this is signaling a cultural shift that I think is unprecedented, to have Major League Baseball embracing environmentalism," Hershkowitz said. "It's apple pie, it's motherhood, it's baseball, it's environmentalism."
This year, at the start of the season, Major League Baseball entered a partnership with the NRDC to make the entire game more Earth-friendly. The Council conducted a team-by-team survey and has come up with an online software tool, called the Team Greening Program, to help every team adopt more ecological practices.
Some baseball clubs -- particularly West Coast teams such as the Seattle Mariners -- were already practicing conservation. And newer ballparks were constructed with environmental standards in mind, including the District's new Nationals Park, made of mostly recycled steel and using energy-saving bulbs for its field lights. Nationals Park is the only stadium in the country so far certified as green by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, according to media and advertising coordinator Lauren Connelly. Another stadium currently under construction, in Minneapolis, is vying for the Building Council's green seal of approval.
But it's not just the eco-friendly West Coast teams that have embraced environmental consciousness. Teams in some of the old Rust Belt cities, not known for being at the forefront of eco-friendliness, have actually been leading the way.
At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the Pirates this year instituted a project called Let's Go Bucs, Let's Go Green that includes recycling aluminum, plastic and cardboard, converting used cooking oil to biofuel, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and toilet paper made from recycled materials, and having the team's U.S.-based scouts driving around the country in flex-fuel vehicles.