Major League Baseball's New 'Fields of Green'


Cincinnati Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson reads a book about global warming to kids at the Cincinnati Public Library. Photo via Major League Baseball (2009)

From a between-innings stretch to collect recyclables to discount tickets for transit riders to green giveaways, Major League Baseball clubs put an eco-friendly twist on many ballpark traditions for Earth Day -- activities that will continue throughout the month and even, in some cases, all the way to the playoff chase.Instead of a bobblehead figure of their favorite player or a team-logoed "rally towel," fans entering the stadiums of the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants, and the Texas Rangers on special days during the season receive reusable shopping bags, metal water bottles, or baseball caps made entirely from recycled plastic.

Fans who bring recyclables to the ballpark on the Atlanta Braves' "Field of Green" night May 19 can get discounted game tickets, as did Washington Nationals supporters who showed a public-transportation fare-card at the ticket office on April 22.

Royals Boost Recycling Efforts
Green-themed videos and conservation tips are being interspersed among highlights and trivia quizzes on many scoreboards and numerous teams are ramping up their own recycling efforts, with volunteers and staff for the Kansas City Royals roaming the stadium's aisles all season during the seventh-inning stretch to collect the recyclables that are generally tossed on the ground to mingle with the trash.

The Boston Red Sox have installed new water-efficient fixtures in the restrooms and locker rooms at their famed Fenway Park, while the Detroit Tigers put in a section of seats made from recycled plastic milk jugs and the Seattle Mariners have switched to compostable cups, plates, and utensils at all their food-service stations.

Community Garden and Classroom Initiatives
Community-service initiatives are de rigueur for modern athletes and sports teams, often centered around education or health issues. This year, Houston Astros players and staff helped build a learning pavilion at a local community garden and are visiting school classrooms to read environmentally themed books to kids. The Pirates hosted an Earth Day litter pickup in the neighborhood around the ballpark, while the Giants are co-sponsoring a Green Classroom Challenge for local elementary schools in which the winning class will be honored with an on-field ceremony at home plate.


The Washington Nationals host a river cleanup. Photo via Major League Baseball (2009)

It's easy to dismiss such efforts as putting a mere green sheen on a pastime that sucks energy to power its scoreboards and lights, gulps water to keep its outfields green, produces thousands of giveaway items (including the "green" ones) that will probably go straight into the trash, and builds massive stadiums that thousands of people drive to on a near-daily basis. But behind the scenes, Major League Baseball is working with the Natural Resources Defense Council on a more significant initiative that has the potential to reduce every part of the sport's footprint.

Sustainable Stats
Baseball teams (and fans) have always tracked ERAs, RBIs, and myriad other statistics about the game. Now, thanks to the NRDC collaboration, MLB clubs will also be collecting and analyzing stadium operations data -- on energy consumption, waste management and recycling, water consumption and paper usage -- in order to develop information about green best practices to distribute to all 30 teams, a first for professional sports.

"There is a reason why some of the largest industries on Earth pay millions of dollars to affiliate with professional sports. They do so because they know that is the way to influence the marketplace," Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with NRDC wrote in a blog post about the initiative. "No other sporting institution has influenced American culture as much as baseball and MLB is once again putting that influence to very good use.... All professional leagues should follow this important example."

More about baseball and the environment:
Take Inspiration from the Major Leagues and Green Your Baseball
Hit a Home Run with Proper Baseball Bat Care
5 Reuses for: Baseball Hats
Japan's Seibu Railroad Uses Baseball Star To Promote Eco-Friendly Travel
Treehugger Picks: Baseball Getting Greener
Taking Green Baseball by Storm
Baseball Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

Tags: Earth Day | Recycling | Sports | United States