America’s Pastime Cleans Up Its Act

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball suspended Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and 12 other players guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs. These suspensions are the latest efforts in the MLB’s attempts to toughen its stance on these cheaters and clean up its image. What most people aren’t reading about today, however, is that the MLB has been cleaning itself up in another much less scandalous and more literal context: environmental sustainability.

Since 2005 Major League Baseball has worked with National Resources Defense Council to go green and make a commitment to more eco-friendly practices. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig puts environmental sustainability on par with racial justice with regards to MLB’s responsibility to society:

“Baseball is in a unique position to exert positive influence in the area of environmental stewardship. Just as Baseball took a leading role in the development of relations between the races in the United States, with the appearance of Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, so must it turn its attention, efforts, and influence to other important social issues. One of those issues, which is inextricably linked to all aspects of our game, is care for the environment.”

There are efforts to increase recycling and composting programs, cut energy use, conserve water, and use greener products at virtually every major league stadium. From traditional baseball cathedrals like Fenway Park to shiny new venues like the Mets’ Citi Field, fans have been buying hot dogs from vendors using locally-sourced ingredients, wiping mustard off their faces with napkins made from 100% recycled paper, and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” under energy-efficient LED stadium lights.

All of these efforts are being tracked by the MLB Green Track system, a revolutionary environmental data-gathering software platform pioneered by the MLB and developed in collaboration with NRDC. This data-gathering software has found natural home in a sport obsessed with rankings and statistics. This system has led teams to compete with each other not only on the field but in their stadiums as well, as data from each ballpark are shared publicly among franchises.

Major League Baseball should be proud of the environmental progress it has accelerated in the sports community. Since partnering with NRDC, MLB stadiums have saved millions of gallons of water, prevented thousands of tons of climate change-inducing CO2 emissions, and reduced landfill waste by up to 50% for some teams. There remains a lot of work to continue this progress but the future is bright. Several stadiums are already LEED-certified and more are on their way. Similar initiatives and partnerships are sprouting in other pro-sports organizations such as the NFL, NHL, and NBA.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, environmental responsibility must permeate every corner of society. With the changes that Major League Baseball has already enacted we see that even one of America’s most traditional institutions can be a leader in the effort to create a sustainable and clean energy future.