Baseball Reflections

How the MLB is Adapting to Sustainability

In theory, baseball is an incredibly wasteful sport. The evergreen fields of the outdoor stadiums combined with the white-hot lights and the unending use of single-use plastic cups of beer all suggest that Major League Baseball has a long way to go to clean up its act. While the MLB does have work to do, most of the above examples are already obsolete — and have been for years.

If you’re not a regular visitor to your club’s stadium, it may surprise you to know that the MLB is perhaps one of the greenest sporting organizations in the country.

As of 2019, the MLB has both a top-down sustainability program as well as various individual efforts made by all 30 clubs. And these sustainability measures aren’t meaningless gestures used for PR: some of the clubs have programs that both businesses and governments should be emulating.

It All Started with Solar and Recycling

Fifteen years ago, few baseball clubs even had a sustainability plan in place much less interest in going green. But around 2007, things began to change as individual teams began taking tangible steps to improve not only their stadiums but their cities.

It was in 2007 that the Cleveland Indians installed solar panels on their home field (now titled Progressive Field), but going solar was only the beginning. The next year, the club launched the “Our Tribe is Green” campaign, which saw the stadium and clubhouses amp up the recycling programs. They moved on to organic waste composting in 2010 and 2011. Cleveland’s various programs stopped the generation of 88 metric tons of CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2019.

Cleveland is not only among good company, but its program isn’t even the biggest or best. The San Francisco Giants are the MLB powerhouse of sustainability and are virtually undefeated in their quest to win the Green Glove Award each year: San Francisco won nine consecutive years. Some of the club’s achievements include: diverting 95% of trash from the landfill, achieving the highest recycling rate in the MLB, creating the first major league ballpark to earn the U.S. Green Building Council certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance.

Baseball is Green on and off the Field

One of the most fascinating elements of MLB’s approach to sustainability is that it isn’t taking the easy way out. It could have encouraged clubs to slap some solar panels on their stadiums and call it good. However, both the MLB and clubs go much further: they leave the stadium entirely.

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers Foundation works with the County of Los Angeles Public Works to improve the county’s recycling program. It not only diverted waste that originates outside Elysian Park but it raised $26,000 for local youth baseball. The club also worked with the city and county to re-design the space around the stadium to encourage more ride-sharing and cycling to its games.

It’s perhaps the MLB’s water conservation programs that make the biggest difference in their communities. Water is a public good and something every stadium must share with its local community. Demand for water has already tripled in the last five decades, and clubs across the country commit themselves to be responsible stewards of their local water systems. Given the demands placed on California’s water systems, it’s no surprise that the Dodgers and the Giants lead the way. In San Francisco, Oracle Park uses irrigation clocks to lower irrigation water usage by 33 to 50%. It also uses a field-wide saturation system to encourage water retention. In drought-ridden LA, Dodger Stadium uses a pioneering device called Skywell, which works as a dehumidifier for the stadium. One Skywell unit can extract 100 gallons of water from the air in a single day.

The MLB Needs to Share Its Vision

Today, your club’s stadium and practices are very likely to be greener than ever before. And it’s a feat that all 30 MLB clubs are involved. From solar panels to LED lighting to recycled paper and putting gardens in the bleachers, the MLB continues to prove that going green is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor.

Of course, every club can and should go further not only to promote general sustainability but to mitigate the effects of climate change on the sport and the world. But what needs to happen now isn’t necessarily more recycling but more talking.

The average fan doesn’t necessarily know what the MLB is doing to not only make their stadium’s carbon-neutral but help cities and counties hit their goals, too. Not only could the MLB improve its messaging, but the United Nations calls upon them to do so. Whether you’re 5 or 50, there’s a strong chance that when your sports hero makes a statement, you’ll listen. That’s why the U.N. launched the Sports Launch Climate Action Framework at the end of 2018 to encourage representatives of global sports to engage fans in both sport and the drive to reduce emissions.

Taking a Lesson on Sustainability from Major League Baseball

At first glance, you might think of all the damaging things about professionals sports – stadiums that suck up water and energy, massive parking lots and congestion, and an incredible amount of waste. But if you’re a baseball fan, those things tend to live in the past. The MLB’s commitment to sustainability is more than a PR move: it’s the real deal.

Both individuals and businesses can learn a lot from the pioneering efforts of MLB. And you don’t need a big budget to do it. Many of the MLB’s sustainability efforts, like solar panels, composting, and green landscaping, are achievable through green loans and tax credits.

While there are no easy solutions to the pressing problems of sustainability and it’s often difficult to know where to start, it’s helpful to take one more lesson from baseball. As Babe Ruth said, “Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

x  Powerful Protection for WordPress, from Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security