09/11/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2012

Baseball Commissioner Selig Gets Environmental Award

Last Thursday evening, Sept. 6, at a Gala Dinner held on SafeCo Field in Seattle, I bestowed the first Green Sports Alliance Environmental Leadership Award on Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. It is the highest environmental award in the sports industry.

No one is more deserving of it.

The Green Sports Alliance is an international professional association of more than 100 team and league members dedicated to advancing environmental stewardship.

My colleagues on the GSA Board of Directors asked me to present the award because of my history with the Commissioner's office on greening his league.

In November 2005, at the suggestion of NRDC Trustees Robert Redford and Bob Fisher, I wrote a letter to Commissioner Selig asking MLB to join with NRDC to identify ways to enhance the environmental profile of our national pastime. Within two weeks I received a call from Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President John McHale. He invited me in for a meeting. He said "The Commissioner is interested in doing this."

In January 2006 I visited MLB headquarters in New York City for the first time. Our meeting went well and as a result the first sports league greening collaboration was born.

At the time, in 2006, there was no sports greening movement in existence.

Today, just six years later, things are very different.

Today the sports greening movement is one of the most influential and visible collaborations in the marketplace. Indeed, it holds the potential to become one of the most influential collaborations in the history of the environmental movement. And that has everything to do with Commissioner Selig's far-sighted and public commitment to protecting the health and well being of our planet.

In 2007, shortly after Commissioner Selig launched MLB's league-wide greening initiative, our friends at the National Basketball Association asked for a meeting. They had heard about MLB's greening initiative and were interested in doing something similar in their league -- not only because David Stern is a truly committed environmentalist, and he is -- but because of the path opened up by Commissioner Selig.

Commissioner Selig tested the environmental waters for professional sports, and others followed.

The ripple effect grew in 2008 when Mike Richter, the 1994 Stanley Cup winning goalie for the N.Y. Rangers and a committed environmentalist, invited me to a meeting with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss a program to green professional hockey. Commissioner Bettman expressed his admiration for what MLB was doing, and he expressed his intention to have hockey join with baseball to protect the planet.

All during this time, greening collaborations were flourishing among MLB teams throughout the nation. MLB was the first league to introduce the Team Greening Advisor, which was distributed by Commissioner Selig's office to all team presidents and stadium operators. MLB was the first to introduce environmental measurement tools to teams and stadium operators. It was the first to use Public Service Announcements to educate fans about environmental stewardship. It was the first league to green its All Star Game and league Championships and publicize that greening work to the world. And MLB was the first league to have solar arrays installed on its stadiums, including the arrays installed on America's most beloved and oldest stadium, Fenway Park.

All of this happened under the watchful and supportive eye of Commissioner Selig.

And this environmental work did not go unnoticed.

One person who noticed was tennis legend Billie Jean King. Having heard about the greening initiative at MLB, Billie contacted NRDC's President Frances Beinecke, and soon we were all together at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, discussing how the MLB greening program could be applied to professional tennis in the USA and, indeed, around the world.

By 2008, as a result of the greening initiative launched by Commissioner Bud Selig, we had MLB, NBA, NHL and the USTA all onboard with initiatives to implement and promote environmental stewardship. And then in 2008 I was invited to a meeting with the NFL to discuss MLB's greening initiative, and that meeting helped set up the NFL greening committee. And in 2009 a meeting took place with Major League Soccer where MLB's greening program was also discussed.

By 2009 every professional sports league in the United States had an environmental greening program that involved meaningful ecologically-focused changes in stadium and arena operations, as well as green sponsor partnerships and large scale fan engagement related to environmental stewardship.

And it all started with Bud Selig.

It is worth noting that the GSA itself now has more than 100 team and league members, and that too is an outgrowth of the Commissioner's pathbreaking leadership and commitment to environmental progress.

For these reasons it is no exaggeration to say that Major League Baseball Commissioner Allen H. (Bud) Selig is the single most influential environmental advocate in the history of sports. And for that reason it was my distinct privilege and high honor to bestow the Green Sports Alliance's First Environmental Leadership Award on Commissioner Bud Selig.