07/10/2012 06:53 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2012

Why Baseball's Green All Star Game Matters


The sports industry's growing embrace of energy efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, water conservation, safer chemicals and healthier food is educating millions of fans about the importance of protecting the environment and natural resources that we all depend on. Through their leadership on the field, court or rink, professional and collegiate sports and their sponsors are showing their many fans practical, cost-effective solutions to some of our planet's most dire ecological issues. The sports industry is demonstrating to millions of people from all walks of life how to be environmental stewards by leading by example.

Perhaps no other industry is as well suited to confirm that environmental stewardship has become a mainstream, non-partisan issue. Hundreds of millions of people watch sporting events each year, and the global supply-chain of the sports industry includes the largest and most influential corporations on Earth. While only 13 percent of American's say they follow science, 61 percent identify themselves as sports fans.

This week, as part of Major League Baseball's ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship, the league has partnered again with NRDC to help ensure that this year's 83rd Annual All-Star Week events are environmentally intelligent. MLB's ecologically responsible efforts include:

Energy Offsets -- 120,000 KWh of energy used during the All-Star Game and related events, including the Home Run Derby, the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and the All-Star Futures Game will be offset with Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Credits supplied by Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Solar Panels -- In advance of the All-Star Game, the Royals and KCP&L installed on Kauffman Stadium 120 solar panels that will produce 36,000 kw/annually.

Water -- Major League Baseball is purchasing water restoration credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for the 600,000 gallons of water that will be used during All-Star Week ballpark activities. In March 2012 the Royals and Grundfos, a vendor of pumps, partnered to improve the efficiency of Kauffman Stadium's signature fountains.

Recycling -- Recycling containers are located throughout the offices, suites, concourses and parking lots at Kauffman Stadium. All MLB-hosted events will include recycling programs. To reinforce this message All-Star Green Teams of volunteers will circulate throughout Kauffman Stadium during the All-Star Game collecting recyclables from fans. The food concession company at Kauffman Stadium, Aramark, collects the grease from all kitchens and concession stands to be recycled as bio fuel.

Awareness -- MLB will promote "Green" messaging with a PSA highlighting the NRDC partnership; in-stadium signage and an ad in the 2012 All-Star Game Program.

Materials -- Environmental attributes were prioritized when selecting All-Star Game paper for invitations, tickets, programs, ballots, etc. The Kansas City Royals have reduced paper use by creating an electronic media guide and transitioning to a digital ticket system. Paper products in the restrooms contain post-recycled content such as the toilet paper (30 percent post-consumer) and paper towels (up to73 percent post-consumer).

Organic Waste Diversion -- The Royals, in conjunction with Missouri Organic Waste, will divert organic waste from food prep and from the suites to composting. Uneaten food will be collected and donated to Harvesters.

Legacy -- MLB will partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City Independence Unit and Operation Breakthrough to refurbish & renovate the facility, using eco-friendly materials including low volatile organic compound materials such as paint and sealants, low flow plumbing fixtures, FSC certified wood and locally produced materials.

Major League Baseball (MLB) was the first professional sports league to develop a dedicated program in behalf of environmental stewardship and MLB continues to lead all sports leagues in its commitment to this important cause. Since establishing a league-wide greening initiative in 2005 in close partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), MLB's environmental program has grown to include all of its teams and venues. All other professional sports leagues in the USA and many collegiate teams as well, have followed MLB's lead to embrace ecologically preferable practices and fan education.

As a result, in just the past five years alone millions of pounds of carbon emissions have been avoided and hundreds of thousands of pounds of paper products will be shifted towards recycled content, or not used at all. Recycling and/or composting programs have been or are being developed at virtually all professional stadiums and arenas nationwide. All large food concessionaires, which collectively feed tens of millions of people each year, have also developed environmentally preferable menus for at least some of their offerings.

While there's plenty more to do, awareness is the first step in healing and innovation, so it's heartening that tens of millions of fans are being educated about environmental stewardship by teams and leagues worldwide.

Over the years, MLB has shown environmental PSAs and other types of important messaging at the annual World Series and the All Star Games. The league has distributed NRDC's Greening Advisor and a guide to developing solar arrays on stadiums to all teams. MLB was also the first league to create an online league-wide tool to measure the energy and water used at all MLB stadiums, as well as the amount of waste that is recycled and paper purchased with recycled content.

We face daunting problems right now. Nothing less than a cultural shift in environmental awareness is needed in order for us to effectively address the diverse and serious ecological problems we face as a planet. We need to change the way people think about how they should relate to the organism that gives us air to breathe and water to drink.

It is clear that bringing environmental information to our cultural leaders is as important as bringing that information to our government leaders. Indeed, perhaps it is more important. And few sectors are as culturally influential as the sports industry.

Lessons from previous cultural shifts that have moved our society forward suggest that the shift needed today in our thinking about the environment will not be led by government. Congress did not lead the way on the Civil Rights Act, withdrawing from the Vietnam War, or other social issues like drunken driving, gender equality, and marriage equality. In each case, government was forced to act by a cultural shift in public opinion.

The same is true about environmental stewardship. We must lead government to respond to these threats and in order to do that we need to promote a cultural shift in how Americans view their relationship to the planet.

Today, Major League Baseball is again using its cultural influence and purchasing power to advance ecological progress. I say Bravo to MLB. Personally, I've always loved baseball, and I've played the game throughout my life. But today I feel a special admiration for that great league, and I urge all professional leagues and teams, indeed all companies and all Americans to become an environmental All Star and follow the lead established by our National Pastime. Take stock of your impacts on the Earth and reduce them.