Major League Sports Leading the Way

Mon, 2013-04-08 09:51

As the green culture of the U.S. continues to expand with things like LEED certified buildings, continued growth of renewables, and environmentally conscious business practices, it is only right that major league sports follows suit with their own green initiatives.

Major league sports are and have always been a major part of the American way of life. As a more than $400 billion industry with hundreds of millions of fans, major league sports’ “greening of games” can result in nothing but a good environmental impact. So, in honor of the start of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) opening day last Sunday, along with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Green Week going on from April 4-12, this week’s post showcases green initiatives created by professional sports.

Transcending Sports

No matter what your favorite team or sport is, some of the biggest major league sports have gone all in for going green. With help from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL have teamed up to examine everything ranging from their purchasing decisions to transportation choices, energy use, and waste management policies.

The NRDC first started working with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 to provide assistance with their “GO Green” effort, and, as a result, 100% of the Eagles’ operations are now powered by purchased wind power and augmented by solar power generated onsite. Since then, with the help of the NRDC, 15 professional North American stadiums or arenas have achieved LEED green building design certifications, 18 have installed on-site solar arrays, and virtually all have or are developing recycling and/or composting programs.

This “green” movement within the sports world in America has helped push the fans to try harder environmentally as well. Few sectors in the U.S. are as influential as the sports industry. Approximately 61% of Americans say they are sports fans, and bringing environmentally stable projects and initiatives to the masses through a cultural unifier like major league sports is a key stepping-stone in creating a more sustainable world.

Case Studies

MLB: Overall, the NRDC ranks Major League Baseball as the most environmentally conscious of all major league sports. Since the launch of the NRDC and MLB’s partnership, virtually every MLB team has established environmental initiatives in their stadiums. To date, five MLB teams have installed solar systems at their stadiums: the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Both the Washington Nationals as well as the San Francisco Giants have LEED silver certifications.

NFL: Other than the Philadelphia Eagles, many other teams in the NFL have gone forward aggressively with “go green” projects. The New England Patriots stadium uses its own wastewater treatment system to recycle water and also has one of the largest solar power arrays of any team in the country. The New York Giants and New York Jets, who share a stadium, have one of the greenest in the league after an agreement with the EPA that used various green building techniques. Since its opening, MetLife stadium has reduced water demand by 11,000,000 gallons. Also, in 2011, the NFL moved their headquarters into a LEED gold certified building in New York City.

NBA: The NBA began working with the NRDC in 2007 and since then has established various green initiatives to their sport. The NBA holds a Green Week every April, which involves various community service projects, auctions to support environmental efforts, and green tips for fans. To date, five teams have achieved LEED certifications in their arenas: the Portland Trailblazers’ Rose Garden, the Atlanta Hawks’ Philips Arena, the Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena, the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center, and the Houston Rockets’ Toyota Center.

A Win for All of Us

So far, these initiatives made by the major sports leagues in the U.S. have added up to significant improvements by reducing waste, water use, and energy consumption, while at the same time helping educate citizens and fans about environmental practices. It is best that these practices are coming from the teams that we Americans love because it challenges us to make changes in our own lives to become more sustainable. So from now on, whatever color jersey your team wears, you can always root for the GREEN team.

By Nick McAndrew

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