With the 2017 World Series coming to an end, what better time to write about the intersection of two of my favourite things — baseball and sustainability.
I know what you’re probably thinking — how can an industry synonymous with controversy, corporate greed, toxic masculinity, and outrageous player salaries ever be considered sustainable? And I would tend to agree, but the MLB is making great strides towards sustainability. Plus, I really love baseball, so I’m trying to focus on the league’s positive advances in environmental stewardship.
In 2005, the MLB was the first major sports league to partner with American-based environmental organization, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The result was the implementation of the NRDC Greening Advisor for MLB. Since then, we’ve seen advancements in energy, waste, water, concessions, green buildings, and more.
Having previously worked as a waste auditor, one of the areas where I first noticed a change was in waste reduction in ballparks. Stadiums have expanded recycling and organic waste practices, and are now offering biodegradable cups, post-consumer recycled paper products, and digital ticketing systems. At the end of last year’s baseball season, the San Francisco Giants (who happen to be my favourite team), were awarded the Green Glove Award for their recycling efforts for the 9th year in a row — in the 2016 season alone, the Giants franchise diverted 95% of waste from landfill.
As a vegetarian, I have also noticed an increase in vegetarian and vegan ballpark food. I won’t go too much into the details because PETA has already created a handy top-ten list of vegan-friendly ballparks. From veggie dogs and tacos, to vegan pizzas and nachos, herbivorous baseball fans are no longer leaving the games hungry. PNC Park in Pittsburgh even hosted a vegan night, something I never thought I’d see! And, even if the MLB’s move towards more vegetarian and vegan options is simply an effort to build a wider fan base, it’s one that me and my stomach can definitely get behind.
The MLB has also made progress towards leadership in energy and design. According to the MLB, nearly a third of stadiums are generating some of their electricity using solar power. As of this past spring, five stadiums have received varying levels of LEED certification for existing buildings and new construction — AT&T Park, Nationals Park, Target Field, Miller Park, and Marlins Park. In addition to electrical, lighting, heating, and cooling systems, ballparks have also increased bike parking, installed waterless and low-flow urinals, created rain recycling systems, and are operating gardens within the stadiums. Check out the Oriole Garden at Camden Yards in Baltimore!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no denying that major league baseball is a corporation with a substantial ecological footprint. I have encountered my fair share of sustainability missteps during the time I’ve spent at ballparks. However, I remain hopeful that an environmental awakening is unfolding in the baseball world, and that the MLB will continue to explore the environmental impact of professional sports and the consequences of inaction. In the meantime, I will spend the winter anxiously awaiting the start of the 2018 season when I can hop on my bicycle and ride over to the ballpark ranked number one for walkability and transit accessibility!
Allison is a citizen arborist, travel fiend, amateur birder, and baseball nut who lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs, Buster and Fox.