A World Series win this year matters less than a ‘green’ ballpark victory

Dodger Stadium in 2011 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dodger Stadium in 2011 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Dodgers did not win the World Series this year. I am sure that is not new to you if you pay any attention to sports news, but to me it is the only significant part of baseball since they lost in the post season.

However, while the rest of the baseball fans are root, root, rooting for their “red” team (both remaining teams have a significant amount of red in their uniforms), I decided to see how “green” baseball stadiums can be.

Since I am writing this before the end of the 2013 World Series (it is currently 3 games to 2 in favor of the Red Sox), I thought I would compare what I could find between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals to see who should win based on their “green” stadiums.

I found out that not only is being environmentally responsible the new “cool” thing, all of Major League Baseball has bought in to the green concept since at least 2005 when they partnered with the Natural Resource Defense Council.

Allan H. (Bud) Selig has been quoted as saying, “Baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities and caring for the environment is inextricably linked to all aspects of the game. Sound environmental practices make sense in every way and protect our natural resources for future generations of baseball fans.”

Sports in general are in a perfect position to excel in environmentally responsible behavior and affect real change.

There is a reason that companies spend millions of dollars advertising at stadiums and through sports celebrity endorsements. We idolize sports figures. If they tell us that a particular shoe can help us jump higher, we buy them. If they tell us to eat at Subway, we do. And if they tell us to recycle, we will. Despite all of the performance enhancing drugs and high salaries, we do what they say.

So now on to the comparison …

Since Boston is currently ahead, let’s start with them. Fenway Park started the Poland Spring Green Team in 2008. They use volunteers to collect recyclables and currently collect 25 tons each season. In addition to collecting recyclables, Fenway Park is committed to closing the loop by using cups, hand towels and napkins made out of recycled paper and plastic.

The Boston park was the first in the Major League to install solar panels. I think that this deserves special recognition since, though still very useful in Massachusetts, solar panels are often more cost effective in southwestern states. Despite that, Fenway Park has realized a 37 percent savings on gas used to heat water in the park.

For the sake of public relations, the Boston Red Sox Players do Public Service Announcement’s throughout the first inning highlighting the green aspects of the stadium. And finally, anyone familiar with Fenway knows about the “Green Monster,” the wall and manual scoreboard which obviously does not use any electricity.

Probably the most notably “green” thing about Fenway Park is that it is the oldest ball park in the Major League.

In an era of bigger is better and luxury box seats, the Red Sox understand that the “greenest building is an existing building.” Or at least for the purposes of this article, that is what I choose to believe they are thinking.

Now St. Louis …

Busch Stadium can host more than 45,000 fans at any one time and opened in 2006. In 2008, the Cardinals started working on sustainability initiatives and have since been able to save 23 percent, or approximately $150,000 annually, in energy usage; 10 percent in water usage; and divert 29 percent of their waste from the landfill.

The stadium has placed over 550 recycling bins throughout the stadium as well as using a 25-plus member green team to collect recyclables during the game. They have also composted more than 500 tons of yard waste.

One hundred and six solar panels have been placed throughout the stadium that account for 32,000 kilowatt hours (an average home uses 11,000 kilowatt hours per month) of electricity saved per year. In addition, there are educational kiosks near the panels describing their benefit.

Since I am an environmental educator, one thing that weighs more heavily for St. Louis is the fact that their green initiatives are proudly positioned on their website. Ok, so maybe “proudly” is not the right word, but you can at least find the initiatives from their home page as opposed to the Red Sox’s efforts which requires some digging.

And last but not least … the Dodgers. I do understand that the Dodgers have lost, but since I am the one writing, I am choosing to ignore that fact.

Dodger Stadium was built in 1962 making it the third oldest in the majors. I feel that they get a few extra points for choosing to renovate rather than rebuild, just as Fenway Park did.

Since 2008, just as the others mentioned above were getting started, Dodger Stadium could already boast a 30 percent energy savings and the installation of water efficient fixtures which resulted in 2.4 million gallons of water saved each year. The water savings are even more important since it is located in a desert (which is not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, but we won’t think about that for now).

Considering its desert location, the Dodger Stadium’s grounds crew is very conscious of what they plant. Their landscape manager is an International Society of Arborists-certified tree expert, and cares for their 300-plus acres using mostly native plants.

Let me remind you that native desert plants can be beautiful, but you have to work a lot harder at getting them to be aesthetically pleasing than you do in Kentucky with a plethora of beautiful native flora.

Dodger Stadium has received numerous press pieces about their environmental efforts including tearing up concrete to plant trees and promoting a landscaped “green necklace” in the area, but they still lose points for public relations.

Their website does not readily point to their green initiatives. Maybe it is because West Coasters think they are already environmentally responsible and don’t need to tell everyone about it. Whatever the reason, I am disappointed that they are not more vocal about their accomplishments.

Now the winner – not of the series, but of the green stadium competition …
It is with unashamed bias that I pick the Dodgers! I have found an amazing number of wonderfully forward-thinking ball parks while doing research for this article, but nothing can compare to my childhood.

I learned to love nature in Chavez Ravine, the area surrounding Dodger Stadium. I grew up in earshot of the fireworks and cheers from the crowd, and adjacent to Elysian Park which was my home during each daylight hour of summer vacation.

I spent each day I could riding my horse through the palm trees that you see when a home run is hit at Dodger Stadium, and comforting my noise-adverse dog after each home run burst of fireworks or Michael Jackson concert. I can still remember the smell of the eucalyptus leaves and the complete freedom I had running across Dodger traffic on Stadium Way to explore my world.

No matter the outcome of the 2013 World Series, the Dodgers will always be winners to me.


1 Amy-Sohner

Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on October 31, 2013.

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