MLB pursues an environmentally-conscious All-Star Game
As Major League Baseball takes over the Washington region for the 89th MLB All-Star Game and its accompanying activities, more than baseball is on the schedule. In fact, MLB has enough planned in the eco-friendliness department that the D.C. Council’s recent bill looking to ban plastic straws may look small by comparison.
Take, for example, Friday’s volunteer “greening” community service event at Richard England Clubhouse 14, a Boys and Girls Clubs outpost in Northeast Washington. The league expects more than 100 volunteers — ranging from employees of the league and the Washington Nationals to youth baseball and softball players — to spend their afternoon landscaping, removing trash, painting and repairing benches for the clubhouse.
Baseball is sometimes considered by its detractors a little old-fashioned, but MLB is determined to see that the modern game is on the cutting edge of environmental awareness. In what it sees as a matter of corporate social responsibility, the league has ramped up these efforts year over year since launching its sustainability program in 2008.
This year, MLB wants the All-Star Game to be the first event in professional team sports to receive certification from the Council of Responsible Sport, a board that encourages socially and environmentally-conscious sporting events.
“Historically we haven’t thought about throwing away the nacho tray or the soda cup, or the plastic straw in the soda cup, for example,” said Shelley Villalobos, the council’s managing director. “Right now there’s a large movement to rapidly increase awareness and action to moving towards more sustainable alternatives that don’t leave a lot of plastic going into the oceans.”
The council works with willing event managers and judges them with a list of 61 available “credit points.” If an event reaches enough criteria to earn at least 27 points, it will receive certification, and more points lead to gold, silver and “evergreen” levels.
Events rack up points by doing everything from reducing waste and conserving water to establishing scholarships and legacy events to continue helping a community after the event.
For instance, 66 players will travel to and from Washington from the other 26 major league cities to play in Tuesday’s game. The league plans to calculate the carbon footprint of that travel and purchase “carbon offsets,” or monetary credit toward other projects that reduce greenhouse gases, through the Bonneville Energy Foundation.
Paul Hanlon, MLB’s senior director of ballpark operations and sustainability, first met Villalobos last year at a conference on “green sports.” His department already was doing several things the council rewards in the certification process, and Mr. Hanlon and his team felt it was time to try for a certification.
“A lot of what we learn is from our clubs,” Mr. Hanlon said. “It’s a very clubdriven initiative, but we also want to show our clubs as well, ‘Hey, we’re able to do this for an All-Star Game. Maybe this is something you could look at (doing) for the last month of a season.”
Some recent NCAA final fours are the largest events to receive the certification so far. MLB will learn about a month after the game whether it earned certification.
It helps MLB’s cause that Nationals Park itself is green. It was the first pro sports stadium to receive a LEED certification from the Green Building Council back in 2008.
The Council for Responsible Sport took inspiration from the LEED certification process when it was founded in Oregon in 2007.
Villalobos said MLB is the first of the major four sports leagues to seek certification for an event.
“That’s a big step and it’s not a step we’ve seen other professional leagues take yet, Villalobos said. “We’re grateful.”