MLB pur­sues an en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious All-Star Game

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY ADAM ZIELONKA

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.”

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