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Baseball proudly wears its green

In pro baseball, which holds its all-star game Tuesday, more than the playing fields are green. Teams are rigorously looking for ways to cut energy use and become better overall environmental stewards.

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• Working with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sports Greening Project, in 2011 the Cardinals undertook a “4 a Greener Game” program that included a comprehensive energy audit. It found nearly 200 energy-saving improvements to make at Busch Stadium. The facility already has diverted more than 2,400 tons of material from landfills over the past four seasons by increasing recycling and composting.

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• The Stadium Managers Association has created an annual Energy Bowl Competition among MLB teams. Together, the 30 teams have reduced their annual energy use by almost 50 million kBtu, enough energy to light 7,500 homes for a year. The Tampa Bay Rays won the top prize for 2011 by cutting stadium energy use by 16.6 percent during the year, largely by operating heating and cooling systems more efficiently. Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, and Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals, were runnersup, each cutting yearly energy use by more than 10 percent.

Many of the projects are double winners: They clean up the environment and cut energy costs as well.

While US baseball may be going green the fastest, other pro sports are jumping in too. Internationally, soccer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, will feature a solar-powered stadium and other planet-friendly features.

Even NASCAR, the We-Love-the-Smell-of-Gasoline stock-car-racing circuit, is greening up. It’s partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to encourage better practices among competitors and fans. NASCAR now promotes Design for the Environment-labeled products, such as safer chemicals, and it’s greening up the concession stands at NASCAR events, cutting water use, and encouraging recycling.

Baseball, America’s Pastime, is showing that sports entertainment and environmental responsibility can form a winning team. It’s past time that every sports league do the same.

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