This article, written by Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher and Outrider Sports Ambassador for the Environment Brent Suter, first appeared on the Outrider foundation’s web site. It was penned before the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of the Major League Baseball season.
The piece runs here with Outrider’s permission as part of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Day at 50 series.
By Brent Suter
I’m excited about a new season – not just to get back on the field, but also to continue to engage my Milwaukee Brewers teammates on environmental issues and the future of our planet.
Last year, guys on the team were receptive to my Strikeout Waste campaign, which encouraged players and fans to use reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles or paper cups. That led to the Brewers cutting our plastic use in half during Spring Training 2019.
During the offseason, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to help clean up trash from a beach with the advocacy group Players for the Planet. It was quite an eye-opening experience, and it convinced me that we need to take more significant steps to cut down on the plastic that often winds up in our oceans. Seeing all that single-use plastic food packaging has inspired me to avoid it in my daily life as much as possible, and to compost waste such as food scraps.
Especially now that China’s not buying recycling from U.S. communities anymore, I believe that compost is the new recycling – the wave of the future – and I’ll be pushing players and fans to take it up this year.
On my trip to the Dominican Republic, we cleaned up about 260 pounds of plastic – including jugs and bottles – and other trash such as Styrofoam and cardboard food containers. I’ve never seen trash like that on a beach.
It was great to team up with guys like Amed Rosario of the New York Mets, Nelson Cruz of the Minnesota Twins and former major league outfielder Chris Dickerson, who co-founded Players for the Planet.
I’ve already changed my behavior based on that trip and a conversation I had soon after with Joshua Spodek on his environmental podcast. After seeing how Styrofoam crumbles but never really breaks down, I will never consciously use that material again. It’s a disaster for the environment. In addition, I’ve been going to the local farmers market more often, bringing my own bags, and basically using no packaging.
And for Christmas, my wife bought be reusable dish rags – we decided we’re never going to use paper towels again. All of that has meant our household is generating a lot less plastic and a lot more soil from our compost pile. We have halved our trash.
I’d encourage fans to give composting a try. It becomes so fulfilling – instead of that subconscious guilt you get throwing away food scraps, you have this great feeling of putting in a good mixture for the compost pile. Once you start, you really can’t stop. The Today Show has a helpful online guide on how to compost – with or without a yard.
Our oceans are feeling the impact of our throwaway society. The United Nations has estimated that 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, and notes that tiny particles of discarded plastics can be ingested by small aquatic life, allowing toxins to move up the food chain, possibly to humans.
It’s encouraging to see the federal government tackling this issue. Following 2018 passage of the Save Our Seas Act, a bipartisan group of senators introduced Save Our Seas 2.0, which has already passed the Senate unanimously. As the sponsors wrote in an op-ed last fall, the new bill “will support environmental groups cleaning up beaches, industry collaborating with government, scientists conducting research, legislative efforts moving forward at all levels of government, and much more.” In an editorial, the Washington Post called progress on the bill Some good news on the tide of plastic junk in our oceans. I agree and hope the House will quickly pass the bill and send it on to President Trump for his signature.
I have some other causes I’ll be working on this season, such as revamping abandoned farmland and urban land, and planting flowers and trees there and creating community green space. I definitely want to do something big this year, and hopefully my teammates will be receptive – I think they will be.
From the devastating Australia wildfires, which are estimated to have killed more than a billion animals, to the Earth posting its second-hottest year, capping a five-year period that saw the five hottest years on record, it’s clear that human activity is impacting our ability to thrive. I’m determined to do my part to help get the planet back in balance, and raise awareness on environmental issues this year. I hope you’ll join me.