Major League Baseball has been a green-sports stalwart since the early days of the movement. In fact, according to Green Sports Alliance President Allen Hershkowitz, no one has done more to advance the greening of sports than MLB Commissioner emeritus Bud Selig.
So, this being Earth Day, it is fitting that we talk with Paul Hanlon, MLB’s Director of Facility Operations, about today’s announcement of the sustainability initiatives surrounding the 2016 All Star Game at San Diego’s Petco Park.
GreenSportsBlog: Paul, before we get into the details of the greening initiatives Major League Baseball has planned for the 2016 All-Star Game, let’s talk a little bit about your job and background. Your title is Director of Facility Operations. Which implies that sustainability is part of, but not all of what you work on. What percentage of your time is devoted to sustainability?
Paul Hanlon: My job to work day-to-day with the operations staffs at all 30 clubs. I would estimate about 25 percent of my time is spent working on sustainability-related issues. And that percentage will only grow.
GSB: Good to hear. And how long have you been managing sustainability for MLB?
Paul: I started back in 2012 — before that I was working in stadium operations for the Red Sox at Fenway Park…
GSB:…Oh that’s a shame!
Paul: Are you a Yankees fan?
Paul: Well I have to say I’m impressed with what the Yankees have done and are doing sustainability-wise.
GSB: I am, too. I wish they were doing as well on the field, but I digress. We were fortunate last fall to be able to interview Doug Behar, the Yanks’ Director of Operations, about the Greening of Yankee Stadium. But enough about Red Sox-Yankees. Tell us about what’s happening with today’s announcement regarding the All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego.
Paul: Major League Baseball is proud to announce the sustainability program for the Midsummer Classic. The 2016 edition at Petco Park will be the first to be played under energy efficient LED lights. Estimates are that the LEDs at Petco save 250,000 kWh per year, which is like not driving more than 410,000 miles.
LED’s are gaining traction with our clubs. Last season, the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field became the first to play under LED lights. Since then, the Padres, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and, yes, your Yankees, have gone with LEDs. And more clubs can be expected to follow suit.
Paul Hanlon, Major League Baseball’s Director of Facility Operations. (Photo credit: Robert Binder for MLB Photos)
GSB: Impressive…Aside from the LEDs, what else does MLB have planned for All-Star Week?
Paul: For starters, we have Green Teams that will fan out throughout Petco Park to help fans make sure their waste goes where it’s supposed to go–recycling or composting.
GSB: That sounds great but I imagine Petco Park already is doing a lot in the way of recycling and composting, no?
Paul: True — they are. We believe the Green Teams who walk the aisles and talk to fans about the greening of, in this case Petco Park, enhance the overall fan experience and will add to the percentage of fans who do drop their waste in the right receptacles. And the Green Teams will be at all of the All-Star Game events, from All-Star Sunday on July 10 (Futures Game, Celebrity Softball Game), Home Run Derby on Monday and the All-Star Game itself on Tuesday July 12.
GSB: When did the Green Team program start?
Paul: Well, the Greening of Baseball in general started in around 2006. By the 2008 All-Star Game…
GSB:…at the old Yankee Stadium I might add…
Paul: Yes, we worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to form Green Teams to collect recyclables at the 2008 All Star Game festivities at the old Yankee Stadium.
And since then we’ve grown the program in innovative ways. In fact in 2014, the University of Minnesota got involved by offering a 2-credit “Sustainability Through Sports” course that paired online class work on the greening of the All-Star Game weekend as well as in MLB in general with being part of the Green Team.
GSB: The 2014 All-Star Game was at Target Field in Minneapolis so it makes perfect sense for the University of Minnesota to have been involved. What about 2015, when the All-Star Game was in Cincinnati, or this year’s game in San Diego…is the University of Minnesota still a part of this?
Paul: Yes, they’ve continued to be the lead academic partner, running the course in conjunction with institutions local to a particular All-Star Game: The University of Cincinnati last year and University of San Diego this summer.
Green Teams collect recyclables and educate fans about Major League Baseball’s sustainability efforts at the 2015 All-Star Game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. (Photo credit: Robert Binder/MLB Photos)
GSB: Do any of the MLB clubs have Green Teams of their own for regular season games?
Paul: Certainly. A number of clubs are doing this, including the Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.
GSB: And aside from the Green Teams and the LED lights, what else can we expect to see from a sustainability perspective in San Diego this July?
Paul: For the third straight year we will have a Walking Path–a path that runs between the All-Star FanFest at the San Diego Convention Center, Petco Park and several San Diego Metropolitan Transit System stations and major hotels. The path will be designated by green markings on the sidewalk and signage along the route.
GSB: …Kind of an All-Star “Yellow Brick Road”…
Paul: Yes. Our goal is to encourage fans to walk rather than drive to the All-Star Game-related activities.
The Walking Path that led fans to the 2014 All-Star at Minneapolis’ Target Field. (Photo credit: Robert Binder/MLB Photos)
GSB: Do you have any metrics from the 2014 and 2015 in terms of numbers of people who walk the Walk — ing path?
Paul: Not yet but we are looking at it for 2016 and beyond. We’re also offsetting much of the energy and water used at Petco during All-Star Game-festivities: Electricity used at the events will be matched with Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Certificates. Water use is being balanced, in conjunction with Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) through the Change the Course program, a freshwater conservation and restoration campaign. In addition, player travel to and from San Diego will be reduced through carbon offsets.
GSB: And what is happening on the unused food front?
Paul: As at previous All-Star Games, MLB and the host team–the Padres in this case–will collect and donate uneaten food to feed local community members in need. This builds on a program the Padres currently have in place to collect and recycle used cooking oil from concessions and kitchens which is then processed into bio-diesel, some of which is brought back to be used to power the lawn mower that mows the field.
GSB: This is all fantastic. Congratulations! But I have a concern and that is this: MLB will not publicize this enough to build awareness beyond a portion of the fans who attend All-Star Game activities. This is not specific to baseball and the All-Star Game, mind you.
Super Bowl 50 was the greenest ever, by far. But my sense is that few folks are aware of it–aside, of course, from the legion of GreenSportsBlog readers. Will MLB and its media partners be publicizing the great, greening actions you are taking to the fans watching on TV, online and/or listening on radio so that awareness spikes to a broader audience?
Paul: We proactivity share with the public and media the efforts taken by the League, particularly at our “Jewel” events like the All-Star Game and World Series. All-Star FanFest, the largest baseball fan event in the world, will include a display on the environmental efforts by MLB and the Padres.
In addition, throughout the ballpark, a message alerting fans to the Green Teams and reminding them to recycle will be displayed on the LED boards. We and our Clubs continue to look for ways to raise awareness for and promote the good work being done in this area.
GSB: That is great to hear on the in-ballpark messaging piece. I do hope MLB’s media partners like Fox and ESPN, pick up on this great green story and bring it to the broad viewing/listening audiences. In the meantime, thank you Paul, for your time and for the great work you are doing to green the 2016 All-Star Game.
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