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03/11/08 10:00 AM ET

Baseball makes pitch to go green

MLB, NRDC team up to create Team Greening Program

Throughout its rich history, baseball's greatest moments have been played out on its lush fields of green. Now thanks to an unprecedented partnership, the national pastime is embracing the color green in a whole new way.

Major League Baseball and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have jointly announced the creation of a Team Greening Program. This program was developed to support and coordinate the many environmentally sensitive practices now pursued by virtually every Major League club. The joint effort marks the first time that Major League Baseball will implement a league-wide environmental protection strategy.

"Baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities, and caring for the environment is inextricably linked to all aspects of our game," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "Sound environmental practices make sense in every way and protect our natural resources for future generations of baseball fans."

The program will provide an individualized NRDC Team Greening Advisor for MLB, a Web-based software tool featuring advice and resources for every aspect of a club's operations.

This unprecedented program, more than two years in development, will expand on the industry's best practices, offering specific local advice concerning such topics as energy use, purchasing, concession operations, water use, recycling and transportation.

"This began as a great idea of the Commissioner," said John McHale Jr., Major League Baseball's executive vice president of administration and chief information officer. "He had a conversation with Bob Fisher, who is a partner of Lew Wolff and the Oakland A's, and Bob suggested it might be a good idea for us to consult with the NRDC, of which he's a board member. We did that and we've been working with the NRDC for about 18 months, and the fruits of that labor are now ready to be released."

The NRDC is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.

"The commitment by our national pastime to enhance its ecological profile in a meaningful and public way marks a watershed in the history of baseball and the environmental movement," said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at NRDC. "No other sporting institution has influenced American culture as much as baseball and the league is once again putting that influence to very good use."

The NRDC Team Greening Advisor for Major League Baseball will work with each individual club on a host of topics, including:

• Adopting an official environmental policy

• Incorporating environmental language into contracts, purchasing policies and requests for proposals that specify preferences for environmentally sound products and services

• Encouraging the use of renewable energy

• Providing information about how to credibly offset the carbon emissions related to team and fan transportation

• Using post-consumer recycled content paper for all paper products

• Implementing paper reduction strategies in offices

• Offsetting the environmental impact of up to half of team and employee travel

• Establishing club eco-committees

"This is an effort of coordination and support," said McHale. "Many of our clubs have already established good practices in this area. In fact, the best ideas to be included here are the sharing of those best practices. If you go east to west, there are so many clubs that are already very progressive in this area and they do it because it's the right thing to do and makes them a better partner in their community.

McHale cited San Francisco and Oakland among the Major League clubs that have been engaged in environmental programs for quite some time, and he recognized several other teams that are dedicated to doing more.

"Seattle is another one really deeply involved. Cleveland and Cincinnati are very progressive, and the Pirates, because of the commitment of their owner Bob Nutting to this cause, are going to use this as one of their themes for the 2008 season.

"Boston has done a great job and they are going to be rolling out some new initiatives as well," McHale said. "The Padres and Dodgers are very progressive. Washington's new ballpark is LEED-certified, as will be the new ballpark in Minnesota. Miami has a provision in its agreement that we will help co-fund to help get LEED certification for its new ballpark as well."

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures.

In addition to programs within the industry, MLB and the NRDC will also provide materials throughout the league's ballparks to encourage fans to make environmental changes in their own homes and businesses.

The NRDC Team Greening Advisor for Major League Baseball has also been posted at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, as well as the 30 MLB club Web sites.

"I think the core idea here transcends politics," said McHale. "This is very much in line with the best thinking in corporate activity today. Almost everyone who's a parent hears it from their children when we go home and it is the way, the model of living we need to embrace for the future."

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.