Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Turning on the Juice at the Giants' Ballpark (And I Don't Mean Barry Bonds)

While in California for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, I got to sneak up to San Francisco’s AT&T Park for a game between the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a chance to catch up with some former Red Sox, including Dave Roberts, Grady Little, Derek Lowe (who is completely incapable of not acting like a goober in the dugout on days he’s not pitching), and of course, NOMAHHH.

I’d heard Giants owner Peter Magowan has been making environmental upgrades to the ballpark, so I was excited to see them firsthand. The biggest and most important feature is the ring of solar panels around the park. The 590 panels are designed to produce about 120 kilowatts of electricity, roughly equivalent to 40 rooftop systems. From an aesthetic standpoint, they’re virtually imperceptible – they look like awnings (you may have to click to enlarge the picture just to see them, they're alongside the round lamps).

In addition to producing energy, the ballpark has many features designed to save energy. It uses fluorescent lighting, motion sensor lighting and energy management systems. Its new scoreboard is said to use 78 percent less energy than the old scoreboard. The ballpark also features links to several public transit lines and extensive bicycle parking.

And for the first time at any ballpark, I spotted recycling bins. They weren’t next to every trash can, but until other ballparks like Fenway Park or RFK Stadium include recycling bins at all, I won’t nitpick frequency.

It’s always amazed me that people who are religious recyclers at home will throw away bottles at the ballpark without a second thought. In baseball terms, Americans recycle at home but not on the road. It’s one of the reasons our national plastic bottle recycling rate has tumbled from 39% in 1996 to 23% in 2005.

So if you’re at a park that doesn’t recycle, should you spend innings four through seven harassing the park manager to recycle, missing two homers, a beanball, and a bench-clearing brawl in the process? No.

When you get home, email the team to let them know you’d root root root for the home team even more if they recycled and used disposable dishware made of compostable materials like
Greenware. If your favorite team is building a new park, urge them to make it a green building as the Washington Nationals and University of Minnesota are trying to do.

And in case you missed it, read
this fantastic article from Sports Illustrated on how some athletes, teams, and leagues are taking the first steps towards sustainability!
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