Beyond the Green Monster

May 1, 2010

Kathleen Harrington and John Bergdoll
Kathleen Harrington, Coordinator of Boston Red Sox Planning and Development, and John Bergdoll

Scattered showers did not delay the Green Tour of Fenway Park hosted by CEN/REBN Clean Economy Network/Renewable Energy Network. Gathered at the Absolut Bar underneath the ballpark were about 100 clean and renewable energy fans to hear Kathleen Harrington, Coordinator of Boston Red Sox Planning and Development, make her presentation on the recent earth-friendly improvements at Fenway Park.

When I was in high school, I was a walking vendor at Fenway Park. I knew the park pretty well so it was refreshing to see and hear about the new sustainability initiatives and programs.

Here’s what we learned:
– Fenway Park installed 28 solar panels on the upper deck behind home plate saving energy and avoiding 18 tons of CO2 emissions each year.
Fenway Solar Panels

– There are 11 Big Belly Solar Trash Compactors that hold up to 6 times more trash than regular trash containers.
– There are 28 no-flush urinals and 23 dual flush toilets (18 in the women’s room and 5 in the men’s room) reducing water waste by 30%.
– Most Red Sox publications including game day programs, calendars, and yearbooks are printed on recyclable paper.
– The ground crew uses biodiesel fuel (a non-petroleum based and clean burning) to power mowers that cut the grass and leaf blowers that clean the trash left behind in the stands after games.
Organic fertilizer is used on the grass and the grass clippings are left to naturally decompose.
– The Poland Spring Green Team collects water bottles during the game with the help of volunteers who wear green shirts made of recycled water bottles that feel like cotton. Water bottles that don’t make it to the recycling bins are sorted.

Here’s sustainability improvements that I think should be made:
The carbon arc light towers at Fenway Park were installed in 1947 and have remained unchanged since then. Carbon arc lights were made between 1933 and 1944 and originally intended to search for enemy planes at night before radar was invented. The searchlight beams could reach more than five miles and could be seen more than 30 miles away.1 They represent a huge energy-efficient opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint, reduce light pollution, and save money. One of the most eco-friendly options is LED light bulbs. “LED lights contain absolutely no mercury or toxic chemicals. They don’t generate RF wavelengths that cause radio interference, or emit ultraviolet (UV) light — so LEDs will not readily attract bugs and other insects.”2

Rainwater storage is a smart way of conserving energy. It would be a valuable way to conserve water that could be used as potable water, irrigate the grass and infield, and in the flushing of toilets. Rainwater is energy. It brings life. To ignore it is wasteful and costly. In 2004, the EPA issued results of a survey indicating that, “36 states will have water shortages in the next ten years – – – even under non-drought conditions.”

There is a missed opportunity for a green roof on the second level behind home plate. Right now there is a flat rooftop that absorbs the sun’s energy, heats up, and reradiates that heat to the ambient air resulting in a summertime heat island effect. Urban heat islands affect energy use, air quality, human health and water quality. Instead, I propose a green roof top system that provides environmental benefits that would support hearty native ground cover and requires little maintenance. It would also beautify the space and view from the EMC Club and Pavilions. The space above center field parking garage also presents a green roof top opportunity.

Since all baseball teams incur a huge environmental impact with their airplane travel, I asked if there was any consideration to carbon offsetting the airplane travel. Travel can be made carbon neutral helping our environment in our fight against climate change. Harrington said there were no plans to do so. A member of the crowd then mentioned that occasionally the Red Sox take the Amtrak train when they are visiting the New York Yankees. Trains are more environmentally friendly and the players like it because it takes them right into the city.

I propose the idea of developing a ‘Baseball Stadium Sustainability Index (or Report Card)’. Sustainability rankings would be based on stadium energy performance, sustainability, environmental impact, reduce-reuse-recycle efforts, water conservation, renewable energy and social responsibility. There is no overall energy rating in place for Fenway Park nor with other Major League Baseball stadiums to my knowledge. The goal is to get off the grid, return power to the grid and embrace best practices in sustainability and social responsibility.

Major League Baseball rewards the best team performance on the field with a World Series Championship. It’s time to acknowledge and reward Stadium Sustainability Performance as well. I commend the Red Sox for making sustainability inroads, but there is an opportunity and a social responsibility to set the standard as community leaders and Sustainability Champions. Ranking high on a Stadium Sustainability Index is attainable and something Red Sox Nation and the rest of the world could cheer about.

1. Darin McGilvra, eHow Contributing Writer, “History of Carbon ARC Lighting”, May 1, 2010

2. Organic Consumers Association, “Mercury Contamination Alert: Why LED Light Bulbs Are Safer Than Compact Fluorescents”, May 1, 2010

Twitter @JohnBergdoll