By Ryan Duffy, Communications Fellow
The following is an excerpt from Greenthink: How Profit can Save the Planet, by USGBC's co-founder and current CEO, Rick Fedrizzi.
How about something literally out of left field?
Baseball has long been America's pastime. Ever since 1846, when the Knickerbockers played the very first game, the sport has grown to capture fans all around the world. And yet it feels as though the only time we talk about “green” in the context of baseball is in reference to the Green Monster at Fenway Park. The only mentions of “performance enhancement” have to do with the latest violation of Major League Baseball's doping policy.
But when the Miami Marlins and the people of Miami invested in a new ballpark, they were interested in a very different kind of performance enhancement and a few different shades of green. In fact, one of the first things the county, the city, and the ownership agreed on was that the new ballpark had to be LEED Silver. But thanks to their early and focused commitment to sustainability– from the Marlins organization to the architect to the construction company– Marlins Park became the first LEED Gold-certified professional sports facility with a retractable roof.
Sustainability is a team sport, and the Marlins had an all-star roster. But to fully understand the scale of their achievement, let's take a step back and consider the environmental impact of a ballpark
In a 162-game season, you've got 81 home games. That's 81 home games where tens of thousands of people get in their cars and drive to the ballpark. Factor in that many of these games are at night, which means you've got to turn on the big lights (in addition to all the regular lights and the screens large and small). On top of that, remember that in places like Miami, where during the height of the season temperatures can regularly reach into the nineties, air-condition becomes necessary. If you think it's expensive to keep your house cool, imagine trying to cool the house that Ruth built– or in this case, the 928,000 square feet of Marlins Park.
The environmental impact of a baseball venue is already enormous– and we haven't even thrown out the first pitch!
Now, think for a moment about what those tens of thousands of people do inside the stadium. You've got thousands of hot dogs grilling, thousands of beers being poured, and thousands of people buying peanuts and crackerjacks– after which the maintenance staff has to root root root through thousands of pounds of trash. Then add to the equation all the delivery trucks restocking the concession stands and the garbage trucks hauling away the refuse. By the time you get to the seventh-inning stretch, fans have flushed hundreds of toilets countless times. And that's to say nothing of watering the outfield.
Multiply this by the thirty times, and we've got a major-league problem.
While you may watch baseball in appreciation of all the utility infielders, baseball stadiums are all about utility bills. They're incredibly resource intensive–which means they're also an incredible opportunity to become more efficient. You've heard of Moneyball, now let's talk “Greenball”–the Miami Marlins and their LEED Gold ballpark.
Marlins Park uses 22.4 percent less energy than other buildings its size, which translates to roughly $500,000 a year in savings. On top of that, the ballpark uses half as much water as a similar stadium, with the waterless urinals alone reducing water consumption by six million gallons every year. So while the team had a 208-278 win-loss record from 2012 to 2014- which, honestly, is not great- its environmental record has been a home run.
On my tour of the ballpark, I was impressed to see all these features put to work in such a beautiful facility. They are a tremendous testament to the Marlins organization's continued commitment to sustainable operations. But there's more. In the 2014 season, the Marlins recycling stats were just incredible: The organization recycled 51 percent of its waste, bringing the Marlins' career totals up to 52 tons of oil and 92 tons of cardboard saved. The Marlins even recycled the sod and garden waste after redoing the field–780 tons, to be precise. In 2014, the team also donated more than 10,000 meals to a local senior center instead of allowing leftover food to go to waste. The floors of the clubhouse are made from recycled Nike shoes. And my favorite fact: it costs only $10 in electricity to open the 8,000 tons of steel that make up the retractable roof. That's less than a beer and a hot dog cost at a ballgame!
That said, the beer is doing its part, too. One of the more amazing things I saw during my tour of the ballpark was the centralized beer distribution system. Instead of running kegs up and down to every concession stand on every level, tubes throughout the building bring beer up into the taps. From an efficiency and safety standpoint, this makes perfect sense. But from a sustainability standpoint, it’s the kind of benefit that’s hard to measure bit easy to see. If you’re moving and cooling fewer kegs, you’re using less energy; if you’re only filling up three large tanks instead of constantly restocking hundreds of kegs, you’re bringing in fewer trucks.
This short anecdote demonstrates the transformative impacts of green building– it can take one of the most unsistainable places possible and make it money-saving, feature-loaded, sustainable, and ultra-efficient! Shown below is an aerial shot of the stadium– don't forget, it costs less than $10 to slide that roof in!