It is the most formidable planet of all. It is right where you want your best hitter. Menacing Mars and big Jupiter (susceptible only to its Great Red Spot) offer great protection behind it. A couple of quick, hot-hitting setup guys in front. Earth is the franchise player in the galaxy, the one that draws the people, the one rounding the bases at just the right time. Saturn has the ring, but Earth has the World Series trophy.
On this Earth Day, we celebrate us, the whole thing, the bigger picture outside of our little day and night. We are all part of Earth. It's the land and its life. It's the mountains we see looking out over Dodger Stadium or Coors Field, the cherry trees outside of new Nationals Park, the ivy on Wrigley Field's walls, the fresh air we breathe at Fenway Park, the shimmering Bay seen from AT&T Park, the palms of PETCO Park and Dolphin Stadium, the warmth of Rangers Ballpark and the vital rivers winding past games in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.
Major League Baseball -- which has spent more than a century largely bracing against and defying Mother Nature, working alongside her in a kind of groundskeeping pact -- has stepped up in 2008 as a powerful leader in the global green movement. This is a day to celebrate the great No. 3 hitter, but really it is only a day out of 365 and this is going on constantly. You will just see it emphasized more on this day around the game, sometimes in ways that you won't know, such as buying "carbon offsets" -- and sometimes in obvious ways, such as prominent recycling containers or the planting of trees or a network morning TV show discussing PNC Park programs as part of its presidential primary coverage.
The Major League Baseball Team Greening Program was announced last month, a Commissioner's initiative in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is a comprehensive program to help each team reduce its environmental impact, and all 30 clubs are doing their share. Here are just some of the examples looking around the game on this increasingly important -- and symbolic -- day on baseball's calendar:
Mariners: Yes, Felix Hernandez (2-0) is pitching. But there is another reason to follow this game. The Mariners are joining with Cedar Grove Composting to stage "the first carbon-neutral game in Major League Baseball history." The game also serves as an opportunity to educate fans about what they can do to reduce their own carbon impact. King County executive Ron Sims, whose holistic approach to sustainability has earned him an international reputation, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
To achieve "carbon-neutral" status, the Mariners will offset the global warming impact of energy used at Safeco Field during the 10:10 p.m. ET game against the Orioles. Global warming impacts include:
Emissions associated with electricity and natural gas used to operate Safeco Field on this day;
Disposal or recycling of waste generated during the game;
Air travel emissions for the Orioles (from Baltimore), Mariners (from Los Angeles) and umpires for the game;
Hotel-related emissions for the Orioles and the umpires;
Ground travel to and from the ballpark by staff and fans.
More than 230 short tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution will be generated from these energy-use activities. To offset the impact of these emissions, the Mariners will purchase high-quality carbon offsets from NativeEnergy, a leading carbon offsets company that helps build and support new renewable energy projects, and 58,000 kWh of "green power" credits from the Seattle City Light Green Up program. This is part of a much broader overall initative, all posted on the club's Web site.
"We know that just buying carbon offsets isn't enough," said Howard Lincoln, the Mariners' chairman and CEO. "This is not a one-time event for us. We are committed to a comprehensive program of recycling and conservation so that we are operating Safeco Field and the entire Mariners organization in a way that minimizes our impact on the environment."
Reds: Edinson Volquez will try to go to 3-0 as Cincinnati's probable starter against the Dodgers, and fans attending will be part of the Duke Energy "Go Green" Game. This game will be "carbon neutral" -- a continuation of an effort the Reds have shown MLB in leadership before this season. Teaming with Duke Energy, the Reds purchased carbon credits to offset the estimated fossil fuel emissions related to game-day operations at Great American Ball Park.
Opening Day on March 31 was also a carbon-neutral game. The reduced emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases come from a biomass district heating and cooling fuel switch project located in Burguillos, Spain.
Green initiatives in place at Great American Ball Park include a recycling program with Rumpke and Pepsi of plastic and paper generated from both game-day crowds and front-office business. Waste cooking oils generated in the kitchens and concession areas are being recycled for future use in Bio-Diesel. Concrete, metals and cardboard materials are also recycled.
As a related promotion, 15,000 fans will receive free Duke Energy Night Lights upon exiting the stadium.
Pirates: At PNC Park, there are plenty of visible reminders about the club's green initiatives, including all those contour bottle receptacles throughout the ballpark with the "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green" logo on the side to attract recyclers. There also is plenty to see on the club's Let's Go Green page on their official Web site, where a proclamation from the Pittsburgh City Council commends the Pirates "for being a leader in our city's charge to be the center of innovation, green initiatives and sustainable practices in the United States and around the world ..."
Speaking of politics, Earth Day brings a national focus on what the Pirates are doing, thanks to the U.S. presidential election campaigning. With Pennsylvania's primary on Tuesday garnering national attention, CBS News' "The Early Show" was scheduled to go to Pittsburgh and take time to highlight those eco-friendly initiatives at PNC.
Athletics: The A's, in partnership with L.A. Nursery Sales of Sunol, donated 171 trees to the Fremont Unified School District, one tree for each home run the club recorded during the 2007 season. Fremont Unified School District selected nine different types of 15-gallon-sized trees from L.A. Nursery Sales, which will be planted at school sites throughout Fremont Unified School District over the next month. The first of these trees will be planted at John F. Kennedy High School on this Earth Day, with club and school district officials participating in the event.
That's a captive audience of a lot of high school students, and a nice lesson to learn as part of the Athletics' overall Earth Day Celebration.
"[A's owner] Lew Wolff and the Oakland A's have once again demonstrated their commitment to the Fremont community and to the Fremont Unified School District through their very generous donation of 171 trees for our schools," said Fremont Unified School District superintendent Doug Gephart. "Their donation will improve the environmental quality of Fremont for a lifetime. On behalf of the entire educational community of Fremont, we are deeply grateful and appreciative of the generous contribution to our schools."
Giants: The Earth Day recognition is not just limited to the home teams on this day. All around baseball, you can find clubs that are currently on the road but have gotten involved in the big day. Consider the Giants. For their designated "Giants Earth Day" game last Wednesday against the Diamondbacks at AT&T Park, the first 20,000 fans in attendance each received a free reuseable grocery bag. Meanwhile, the Phillies have a "go green" event coming at the end of the month. Everywhere you look, all MLB teams are involved.
White Sox: "Earth Day at the Ballpark" is on the list of the club's "Green Sox" green/conservation initiatives. Prior to and during the 8:11 p.m. ET game against the Yankees, the American League Central leaders will feature environmentally educational programming at the ballpark. Fans will be encouraged to participate in activities by taking an active role in recycling and conservation.
In addition to the other initiatives, it is worth noting that the White Sox are a longtime leader in ballpark recycling. U.S. Cellular Field recycles all plastic and paper gathered during and after each home game; recycling bins are placed throughout the stadium. Since 1992, the White Sox and Waste Management have recycled more than 570 tons of materials, including plastic cups, office paper, aluminum cans and corrugated boxes. One of the three compactors at U.S. Cellular Field is dedicated solely to recycling items.
Astros: Houston does not want to be Jake Peavy-friendly on this night. He will try to run his record to 4-0 as the Padres start a series at Minute Maid Park. But the Astros have been treating the good Earth well. They teamed up with Keep Houston Beautiful this past Saturday in a tree-planting and adopt-a-block event. Members of the Astros staff joined Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, owner Drayton McLane, general manager Ed Wade and club president Pam Gardner in planting trees and cleaning up a city block.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the Union Station Trial project was held immediately adjacent to Minute Maid Park on the south side of the ballpark. Its name reflects the fact that its terminus is in the shadow of the former Union Station location, where the Minute Maid Park grounds are located.
It was the first step in the 2008 Astros Play Green campaign. Other campaign elements include the expansion of the ballpark recycling program, conversion of select grounds crew equipment to biodiesel fuel, composting of field grass clippings to use as fertilizer, use of partial post-consumer recycled material for sales collateral and partnering with local Earth-friendly organizations to raise awareness on environmental issues.
Red Sox: Coinciding with its 7:05 p.m. ET series opener against the Angels, the Red Sox will welcome the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the founding director of the NRDC to Fenway Park as the EPA presents an Environmental Merit Award to the club in recognition of initiatives undertaken to explore and adopt environmentally sustainable habits and technologies at "America's Most Beloved Ballpark." A joint ceremonial first pitch by representatives of both organizations will follow the award presentation.
In recognition of the team's commitment and in honor of Earth Day, all players and on-field staff will wear uniforms featuring a patch with the new Red Sox greening logo on the left sleeve.
The Red Sox are engaging sponsors, local groups and their fans to help execute a five-year plan to bring "green" practices to Fenway. New greening initiatives there include: the installation of solar panels to reduce energy requirements for heating water; installation of solar-powered "Big Belly" trash compactors around the park; creation of the Poland Spring Green Team, the first of its kind in professional sports, to collect plastic soda and water bottles from fans during games; placement of 75 recycling bins throughout the park; and the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices in the front office, on the field and in the concession stands and restaurants.
Rays: Tampa Bay's home game against Toronto is being played at DisneyWorld, but as with all clubs, the Rays have a large environmental push under way.
"We believe in an ongoing commitment to sustainability within our own business operations, including practices that promote energy and water conservation, and reduce, reuse and recycle waste," said Brian Auld, the Rays' senior vice president of business operations. "We will make a positive impact on our environmental footprint and we are committed to serving as a community role model for environmentally responsible initiatives."
To kick off the program this month, the Rays purchased Green Tags, carbon credits for renewable energy, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) to offset the CO2 produced by fans traveling to Tropicana Field, and all energy consumed at Tropicana Field on Opening Day.
The Rays also are purchasing Green Tags to offset the CO2 produced by all Rays employees traveling to and from work throughout the year, and six additional game nights. The purchase of Green Tags supports the development of renewable energy on power grids, solar power systems for schools and public buildings, wind power systems for farms, ranches and communities, and watershed restoration to improve water quality and native fish habitat.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.