By Alice Henly
Sports stadiums and arenas, like all large facilities, generate a lot of waste—typically thousands of tons of trash each year. Waste generation in the U.S., including all industrial wastes and municipal solid waste (MSW), totals more than 14 billion tons annually. Unfortunately, the production and management of all that waste directly contributes to global climate disruption as well as other serious environmental issues, including—water pollution, air pollution and harming wildlife habitats.
Only 82 million tons (about 32 percent) of MSW were recycled in 2009, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s biennial report, yet this alone cut GHG emissions by 178 million metric tons, the equivalent of removing 33 million passenger cars from the road for an entire year.
Despite many of the benefits of waste prevention, recycling and composting—protecting biodiversity, saving energy, water, and valuable natural resources such as trees and metal ores; and reducing use of landfills and incinerators and GHG emissions—it’s an ongoing challenge to engage more businesses and people in smarter waste management, one which the Cleveland Indians are taking on in a big way.
Since its inaugural year in 1994, Progressive Field has boasted recycling receptacles for plastic, cardboard and aluminum. However, it wasn’t until late 2007, when the ballpark’s waste hauling contract expired, that the Cleveland Indians began to significantly expand their recycling facilities and establish the ballpark as an industry leader in waste management.
Starting in 2008, Brad Mohr, assistant director of ballpark operations for the Cleveland Indians, established new partnerships with local waste companies and arranged for the separation of the ballpark’s recyclables on site, instead of commingling.
To sort on site, the Indians bought two balers that create 1,200-pound cubes of cardboard and 500-pound ready-for-sale cubes of plastic or aluminum.
“Combining the money we saved from cancelled trash hauls—paying to have waste picked up from the ballpark and sorted—with the money we made from selling the sorted recycled commodities, we paid off the total $30,000 cost of the two balers in six months,” Mohr explains. “That really got people’s attention and gave our environmental work real credibility. The senior staff’s immediate response was ‘Keep going!’”
In three years the Indians have cut their annual waste in half. In 2007 the ballpark generated 1261.6 tons of trash. By 2010 this was down to 613.4 tons. This reduced the number of trash compactor pickups—that cost an average of $500 each—by 64 percent from 254 pickups in 2007 to 92 in 2010, saving the Club $50,000.
Mohr is confident that the Indians will continue to save $50,000 or more annually, relative to 2007 costs, with the ballpark’s improved waste management and recycling system. “That's where we see the financial difference…in recycling, [and] avoiding trash being hauled away,” Mohr says. “Green initiatives are here to stay because they save teams money.”
The Indians’ improved ballpark recycling has also notably created more local jobs while reducing the ballpark’s environmental impact. After every game there is a ballpark “pick” where an average of 30 custodial staff do a sweep of the entire ballpark, picking up and sorting trash from recyclables. In order to increase the recycling rate at the ballpark, Mohr now employs more custodial staff, hiring about eight additional workers each game, to collect recyclables post-game.
The many benefits of the Indians’ improved waste management system—creating jobs, cutting pollution, reducing the ballpark’s environmental impact and saving money—is echoed in a new report by the Tellus Institute that will be launched Nov. 15 at an event hosted by the Indians. The event is taking place at Progressive Field alongside a series of nationwide events.
The national report—More Jobs, Less Pollution—finds that reaching a 75 percent national recycling rate would create nearly 1.5 million more jobs than in 2008. It would also reduce conventional and toxic emissions that impact human and ecosystem health, strengthen the economy by creating a stable local employment base, and reduce CO2 emissions by 276 million metric tons by 2030—equivalent to 72 coal-fired power plants or taking 50 million cars off the road. San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and Washington, D.C. are all celebrating National Recycling Day, Nov. 15, 2011.
More Jobs, Less Pollution was prepared for the BlueGreen Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union, Recycling Works! and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). It represents the united mission of labor and environmental groups to create a strengthened, more resilient American economy based on green jobs.
“Increasing our recycling rather than dumping trash in landfills will create nearly 1.5 million jobs that are sorely needed, and will benefit the environment,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president. “The Teamsters are interested in creating good, green jobs.”
The Indians’ impressive waste management work, among other green initiatives, provides a strong example for large businesses in Cleveland and statewide for moving towards a stronger green economy.
“The Indians have a wide breadth of activity and efforts in greening and sustainability thanks to the guidance and support of NRDC and NRDC’s unparalleled sports greening resources,” says Mohr. “Our comprehensive recycling program is just the beginning, as we’re also the first American League club to install solar power. And we are trying to add a new green feature each year.”
Get the full scoop on the Indians’ impressive recycling program and savings by reading NRDC’s recently published Smarter Business Case Study. Learn more about the More Jobs, Less Pollution report at NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz’s blog.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.