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MLB takes part in White House sustainability forum

Major League Baseball representatives participated in a "Sports and Sustainability" discussion held by the White House on Thursday morning, as the ever-expanding initiatives -- on vivid display last week at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City -- were held up as a shining example of the overall sports industry's innovative success in adopting more sustainable practices.

Club representatives included Pirates chairman Bob Nutting; Cardinals vice president of stadium operations Joe Abernathy; and Mariners vice president of ballpark operations Scott Jenkins. Attending from MLB on behalf of Commissioner Bud Selig were Bill Bordley, vice president of security & facility management; Neil Boland, vice president of information security & special projects; and Paul Hanlon, director of facilities operations.

"It was an honor to be asked to participate in this discussion," Nutting said. "It is important that we, as a sports community, utilize our unique public position to continue to raise awareness on sustainability. I am proud that we at the Pirates, as well as Major League Baseball under the leadership of Commissioner Selig and John McHale, continue to take an active role in this critical area. Our partnership with Dr. Allen Hershkowitz and NRDC has helped the Pirates and Major League Baseball be the leaders in the greening of our facilities and giving us the ability to demonstrate its many benefits."

"It is an honor to be recognized by the White House for our efforts," said Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. "Seeking better and more environmentally responsible ways to operate our ballpark is good for baseball and is the right thing to do for our planet."

The White House held the event to celebrate the impact sports has had on the green movement. The event focused on the economic and environmental benefits of greening the sports industry, featuring senior Administration officials and three discussion panels, from league, team and supply chain perspectives. All 30 MLB clubs have adopted sustainable practices and initiatives that encourage fans to become more environmentally friendly.

"Personally, I've always loved baseball, and I've played the game throughout my life," said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But today I feel a special admiration for that great league, and I urge all professional leagues and teams, indeed all companies and all Americans to ... follow the lead established by our National Pastime. Take stock of your impacts on the Earth and reduce them."

As hosts of the 83rd All-Star Game, the Royals bought carbon offsets certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for emissions from the 120,000 kilowatt-hours of energy used during All-Star Week events. They also purchased credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to restore depleted watersheds for the 600,000 gallons of water that were expected to be used amid blistering Midwest heat.

At Kauffman Stadium, 120 solar panels were installed earlier this year and will produce 36,000 kilowatts hours annually. "Green Team" presence was everywhere as recycling containers were placed in offices, suites, concourses and parking lots at the stadium, and environmental awareness was promoted with a public service announcement at The K and in-stadium signage and an ad in the 2012 All-Star Game program.

"Baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities and caring for the environment is inextricably linked to all aspects of the game," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Sound environmental practices make sense in every way and protect out natural resources for future generations of baseball fans."

Nutting and the Pirates have exemplified that green impact, as the owner spearheaded the "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." initiative at PNC Park in 2008, shortly after assuming control. The program focuses on the three key elements of recycling, conservation and awareness. The results have been remarkable, as the Pirates now divert nearly 70 percent of all waste from PNC Park out of the waste stream through recycling and composting efforts. That number has increased steadily each year from 27 percent in 2009, 36 percent in 2009, 40 percent in 2010 and 61 percent last year.

MLB began an alliance with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 2006 to identify and promote better environmental practices. Since 2008, MLB has incorporated environmentally intelligent features in its jewel event activities.

In December 2009, a Greening Committee was created by senior ballpark operations executives at select clubs and members of the NRDC and MLB Central Office staff. The group's first recommendation was the creation of a new software tool for sustainable ballpark management which launched in 2010. The software system, the first of its kind created by a professional sports league, collects and analyzes stadium operations data to develop and distribute best practice information across all clubs.