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04/22/11 2:00 AM ET

Earth Day is global affair across baseball

The Indians and Twins will wear green caps during their game Friday night at Target Field; the Mariners will introduce a new environmental mascot called Kid Compost; the Reds will host a major e-waste drive; and the Pirates will host an energy-free day at PNC Park.

These are just some of the many ways Major League Baseball is recognizing Earth Day on Friday, and, in reality, this is more symbolic of the culture that exists year-round at the 30 ballparks and within the game's workforce. MLB and its clubs are committed to a future that embraces operational efficiency, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

"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 our natural resources for future generations of baseball fans."

"I think it should be important for everyone to do their part and, in the grand scheme of things, do whatever you can to help in that area," said Houston outfielder Hunter Pence, an ambassador for the "Astros Play Green" campaign. "It's what provides for us. I'm very proud to be able to represent the Play Green campaign and hopefully be a role model to kids to try to do their part. Every little bit counts, and if everyone comes together, it makes a big difference."

Led by Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin senator at the time, the first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970 -- the same day Ed Stroud scored in the 18th inning as the Washington Senators beat the Yankees, 2-1. It's safe to say that the environment was not top of mind across the National Pastime on that day. In fact, it was more about new Astroturf replacing grass. Today, the Team Greening Program is a joint focus by MLB, clubs and fans to all get involved.

The Pirates have a big Earth Day planned before their Friday night game against Washington. Giveaways include a "Let's Go Bucs, Let's Go Green" T-shirt made from earth-friendly recycled fibers, and a reusable coffee sleeve. Trash pickup will take place on North Shore prior to the game, involving Pirates employees and local volunteers. More than 30 environmentally friendly local organizations will meet on Federal Street before the game to discuss with fans the programs and initiatives they have implemented.

The Mariners are partnering with Nikon to host the first Mariners-Nikon Earth Day Program, in order to motivate children to think more about how they can better the environment. Kids attending this night's game against Oakland at Safeco Field will receive a special magnet featuring a checklist of Earth Day conservation tips.

The Mariners also will introduce a new environmental mascot to help spread the word about the Mariners and Safeco Field's environmental practices. Kid Compost will join Captain Plastic to help educate fans about the Safeco Zero Waste goals, which have increased the Mariners' recycling rate from 12 percent in 2005 to more than 70 percent in 2010.

Chase Field's new Solar Pavilion is a stylish structure that generates 75 kilowatts of solar power and provides D-backs fans with extra summer shade. It is a product of a partnership between the club, Maricopa County Stadium District and APS, and the structure covers 17,280 square feet above the plaza area near the ballpark's western entrances and ticket booths.

"The solar structure will not only further distinguish the D-backs' green initiatives among professional sports teams, but it will also provide needed shading near the ballpark to enhance our fan experience during the hot summer months," said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall. "This innovative project will be on display when baseball fans from around the world visit downtown Phoenix in July to attend the All-Star Game at Chase Field."

"We are pleased to develop this project as part of our existing partnership with the D-backs and MCSD," said APS President Don Robinson. "Behind the scenes, this will be a working laboratory. We will study what's possible with urban solar arrays and how we can power electric vehicles directly from the sun."

The Red Sox actually were the first to install solar thermal panels at their ballpark -- on May 10, 2008. Energy generated from those is used to heat hot water in the park. According to Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the installation helps avoid 18 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Offsetting 18 tons of carbon dioxide is the environmental equivalent of planting 4.86 acres of trees, not driving a car for 43,611 miles or offsetting the carbon dioxide produced through natural gas use from about four average U.S. homes annually.

Speaking of Fenway Park, did you know that more than 800 tons of construction materials generated as part of the right field improvements in 2009 were recycled? Or that in 2010, 96 percent of waste was recycled? Or that this year, 80.91 percent of construction materials were recycled?

It is a familiar theme at every venue across the Majors.

The Astros will be at home April 26 to May 1 for series against the Cardinals and Brewers, and it has been designated as Play Green Week at Minute Maid Park. The week will feature green-themed promotional items and events all week to encourage fans to do their part. For example, the homestand opener will feature the Play Green Expo in Conoco Home Run Alley, featuring booths and tables for environmental-awareness companies and vendors to "help you live more green." There's a Play Green Tote Bag giveaway on Thursday, and the homestand finale includes a Bike to the Ballpark event with a specially discounted game ticket.

The Phillies ended their homestand on Wednesday, but not before making a Red Goes Green contribution to the environment to help celebrate Earth Day in advance. The Phillies collected old cell phones at the first-base gate at Citizens Bank Park, for those who wished to donate to the Philadelphia Zoo's "Return the Call of the Wild" program. The zoo receives cash back on all recycled cell phones. In addition to keeping old phones from contaminating dumping grounds, the effort raises funds for the Endangered Primate Rescue Center, a nonprofit organization working to conserve endangered primates in Vietnam.

The Yankees are partnering with Keep America Beautiful, the nation's largest volunteer-based community improvement organization, to help celebrate Earth Day at Yankee Stadium. Prior to the team's game there next Thursday against the White Sox, the first 18,000 guests in attendance will receive a package of flower seeds aimed at encouraging individuals to engage in the environmental betterment of their community.

Various waste-reducing activities, including the establishment of the Yankees Sustainability Facility Program, have helped promote responsible energy consumption and community improvement. The program ensures the efficiency of all equipment while focusing on energy reduction. During the 2010 season, waste management through composting and the recycling of cardboard, glass, metal, plastics and paper helped divert more than 35 percent of Yankee Stadium's trash away from landfills. Additionally, close to 9,000 gallons of cooking oil used in the Stadium last year were converted into roughly 7,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel.

"It is vitally important that we help promote sustainability and reduce our impact on the environment," said Yankees senior director of stadium operations Doug Behar. "We have implemented many green initiatives at Yankee Stadium and continue to look for new and better ways to conserve natural resources, educate our guests and Yankees Team Members, and support and partner with programs that promote sustainability."

The Cardinals are hosting their second annual Green Week now through Tuesday, with activities designed to promote recycling, both inside and outside of Busch Stadium. For example, on Monday they will collect used and new shoes at the ballpark gates. Shoeman Water Projects creates clean drinking water for those in need by selling shoes to exporters for resale, using the money to purchase well-drilling rigs and water purification systems in developing countries.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Cardinals will host another e-cycling drive, in collaboration with Wits, A-Mrazek Moving, and the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis. Fans may drop off unused or unwanted electronic equipment at trailers in the Ballpark Village Parking Lot, located at the corner of Clark Street and South Broadway. No fees will apply and all electronics will be accepted in any condition. In return, the first 1,000 fans to donate each day will receive a voucher good for a discounted Cardinals ticket. Fredbird and St. Louis mayor Francis Slay will kick off the e-cycling drive by making the first donation on Monday.

The Cardinals also will work with Pure Power to offset energy consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits (recs) for the duration of Green Week. By purchasing 35MwH/recs per game for six days, the Cardinals will prevent 332,490 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering Missouri's atmosphere, which equates to all 25 Cardinals players, nine coaches and Fredbird not driving their cars for six months.

Since the launch of the "4 A Greener Game" initiative in 2008, the Cardinals have diverted about 1,300 tons of solid waste from local landfills, and Busch continues to become more energy efficient through participation in Ameren Missouri's Business Energy Efficiency Program. The team has reduced its energy use by 15 percent and its water use by 10 percent since the new stadium opened in 2006. Thirty percent of the team's waste was diverted from landfills in 2010; and thanks to 550 recycling bins located throughout Busch, an average of four tons of trash are recycled at each game.

Over the course of 19 games this season, the Rockies and several media partners are enlisting players and fans toward making a positive impact on the environment through the 2011 Games of Green initiative. The 19 games are Sunday and Monday throughout the season, with the next one on May 1. "Green Packs" will be available for all of the Green Games, costing $24 for two tickets, and $5 of each pack sold goes toward the "Wood for Wood" program that plants one tree in the Denver area for every Rockies home run hit during these 19 games.

For the past several seasons, Coca-Cola has worked with the Braves to support our efforts to care for the environment. Coca-Cola has provided Turner Field with more than 300 recycling receptacles that have been strategically placed throughout the ballpark. The Braves and Coca-Cola Recycling also sponsor a "pre-pick" program in which employees go through the stands and collect recyclables prior to the general trash pickup following the game's completion.

In one season alone, more than 350,000 beverage containers were recycled at Turner Field, and that totaled upwards of 17 tons of material that were diverted from Atlanta-area landfills. In 2011, the Braves and Coca-Cola are expanding recycling access to the Green Lot, where 50 bins have been placed to allow fans to recycle beverage containers while they are tailgating and walking through the lot. Also this year, "Field of Green Night" returns, on May 11 for the Braves' home game against Washington, and like last year fans are encouraged to bring recyclable materials in exchange for discounted tickets to that game.

The Braves recycle as many items as possible throughout all facets of operations, and perhaps the most visible initiative is in the fabric of the gameday staff's shirts: from recycled PET plastic (the plastic that makes Coca-Cola bottles). Sixteen recycled beverage bottles are used to produce the fibers for each shirt; that's more than 65,000 bottles that now have a new life. Recycled bottles were also used to produce new chairs that are being used in the Braves bullpen this season. Each red 111 Navy Chair is made with at least 111 recycled bottles.

Up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Twins and Minnesota State Parks and Trails formed a partnership to promote outdoor recreation and continue the Twins' commitment to environmental responsibility. Every time a Twins pitcher breaks the bat of an opposing player during this season, Minnesota State Parks and Trails plant 100 trees in one of the 73 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas or along one of the 21 Minnesota state trails. The 2010 tally: 180 bats broken, 18,000 trees planted.

In that unforgettable charter season for Target Field last year, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the facility LEED Silver Certification. Did you know that 80 percent of the wood used throughout the ballpark was sourced from sustainable forests? Having collected 36 certification points, the most ever awarded to a ballpark, the Twins call Target Field "the greenest ballpark in America."

"We honor the power of sport by leading through example, and we will continue to use sport to inspire, build the best fan experience and cause no unnecessary harm, working with our fans, community, suppliers, partners and employees to have a positive influence in the world," the Twins said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in the interest of healthy competition within the game, another ballpark with such LEED status says essentially the same thing on its website: "The Giants are committed to making AT&T Park the 'greenest' ballpark in the country by making environmental stewardship a top priority." And one of the coolest examples is at its popular Gilroy Garlic Fries stand on the Promenade Level, Section 119.

The Giants, in partnership with PG&E, Linc Facility Services, Centerplate, Henny Penny and Coca-Cola, turned that into the ballpark's first sustainable stand. This 550-square foot stand was completely retrofitted with Henny Penny Open Fryers, which reduce gas consumption by 32 percent; cut utility cost by more than half and automatically reduce cooking oil consumption by 12 percent. Coca-Cola's Energy Management System Cooler saves up to 35 percent more energy than traditional models. In all, the stands energy efficient appliances save enough energy to fry an additional 110 tons of garlic fries. Some 800 pounds of garlic fries are prepared in this stand per game, and who knew it was contributing more to the environment than that familiar smell?

The Brewers are hosting a "Green Week" June 20-26 at Miller Park, with details to be announced. In San Diego, the annual Green Night is scheduled for Sept. 3 at PETCO Park. Sony will be partnering with the Padres for the event and will be hosting an eWaste drive that invites fans and employees to bring in old or broken electronics for recycling. Additional plans for Green Night are still in the works.

The Nationals are away on Earth Day, and their GreenUp Day will be held on July 29. Sponsored by Waste Management, they will once again partner with the Earth Conservation Corps to clean up areas around Nationals Park, including along the Anacostia River. The club plans to work with volunteers from local military installations, businesses, area residents and Nationals fans, all of whom will receive tickets to the July 31 Foundation Day game for their efforts.

Cincinnati will team with Players For the Planet to conduct another e-waste drive in conjunction with Global Environmental Services. The eco-awareness organization was started three years ago by outfielder Chris Dickerson and former pitcher Jack Cassel, and when Dickerson was with the Reds a year ago, he helped steer an Earth Day effort to recycle larger household and business items.

"By midday we had filled up two 18-wheelers of TVs, hard drives, keyboards," Dickerson said. "We collected 275,000 pounds of e-waste despite it raining on that Sunday. ... I'm really excited for this year."

Since then, Dickerson has been traded to the Brewers (in the Jim Edmonds deal last summer) and then to the Yankees organization. He is now playing for New York's Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate, and even though he won't be on hand for this year's event, Dickerson is gratified to see it carry on. Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs were there last year, and they will be back to help at the event along with other Reds players.

"It's a community thing," Dickerson said. "It really allows players to get involved with the community, rewarding people who participate in the event by getting to meet the players. The players helped them unload the cars. It was really fun to watch last year."

The Rays launched their Teaming Up for the Environment campaign in 2008 to promote sustainability in their organization and community. The three major components of the program are club internal practices; advocacy and awareness; and partnerships, and it continues to grow today.

Look at your favorite team's Web site to find more information about the widespread work being done to help the environment -- not only on Earth Day, but every day.

"This is very much in line with the best thinking in corporate activity today," said John McHale Jr., MLB executive vice president, administration. "Almost everyone who's a parent hears it from their children when we go home, and it is the way, the model of living we need to embrace for the future."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.