Oct 31, 2012

When you think of environmentally prudent sports, NASCAR probably doesn’t jump up to the top of the list. 40 some-odd cars driving around a mile long race-track for three hours. It doesn’t seem so environmentally friendly. And, on its face, it probably isn’t.

Enter NASCAR Green.

NASCAR Green, NASCAR’s environmental arm, was founded in 2008. NASCAR recognized the importance of protecting the environment, and after a fan survey revealed that NASCAR fans worry about the impact their sport has on the environment, creating American jobs, and becoming energy independent, NASCAR’s push towards “green” had begun. Back then, NASCAR began to focus their mission on three key areas — waste, emissions and power. Less than five years later, NASCAR is recognized as a leader in green initiatives not only in the sports world, but in the business world as well. The sport, working with Coca-Cola in conjunction with MillerCoors, currently touts the largest recycling program in sports. Those three entities have partnered together to recycle all bottles and cans at each race facility and surrounding camp ground area. In 2011, their efforts saw some 12 million bottles and cans recycled –the equivalent of 300,000 gallons of gasoline.

For comparison, NASCAR’s top three racing series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World) use approximately 450,000 gallons of gasoline throughout the NASCAR season.

And those 150,000 gallons of used gasoline that NASCAR has yet to offset? NASCAR’s Green efforts account for that as well. In October, they partnered with computer & electronics recycling company Creative Recycling to encourage users — through the company’s Planet Gadget consumer awareness brand — to recycle their used gadgets and receive cash in return. Creative Recycling Senior VP Brian Diesselhorst on why the program works,

No one knows what to do with their end of life electronics. They’re sitting…they’ve got drawers at home, so we’re trying to incentivize people to recycle, and to participate by actually paying for their phones. Because there is a true value to it, not only did you pay for that, but on the end of life side in any cell phone, there’s precious metals and they can all be recycled.

Of course, while the recycling program and electronics recycling program indirectly help the environment, NASCAR has also chosen to tackle the emissions issues head on. In 2011, under another NASCAR Green initiative, the sport formed a partnership with the American Ethanol Partnership. Over the last two seasons NASCAR vehicles have been powered by Sunoco Green E-15, a fuel that is 15% ethanol, made from American-grown corn. NASCAR’s ethanol partnership has created the best of both worlds — they met fan demand for an independent, American-made energy source, while also utilizing a cleaner (20% fewer emissions than unleaded gas) and cheaper fuel alternative. By September 2012, NASCAR racers had driven 3 million miles on Sunoco Green E-15 fuel.

Three million miles into cleaner, cheaper, American-based fuel. That’s certainly a promising start.

To complete their goal of eliminating waste at the race track, and to prevent possible pollution in waterways and ground works, NASCAR signed a partnership deal with Safety-Kleen Systems. Safety Kleen is a green solutions company that specializes in oil collection and waste management. Under their partnership with NASCAR, Safety-Kleen provides oil recycling for over 200 NASCAR-sanctioned races, collecting more than 200,000 gallons of race-used oil and lubricants annually. Safety-Kleen Motor Sports Director Drew Patey on the elimination of oil-based waste at the racetracks,

We don’t throw anything into a landfill that we get from a race track. We recycle everything…and we want to do that because we have over 3,000 trucks that go out every day. They’re burning gas, burning man hours we can’t waste that time…We’ve been around since 1968. We’ve been green, since green was cool.

To further drive home their “green” efforts, NASCAR has created the largest tree planting program in sports. Under the NASCAR Green Clean Air Program, NASCAR plants 10 trees for each green flag that drops during a race weekend — NASCAR officials say they plant in between 80 and 100 trees each weekend and have planted over 6,000 trees since the initiative began in 2009. Trees are always planted within the local vicinity of that weekend’s particular race track, and NASCAR typically works with city officials to determine the highest area of need. NASCAR’s individually owned racetracks have even followed ‘green’ suit. Pocono’s Raceway installed a 3-MW solar farm in 2010, the solar farm now serves as the track’s primary energy source while also helping to power more than 250 homes in the surrounding area. With 40,000 solar panels on 25 acres of land, it is the single biggest renewable energy stadium project in the world.

Waste, emissions and power. Within the last five years, NASCAR has not only begun a successful green initiative, but they’ve also reached an impressive position; their green practices actually off-set any environmental damage caused by the sport. How many other sports can say they’ve made these type of environmentally-sound strides in such a short time frame? How many American businesses can make this claim?

To learn more about NASCAR Green and how you can participate in NASCAR’s green initiatives at your next visit to the raceway, check out the NASCAR Green website or follow along on Twitter (@NascarGreen).

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