A longtime leader on sustainability in sports will be joining the team to help give it a larger green footprint.
American baseball fans staring at the frozen pitch and waiting for the first signs of spring know it comes every year with the call for pitchers and catchers to report: that hopeful moment in mid-February when Major League Baseball (MLB) opens up its spring training camps. Now one team will also have an environmental scientist on the sidelines too.
The New York Yankees have announced that Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a longtime leader on sustainability in sports, will join the team. Hershkowitz was a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for three decades; he later served as president of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), which launched with some assistance from NRDC and its expertise. In 2016, he helped to found the global Sport and Sustainability International, which is based in London.
Now he’ll work for the storied Yankees in what the league says is believed to be the first staff scientist role of its kind in the big leagues. He’ll focus primarily on energy, waste management, water and food.
“The Yankees have always been devoted to supporting the best interests of our community, our fans and our players, and we believe effective eco-friendly initiatives are a key element of our interactions,” said Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner and managing general partner.
Steinbrenner – a Yankees legend in his own right – said the team promotes a zero-waste economy and its stadium has one of the most successful recycling and composting venues in all of sports, with about 85 percent of waste kept out of landfills. Other enthusiastic team executives sounded as if they had just hired a new Yankees legend, on par with baseball greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig or Joe DiMaggio.
And in many ways they have.
That’s because sports teams across the world are focusing on more sustainable operations, helping them to lower their climate impacts while engaging their increasingly environmentally-savvy fans. They’re also saving money, and Hershkowitz has been a key adviser to a range of professional sports leagues including basketball’s NBA, soccer’s MLS, NASCAR auto racing and the U.S. Tennis Assocation.
At Sports and Sustainability International, Hershkowitz and his colleagues – the sports minister of France among them – focus on European teams and fans, and the venues they love. It\s where you’ll hear about Amsterdam’s solar panels or that Real Madrid’s latest kit was made from recycled plastic.
Super Bowl fans watching the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams play on Sunday will get a look at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a LEED platinum-certified venue that boasts it’s the world leader in sports stadium sustainability. That’s a competitive edge for any team of champions.
For the Yankees, Hershkowitz will look to expand the team’s commitment to responsible environmental stewardship with the baseball club’s vendors and supply chain, with sponsors, fans and the community. The GSA gave the Yankees an environmental leadership award in 2014 for progress on sustainability, and Hershkowitz is expected to advance that success while raising awareness about climate change in the general public.