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04/22/08 8:23 PM ET

A green Fenway is a better Fenway

On Earth Day, club making park more environmentally friendly

BOSTON -- In the Major Leagues' oldest ballpark, in the shadow of the Green Monster, the question on Earth Day was: How does Fenway Park live up to the challenges of being environmentally conscious in the 21st century?

"I think it's pretty simple," said John Adams, founding director of the National Resources Defense Council. "We had this idea. It came form Robert Redford, interestingly enough. He said, 'If you want to change how people feel about global warming, you've got to get Major League Baseball to help you.'"

Representatives of the NRDC and the Environmental Protection Agency visited Fenway Park on Tuesday to help the Red Sox celebrate Earth Day and to recognize the franchise's commitment to becoming more environmentally conscious.

"Every issue that we're concerned about in one way or another relates to a baseball game," said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the NRDC. "Global warming is affected by transportation and energy use. Stadiums use energy, and people show up often by cars or mass transit. Agriculture, local food or organic food, working with Aramark, we've been able to introduce local and organic menus.

"We're concerned about public health. Field maintenance, we're working with baseball to develop ideas to use non-toxic chemicals for field maintenance, which we hope Little Leagues will adopt, because, frankly, children playing on clean fields is huge. Every issue relates to baseball."

And using the medium of a Red Sox game can help get the message out. In Tuesday's game against the Angels, Sox players wore a special green patch, recognizing the team's commitment to recycling and conservation.

"I think that it's a great example," said EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. "And the example is not only for baseball stadiums around America, but really it's for all Americans. You can make a difference in your home, your business or even at a ballpark.

"Today's Earth Day. So what a great day to celebrate a neat initiative. Environmental responsibility is everyone's responsibility. So whether you are in a ballpark or in your home or in a business, we all have a responsibility and an opportunity. And, of course, what's exciting is the Boston Red Sox have seized that opportunity."

Among the "greening" initiatives that the Red Sox have taken on are the installation of 75 recycling bins around the park; the creation of a "green team," which collects recyclable bottles, cans and cups throughout the games; using energy-efficient light bulbs; and the installation next month of 28 solar panels on the roof of Fenway, which will help reduce the amount of energy required to heat water at the park by 37 percent.

"We have a very old ballpark," said Red Sox special assistant to the senior vice president of business affairs Katie Haas. "It's 96 years old, and a lot of the systems are antiquated.

"All of the new construction that you can see around the park is all up to date, environmentally friendly systems. But as we like to say here, just preserving this ballpark, as opposed to going out and building a new one somewhere, is the ultimate sign of environmental conservation and protection.

"It's just something that just makes sense to do for the environment, and also to help use the Red Sox brand to educate our fans about how important it is to do things like recycle or look into different energy options, such as solar and purchasing recycled paper for everyday household products. So it's just a good thing all around globally, locally and just on the field."

The Red Sox have teamed up with National Grid to install the solar panels and devise other energy-efficient plans.

"The baseball team has so many fans across this nation," said National Grid executive vice president Masheed Said, "that if we can reach a few of them at a time and they can reach out to a few more, the climate-change message will really get out, and it's an important issue for future generations."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.