Greening the Great American Pastime
Triple-A outfielder Chris Dickerson of the Louisville Bats, a Cincinnati Reds affiliate, got his team to switch from plastic cups in the dugout to reusable SIGG water bottles. "If I can help kick-start this movement on a small scale then I am optimistic that these concerns can be turned into everyday public action," says Jordan.
Jordan's sentiment about individual steps leading to large-scale change is exactly what we're promoting. And bottled water is one of the easiest of the major pollution sources to clean up; all we have to do is buy a reusable bottle and drink tap water. It is cheap, easy, and simple. If Dickerson is able to take this issue and push it to a stadium-wide policy, maybe MLB will take notice. Who knows? This could be the beginning of a domino effect, where park after park phases out bottled water and simply fixes the water fountains that are already located in most stadiums.
Considering the price of bottled water at ballparks is more expensive than your general admission ticket (or pretty close to it!), it seems relatively straightforward to encourage people to stop purchasing them from the stadium. But getting the teams that are making all this profit off of bottled water to stop selling them is a different story entirely. It's going to take a lot more players like Chris Dickerson to stand up and say something.
Triple-A outfielder implemented a clubhouse-wide green effort
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Chris Dickerson is admittedly a bit of a news junkie.
Dickerson is an avid reader of Time Magazine and the kind of guy who scours the Internet daily, just waiting for an article, story or report to strike his fancy. And while his teammates at Triple-A Louisville sometimes arrive to the ballpark early so they can relax in the locker room, Dickerson arrives early so he can log on to a clubhouse computer and find out what's going on in the world around him.
About six months ago, Dickerson really got into the global warming issue. He read multiple articles in Time, watched the documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" and read a few books on the subject. But as gung-ho as Dickerson was about stopping global warming, he struggled to think of a way that he, a Minor League baseball player in Louisville, could contribute.
"I'm not going to go out and save the world or implement a cap-and-trade system or anything like that," Dickerson said. "I wondered, 'Where can I start?' I was looking through another magazine and saw an interesting fact -- in the United States, we throw away 30 million water bottles a day. That was an alarming number to me."
So alarming that it has inspired Dickerson to become a pioneer of sorts. A California native, he had an environmentally friendly upbringing and has always been an advocate of recycling. When he saw the number of bottles the United States goes through, the first thing he thought was how much plastic is used in the clubhouse.
From Vitamin Water and grab-and-go plastic cups, to the bottled water and the jugs of Gatorade -- it was clear that his opportunity to help was right in front of his eyes.
"I went into the training room, and the trainer had just bought like 15-20 orders of Vitamin Water and Smart Water -- that's like 700 bottles right there," Dickerson said. "We don't have anything to do with those except toss them in the trash, and I wanted to figure something out. I knew then that this was going to be my thing. I'd been looking for my thing, and I knew that it was going to start right now."
Dickerson started out small. He found a couple cardboard boxes and spread them around the clubhouse -- one in the locker room, one in the training room and another in the coaches' offices -- and instructed the team to dispose of its plastic trash in the boxes. Once they got full, he took the plastic to be recycled.
Though the boxes piled high with plastic bottles and cups, Dickerson still felt there was room for improvement. If the team was using this much plastic -- he and Louisville strength coach Kevin Casula estimated close to 1,000 bottles per week alone -- then certainly something could be done to reduce that figure.
That's when Dickerson stumbled upon MySIGG.com, a Web site that sells reusable, non-plastic, Swiss-made water bottles. Dickerson bought himself one, and later asked the company if it would donate a set of 30 to the team. The initial response was no, but SIGG and StopGlobalWarming.org later got together and agreed to donate the water bottles to the team.
"This just isn't something that crosses your mind," Casula said. "Especially when we have 12 cases of water plus another 12 or 15 cases of sport drinks -- there's so many bottles there. Chris just figured, 'Let's do something.' We've gotten better at it. We all have room for improvement, but this is definitely a start. We're doing what we can, even though it's just a small part."
Dickerson, who said he was "two seconds" away from buying 30 of the $25 water bottles himself, then contacted the City of Louisville and had official recycling bins sent to the clubhouse.
"From here, hopefully as people see these bottles, lights will come in people's heads," Dickerson said. "Hopefully it'll be a viral type of inspiration. From there, I'm really looking forward to getting all of baseball, not just the Minor Leagues but the big leagues, too, to adopt some sort of effort, no matter what it is."
For now, Louisville is definitely doing its part. Trainers and interns have the bottles filled up and ready before every game, and Dickerson's teammates are actively participating in the movement.
They carry their bottles to batting practice before the game, refill them when they're back in the clubhouse and rarely use disposable plastic cups or water bottles like they used to.
Dickerson, a prospect who could see the Majors this season if the Reds need an outfielder, said his future plans include calling other clubs and their officials about setting up similar programs. And if he indeed lands in the Majors, he said he'd like to contact the players' union about making the issue more widespread.
"Hopefully we can start to see something come out of this where other teams start to pick it up, whether it be managers, clubs or whoever, both in the Minor Leagues and the Majors," Dickerson said. "But for now, when I look in the dugout and there are no plastic cups on the ground because everybody has their bottles, it's great."