Lars Anderson was the most cerebrally unique member of the club I managed in 2007 in Greenville, South Carolina. He and I chatted about world topics with baseball sprinkled in. Even then, at just 19 years of age, he had conscientiousness unfamiliar in the pro sports world. His thoughtful post comes as no surprise to me. I was proud to call him a friend then, I’m even prouder now.
“How will my actions affect the generations to come?” This question was once asked regularly, but seems to have dissolved with the passing of time. As a culture, we dipped our hands into the fountain of the quick fix and drank deep. The high road is seldom taken and convenience is at a premium. Quick and easy takes over from reusable and sustainable.
There are some places taking steps to combat this. San Francisco is the first major U.S. city to ban plastic water bottles (it also banned single-use plastic bags in 2012). This example is often drowned out by people crying “Double bag that 3 oz. tube of tooth paste for me because that’s how I’ve always done it.” We can’t be bothered with disrupting our routine – the way we’ve always done things without second thought. And there isn’t a creature on planet earth more routine oriented than a professional baseball player.
Walking through a clubhouse looks like a house of horrors for someone in Greenpeace. Faucets are left running with no one near the sink, shower heads washing nothing but the floor. Finding recycling bins? You might as well be looking for a yeti.
Professional baseball has always been a bit behind the evolutionary curve, and we celebrate this. We love the tradition, the old time feel of it. We love, especially in this era of rapid development and growth, that it stays much the same. The shadow side to this, however, is that the game and its players miss the mark on many of 21st century’s positive aims.
Players come in after their at bat, grab some hydration in the branded paper Gatorade cup and throw it on the ground. On the way back out to the field, they repeat. After 9 innings of ball, that’s 18 single use paper or plastic cups on the dugout floor awaiting their fate in some landfill, possibly disintegrating sometime in the next millennium. 18 cups multiplied by 25 players and you’ve gone through 450 cups in a single game. At 162 games, your favorite team has just burned through 72,000 cups during their season. This doesn’t include batting practice or locker room activities – just games.
It is, quite simply, excessive waste. There’s only one planet for us to live on, only one planet to sustain us. There has to be a better way to treat your keeper.
In discussing this issue with teammates, I’m often surprised by the indifference I hear in return. Many range from uninterested to utterly opposed to cutting back on wastefulness. I find it odd that a group of such dedicated, focused, intelligent individuals won’t even play with the possibility that they could do better for our world. It seems so clear cut that the world would be better off if a plastic bottle is reused rather than buried in the earth. It appears obvious that turning off the faucet or shower after use is better than leaving it running. Time and time again, I hear “it’s not my problem” or “things won’t change, so why bother?” and it passes below our collective radar.
There is some good news on the horizon, and I’ve noticed some progress this year. Many players on my team are now using stainless steel canteens for their water. Our clubhouse manager bought reusable Gatorade bottles for each player. After eight years of drinking coffee out of styrofoam cups and eating off of paper plates, I’ve finally made the adjustment of bringing in my own coffee mug and dinner plate from home (like I said, baseball guys can be slow on the uptake).
This is how I see change taking root, with small steps that can be implemented with just a small amount of effort and awareness. I’m hoping to see a few more steps, like adding ceramic plates and silverware to the pre- and post-game spreads, a recycling bin in the dugout and clubhouse and replacing the individual bottles of water with 5 gallon jugs.
Like I said before, we are creatures of habit. Once a player falls into a routine, it becomes second nature, and that is powerful. Habits create momentum. All it takes is a little conscious effort to make an impact on both our baseball world and our planet.