Today is Earth Day. This means it’s the day most of us pretend to be concerned with the environment and, in the process, pollute a smidge less. Oh, and we wear green T-shirts to tell the world we truly care about the environment—either that, or we’ve been drinking since St. Patrick’s Day.
Cynicism aside, environmentalism is starting to overtake the sports world.
Just look at the most progressive group of sports enthusiasts in world: NASCAR fans.
Sure, they might not top your list, with the bulk of fans living in southern states where some people are still fighting the abolition of slavery and the use of Darwin’s Origin of Species in science classes.
And you might consider it relevant the sport is directly contributing to global warming, with 600-horsepower vehicles cruising around the most complex of tracks, an oval, while spewing out planet-warming fumes through the consumption of 19,000 litres of fuel per race.
But, alas, NASCAR is going green … well, the cars are. Alright, one car is. OK, OK, it’s a car that’s not actually in the race.
In next month’s Coca-Cola 600, the pace car will be a Toyota Camry hybrid.
At first this might seem like having a pacifist ref an ultimate fighting bout. But knowing how much southerners love to embrace new science, I’m sure many of the fans will be driving home in their giant pickup trucks, turning to their sister, wife or sister-wife to say, “That car—the one that wasn’t racing—sure had a pretty mouth.” Or something to that effect.
In a related story, General Motors is hoping to turn NASCAR’s propensity to spew pollution into a chance to emit alcohol fumes—not just from the stands.
Brent Dewar, VP of field sales for GM, is pushing for NASCAR to make the switch to ethanol.
“We think it would be great on a lot of fronts because, obviously, it would send a signal to the public,” said Dewar. “A lot of people don’t understand the benefits of ethanol.”
Of course, GM is on the edge of bankruptcy at the moment—presumably because they sunk so much money into green technologies—but if the company fails, at least its legacy of environmental concern will live on.
Sports stadiums are also on the forefront of the struggle against global warming.
Last year, the Washington Nationals Major League team opened their new “green” stadium, which features energy saving lights, water-conserving plumbing and a green roof over the concession stand.
In honour of Earth Day, the Minnesota Twins announced Monday that their new stadium will be similarly green.
The NBA’s Miami Heat and the NHL’s Atlanta thrashers also tote stadiums with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification—which is good because I’m assuming keeping a frozen rink in Atlanta isn’t exactly light on the energy bills.
However, the sad truth is that sports events and venues are unavoidably bad for the environment. Aside from the trash caused from disposable cups, hotdog wrappers, and overpriced programs, thousands of fans drive to the events and the lights and giants screens use huge amounts of energy.
Even golf, which ironically is played on some of the most picturesque landscapes, uses massive quantities of water to keep the greens green.
Alright, so what’s the point?
Well, it’s Earth Day. And a Toyota hybrid will lead gas guzzling race cars on the NASCAR pace lap.
One small step for mankind, one giant leap for red necks.
Contact Tom Patrick at