The New York Yankees are accustomed to finishing first. No team has won more American League (40) and World Series titles (27). The storied franchise became the first major North American sports team to participate in the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. In April 2019, the Yankees pledged to promote sustainable and responsible consumption, decrease climate impact, and advocate for climate action.
“For many years, the Yankees have been implementing the type of climate action now enshrined in the Sports for Climate Action principles,” stated Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees’ managing general partner. “And with this pledge, the Yankees commit to continue to work collaboratively with our sponsors, fans, and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”
The 2019 season also saw the Yankees becoming the first pro sports team ever to have an Environmental Science Advisor when they hired Dr. Allen Hershkowitz. A world-renowned environmental science expert, Dr. Hershkowitz spent over a quarter century as a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and served as president of the Green Sports Alliance. “With him on our team, we anticipate the development of many more important initiatives that will build on our existing efforts to better our organization and our planet,” stated Doug Behar, Yankees’ senior vice president for stadium operations.
When the ballclub unveiled the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, one of its showpieces was the Great Hall. At 31,000 square feet, the open archways create a natural air-conditioning, generating a per game energy savings equivalent to approximately 125 New York City apartment-dwellers not using their A/C on a hot day.
The ballpark’s high-performance HVAC filters also improved air quality and the equipment’s energy efficiency. This emphasis on health was rewarded in 2020 when Yankee Stadium became the first sports and entertainment venue in the world to receive the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management from the International WELL Building Institute.
The new Yankee Stadium’s sophisticated energy management program helps combat energy waste with its capability to control ventilation and lighting systems.
A lighting upgrade before the 2016 season made Yankee Stadium the second Major League Baseball ballpark to feature the most advanced, energy-efficient LED lighting system.
The switch allowed the field lighting to be 40% more efficient and 50% brighter than the previous system. Water conservation, similarly, was improved with the installation of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures leading to 3 million fewer gallons of water consumed annually.
In 2016, the Yankees was one of eight New York-based organizations honored by the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation for “their state-of-the-art programs and commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic viability.”
During the stadium’s construction, builders used recycled and reused materials, and three-quarters of the construction waste never made it to landfills. All construction vehicles also had to use low-sulfur fuel. The city built a train station, and since the new ballpark is across the street from the old one, the same array of bus and subway options are available for fans.
The team’s composting and recycling programs have evolved dramatically since the new Yankee Stadium opened.
By 2012, the stadium used biodegradable beverage cups, and a composting program had a 40% diversion rate from landfills. In 2014, 250 new two-stream trash containers replaced the older receptacles.
As part of the Yankees’ Zero Waste policy, concession stands have compostable cutlery, food-service packaging, trays, boxes, plates, and cups. Prepared but unused food gets donated through a partnership with Rock and Wrap It Up, an anti-poverty nonprofit. Furthermore, the stadium recovers and recycles more than 20,000 gallons of cooking oil during a typical season, turning most into biodiesel fuel. The club’s composting/recycling efforts prevent approximately 85% of stadium waste from reaching landfills a year.
The Yankees are determined to keep improving. In 2022, stadium concessions started using marine biodegradable, compostable drinking straws made with a canola oil-derived biodegradable biopolymer. “Yankee Stadium’s shift to a less impacting bio-based option for those who request a straw is a small but meaningful ecological step in the right direction that, hopefully, other businesses will emulate,” explained Dr. Hershkowitz.
The team’s legitimate power to influence others shouldn’t be underestimated. “There’s a certain brand equity that the Yankees have,” revealed Jim Small, senior vice president, international for Major League Baseball. “… that while maybe people don’t know it’s connected to a baseball team, they know that it is about quality. And that’s powerful.”