New York Yankees Go Green and Join UN Sports for Climate Action

The Yankees are the first North American sports team to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.


The New York Yankees are famous for many "firsts." This successful team has won the most World Series titles (27) and the most American League pennants (40), and in 1927, Yankee Babe Ruth was the first player to reach 60 home runs. And these are just very few of the team's long list of achievements.

And they just added a new one by being the first North American team to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, the aim of which is to bring greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This includes making changes to improve environmental responsibility, reducing overall climate impact and promoting sustainable consumption for the teams and their fans.

The Framework was launched in December 2018 and has been endorsed by many international organizations including the International Olympic committee, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, the Rugby League World’s Cup 2021, and more.

This is really important because the sports industry has a history of not being particularly environmental. A report in the Journal of Carbon Research shows the carbon emissions across the industry from electrical costs to power sports stadiums, to water usage, to the carbon emissions of sports fans driving to games. It is not a pretty picture.

Having a team as prominent as the New York Yankees sign the pact is sure to have an impact on the industry as a whole according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “I welcome the announcement by the New York Yankees to join Sports for Climate Action. With their rich winning tradition, the Yankees bring a new level of leadership to global efforts to tackle climate change. When it comes to safeguarding our future, it’s time to play ball,” he said in a UN announcement.

"The New York Yankees are proud to support the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework," Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a press release. "For many years the Yankees have been implementing the type of climate action now enshrined in the Sports for Climate Action principles, 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 Yankees have already taken a leading role in promoting sustainability. Just before the 2016 season, the team installed energy efficient LED lighting in Yankee stadium that is 40 percent more efficient and gives better light at the same time.

The new stadium was also designed with massive open-air archways that allow for natural cooling and ventilation, so no air conditioning is required in the public entry space. According to the team, the energy savings per game are the same as 125 NYC apartments turning off their air conditioners on a hot day.

Yankee stadium is also saving 3 million gallons of water every day through high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and monitoring of water usage. The team is committed to achieving zero waste by promoting a circular economy of recycling, composting cutlery, trays, boxes, and cups from the food service, composting food waste, and cooking oil – 20,000 gallons a season – is recovered and recycled.

The team is offsetting the greenhouse emissions from the stadium energy use, team travel, motors that use fossil fuels and the accidental leaks of refrigerants in collaboration with the South Pole Group by investing in communities in Africa that follow the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Sports Framework doesn't have any methods for enforcement, but it is a great way to give guidance to sports teams that want to reduce their environmental impact. The NY Yankees are doing their part. Now it's up to sports fans everywhere to tell their teams to green up their act.

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