UPS Game Changers: NASCAR Green Turns five
September 18, 2013, Alan Cavanna, NASCAR.com
CHICAGO -- Former Vice President Al Gore remembers his initial reaction when he first heard NASCAR wanted to boost its efforts at becoming environmentally friendly and start NASCAR Green.
"I joked that NASCAR and 'Green' went together about as well as sharks and tornadoes," Gore told NASCAR.com. "But now 'Sharknado' is a big movie hit, and NASCAR is going green."
Gore was the keynote speaker at the 2013 NASCAR Green Summit delivered by UPS. The event celebrated the fifth year of the sport's NASCAR Green initiative.
“With leadership, and a dedicated team you can work miracles," Gore said. "And what NASCAR has been doing is extremely impressive. It's having an impact on the attitudes of all of us, and NASCAR fans."
The summit was an opportunity to show how far NASCAR Green has come since 2008. NASCAR Managing Director of Green Innovation Dr. Mike Lynch said the program now has 25 partners, including 10 that are new to sports. Six NASCAR facilities operate off renewable energy, and a partnership with American Ethanol has seen NASCAR's race cars drive four million miles using ethanol-blended Sunoco Green E15 fuel.
"We're so far ahead of schedule, I don’t have words for it," Lynch said. "These are just things that I never would've predicted that we'd be where we are today."
Lynch said one key to NASCAR Green's success was getting involvement from sponsors already involved in the sport's competition side. Coca-Cola and Coors Light have recycled more than 15 million containers at race tracks across the country. Goodyear and Liberty Tire team to recycle 120,000 tires each year. UPS committed to planting 1 million trees, including 8,000 this year at NASCAR venues. Those trees will help neutralize 100 percent of the carbon produced by all on-track activity.
UPS Director of Global Sponsorships & Sustainability Communications Betsy Wilson said NASCAR Green is a perfect match for the company.
"It's an important part of who we are at UPS, and it's important we work with partners who share our values," Wilson said. "I think NASCAR has done a great job of leading amongst sports entities in this space. And I think they're so far ahead of the game it's great to think of what may come in the next five years."
The 2013 Summit, the second since the programs inception, was highlighted by a series of panel discussions and guest speakers. Ret. General Wesley Clark spoke on the concerns about the dependency on foreign oil. Representatives from the sport's auto manufacturers and other partners talked about what's to come for both the sport and consumers.
NASCAR Green was developed under the leadership of NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France. With the "Green" idea in mind, France said he and his team met with Gore more than five years ago and left the meeting "encouraged." Both France and Gore said professional sports can have a significant influence on the public attitude toward Green initiatives.
"From the original vision, I think we've achieved way beyond what I would've thought," France said. "The sponsor participation and their related programs in to what we're doing put us on a path to frankly lead sports in an area many people thought we would not be able to do."