Waving the "Green" flag will have unprecedented significance for NASCAR this month as the sport embarks on its most ambitious environmental awareness campaign ever -- perhaps the most concentrated month-long effort in major league sports.
NASCAR already uses ethanol-infused Sunoco Green E15 gasoline, boasts the largest recycling program in sports and now plans to exponentially increase a tree-planting program that will benefit communities across the country and essentially eliminate its carbon footprint.
NASCAR's Race to Green initiative is the result of nearly five years of work dedicated to making the sport as environmentally friendly as possible and calls on its corporate sponsors, tracks, teams and fans to join in.
This race weekend at Martinsville, Va., longtime NASCAR partner UPS will literally plant the seed for the project as sponsor of the NASCAR Green Clean Air Tree Planting Program? Delivered by UPS. The company, which joined forces with Arbor Day Foundation, has pledged to plant more than 8,000 trees -- including 90 in each remaining market the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in this season.
The trees will absorb carbon emissions equivalent to all the racing in NASCAR's three national series for the entire season. Other partners such as Green Earth Technologies, Sprint, Ford and 3M will be among those joining the pledge as well and by visiting www.NASCAR.com/green, fans can also purchase tree saplings to be planted as part of the program.
"We're already feeling tremendous momentum going into this month,'' said Dr. Mike Lynch, NASCAR's founding and managing director of green innovation. "We have over a dozen partners who have formally committed to tree planting as part of this effort.
"We essentially kicked off NASCAR Green four-and-a-half years ago and now we're in this really great spot where research shows that NASCAR fans are twice as likely as non-fans to say their house is very green ? up from 70 percent as likely last year. We are moving the perception of tens of millions of fans in a way that's just bigger than anything else the U.S. has ever done, and what that does is create a very fertile environment where a company like UPS or Green Earth Technologies can be incorporated.''
UPS has had an eye for green for years and is considered a worldwide leader in its green efforts.
Not only is it the presenting sponsor of NASCAR's tree planting programs, earlier this season it debuted one of its most interesting, progressive and practical innovations: a solar-powered trackside services trailer. Even the miniature UPS package car that makes deliveries during the race weekends is battery powered with back-up solar panels.
"It's one of our core priorities,'' UPS Director of Sponsorships and Sustainability Betsy Wilson explained, of the company's focus on green initiatives. "UPS in 2012 made a commitment to plant more than a million trees globally, partnering with a lot of organizations to organize and provide grants so it was an organic extension to partner with NASCAR on their tree planting program, if you'll pardon the pun.
"UPS has been committed to sustainability for many years and is a core value to what we are as a company and that finds its way into all the engagements we have, whether sponsorship agreements or employee programs. ? It was really a natural extension to a part of this program in NASCAR.''
Lynch couldn't agree more and uses UPS as a prime example of what NASCAR is capable of and what the possibilities may be.
"Bringing in partners always means you have unique challenges,'' explained Lynch. "But you have this incredibly receptive environment now with this huge audience open to considering these green messages and the real key, they are open to evaluating for themselves through the lens of the sport, the effectiveness and cost-saving and job-creation and environmental benefit.
"There's so much evidence now, it makes the case more straight-forward.
Florida-based Green Earth Technologies got the message.
The company -- which manufacturers environmentally safe home cleaning products and the G-CLEAN pressure washers -- is eager to seize on the evolving and progressive green mindset in NASCAR as both a series sponsor and a team sponsor.
As part of the Race to Green program, the company has committed to planting one tree for every Sprint Cup Series green flag lap run in the month of April.
Green Earth Technologies President Jeffrey Loch only half-jokingly says he dreams of the day a race-winning driver will get out of the car, plant a company flag in the grass and then actually kiss the earth.
"NASCAR is synonymous with high performance and partnering with them will allow us to reach millions of consumers who desire to keep their homes clean and green without giving up product performance and value,'' Loch said. "I bought into this in the beginning and I literally tracked them (NASCAR) down as opposed to them coming to me, are you kidding me?"
While NASCAR is green all year, it will be an even brighter green during April, a month that boasts Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 26).
NASCAR and UPS will kick off the NASCAR Green Clean Air Tree Planting Program this week at Martinsville. In two weeks at Kansas Speedway, the infield will prominently sport a NASCAR Green logo and a Toyota Camry Hybrid will be the pace car. For Earth Day -- the Monday following the Sprint Cup race there -- NASCAR will host a park renovation in Kansas City.
And Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, one of NASCAR's leading-edge tracks in green technology and commitment, has announced it will partner with NASCAR in donating 8,000 tree seedlings to the National Park Service, to help with a reforestation effort at the Flight 93 National Memorial, which honors those lost on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.
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