Racing for Green

NASCAR has millions of adherents. Each weekend, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people are gathering at a racetrack to watch the race. A racetrack with cars racing around it for hundreds of miles (accompanied by thousands of fans) would not seem to be a primary setting for sustainable operational practices. But look a little further, and there are some good environmental things happening at the track.

The Pocono Raceway (home of 2 NASCAR races each year) is currently building a $15 million solar farm that will eventually provide the track’s electricity needs (along with some overflow for the track’s neighbors also. The solar farm will have about 40,000 solar panels (made in Ohio) across 25 acres. It is due to be unveiled in conjunction with this weekend’s Pennsylvania 500 event. The EPA estimates that the solar farm offsets the carbon emissions from 493 cars, or 99,000 barbeque grills.

In addition, for this weekend’s race, the track is implementing a shuttle bus system (which cuts down on carbon footprint and traffic). As a special bonus for (bus) riders, the arriving buses will also be taking a lap around the track. The reasonably priced buses will provide transportation from nearly a dozen towns in Northeastern PA, plus a service from New York City.

A unique aspect of sustainability at the racetrack is Infineon Raceway’s flock of 3,000 sheep. Sheep love to eat grass and are very effective at keeping the property mowed. They lessen the fire hazard by eating the excess grass, and keep 1,600 acres clear in the process. Infineon also has 15 owl boxes, whose residents happily eat numerous rodents every evening—thus alleviating the necessity of using pesticides. One family of owls can easily eat a couple dozen rodents a night.

Recycling is also popular. Daytona International Speedway, for example, recycled nearly 12,000 pounds of aluminum and plastics at the Daytona 500 in February. Many other tracks have implemented similar recycling programs. UPS is installing cardboard recycling containers at several tracks this summer.

The cars themselves are not forgotten. Goodyear shreds and recycles the tires used in the races. Safety Kleen Systems collects and re-refines 170,000 gallons of oil annually from 200 NASCAR sanctioned events. As for fuel and power, no hybrid cars qualify for NASCAR racing yet, but someday, they might.

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