Photo by The Ardvaark on Flickr.

When Nationals Park opened, it was the first LEED-certified ballpark in Major League Baseball, achieving the “Silver” standard. Four seasons later, the once-groundbreaking green ballpark is in danger of being bumped out of the top tier of sports venues.

With Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann on the field and Bryce Harper on the way, the Nationals have dramatically upgraded their on-field product. Nats Park amenities have been spruced up as well, with an expanded scoreboard pavilion and new food stands like Shake Shack.

But in a new video by CSN Washington, the Nats are touting the same green features as when the park opened in 2008:


From green roofs to efficient lighting to water filtration to the bicycle valet, the Nationals’ efforts are all valuable — but they’re no longer cutting edge. In the years since Nats Park opened, the Minnesota Twins have opened Target Field, also LEED Silver certified. Then the Pittsburgh Penguins raised the bar further, opening a LEED Gold certified arena.

And all of those stadiums have been outdone by a college facility. The University of Florida’s Heavener Football Complex is LEED platinum-certified, the highest possible rating.

So how can the Nats get back to a leadership position?

Renewable energy. If the Boston Red Sox can put solar panels on Fenway Park, there’s no reason why the Nats can’t have some as well. Even the Washington Redskins, whose owner is no friend of the environment and who manage to screw up almost everything else, have installed a sizable solar array at FedEx Field.

Put the players out front. Nationals pitcher Collin Balester is part of Players for the Planet, speaking out on the need for recycling & climate action. Why not include him in these clips along with the front office staff?

Tear down the awful parking garages. Not only are they eyesores that block views of the Capitol, not only do they sit empty most of the time, but they encourage driving to a park that’s next to one Metro stop and a 15 minute walk from several others. Imagine how much revenue the Nats could recapture from The Bullpen across the street by turning the garage space into an inviting area to eat, drink, shop and socialize. Yes, DC paid tens of millions of dollars to build the garages — but letting the mistake stand won’t get that money back.

Get serious about reducing fans’ trash. Nats Park only recycles plastic bottles and aluminum cans, while the District’s municipal recycling service takes all kinds of plastics, as well as glass, aluminum and paper. The red-helmeted recycle bins aren’t marked well enough as such, and trash is often discarded in them. The Nats should also require their vendors to use only biodegradable food packaging.

Stop selling ads on everything to polluters. It’s not quite in the same league as Pittsburgh’s “green” arena selling its naming rights to a polluting coal company. But the Exxon Mobil-sponsored left field wall billboard, Exxon Mobil-sponsored 7th inning stretch, Exxon Mobil-sponsored organic cotton hat, and Exxon Mobil-sponsored stadium replica really distract from the Nats’ efforts to show they care about the environment & public health.

Finally, how’s this for a headline: “Nationals Sign Local Environmental Blogger as Left-Handed Reliever”! Think about it, Mike Rizzo.

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Miles Grant grew up in Boston riding the Green Line, and has lived in Northern Virginia riding the Orange Line since 2002. Also blogging at The Green Miles, he believes enhancing smart growth makes the DC area not just more environmentally sustainable, but a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work and play.