CINCINNATI -- Every day off the field, Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson thinks as much about finding ways to cut down on plastics consumption as much as he thinks about hitting and fielding when he's on the field. Working to improve the environment isn't something Dickerson just does on Earth Day. The 27-year-old, who debuted in the Majors only late last season, has dedicated a lot of time and personal resources to the cause. Dickerson and former Major League pitcher Jack Cassel launched a Web site called weplaygreen.org during the offseason. Since athletes are most often seen and associated with images of drinking sports beverages and bottled water, the goal of weplaygreen.org is to reduce professional sports' consumption of plastic water and juice bottles -- and of course, to encourage recycling.
According to Dickerson, nearly one million in estimated visitors have seen the site since its launch. He has been thrilled by the grassroots momentum that has built in a relative hurry. "It's funny that we get e-mails daily just from word of mouth," Dickerson said. "The General Sports Alliance, which is affiliated with the United Nations, is coming out with this book. They contacted us about being in the book called, 'Champions For Change.'" Although mostly baseball players, weplaygreen.org is now supported by players littered among the four major professional U.S. sports. Some of the higher-profile names are Chase Utley of the Phillies, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Scott Niedermayer of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks and Cassel's brother, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. Many Reds players have joined Dickerson in using eco-friendly aluminum water bottles that can be refilled. The bottles were provided by a Swiss company that makes and markets the bottles. Those bottles are available for retail sale, but can be cost-prohibitive if you're not a pro athlete, so Dickerson is seeking cheaper, but as effective, alternatives. "We're working with a new company in Colorado to get our own bottles with our logo," Dickerson said. "Something we can start providing high schools and universities." Weplaygreen.org also sells apparel made from recycled materials -- from T-shirts to sweatshirts to shopping bags. Proceeds benefit environmental causes. Currently, Dickerson and his group are trying to take their effort to an even higher profile. Negotiations are ongoing with Waste Management, an industry leader in waste removal and recycling. The hope is to form a unified branding and recycling strategy that, among other things, will have recycling containers placed in major stadiums and arenas. Meanwhile, the Reds have fully committed to going green and are on board with many of Dickerson's efforts. In partnership with Duke Energy, the Reds purchased carbon credits to offset the estimated fossil fuel emissions associated with the gameday operation of Great American Ball Park on Opening Day and last Friday's game. The purchased carbon emission offsets will assist funding of the Nuevo Chimbote Municipal Solid Waste Composting Project in Peru. There is a comprehensive recycling program with Rumpke and Coca-Cola for all plastics and paper waste and over 100 recycling containers throughout the ballpark. The Reds also recycle everything from grass clippings on the field to cardboard, computer monitors and the cooking oil used at concession stands. Even old and dated uniforms are donated to the charitable Matthew 25 ministries for distribution in third-world countries. As for Earth Day, Dickerson had planned a subtle way to celebrate. His glove manufacturer made him a special green-colored mitt. He's been using bats with green labels since the season started. "I ordered it in Spring Training knowing that this day would come," Dickerson said of the glove. The tribute ended up being subtler than he hoped, since the lefty-hitting Dickerson was not in the starting lineup against Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly. Jerry Hairston Jr. started in left field instead, but Dickerson made a pinch-hitting appearance. The glove was on Dickerson's hand for just the one day. He is planning on putting it up for a charitable auction on weplaygreen.org.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.