When thinking of NASCAR, the brain doesn’t immediately associate it with environmental efforts or being a sport that focuses on sustainability; it may seem like it is amassing quite a carbon footprint.
A single race car takes between 65 and 75 gallons of gas for a Saturday race; multiply that number by 40 and you have about 2,600 to 3,000 gallons of gas used in one day's race. In a single day and on one track, NASCAR vehicles have the potential to release 120,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Though these numbers may seem alarming, NASCAR takes the steps necessary to become a more sustainable sport and leave less of a carbon footprint one race at a time with NASCAR Green.
NASCAR Green is an industry effort and initiative that is working to minimize NASCAR's environmental impact while bringing value and inspiration to the motorsports industry, its partners, employees, and fans. NASCAR had always wanted to influence, educate and inspire our fans on fuel efficiency, reforestation, sustainability, etc., and with that, the beginning of this journey involved with is automotive fluid recycling which safely recycles and transports oils, is in every NASCAR garage as well as many team shops
This initiative takes place at NASCAR events throughout the racing season. It incorporates racing on a blended biofuel called Sunoco Green E15 that assists with in-venue recycling efforts, food diversion, solar-powered tracks, and lighting fixtures. One early initiative involved promoting the use of high-MPG vehicles, for which they partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and in 2009, a NASCAR team called Hall of Fame Racing purchased carbon credits to offset half of its emissions per race, practice session, and even travel. In another NASCAR division, one driver even purchased and tended to an acre of rainforest to offset their carbon emissions.
In addition, NASCAR efforts made through the ‘NASCAR Tree Planting Program’ have resulted in more than 500,000 trees being planted across the country, specifically in areas affected by climate-related natural disasters. Sustainability in NASCAR is more than what is being put into the vehicles and how it affects the environment, but also how to give back to help and improve the environment and its well-being. Many NASCAR tracks and teams are also implementing renewable energies as well as more energy-efficient options in their day-to-day operations. Things like aluminum, plastic, and cardboard recycling have now become an operational function for many NASCAR venues and a normal part of their business operations.
Similarly, initiatives like this are taking place at venues all over the country, Daytona International Speedway, for example, has created the Daytona Rising project and partnered with Florida Power and Light Company to create the FPL Solar Pavilion and Solar Canopy to provide shade for fans along with the FPL Solar Park. Collectively, all three consist of over 7,000 solar panels that generate zero-emissions energy.
So why is this important? These days, environmental awareness is at an all-time high, and looking for ways to become more sustainable and environmentally safe is a top goal for many companies, organizations, and industries all across the globe and NASCAR is no exception. It may be easy for NASCAR fans to feel uneasy about supporting a sport that may seem like it is impacting the environment negatively, but that is simply not the case anymore. While it is true NASCAR cars burn more fuel than their street-legal cars and vehicles, some of what they burn is ethanol. Fuel that includes ethanol, like NASCAR’s E15, is cleaner than the type of fuel some road vehicles burn derived from plants and it is a renewable resource. And to make things environmentally friendlier, NASCAR cars convert heat into power better than many road cars. Though these initiatives are new and NASCAR wasn’t always considered environmentally safe, they are turning things around. And while most of NASCAR’s fuel blend remains gasoline, adding 15 percent ethanol to the mix allows for far cleaner fuel than you might find at your local gas station.
Not only do the initiatives taken by the NASCAR industry implement big changes within, but other industries, for example, Indy Car is implementing a new initiative within their day-to-day racing with eco-friendly tires announced earlier this year. All tires delivered are relayed by electric vehicles and all electricity consumed at the speedway is purchased through 100% renewable energy credits. We are seeing sustainable and environmental efforts across various aspects of motorsport that will only continue to grow. These initiatives are only about a decade old and the direction of sustainability in NASCAR and all motorsports for that matter will only continue to grow from here.