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Pirates reaffirm commitment to environment

Pirates reaffirm commitment to environment

Just outside of PNC Park, three nearly identical suspension bridges span the Allegheny River, connecting the North Shore with Downtown Pittsburgh.

The one closest to the ballpark is called the Roberto Clemente Bridge, in honor of the Pirates' Hall of Fame outfielder. Right next to it is the Andy Warhol Bridge, named in appreciation of the man who led the pop art movement of the 1960s. The third one is known as the Rachel Carson Bridge. Ms. Carson, who like Warhol was a Pittsburgh native, raised awareness of environmental and public health concerns with her best-selling book entitled "Silent Spring" in 1962.

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The Rachel Carson Bridge, which was formerly known as the Ninth Street Bridge, was renamed -- fitting on Earth Day -- on April 22, 2006.

Two years later, the Major League Baseball Greening Program was launched by Commissioner Bud Selig, encouraging all MLB teams to commit to wide-ranging sustainable practices for the benefit of the environment. It was also in 2008 when the Pirates -- the team that plays its home games in close proximity to the Rachel Carson Bridge -- rolled out the "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." initiative, which focuses on recycling, conservation and awareness.

Now in its seventh year, "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." has become extremely successful. In 2013, the program diverted more than 71.4 percent of PNC Park's waste materials out of the landfill. That's up from 27 percent in 2008, and the goal for 2014 is 85 percent. Last year alone, the Pirates recycled 80.8 tons of glass, 43.7 tons of aluminum, 60.8 tons of plastic, 45.6 tons of paper, 135.3 tons of cardboard, 39.1 tons of used cooking oil, 39.9 tons of yard waste, and 77.4 tons of other materials.

Among the components of the "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." program are a recycling center located on PNC Park's River Walk, messages from Pirates players that appear on the video board prior to each game and additional signage throughout the ballpark.

"Earth Day serves as a perfect reminder for all of us to stay focused and mindful of protecting the environment," said Pirates chairman of the board Bob Nutting. "We are committed to being a leader in sustainable practices as well as using our position to educate fans of the importance of recycling and conservation."

The Pirates' greening initiatives were recognized by the National Resource Defense Council in March of 2013, and in connection with that, Nutting was honored for his leadership in the sports industry's movement to adopt sustainable business practices.

Another aspect of the "Let's Go Bucs. Let's Go Green." program is the ballpark-wide composting effort. It was one of the first in Major League Baseball, and in 2013 more than 1,041.3 tons of compostable material was collected by the Pirates. The practice of collecting such organic material helps to slow down the production of methane, a greenhouse gas generated when food and organic material decomposes in the landfill.

In addition, the Pirates have taken significant steps to cut down on the ballpark's energy consumption, saving more than 1.1 million kilowatt hours each year, which is equivalent to the energy consumption of 400 people. What's more, the team fully intends to continue utilizing its public platform to raise awareness of the importance of implementing sustainable business practices and greening initiatives.

"The Pittsburgh region is fortunate to be surrounded by such natural beauty and it is up to all of us to help preserve it for future generations," Nutting said.

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