The drop of the checkered flag and win by Kevin Harvick at Michigan International Speedway this past Sunday, marked the one year anniversary of the National Association for Stock Auto Racing’s (NASCAR) “NASCAR Green Clean Air” program. Announced days before the race at Michigan International Speedway in 2009, NASCAR revealed a new program of planting trees to capture the exhaust emissions of the race cars and help to minimize the organizations carbon footprint. The ceremonial tree planting began in the Irish Hills area of Michigan were the speedway has more than 1,400 acres of land some of which is preserved wetlands. NASCAR intends on planting 20 acres of trees each year.
“Tree planting is one of the simplest, most tangible and lasting things we can do in our lives,” said Kevin Sayers, state coordinator of urban and community forestry program, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The benefits are immediate and last for generations, improving the environment, the communities we live in and our quality of life. This partnership in tree planting between NASCAR and Michigan International Speedway is a commendable example of corporate awareness and stewardship of our natural resources.”
Later on in 2009, Chicagoland Speedway began its inclusion with the program. With the help of 150 4th graders, 80 trees were planted at a local elementary school, middle school, high school, and the track itself. Many of the drivers are also participating in the efforts to help raise awareness of the importance of restoring the natural environment. Ryan Newman (a 10 year veteran) is involved with the Racing for Wildlife program which is apart of the Ryan Newman Foundation. Growing up in the outdoors, Ryan understands the necessity for young kids to be able to experience the same interaction with nature that most of us (Generation Y and older) did, that which the new “Internet Generation” (Generation Z) is missing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is also contributing in his own way. The Dale Earnhardt Foundation and American Forests have partnered to give the opportunity for fans to purchase an “E Seed Tree Kit”. The kit allows you to plant a tree in your own yard, or for the ‘brown thumbs’ out there, you can purchase a tree to be planted in the ‘Dale Earnhardt Forest, a 77,000 tree planting proposed to restore the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area forests damaged by storm, disease and development. NASCAR is also integrating many other initiatives for reducing its carbon footprint. From the recycling of used tires, spent oil, car batteries, and other NASCAR fan ‘beverage’ container recycling, NASCAR is on the right track, (I didn’t even plan that, but yes, pun intended) or IS it?
I must say, when I heard of the “Green Clean Air” program, I was very impressed. Aaaaalthough, I am curious as to how they propose to offset the amount of land that is developed to house a typical speedway. Daytona International Speedway (a local track I visit annually) is a 2.5 mile ‘super speedway’ with a 180 acre infield which includes a 29 acre orthogonal retention pond nicknamed ‘Lake Lloyd’. The only vertical elements within the 200+ acres are poles with lights/speakers, necessary structures to house race activities and a few Washington palms. The potential for these blank canvas’ to become ecological oasis is overlooked. Not only would the influence of a Landscape Architect assist in the return of interaction with the natural environment, but they would also create a more enjoyable atmosphere for the frequent users attending varied events of the infield. Especially the events that occur during the famous sweltering summer months of Florida with 90-100 degree afternoons.