5 Green Tips for Your Baseball Tailgate

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With September baseball right around the corner – and a gut-wrenching October if you’re lucky – fans across the country are living and dying by our national pastime.

Tailgating may be considered more of a football tradition, but during a pennant race or a fiery winning streak after the All-Star Game, a good, old-fashioned baseball tailgate is pretty tough to beat.

As any true baseball fan will tell you, nothing proves your devotion more than setting up camp outside the gates of sold-out, late-season games. Photo: Flickr/Matt McGee

As littered ballpark parking lots prove, tailgate parties aren’t always the greenest of activities, but don’t despair, eco-minded baseball fan – we’ve gathered 5 tips to help you change all that.

1. It all starts in the car

Carpooling makes a huge dent in your tailgate’s footprint. If you’re going to meet all your friends at the ballpark, start the fun early and pile into the same car together.

Carpooling doesn’t just save on emissions. It also helps take the drudgery out of crawling through all that pre-game traffic, and fewer friends will have to step up as designated drivers, making your tailgate green and safe.

INFOGRAPHIC: Profile of a Carpooler

And be smart when you’re loading up the car.

You may think it’s impossible to share a ride and still fit all your tailgate goodies into the trunk, but an extra 20 minutes of Tetris-like packing goes a long way.

2. Set up a waste station

Don’t let recycling fall by the wayside simply because you’re away from home. You can quickly set up an efficient and sanitary waste station in the back of your car or truck.

Pick out the clean bin of your choice for recyclable items, and line it with a household garbage bag. Use non-toxic tape to attach the edges of the bag to the outside of the container. This will prevent the bag from slipping into the bin and all those last-sips from spilling out into your car.

When the bin is full, simply remove the tape and tie off the bag. To ensure the bag won’t rip or tear, leave it in the bin until you get home. For added security, choose a bin with a lid.

Once you’re back from the ballpark, simply empty the recyclables into your curbside bin, or use Earth911 to search for a recycling center near you.

For eco-bonus points, set up a similar bin for compost. For all the ins and outs of composting, check out our Composting Cheat Sheet.

3. Rethink the drinks

Nothing says ‘tailgate’ like an ice-cold beer, but that doesn’t have to mean endless bottles and cans. If your tailgate party is big enough, pool your cash with your friends and check out your local beverage distributor for specials on kegs, half-kegs or quarter-kegs.

You can usually find one for less than $100, which is actually a bigger bang for your beverage buck than each friend purchasing a six-pack or two. Once you return the empty keg, it can be cleaned and reused.

And instead of bottled sodas and juices for the kids, try a one or two gallon beverage dispenser.

The recently released Earth series by Igloo features beverage dispensers and coolers made partially from recycled plastics, and you can find them at most hardware or sporting goods stores.

So, the drinks are flowing, what about the cups?

Instead of your standard plastic party cup, switch to cups made from polylactic acid (PLA), also known as corn-cups because they are naturally derived from corn. Check out these biodegradable corn-cups from NatureWorks, which are available for under $10 for a sleeve of 50.

4. Green your grub

Tailgate parties are an exhibition in great American cuisine. They’ve got it all, from your potato salads and coleslaws to your hotdogs and hamburgers.

To shrink the footprint your food leaves on the planet, plan your tailgate menu around local and organic items.

Check out a local farmers’ market for all the produce you need for salads and sides. Hit a local bakery for buns and rolls, and ask the butcher at your grocery store about organic and locally-farmed meats. That nearby natural foods store is also a great place to hunt for party snacks.

Once you’ve got your grub together, store as much of it as possible in re-usable containers, like these from Preserve that are made from 100 percent recycled #5 plastics.

If you don’t want to lug food containers back home, there are other options besides a disposable plastic catering tray. You can purchase biodegradable food containers in all sizes made from that good old PLA, like these selections available at LetsGoGreen.biz.

More info: How to Plan a Waste-Free BBQ

5. Just say no…to paper plates

We know what you’re thinking: there’s no way you’re doing dishes at your tailgate.

Don’t worry. You won’t have to.

There is an affordable and simple middle ground between picking up a pack of paper plates at the dollar store and lugging grandma’s fine china down to the ballpark.

To illustrate our point, check out these biodegradable sugarcane plates from Eco Products.

These ingenious plates will naturally biodegrade in 45-60 days, and they are made from sugarcane pulp that is ordinarily burned or discarded. Sugarcane plates are naturally heat-safe and grease-resistant, so they’re sure to handle anything from ribs and wings to cheesesteaks and cheeseburgers.

Need-to-Know Info: What NOT to Put in the Bin

And they won’t break the bank, either. Their prices are actually comparable to the heavy-duty paper plates you already use. The 6-inch plate from Eco Products starts at $4 for a set of 50.

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