If there's one thing former Major League Baseball player Chris Dickerson knows, it's about the power of teamwork. That's why he and Jack Cassel, also a former MLB player, started Players For The Planet in 2008. Their environmental organization brings athletes together for beach cleanups, recycling events, plastic reduction, and other conservation efforts. And since it started, more than 200 current and former and current professional athletes have joined their efforts.
In celebration of Earth Month, we've teamed up with Players for the Planet on a limited-edition collection to support their incredible work and help protect the places we all love. We're proud to partner with this organization to raise awareness for environmental responsibility and action, so five percent of our collaboration collection sales will be donated to support their cleanup initiatives.
We caught up with Chris to learn more about his non-profit organization's origin, what it has accomplished so far, and what it has planned for the future.
What inspired you and your co-founder Jack Cassel to start Players for the Planet— was there an a-ha moment?
The inspiration came from the response from the media and fans following the news of the initiative started in Louisville to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bottles in the clubhouse.
My locker stall was near a 50-gallon trash can. Late into my first stint with the Cincinnati Reds' Triple-A affiliate in 2008, I started to account for the amount of plastic waste accumulating daily. I started doing napkin math and was like, 'This isn't right. Are we going through this much plastic? Forty-plus guys are in there, and each is going through at least five bottles in a day when you're there for eight hours. The numbers are staggering.
How did you convince other athletes to join your journey—and why do you think it's essential to mobilize athletes to take up this particular cause?
When I got to the Major Leagues shortly after, I saw the reception from other athletes around sports who were more than happy to join the movement. However, due to the politicization of climate change, there were certainly some barriers in convincing athletes to bring more attention to environmental issues.
How did you start working with Fair Harbor, and how do you feel our missions align?
Fellow Players for the Planet ambassador, board member, and current Fair Harbor athlete Jeremy Casebeer was the catalyst in the connection. I had wanted to work with Fair Harbor for quite some time. Especially as we started to do more work around plastic waste education in the Dominican Republic, it became apparent that the trash we were collecting on the beaches needed to be repurposed into something else, and shortly after our first trip, I came across Fair Harbor and their mission. I always knew it was a company with which I could see Players for the Planet align.
What have you accomplished since you launched your organization—and what have been your favorite initiatives?
Our Batting Cleanup initiative in the Dominican Republic is undoubtedly important work and one of the most significant issues we face right now. We have conducted over 30 cleanups, ranging from MLB academies in the Dominican Republic, youth baseball teams that have organized their own cleanups with their team, to collaborations with National Women's Soccer League players and local youth programs here in Los Angeles. These cleanups ultimately have resulted in cleaning up nearly 100,000 pounds of marine debris and plastic waste.
Expanding on the success of the in-person cleanups, we started integrating in-person workshops in collaboration with MLB academy education coordinators. These hour-long workshops led by conservation professionals give a more in-depth look at the problem behind the plastic crisis being experienced on island nations.
Our E-Waste events throughout the league have been some of the coolest events. The gravity of the E-Waste problem is not widely known. Millions of tons of E-Waste [unwanted or broken electronic products such as computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, etc] are generated every year, often finding their way to foreign countries to be burned or thrown in a landfill.
E-waste can be toxic, not biodegradable, and accumulates in the environment -- soil, air, water, and living things. For example, open-air burning and acid baths used to recover valuable materials from electronic components release toxic materials leaching into the environment. These practices can also expose workers to high levels of contaminants such as lead, mercury, beryllium, thallium, cadmium, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polychlorinated biphenyls, which can lead to irreversible health effects, including cancers, miscarriages, neurological damage, and diminished IQs.
Through our 12 events with various teams around the league, we have diverted 1.5 million pounds of E-Waste from landfills. They are among my favorite events because I always enjoyed looking at all the old electronics like record players, early 2000s cell phones, and other items that people have lying around in basements and attics for decades. In this technology-driven age, I think E-Waste events are crucial to education and providing access to dispose of unwanted devices properly.
Our partnership with global reforestation organization One Tree Planted has seen athletes contribute more than 200,000 trees through the Play for Trees campaign. This campaign allows athletes and fans to plant trees based on on-field performances by the players. I.E. plant 100 trees with every strikeout recorded during the season.
While large-scale reforestation is vitally important, our athletes have chosen to impact locally in their team markets by bringing more education and awareness towards Environmental Justice and the disproportionate area of urban tree cover, lack of access to fresh produce, and green spaces.
We have also hosted a series of waste sorting and composting workshops with MLB teams, which give young kids a new look at how to prevent food waste and the composting process used in community gardens, thus providing nutritious food for underserved communities.
Lastly, our Strike Out Waste campaign is being championed by Colorado Rockies pitcher Brent Suter. This initiative aims to eliminate single-use plastic in the clubhouses and locker rooms through the use of reusable water bottles. Over 1,800 bottles have been distributed to professionals and youth at hotels around the country as more teams and players understand the impact of plastic waste on their personal health and the local ecosystems.
That's quite a lot! So what's ahead for Players for the Planet in the near future?
Athletes continue to reach out from across the globe. They understand the dire situation, and we have the ideal platform for change. It's important for us to continue to tell their stories. As teams and leagues get on board with the expansion of sustainability initiatives, we will continue to let our athletes speak and take action on whatever their particular environmental passion; we will continue to collaborate to bring their initiatives to light.
We look forward to continuing to partner with teams and leagues. The MLB All-Star Game will be in Seattle this year, and we are excited to be an official partner in MLB Green's season efforts.
And, of course, our collaboration with Fair Harbor. It's important to us to identify with brands that produce quality, high-performance products but do so responsibly. As more and more athletes look to support ethics-driven brands, we look forward to shining a light on impactful brands as the demand continues to grow.
When it comes to consumption and consumer products, a big focus in 2023 will be to increase programs around reuse and repurpose, particularly around discarded athletic gear and apparel.
To learn more about how you can get involved with Players for the Planet, reach out to email@example.com