In NASCAR, "there's nothing more exciting than taking the lead." And that’s not limited to racing. NASCAR is leading the pack in making professional sports more environmentally friendly. Believed by many to be the number one recycler in sports and the number one user of renewable energy and the largest biofuels program in the world, NASCAR celebrated five years of its NASCAR Green program with the NASCAR Green Summit in Chicago last week.

NASCAR Green started in 2009 with a recycling pilot program at Phoenix International Raceway. With the help of Coca-Cola Recycling bins, NASCAR Green estimates that about 15-20 tons of plastic, glass, aluminum and paper that would have otherwise gone to a landfill were collected and recycled that year.  Because of that initial success, today all NASCAR tracks have a recycling program that captures not only beverage containers, but also batteries, automotive fluids, and tires.

“We now have the largest recycling program in sports, and Coke was a lead contributor to NASCAR's launch of the program," said Mike Lynch, head of NASCAR Green.

Coke Recycling worked with NASCAR and tracks where Coca-Cola products are sold to develop a plan for recycling bottles and cans. Because they learned early on that fans connect with the Coca-Cola brand and make an effort to dispose of their empty bottles and cans in easily-identifiable recycling containers, they mapped key locations where drinks are sold and enjoyed and placed Coca-Cola recycling bins nearby. They enlisted the help of recycling companies to ensure that the materials collected are taken to processing centers where they are sorted and prepared for use as new products. To make recycling more fun and relevant, The Coca-Cola Recycling Education Vehicle engages fans in the Fan Zone at many races with interactive games and displays about recycling.

A Change in Attitude
NASCAR conducts surveys to measure fan attitudes about the environment every year. Their findings revealed that NASCAR fans are twice as likely as nonfans to view their household as very green. Inside and outside of the track, NASCAR fans are taking steps to lessen their footprint and positively impact the environment.

Lynch believes Coca-Cola is a big reason for this change in heart. “Coke and NASCAR are able to connect the fans’ recycling to what Coke’s doing around the world and to what NASCAR is impacting within the sport. It empowers their actions.”


The Impact
Because of NASCAR’s huge fan base (1/3rd of the U.S. population), the NASCAR Green platform is arguably the most impactful U.S. sustainability program.  It’s a program that’s grown over the past five years, and is now responsible for recycling almost five million bottles and cans through 10,000 Coca-Cola recycling bins each year.

Lynch says that’s why he loves NASCAR Green. “How many can say that in their day job, they have that kind of positive impact on the world while also doing incredibly interesting profound work with cool people?”

What’s Next?
At the NASCAR Green Summit in Chicago last week, NASCAR executives and 25 NASCAR Green partner companies were joined by former Vice-President Al Gore and scientists from the National Resources Defense Council and the Department of Energy to discuss the current state and future of sustainability for the sport. What do you think NASCAR Green should focus on next?