There are many things that come to mind when one thinks about automobile racing: super fast cars, high speed, noise, excitement, and even danger. For most people, it would be almost laughable to consider “sustainable” or “green” as words that could possibly describe auto racing.
For Infineon Raceway president and general manager Steve Page, sustainability has been part of racing at the Sonoma facility for a number of years, you just didn’t know about it. He fully intends to make Infineon, already a major race facility, and one of NASCAR’s few road courses, a showcase for alternative energy and green transportation, and has taken the first bold step by partnering with Panasonic in a major solar installation.
Mr. Page feels that the Raceway is uniquely poised to place sustainability front-and-center to, as he puts is, “the horsepower-and-performance crowd,” a group that “have not necessarily been the early adopters in this movement.”
According to new research from the University of California, “Dire or emotionally charged warnings about the consequences of global warming can backfire if presented too negatively, making people less amenable to reducing their carbon footprint.” One of the ways to avoid this is to present messages in more positive ways, and offer solutions on a scale that people can relate to.
I believe that connecting renewable energy and transportation solutions to something that people are passionate about is the best way to motivate large numbers of them to make positive changes. High-performance electric (and other) vehicles have proven to be items that consistently capture the imagination, as Tesla Motors has shown, and I believe that initiatives like Infineon’s may represent a “sea change” in how everyday Joes perceive sustainability.
Given its locale, in the Bay Area, Infineon was already well on its way to achieving this. Prior to its partnership announcement, Infineon Raceway already had the following sustainability practices in place (and more):
- Woolly Weeders: The raceway is home to 3,000 sheep, which help to maintain the grasses and fire lanes around the facility. The sheep live on property full-time and are tended by two shepherds.
- Owls Welcome: There are 15 owl boxes around the property designed to encourage owls to nest and hunt for gophers and other rodents, eliminating the need for pesticides and other poisons in controlling pests.
- Recycling: Since 2004, Infineon Raceway has recycled more than 141 tons (282,541 pounds) of materials. The raceway has been recognized by the State of California for its recycling efforts.
- Rubber to Roads: The raceway sends old tires to be recycled so that they can be used to help create rubber-based asphalt, playground padding and other purposes.
- Water Conservation: The raceway features waterless urinals in its restrooms, which reduce water consumption by 36-percent. The raceway is also home to an independent water system and sewage treatment plant. All landscaping is watered with recycled and reclaimed water.
- Clean Green: Ninety-percent of the janitorial products used at Infineon Raceway are environmentally-friendly.
- Hybrid Toyotas: More than 25-percent of Infineon Raceway’s fleet of 2010 Toyota vehicles are powered by Hybrid engines.
- Suites & Concessions: Most paper products used in Infineon Raceway’s suites & concessions are environmentally friendly, either made from recycled or biodegradable materials.
If Mr. Page and his partners are right, we can expect to see this sort of thing happening at race venues across the country, most right in those areas where one least expects “green” to be a topic of conversation, especially since Speedway Motorsports, Inc., Infineon’s parent company, owns a large number of major speedway facilities in the U.S.
Just think about the possibilities: what if NASCAR fans discovered, en masse, that electric cars, etc., weren’t just a novel idea, but they were even faster and more fun than their current vehicles of choice? What if they decided, en masse, to install solar panels on their house, because their local racetrack saved almost half on its energy budget by installing them?
Since NASCAR is the most popular spectator sport in the country, I would extrapolate that it wouldn’t be too much long afterward, that these things become commonplace–not just something that those “crazy California people” do.
Steve Puma is Director of Business Development for SABA Motors, and a sustainability writer/consultant. His work focuses (mostly) on clean transportation, including Plug-In Electric Vehicles, something he is very passionate about.
Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can learn more about Steve by reading his blog, or following his tweets.