Sustainable transportation is the theme of this year’s Green is Good for Business Conference, and Columbia organizers figured few would be better telling that story than NASCAR.
Recognized for sanctioning high-speed stock-car races, Daytona Beach, Fla.-based NASCAR increasingly also has become known for its program to reduce the impact of its events on the environment.
“We care and (green) is the right thing to do,” said Catherine Kummer, NASCAR director of green innovation, who also was keynote speaker at the conference. “South Carolina, with Darlington (Raceway) specifically, has been a fantastic location to host NASCAR events and Darlington has a significant recycling program as well.”
All bottles and cans at the venue that hold the annual Southern 500 race have been recycled for many years, Kummer said. The Darlington track is owned by NASCAR’s parent company International Speedway Corp.
The 7-year-old program called NASCAR Green has become the largest sustainability program in all of sports, the organization said.
“This year, we looked at how Columbia and how the state is progressing transportation-wise,” said Samantha Yeager, recycling coordinator in Columbia’s Public Works Department. “A lot of people are moving back into the urban core, and we like to cover all areas of sustainability from air quality and water conservation, to recycling, waste reduction and transportation.”
With Columbia experiencing change and Charlotte, a stock-car hub, being in the middle of a regional sustainability effort, Yeager said NASCAR’s influence could further assist in changing people’s behaviors.
“We thought, if NASCAR can recycle and be green, anybody can be green,” Yeager said. “But they are one of the leading sustainability programs in sports.”
Tagged the “Sustainability speedway, racing2green,” the Columbia conference featured green vendors as well as high-profile props including a new Tesla, the high-performance electric car, and a bus that runs on bio-fuel, the same power source that fuels Columbia’s garbage trucks.
Columbia has shifted toward ways to be more environmentally friendly.
As business improvement districts across the nation moved in recent years toward go-green initiatives, so did the City Center Partnership by purchasing a Nissan Leaf electric car in 2013 to help shuttle downtown employees to their cars at night, operations director Allen Franklin said.
If the city ever decides to get rid of the car, it is 100 percent recyclable, Franklin said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398