Eco-friendly initiatives may seem incompatible with a sport that revolves around driving cars at ultra-fast speeds, but NASCAR is addressing its environmental impact and reducing its carbon footprint across the industry.

“We get that this sport — in bringing so many people together and broadcasting to such a large audience — has an environmental impact. The good news is that it’s an environmental impact that can be addressed,” says Mike Lynch, NASCAR’s managing director of Green Innovation.

[skipwords]Recycling[/skipwords]: Cans, Bottles, Paper, and More

Perhaps the best example of NASCAR’s environmentally focus is its massive recycling program. By working with its partners, Coca-Cola Recycling and Coors Light, NASCAR has educated fans on the benefits of recycling and populated its grandstands, concourses, suites, garages and campgrounds with thousands of bottle and can recycling centers. In fact, in 2009, NASCAR recycled more than 2.5 million beverage containers, which is more than 80 tons of material.

But NASCAR isn’t recycling just cans and bottles. Office Depot and UPS have also joined forces with America’s top spectator sport, and NASCAR fans can now recycle ink and toner cartridges and cardboard at many tracks. Nearly 50 percent of recyclable material at tracks is composed of paper and cardboard.

“On-site recycling is a major initiative, and we’re already — after being at this for about a season and a half — the largest recycling program in sports,” says Lynch.

Recycling efforts are also focused on NASCAR’S main attraction: the cars. Goodyear recycles all of NASCAR’s tires by transporting them to Charlotte, N.C., where they’re shredded and used for a variety of purposes, including asphalt mixtures and composite material for children’s playgrounds. Safety-Kleen provides oil recycling and re-refining services to more than 200 NASCAR-sanctioned races each year, collecting and re-refining 170,000 gallons of oil and 5,000 oil filters annually.

Shrinking Carbon Footprint

NASCAR tracks are also doing their part to reduce the sport’s carbon footprint. Charlotte’s new 20-story NASCAR Plaza recently received a LEED certification, [skipwords]Michigan[/skipwords] International Speedway purchased a tree farm and planted trees around its 1,400-acre property, and the Auto Club Speedway in Southern [skipwords]California[/skipwords] hosts annual recycling events that collect everything from gas-powered lawnmowers to old toilets and televisions. [skipwords]Pennsylvania[/skipwords]’s Pocono Raceway encourages race fans to park their cars and ride special charter buses to reduce the environmental impact of its events, and the raceway is about to complete a three-megawatt solar farm that will power the track and some of the surrounding residences.

As NASCAR continues to work toward becoming a more environmentally conscious industry, it’s looking to the future of the sport. It’s working closely with Sunoco to develop alternative fuel options, and it’s exploring the replacement of its carburetors with more efficient fuel injection.

For more information on NASCAR’s eco-friendly initiatives, check out USA Today’s story on the green future of NASCAR.