The Louisville Slugger is THE baseball relic. This bat has been used by generations, spanning players from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter. While the bat itself is sustainable, the company and processes that develop it are not. This analysis shows yet another failure of the sports industry to commit to environmental initiative.
The main two components of the Louisville Slugger come from its “billet,” which is made up of ash or maple wood. Therefore, the sustainability of these materials comes down to their logging processes. First, maple wood is a considerably sustainable wood. This type of wood can be grown in many different areas of the country, including Minnesota and Florida, and is one of the most abundant trees in the Eastern USA. On top of this, the maple wood species isn’t listed in the CITES Appendices or the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, both sources that indicate the state of wood species. For maple, it mainly just comes down to the abundance, though. Current logging rates are not outpacing regrowth efforts and these massive trees are farmed in an eco-friendly fashion. Ashwood, the second component of the bat, is also used for hockey sticks, pool cues, and various hand tools. According to HowStuffWorks, “[ash wood] is harvested sustainably from Pennsylvania's 2.2 million acres of FSC-certified state forests.” The wood also grows throughout various parts of the eastern and central US and can be grown in most front yards. Because of this, ash wood is also considered sustainable.
From its cylindrical billet stage, baseball bats are created through CNC (computer numerical control) machine manufacturing. It’s difficult to find the specific energy values for baseball bat manufacturing, but it seems from outside research that there’s a push to make CNC processes more environmentally friendly. The Life Cycle Engineering & Management Research Group from the University of New South Wales wrote an extensive report, titled “Energy and cost efficiency in CNC machining,” where they lay out the economic incentive to make these efforts more sustainable and environmentally concious. Because of this push, it’s reasonable to assume that environmentally-conscientiousness has not been urged in the CNC community. Also, considering previous reports on sports-related materials that I have written, it’s become more than apparent that the environment is last on the sports industry’s checklist of “things to address.” It’s a sad reality, but the push to create a more eco-friendly manufacturing model brings up some sustainability points for the “how it’s made” section of this product. On top of this, CNC manufacturing introduces an element of efficiency that can mitigate some climate-related issues. It detracts from potential human-health workplace issues, uses less materials than would’e been used by hand, limits waste, and more. While this method of creation isn’t inherently sustainable, the potential is there.
Interestingly enough, Amer Sports actually has a robust commitment to environmental compliance. Their website notes that the company “has participated in the Carbon Disclosure Project since 2011.” As a result of this, the company annually assesses its group-wide carbon footprint and commits to efforts to reduce that. For example, the company’s fuel oil consumption has dropped six-fold in the past 3 years. Unfortunately, the company’s total energy consumption has increased steadily, which indicates that Amer isn’t doing as much as possible to limit their impact. To compliment this, their total renewable energy kWh usage has remained (almost exactly) the same from the years 2017-2019. Unfortunately, Amer Sports has not been able to put their money where their mouth is as environmental negligence continues to notably climb. It’s a sad reality, many companies like this will claim to support climate efforts; but their numbers completely prove otherwise. To Amer Sports, sustainability has clearly become a marketing scheme and less of a direct action.