Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — Parked a few feet from the iconic pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an Easy-Go golf cart that’s essentially filled with trash. Plastic bottles thrown into recycling bins months ago are now stacked neatly in rows—and they’re for sale.
Going too fast.
Electric carts hold hundreds of Indy 500 T-shirts made from garbage. The fabrics are as soft as anything on the shelves in regular consignment stores and they cost roughly the same. And it’s no coincidence that they’re getting prime retail space, essentially located at the front door of the famous racetrack.
They are the centerpiece of IndyCar’s latest push to go green, dubbed “The Penske Initiative.” The chain is taking more and more steps – some bigger than others – towards holding a carbon-neutral race by 2050. No, really.
Despite countless pollutants such as emissions, chemicals and petroleum products from the fuel and tires in IndyCar trucks, what was considered a laughable effort a few years ago now seems like a reasonable target. And that doesn’t include the garbage that will come with hosting nearly 300,000 fans for the 106th race of the Indy 500 on Sunday.
“It’s baby steps,” said longtime IMS president Doug Bowles. “It’s like a hundredth of a second for cars. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you add four or five changes, all of a sudden you get a tenth of a second. That’s where we are. There are things that hope to make a big impact at the end of the day.”
This includes stopping the release of traditional balloons due to environmental and wildlife impact concerns.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable ventures that Penske Entertainment has taken on its role to help combat global warming and flagged sustainability:
IndyCar will become the first North American racing series to use 100% renewable fuel in its race cars.
Shell, a longtime fuel sponsor for the open-wheel series, on Friday announced plans to switch to low-carbon fuels starting in 2023. The new fuel will be a blend of second-generation ethanol derived from sugarcane waste and other biofuels, and will create a fuel that is 100% composed of feedstocks classified as renewable under the applicable regulatory framework. The oil giant says the fuel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to fossil-based gasoline.
“You have to be part of the solutions, and the way technology comes through these really powerful partners,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment. “Carbon reductions come from great technology and innovators. We have both.”
Firestone has been working on a renewable tire since 2012 and is nearing the finish line to get it back on track.
The tire maker built a research center in Mesa, Arizona a decade ago and hired hundreds of biologists, chemists and botanists to help grow the gyule bush. Gyule produces natural rubber and appears to be the future of racing tyres.
About 90% of the world’s rubber comes from Hevea brasiliensis in Southeast Asia. Harvesting those trees and bringing the rubber back to North America is expensive and creates a huge carbon footprint. It is also subject to geopolitical instability.
Gyule is a cheaper, more sustainable option that renews itself in about three years and requires about 50% less water than other crops.
Gyule tires, distinguished by green-painted sidewalls, made their IndyCar debut during the Pit Stop Challenge on Friday. They will get another important test in August at the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee, when IndyCar will use tires made partly from Gayle rubber.
“You don’t want to go straight to the Indianapolis 500,” said Kara Kristolic, director of race tire engineering for Bridgestone America Motorsports. “You want to get there in stages. One of the fun things about racing is that every time you get to show something that ends up in the car you and I will drive.”
Penske Truck Leasing used two fully electric tractor-trailers to haul all used race tires from Firestone’s distribution center in May. IndyCar has installed a high-speed charging station at the IMS that can bring a truck closer to full charge in about three hours. The trucks made six rounds to move the 12 trailers full of tyres.
The expansion of electric tractor-trailers and the installation of more charging stations could be the next carbon-saving steps for the chain that regularly traverses the country.
IMS established a pilot program in May to collect food waste and send it to an off-site composting facility. Prepared and unused food, which used to go in the dustbins in years past, is now being stored in a refrigerated trailer that is being carried to food banks daily.
However, an electric golf cart filled with recycled clothing has gotten the most attention at Indy this week. The vehicle has remained in the same location for the past two weeks, but the officials plan to make it a rolling marketplace going forward. It has a 50-mile range and comes equipped with an electric generator, compared to running LED lights and point-of-sale devices.
Each shirt is partially made from 6 1/2 plastic bottles and uses a water-based ink. There are five designs ranging in price between $32 and $35.
“When people get up there and feel the shirt, they can’t believe it’s made from plastic bottles,” said Ryan Suggs, senior buyer of merchandise for IMS and IndyCar. “I would have been like, ‘I’m not going to buy a shirt made out of plastic bottles. That’s going to be garbage!’ But it’s literally garbage that feels amazing.”
More Associated Press Indy 500 coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/indianapolis-500 and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
join the conversation