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Milwaukee Brewers Player Takes On Climate Change One Water Bottle At A Time

Outrider Foundation
Brent Suter with his reuseable water bottle hugging teammate Freddy Peralta.

If you’ve seen Milwaukee Brewers' Brent Suter in action, you might have noticed his reusable water bottle. It’s nothing new to the pitcher.

Suter has been concerned about the environment for years. It started with a love of nature.

Growing up in Cincinnati Ohio, he was in the Boy Scouts, had pets, and loved nature and animals. His love shifted to concern when Suter was a freshman in high school.

That's when he watched the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The film, brought to life by former Vice President Al Gore, was meant to ignite action around climate. While the film may not have sparked international action, it changed Suter’s life.

“Ever since that time it’s been on my mind to live environmentally,” he says.

Suter composts, has solar panels on his house, uses reuseable grocery bags and water bottles, tries to stick to a plant-based diet (when training allows), carpools as much as he can... the list goes on.

As Suter goes about his life, he hopes his choices influences people around him.

"I try to stay away from the doomsday approach, try to stay away from getting involved in political confrontation. I just try to lay out facts out there ... and how we can improve it," he says.

When he joined the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, Suter carried on as usual. "[I use] reuseable Tupperware, instead of using Stryrofoam plates ... on the road."

But Suter admits, he worried about not being accepted by his teammates. "But they said, 'No you be yourself, that’s part of what you do' ... I’ve gotten nothing but respect, a little ribbing here and there, but it’s fun to laugh at yourself sometimes too." He adds, "A lot of good dialogue has sparked from that."

Brent Suter shared more of his thoughts in this Lake Effect interview that aired April 25, 2019.

So he kept up his quiet campaign.

This year as spring training approached, Suter took a bolder step by issuing a friendly challenge, called Strike Out Waste, hoping to reduce the amount of plastic waste from single use water bottles.

"I went around [to my teammates] a couple of morning and just said, 'Hey, if you are willing to commit, I'll get you a water bottle. It's a big commitment, I understand. But if you want to, I'll put you on the list. If not, no worries.' And, a lot of guys ended up saying yes."

On a normal day of training, the team easily goes through 20 cases of water.

"I’m not exactly sure how many cases we cut out of the 20, but I think we at least got about half," Suter says.

He plans to build on that success with a friendly competition. "I want to try to get the guys commited to seven days of no single use bottles or cups ... And, see who can do it, who can't." He'd also like to add a Tupperware component and a reuseable grocery bag component. "Just trying to get little things that are easy changes."

Suter says he’s also getting involved in other climate action initiatives, including through the Outrider Foundation, based in Madison. Tia Nelson – the daughter of former Gov. Gaylord Nelson whose work sparked the first Earth Day 49 years ago – leads Outrider’s efforts.

"We had some good conversations. They asked me to write a blog. We’ve just developed a really good relationship," he says.

Credit Outrider Foundation

Suter says he feels an increased urgency to help bring change. He has a 5-and-a-half-month-old son. "I look around and I hope you have the same nature and the earth I got to grow up with. It’s definitely catalyzed my commitment, to say the least," he says.

Suter could well cultivate awareness among people for whom sports is a life’s passion and climate action is... well, not so much.

"We don’t have to divert our sports passion, but we can just channel some of that passion towards making this earth as beautiful and as vibrant and as long-lasting as we can."

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.