Green Super Bowl XLVIII: Champions of Sustainability

This upcoming Sunday marks one of the most anticipated sports games of the year as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.  All heads will turn to New Jersey as veteran star Peyton Manning prepares to battle against Richard Sherman’s highly ranked defense. Recent media exposure around the game has highlighted that a new Super Bowl competition is underway…the “Green Super Bowl.”

The Seattle Seahawks' CenturyLink Stadium has EV charging stations in the parking lot. Credit: www.recargo.com

NFL Tackles Sustainability 

The National Football League (NFL), a massive American industry, also contains a massive carbon footprint. On average, an NFL football stadium consumes enough electricity in a year to power 1,000 homes (keep in mind, there are 32 teams in the league). The Dallas Cowboy’s stadium electric demand is more than Liberia’s total electricity peak capacity, with one game day consuming up to 10 megawatts of energy. With stadium energy bills reaching the millions, many NFL owners have recognized that sustainability is the best business decision for lowering tremendous costs.

Thus, a new trend has formed across the U.S to develop sustainable sports teams and stadiums. This can be greatly attributed to the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization formed in 2010 with a mission to “help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance.” The Alliance is currently made up of over 200 sports teams and 116 venues.

The “Greenest Super Bowl” of All Time?

According to Sustainable Business News, this game may be the most sustainable Super Bowl of all time. In 2009, MetLife Stadium (host of Sunday’s Super Bowl), was recognized by the EPA as a top venue in energy, carbon, and water and solid waste reduction. In 2012, MetLife Stadium partnered with NRG Solar, LLC to install 1,350 solar panels that wrap around the outside of the stadium. This month, MetLife Stadium became the first Certified Green Restaurant Stadium from the Green Restaurant Association. During the Super Bowl, the stadium plans to compost food scraps, avoid the use of polystyrene foam containers, donate excess food, and greatly promote recycling. Yet, the most noteworthy is the stadium’s plan to save all the waste kitchen oil and convert it into biofuel.

MetLife Stadium, host of Sunday's Super Bowl, contains 1,350 solar panels that create a ring around the stadium with LED customized lighting. Credit: NRG, Energy Inc.

 

Sustainable Rankings: Seahawks vs Broncos 

The venue may be a highly ranked eco-stadium, but how do the two contenders match up in their sustainable efforts?  Let’s start with the Denver Broncos. The organization kicked-off a Green Team in 2008 to encourage green tailgating efforts by distributing reusable bags and promoting recycling. The stadium also has a Energy Management Program that has sparked an 11% energy usage reduction. In the past few seasons, the Broncos have partnered with the Xcel Energy Windsource program to offset 100 percent of electricity used to power Sports Authority Field at Mile High with wind energy.

The Seattle Seahawks have also gained a lot of yards in the field of sustainability. The Seahawks were a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance and the first NFL team to install solar panels. The solar installation is made up of 4,000 panels, providing power for 30% of their energy needs. For those who want to travel in an eco-friendly fashion, the stadium provides EV charging stations in the parking lot. Energy efficiency measures have helped the stadium to reduce energy usage by at least 20%. More information about the stadium’s top-notch water conservation, energy efficiency, and waste reduction can be found here.

Using Influence to Promote Change 

The NFL, as well as other professional leagues, have the opportunity to use their unique influence to attract avid sports fans to more sustainable lifestyles. A poll in 2011 found that while only 13% of Americans claim to follow science, 61% identify themselves as sports fans. As Jason Twill, co-founder of the Green Sports Alliance, states ”sports is one of the most powerful vehicles for inspiration and change in American culture.” Greening the sports world provides a great platform for corporate sponsors to make sustainable changes right in front of one of the largest public audiences in the country.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the Seahawks, Broncos, and MetLife stadium have scored a major touchdown for sustainability. Let’s hope the rest of the NFL (including our hometown favorites in the South) can become contenders of the Green Super Bowl in the future.

(You can follow more sustainability trends by the NFL from Jack Groh, Director of the NFL Environmental Program at @NFLGreen, or #NFLGreen).

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