Q: I’ve read up a bit on how major sporting events — well, the ones that I actually follow like the U.S. Open — are going green. With the Super Bowl just around the corner, football has become unavoidable in my home even though I could give a toss about a bunch of brutish men body slamming each other on artificial grass. Maybe I’m just bitter because my husband and I have been taking Sunday "off" since September. But I digress …
My question is: The Super Bowl obviously has a lot going on — extravagantly produced halftime shows, 30-second commercials that cost more than I’ll make in a lifetime — but what is the NFL doing to negate the environmental impact of this high-profile, watched-by-everyone event? And are any football franchises making green touchdowns independent of the Super Bowl?
Regina, Mount Airy, Pa.
I feel your pain. Being a non-football watcher around this time of year is indeed alienating. If you’re in a social situation with your husband or others and the topic of conversation is strictly pigskin and you feel the need to stir things up but remain topical, I suggest blurting out your thoughts about red carpet fashions given that it is the height of Hollywood awards season as well: Did you see Helen Mirren’s gown at the Golden Globes?! Absolutely ravishing! Or: Did Angelina Jolie look like she walked off the set of “Dynasty” or what?! That should shut 'em up.
Anyways, the NFL has indeed introduced green to the gridiron, but these eco-efforts don’t seem to get as much exposure as those by other major American sports organizations like the United States Tennis Association and Major League Baseball (both, coincidentally, work with the National Resource Defense Council). But it’s a little known fact that the NFL’s attempts to green the Super Bowl have been around for quite a while, 18 years in fact.
At the site of this year’s Super Bowl, a new-ish, 80,000-seat stadium in Arlington, Texas, that’s home to the Dallas Cowboys (and their famous cheerleaders), the NFL, like in years past, has instituted an expansive Super Bowl XVL Environmental Program that’s one of the organization’s many impressive Super Bowl XVL community outreach initiatives. Playing a major role in the program is the Super Bowl XVL Host Committee because, after all, having the game come to your town is a pretty big deal and not without environmental consequences.
Numerous elements make up the environmental program, including a comprehensive recycling and reuse program that attempts to divert waste from landfills at not only Cowboys Stadium but at associated venues; a prepared food recovery initiative that ensures that excess Super Bowl grub is donated to local shelters and soup kitchens; and a materials recovery program partnered with the Salvation Army that directs decorative and building materials and other reuseables to local nonprofits.
The Super Bowl XVL Environmental Program also includes a Climate Change Initiative aspect. For the big game, renewable energy credits (RECS) will be used to power Cowboys Stadium, the NFL Experience, team hotels, the media center and NFL Super Bowl headquarters. One third of all buses used in the Super Bowl XVL transportation fleet will be powered by biodiesel fuel, and there’s also a big tree-planting shindig called Touchdown For Trees that promotes urban forestry in North Texas.
So there you go, Regina. Although the Super Bowl, like other ginormous sporting events, is an inherently resource-intensive, landfill-clogging and climate-damaging affair, the NFL certainly hasn’t put Mother Nature on the bench.
And you also asked about what individual NFL franchises are doing to lessen their environmental impacts. I’ll have you know that if you did watch football, the team that I’m guessing you’d be rooting for every Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles, leads the pack when it comes to sustainability. The Eagles’ Go Green campaign kicked off in 2003 (the franchise hooked up with NRDC in 2004), making them among the first major sports organizations to have such a program.
Under the leadership of owner Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles have achieved a whole lot since 2003, the most recent news being a real game-changer that takes the gridiron off the grid: Thanks to 2,500 solar panels, 80 wind turbines, and a biodiesel and natural gas generator, Lincoln Financial Field will be the world’s first sports stadium to produce all of its own electricity.
Hope you learned something about the green underbelly of professional football, Regina. And enjoy getting your husband back.