Sunday, May 12, 2013
The National Football League Tackles the Environment
By Bill Pivetz
From what started as a small organization in the Ohio area has become a globally-recognized company with fans all over the world. The National Football League has become the most popular professional sport in the United States. The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year, as 109 million people tuned in to watch the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers this past February.
In 16 weeks, or longer if accounting for the post-season, 16 NFL teams travel the country to play the other 16 teams. Some travel from California to New York, while others travel within their own state. Regardless of distance, there is a lot of traveling that takes place on bus, car and plane. Until vehicles rely solely on reusable fuel, these forms of travel will impact the environment heavily.
And then there is the massive stadiums’ use of power. “Currently about 72 percent of the energy powering NFL stadiums comes from fossil fuels,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
However, the NFL and its teams can change what they do to help reduce their impact. The NFL has been battling the changing environment for over 15 years. They have a comprehensive, award-winning Super Bowl environmental program. This program has five main initiatives: solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, sports equipment and book donations, and greenhouse gas reduction.
Super Bowl XLIV was held at Sun Life Stadium in Florida. During their time in Florida, the NFL teamed up with NextEra Energy Resources, the largest wind and solar energy producer in North America, to power the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl with renewable energy. They also formed a partnership with the US Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry and planted hundreds of trees throughout South Florida.
The NFL headquarters moved into a new Manhattan office in 2011 that will be LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a “voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings,” according to the United States Green Building Council.
Super Bowl XLII was held in Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium. They planted thousands of trees in Arizona forests that were blackened by wildfires. They also powered the stadium and the adjacent theme park with clean energy sources from New Mexico wind turbines to California geothermal plants.
MetLife Stadium in New Jersey will be hosting the upcoming Super Bowl. After its construction in 2010, MetLife Stadium is one of the greenest stadiums in the country because of its partnership with the EPA. There were goals set by both the EPA and stadium officials. Goals of the agreement include cutting the stadium's annual water use by 25 percent, making it 30 percent more energy efficient than the old Giants Stadium, increasing total recycling by 25 percent and recycling 75 percent of construction waste.
The stadium’s infrastructure was also constructed with green in mind. There was about 40,000 tons of recycled steel used to build MetLife Stadium and about 20,000 tons of steel was recycled when Giants Stadium was destroyed. The seating was primarily made from recycled plastic and scrap iron. The construction vehicles were using a cleaner diesel fuel, reducing air pollution. Environmentally-friendly concrete was used during the construction. There are also over 1,000 solar panels circling above the stands.
MetLife Stadium isn’t the only stadium becoming environmentally friendly. The Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field has 8,000 solar panels in their parking lot. The New England Patriots are taking part as well. They have 3,000 panels installed at Patriot Place, a shopping center next to Gillette Stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles have about 11,000 solar panels powering their stadium. They also one-upped the other teams by adding 14 micro wind-turbines. The St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans began handing out USB drives, which feature schedules, programs and media guides, to their fans, reducing the use of paper programs.
In Seattle, the CenturyLink Event Center solar array takes advantage of the facility’s new white “cool roof” which conserves energy by reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the roof surface and lowering the need for building cooling. Around the new Cowboys Stadium, work was done on a flood-prone creek outside the stadium, to add natural grasses, trees and trails to create an atmosphere where fans don’t have to rely on their cars for transportation. The San Diego Chargers regularly donates its sod (grass) to local YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The San Diego Chargers regularly donates its sod (grass) to local YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
The NFL is a copycat league, not only game plans, but environmental practices as well. When a team has success with an offensive scheme, like the Miami Dolphins did with the Wildcat offense a couple of years ago, other teams looked to capitalize on its success. Many hope that teams will do the same with the addition of solar panels and energy conservation plans.
Bill Pivetz is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in journalism.