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How the Superbowl went green

When you think of green events, the Superbowl is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. From power consumption to food (and alcohol) consumption, it’s a grand display of gluttony at its finest. So it may surprise many people to know that the NFL has put alot of effort into greening this event, and has been committed to making NFL venues more environmentally friendly for the past eighteen years. 

It’s been more than 15 years since the NFL launched the Superbowl Environmental program focusing on five main areas of concern: solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, sports equipment and book donations, and greenhouse gas reduction.

Here are 10 ways that the NFL is going green.

1. Utilizing renewable energy options

For the third year in a row the Superbowl used renewable energy certificates to offset the carbon emissions produced by the event. Rather than just purchasing allowances, Superbowl XLIV in Arizona and Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis used energy suppliers that actually produce green energy. This year’s supplier was Green Mountain Energy Company, a leader in wind and solar energy production. Superbowl XLVI was powered by wind farms in North Dakota.

2. Recycling

18 years ago the NFL started recycling in its facilities. That effort has grown steadily from simply collecting plastic and aluminum beverage containers to recycling cardboard and glass as well. Lucas Oil Stadium, the host for this year’s event, recycles tens of tons of these materials annually.

3. Food redistribution

Surplus food is not discarded. Instead it is collected and donated to shelters and other charities that feed the needy.

4. Composting

New in 2012, JW Mariott hotels, host to the Superbowl Media Center, is partnering with GreenCycle, Republic Waste Services, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Recycling Coalition  and the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee to collect scraps and food waste from the Mariott kitchens. The waste will be taken to the GreenCycle facility to be composted rather than being sent to the landfill.

5. Material reuse

Many of the materials used to pull off the event, including decorations, building materials, office supplies and more are collected and donated to local non-profits that can put them to good use. Jack Groh, the director of the NFL Environmental Program, estimates the value of these donated goods at $250,000.

6. Planting trees

As part of their green initiative, the NFL plants 1,000 trees in every Superbowl host community.


7. Plug-in stations for electric vehicles

The Indianapolis event is the first to provide plug-in stations for electric cars, making the event user-friendly for fans who have opted for this mode of transportation.

8. The Super Kids-Super Sharing sports equipment and book donation project

This program partners with area schools in the Superbowl host community to collect useable toys, books and sports gear from students prior to the big event. Those items are then donated to needy kids in the area.

9. Holding the Superbowl in an eco-friendly arena

Lucas Oil Stadium is a green facility. It has a retractable roof which decreases heating and cooling costs, a CPI lighting system which makes use of natural light, and a large ventilation system which moves air with minimal energy use. The facility is also heavily involved in recycling and uses sweepers to clean its parking lots in order to conserve water. Other green NFL facilities include the homes of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, and the Meadowlands, home to the New York Giants and the New York Jets. In addition the NFL has moved its headquarters to a LEED certified facility in Manhattan.

10. Requiring an environmental plan to be included in bids to host the Superbowl

The 2013 Superbowl will be held in New Orleans. For the first time, potential host cities had to include an environmental plan with their bids to host the event.

While the Superbowl may never be a totally eco-friendly event, those of use who want to help the environment, but still love football, can feel a little better about this guilty pleasure knowing that the NFL is taking steps to limit the environmental impact of its games.

To learn more about the NFL’s Environmental Program, click here.

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