Greening the NFL: Bringing Sustainability to Stadiums

The National Football League is not the first organisation that springs to mind when we think of green businesses and sustainability. Yet now some NFL teams have started to think about actually reducing their carbon footprint and increasing their commitment to the environment. Millions of people follow the NFL, so this sport has a lot influence to encourage others to be eco-friendly.

Jeffrey Lurie, the billionaire owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, wanted to take a major move to take the entire stadium off-grid in 2010. Though the intention was there, it was not technically possible at that time. However, since then, the stadium became net zero through the purchase of green power, managing a 100 per cent rate of diversion from landfill. In 2012, 993.05 tonnes of trash were recycled and 480 tonnes of food, field and event waste was composted. The Eagle’s stadium's 4MW wind and solar generating system went into service in February 2013 and is the largest clean energy installation in the NFL. It will produce 4m kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, offsetting the equivalent of 2,822 metric tonnes of CO2. The system's 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines will also make significant cost savings.

Now, San Francisco's 49ers will quit Candlestick Park, where it has been playing since 1961 and is now heading to Santa Clara, where work is going on around the clock to prepare the stadium for its opening game in 2014. When the stadium is opened, this engineered building could become the first LEED Gold standard stadium in the NFL! CEO and President Jed York of the 49ers is pushing the sustainability agenda, championing these efforts because it's the right thing to do. The 49ers believes they can change the way people think and behave by employing responsible techniques, using green building and operating standards where they make a difference.

The NFL's drive for energy-sufficiency took on real meaning after a power outage halted the last Super Bowl in February while 100 million of TV viewers looked on. Other stadiums too, have connected their profits with being green. The New England Patriots opened its Gillette Stadium in 2002; since then, the stadium operators calculate annual savings of well over $1M through a 30 per cent reduction in energy consumption from lighting and heating automation, recycling, solar arrays and LED lighting.

The greatest impact of NFL clubs that go green have is that they demonstrate the environmental and economic benefits of sustainability to ordinary Americans, starting with the staff, teams and fans. This trend has helped to move the sustainability conversation in the right direction.

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