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Viewing the Super Bowl through an Environmental Lens

January 30, 2018

Between the 500 million chickens killed to produce 1 billion chicken wings, the millions of gallons of beer consumed, and the 310,000 pounds of carbon emissions generated, it's safe to say that the Super Bowl is built around consumption. 


Buzzwords such as "green" and "sustainability" are finally getting thrown into the Super Bowl vocabulary, however, and host committees are taking steps to offset their environmental footprint. Though the National Football League (NFL) does not have a specific branch or committee dedicated to environmental responsibility, every Super Bowl host committee has the power to incorporate as many sustainability initiatives as they wish. Every committee is different from the next because there is no direct connection with previous events. Let's take a look at a few green initiatives that have stood out over the last few years.



Super Bowl XLVII (2013) host committee bought carbon credits from C2ES


According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) website, Super Bowl XLVII launched a "Geaux Green" project that partnered with Entergy. Entergy offset emissions associated with Super Bowl-related air travel and facility use in New Orleans and team hotels as well as "emissions related to travel to and from the Super Bowl by the players, coaches, cheerleaders and front office staff from the two teams." Offset projects included a landfill gas collection project in Denton, Texas and a forest conservation initiative in the heart of California’s redwood region. Both projects were certified to deliver the promised greenhouse gas reductions by the Climate Action Reserve.


The other component of Geaux Green included an engaging game for fans that encouraged them to support their favorite NFL team in a competition for eco-friendly bragging rights. Through this game, fans were encouraged to take action in their personal lives, like replacing plastic water bottles with reusable ones and joining a carpool. The winner received a trip for two to the Super Bowl, and the project engagement turned out to be much higher than anticipated.  



Super Bowl L (2016) was the greenest Super Bowl on record


Super Bowl L was in San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in the United States. The host committee "didn’t want to just host a Super Bowl." They wanted to redefine it. Takepart.com lists six ways Super Bowl L was the greenest one yet, including an official partnership with TerraPass, a company that helps businesses and individuals offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Super Bowl L also partnered with Food Runners, a San-Francisco based organization that recovers unserved food and beverages and redistributes them to folks in need. 



Super Bowl LII (2018) has a number of initiatives in store


When US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was chosen as the location for Super Bowl LII, Currie park was also chosen to implement the first of many tree plantings building up to this weekend's big game. Scientists estimate that it takes about 1,500 trees to offset the extra carbon released from the Super Bowl. There have not been any statements released regarding how many the host committee plans on planting before Super Bowl LII, however. Let's hope it reaches and surpasses 1,500!


Super Bowl LII will be the first zero-waste big game. Yes, you read that right. A stadium that holds 66,655 people plans on producing zero waste. "The coalition began planning for this effort last summer, and the aim is for around 90% of the waste, like food containers and paper, to be either recycled or composted. The remaining non-recyclable plastics will be carted to a local waste-to-energy incinerator." Now this is something to follow up on after the event. 



When it comes down to it, the true value of the NFL is its high visibility. There are ample opportunities to educate and inspire folks at every level (if you have the funds). 


Now, what can you do at home this Sunday to reduce your environmental footprint? Reduce your meat intake by making this vegan nacho recipe. It pairs best with Justin Timberlake's half time show. 



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