Superbowl XLVI promises green touchdown

By Ed King

For many Superbowl represents everything that is bad about modern society.

It promotes a day of gluttony in front of the TV set, gorging on electricity, fatty foods and alcohol – and the statistics are truly mind-boggling. claims every US citizen over 15 will drink 7 beers on Sunday

The game is estimated to draw in 158.5 million viewers. Their TVs use enough electricity to power three cities. For 10 hours.

Away from the screen, for Americans it’s reputed to be the biggest day of the year for eating and drinking after Thanksgiving.

A trawl through US newspapers unearths the following wild estimates: 1.25 billion chicken wings could be wolfed down, along with 69.6 million pounds of Avocados (Guacamole is the dip of choice).

Superbowl is also the 8th largest beer consumption day in the US every year (what are the other seven like?), while one website has the outlandish prediction that 10.8 billion dollars of beer will be sold, apparently enough to buy 10 B2 Stealth Bombers.

I could go on, and when the New England Patriots kick off against New York Giants in Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium, many will deride the event as an affront to the environment.

But that would be to ignore the work both these teams and the NFL have done to add a tinge of green to the League’s blue, red and white colours.

The 2012 Superbowl committee have helped secure $9M of Federal funds for eco-retrofits in Indianapolis

The league’s environmental programme has been running since 1993. Nearly two decades later and the aim is to make one of the world’s iconic sporting occasions carbon neutral.

Speaking to RTCC from Indianapolis, Jack Groh, Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program said they had made huge efforts to make the league and the Superbowl more sustainable.

“This is the Superbowl of resource consumption – and it seems incongruous that an event like this would even care about the management of resources,” he says.

“The biggest surprise is when people find that we have been doing it [running an environmental programme] for almost 20 years.”

Groh estimates that in the month that the NFL sets up camp in their host Superbowl city they can use up to 15,000,ooo mWh of electricity – that’s as much as 25 million flatscreen TVs will use while tuned into the event.

The NFL’s main initiatives revolve around solid waste management, food recovery, equipment donations and greenhouse gas reduction.

At last year’s Superbowl in Texas, the NFL’s supply fleet all ran on biofuels. That hasn’t been possible in Indianapolis – but Groh explains they aim to offset all their emissions via Renewable Energy Credits (REC).

Their climate change campaign started as a result of an “office joke” six or seven years ago. The results is that they have employed Green Mountain Energy to provide their RECs – which are realised in the form of investments in wind power and tree-planting schemes.

Indianapolis has also received a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for energy efficiency retrofits in the city, as part of a Superbowl 2012 initiative.

His aim is to ensure their visit leaves a minimum of waste, and maximises their legacy – stressing: “we don’t do chequebook environmentalism, as it’s simply unsustainable.”

Solar on the offense

Sunday’s finalists have both recently invested in solar panels at their respective stadiums.

The New England Patriots ‘Gillette Stadium’ is in the process of being fitted with a 1MW solar array – adding to the of 525 kilowatts already installed.

Meanwhile the New York Giants are installing 1,500 panels on their new MetLife Stadium, while the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles all source their match-day power from the sun.

NRG Energy installed the panels in Boston and New York, and their Director of Communications Lori Neumann told RTCC the potential of these types of installations is huge.

NRG is currently working on a rooftop solar project that she tells me “could span 28 states and total 733 megawatts when completed.”

This is not to say the NFL and Superbowl are off to don hair shirts and eat carrots.

Money talks, with Patriots star player Tom Brady reportedly earning a cool $18m a year, not a salary that will endear him to the Occupy movement.

Yet even his lavish new home, shared with the Brazilian model Giselle and boasting eight bedrooms and a six-car garage, is dripping with with solar panels.

Jack Groh is keen to stress the NFL are not in the business of greenwashing – their decision to go green is down to saving money.

But he does acknowledge the power sport could perhaps have in changing public perceptions of the environment and climate change.

“I think we set a good and a necessary example…our average NFL fans are not identified with the Environmental movement” he said.

“We reach a certain segment of the public – who may think if the NFL care about this maybe there’s something to it.”

Contact the author @rtcc_edking or email [email protected]


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