Six Ways the NFL Is Greening Super Bowl XLIV. Really.

Sure, companies like Audi and GE like to take advantage of the Super Bowl’s huge viewing audience to promote their latest “green” message. Even Pepsi threw its hat in the game by saying it wasn’t going to advertise in this year’s game.

But, just how sustainable is the event itself? Is the NFL taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of the Super Bowl? What is the league’s view of sustainability, in general?

For answers, I talked with Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s Environmental Program, and he described these six ways the NFL is greening Super Bowl XLIV:

  • The NFL has 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. NextEra Energy Resources, through its EarthEra initiative, will supply Green-e certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to match the electricity consumption during the NFL’s preparations leading up to both the Pro Bowl (held last Sunday) and the Super Bowl, as well as usage during both games at Sun Life Stadium. This is the fourth year in a row that the NFL will use RECs to match electricity consumption during the Super Bowl and its related events. It’s the first year the NFL has used RECs for the Pro Bowl. (Editor’s Note: Look out for an exclusive interview with EarthEra here on 3p in the coming weeks.)
  • In partnership with the US Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry, hundreds of trees will be planted at various locations throughout South Florida. Events will take place at local schools, parks and playgrounds. As part of this ongoing program with federal and state agencies, as well as nonprofit community organizations, thousands of trees have been planted over the past six years in connection with the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
  • Solid waste will be reduced through recycling at Dolphin Stadium (home of the Miami Dolphins, host of this year’s game), the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center (the Super Bowl XLIV Media Center and other events), the stadium compound and other selected venues.
  • Extra prepared food from Super Bowl events will be collected and donated to community agencies. Several local agencies will participate under the leadership of Feeding South Florida (formerly Daily Bread Food Bank). The NFL expects tens of thousands of pounds of prepared food to be recovered from both sanctioned and non-sanctioned events in South Florida
  • All leftover materials from Super Bowl and Pro Bowl events are inventoried and donated to local non-profit agencies in South Florida. United Way of Broward County is handling the sorting and distribution of recovered material. Local moving company, Suddath, is proving trucking and storage services for donated materials. Donations include decorative materials, building materials, office supplies and equipment.
  • The Super Kids – Super Sharing project provides an opportunity for local school children to donate their used books and sports equipment to other needy children in the South Florida community. Partners include the Miami Dolphins, the Miami-Dade NFL Youth Education Town (YET) Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Miami-Dade Public Schools, the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami and several local private schools.

All in all, Super Bowl XLIV will be sponsoring more than 50 charitable activities and community outreach programs.

Groh says these programs evolved from simple recycling initiatives that the NFL began 17 years ago, before “going green” became as mainstream as it is now.

The league continues to embrace sustainability programs for two main reasons, he adds.

“First, it’s a smart operational move,” Groh says. “If being ‘environmental’ means less waste and more efficiency, that’s just a better way to run a business.”

Second, the NFL has a long-standing commitment to a variety of different social programs.

“The NFL has a tradition of being the best possible guest and leaving positive improvements in the communities that host the Super Bowl,” he explains.

The greening of the Super Bowl is part of a larger trend towards an increasing focus on sustainability initiatives, says Mark McSherry, founder and president of ProGreenSports, a company that helps sports organizations develop the business potential of environmental sustainability programs.

In fact, in a recent survey of 57 NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB teams, ProGreenSports found:

  • 60% of teams say their sustainability initiatives are a “high” or “very high” priority.
  • More than 90% of teams say their executive management have a positive perspective on developing a green business strategy.
  • 80% of teams have formed or are actively considering forming an internal green team.
  • 80% of teams expect the emphasis on environmental programs to be increasing in the future.
  • Nearly 50% of teams have developed or are actively considering developing a sustainability plan with short and long-term goals.
  • 25% of teams have a full-time employee dedicated to their green program, or are actively considering adding a full-time green employee.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend,” McSherry says. “All the leagues are paying attention to it.”

He points to CU-Boulder’s initiative to implement a zero-waste football stadium as a model recycling program for sports organizations.

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.