Super Bowl 50 Aims To Be the Greenest Ever

Fans at Super Bowl City in San Francisco.
Fans at Super Bowl City in San Francisco.

This weekend, the pinnacle event on the NFL calendar, the Super Bowl, will kick off to determine whether the Carolina Panthers or the Denver Broncos will succeed in lifting the coveted Lombardi trophy in the 50th anniversary event. The Super Bowl has become synonymous with not only the action on the field, but also the star-studded halftime shows and glitzy commercials.

Less on people’s minds, I would venture to guess, is sustainability. Yet the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee says this year’s game will be the greenest one yet. The committee aims to achieve a “green legacy” by putting together what it describes as a “net-positive” event.  Here’s a quick look at some of the initiatives.

Leaving a green legacy

In partnership with Verizon, the Host Committee partnered on several community projects in January, such as the planting of several dozen trees around the Bay Area in various urban forests, located in parks, playgrounds and other public places.

Additionally, two large-scale reforestation projects are underway, including the restoration of portions of the Sierra Nevada watershed entailing the planting of thousands of trees covering an area equivalent to the entire Levi’s Stadium campus. The plan was developed by Verizon and American Forests, and it was subsequently expanded to achieve the planting of 28,000 trees in conjunction with the NFL.

In keeping with the sporting theme, a Super Kids sports equipment and book donation event took place in January at Santa Clara University that distributed thousands of items to low-income schools and youth programs throughout the region.

Carbon offsets

With a large-scale event such as the Super Bowl, the greatest environmental impact is with regard to carbon emissions incurred in the transportation of thousands of people attending the game. To mitigate the negative impact, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee partnered with TerraPass to give fans and sponsors the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint related to Super Bowl activities. Visitors to Super Bowl 50 are invited to pledge carbon offsets and water restoration certificates online.

A $2 TerraPass pledge offsets 200 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, restores 50 gallons of water, and includes a donation to the nonprofit San Francisco Carbon Fund. Additionally, both NFL teams’ travel to and from the game will be made carbon-neutral through offsets. Further information on TerraPass’s involvement with the event can be found here.

Renewable energy use at Super Bowl City

Augmenting the fans’ experience in the Bay Area, San Francisco is hosting the Super Bowl 50 fan village — designed to celebrate the event and showcase, as the Host Committee says, “the best the Bay Area has to offer, with interactive games and activities that highlight the region’s technological prowess, culinary excellence and cultural diversity.” Organizers expect 1 million visitors to pass through Super Bowl City over the course of a nine-day period. Visiting fans will get to experience things such as a 50-by-15-foot video wall and two stages where the likes of Alicia Keys and Chris Isaak — among others — will appear.

To power this pop-up city, organizers have partnered with Neste Corp. to supply renewable diesel to fuel state-of-the art EPA ‘Tier-4’ generators that will supply all of the power in what organizers describe as the most environmentally-friendly Super Bowl City ever. The renewable diesel is made from waste and residues and is claimed to cut the carbon footprint by 50 percent compared with using petroleum-based diesel fuel. In addition, the Tier-4 generators themselves radically reduce both particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions — an improvement in excess of 90 percent by each measure, compared with lower-end Tier-2 types.

Additionally, a fleet of 100 charter buses comprising the event’s ‘Fan Express’ service, to get fans from around the Bay Area to Sunday’s game, will also be powered by Neste’s diesel, which is claimed “to remove the equivalent of some 2,000 cars from the road.”

Charitable giving

Super Bowl 50 has amassed around 5,000 volunteers for the event, and some of these will walk among the visitors at Super Bowl City and engage with them to ask if they used mass transit to get there. If they answer “yes,” they will be entered into a sweepstakes prize draw, giving them a chance to win two tickets to the game. Along with the chance to win, they will also get 50 “gold coins” to distribute between four Bay Area green charities: Education Outside, Environmental Volunteers, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and Hunters Point Family Healthy Bayview.

The gold coins themselves are backed by real dollars such that $200,000 dollars will be donated across the four charities by the Host Committee’s charitable arm, 50 Fund. TriplePundit covered extensive details of the 50 Fund in this piece from last week.

The multifaceted sustainability efforts set the course for this year’s Super Bowl in a positive direction. Events of the magnitude of the Super Bowl cannot happen with some impact and criticism, though. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that local food vendors and artists who operate typically in, or around, the footprint of the Super Bowl City have complained of being crowded out and are not permitted to set up shop in their usual locations during the event. Some feel that, rather than the event helping local businesses, they will suffer a loss of income by having to operate elsewhere. Perhaps that won’t be known for sure until after the event; maybe an extra million people in town over the period will help offset any hardship.

Locals too might find themselves subject to additional scrutiny on ferries and subjected to bag checks when traversing the location of Super Bowl City; that’s to be expected in today’s world.

However, a high-profile event such as this is bound to cause disruption somewhere, so the Host Committee’s attention to making the Super Bowl the most sustainable ever is nonetheless a commendable and important undertaking.

Image used courtesy of GreenSportsBlog

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

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