This Year’s Super Bowl Will Be “Super Green”

For the past 18 years, the NFL has been working to decrease the environmental footprint of the largest annual sporting event in the U.S. – the Super Bowl. Two years ago, we wrote about several initiatives aimed at reducing the events’ impacts. Last year, we covered how Super Bowl XLV was slated to be the greenest NFL championship game in history. This year, the NFL is trying to outdo itself yet again by working with the Green Mountain Energy Company and the Indianapolis community to make Super Bowl XLVI the greenest yet. I talked with Jack Groh, Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program, to get the details on this year’s efforts.

As you can imagine, the Super Bowl with it’s jumbotrons, dazzling half time show, and NFL Experience theme park, uses a lot of electricity. To help reduce the impact of that energy consumption, the National Football League and the Indianapolis Super Bowl XLVI Host Committee are partnering with Green Mountain Energy to purchase 15,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated at wind farms in North Dakota to offset the power associated with the event.

According to Groh, these renewable energy credits will not just cover the electricity used at Lucas Oil Stadium during the game. The NFL actually purchases enough to offset the electricity consumed during the NFL’s entire month-long tenancy at the stadium and Indiana Convention Center, as well as the week-long occupancy of all four of the major NFL hotels. According to a press release from Green Mountain, the RECs purchased will avoid the release of over 14,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

To engage fans and the Indianapolis community in these greening efforts and help address impacts outside Super Bowl operations, the NFL also organized the 1st & Green Environmental Challenge. Participants can track their carbon and water savings on the website and the winner of the challenge will be recognized on stage at the Super Bowl village. As of the writing of this article, more than 1.4 million pounds of carbon and over 2.5 million gallons of water have been saved through the challenge.

In an email interview, Paul Thomas, President of Green Mountain Energy Company, outlined several additional initiatives the company is participating in to support the NFL’s sustainability efforts, including:

  • Buying carbon offsets to cover the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the AFC and NFC Super Bowl teams’ air and ground travel.
  • Supporting urban forestry programs in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl and in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
  • Donating a residential solar array in conjunction with the non-profit Rebuilding Together, which will be incorporated into a low-income home renovation project in Indianapolis.
  • Providing RECs for the electricity used at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii for the 2012 Pro Bowl.

An infographic created by Green Mountain does a good job of translating the impact of the offsets purchased into fun, Super Bowl-themed terms that can be more easily comprehended by the average fan. For example, it notes that the amount of energy purchased is equivalent to what’s needed to power 25 million flat screen TV’s during the Super Bowl, or to microwave three bowls of cheese dip in 53.3 million separate households.

The infographic is a great way to communicate these efforts to fans; but, the language used to describe the company’s efforts is a bit misleading. The graphic states that Green Mountain is providing “15 million kWh of renewable energy to power Super Bowl XLVI.” However, renewable energy power and renewable energy certificates are not exactly the same thing. The Super Bowl isn’t actually being powered with renewable energy. It’s energy use is being offset with renewable energy credits. Although this distinction may be lost to some, it’s an important one that consumers should be educated about and made aware of.

Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.

Kara is a corporate social responsibility professional and marketing consultant with expertise in consumer research and environmental science. Currently, Kara is working as a Graduate Associate on the Corporate Citizenship team at the Walt Disney Company. She is also a founding partner of BeSui Consulting, a boutique marketing consulting firm specializing in consumer insights and marketing communications.Kara graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behaviors. She is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School where she is exploring the impact investing space and working to identify new ways to increase access to capital for start-ups and social ventures. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.

3 responses

  1. Its true that it’s not the same but if you think about it, its even more valuable. It creates more value in the end and is going to create a whole new sports sponsorship category that will worth millions to teams in the future… and… it will be great for the environment.

    Anyone who spends time around live events like a pro sports game or music concerts realize they are enormous contributors of pollution to the immediate environment. Its a difficult problem to solve.

    Now for this instance of the Super Bowl,  think of REC’s as premiums paid on capital borrowed. The capital went to produce the renewable electricity that underwrites the REC. In the past the only buyer for them was other power companies aka “The polluters” and they wanted to pay as little for them as possible because they were using them for compliance.

    Along comes the NFL who doesn’t care what the REC’s cost (to a degree) and purchases them as marketing that offsets the amount of power used for the events they want to include. Brilliant! 

    This causes the price of the REC’s to rise in the market. The higher the price for the REC’s the more capital that will flow into renewable energy investments. Which means that hopefully one day the Super Bowl can be powered by its own renewable power source. I predict that will happen in less than 5 years.

    Its about making markets and thinking ahead and we all have the NFL to thank for that. Capitslism is alive and well.

  2. Recycling Education and maybe some really cool commercials or comments on halftime about the value and importance for everyone to be involved in environmental care and education.  Promotion by the SuperBowl leaders would be so valuable to educating our young people and hopefully their parents as well about the benefits, value, and coolness factor of living a green and sustainable life!!

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