The Greening of the Super Bowl – Important Step or Not Enough?

posted by Boyd Neil

By Lena Davie, Vice President, Hill & Knowlton Tampa

If you are like me, you were glued to the tube on Super Bowl a few Sundays ago. Whether or not you had a personal stake in the game, you watched with interest to see whether Eli would triumph over Tom or if the 1972 Miami Dolphins would have to relinquish their perfect season crown to the Patriots. And perhaps (again, if you are like me) you watched the commercials with even more interest to see who would pull out all the stops and whose ad would be a bust in USA Today’s ad meter the next day.

But what was perhaps even more interesting was what happened before and after the game, what most of the 90 million plus viewers were not privy to, and that is the greening of the game.

I was surprised to learn that over 150,000 people travel to the Super Bowl host city for the big game each year. And that an estimated 500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions result from local travel and events associated with the big day.

2008 marks the 15th year that the National Football League (NFL) has linked green “activities” to its festivities to offset some of these emissions and the second year it has taken great pains to host a “carbon neutral” event.

Specifically this year the NFL:

  • Powered their NFL Experience and the stadium completely by solar, wind and geo-thermal energy sources
  • Bought certificates through the Salt River Project to offset the amount of carbon generated through other electricity use
  • Planted thousands of trees to help offset greenhouse gas emissions. These trees helped reforest more than 84 acres of land devastated by fires. The NFL also hired tribal forestry crews, employing people who need jobs, to help do the work
  • Worked with local waste management officials to control the recycling of the trash from the game and events surrounding it
  • Used hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles as a substantial portion of their official staff cars
  • Partnered with Expedia and TerraPass to offset the travel of the two teams and their staff

But is it enough?

Depends on who you ask.

The NFL seems to be taking its responsibility quite seriously. It even has a director of environment, Jack Grohl, whom I heard speak at a Recycle Florida Today conference last June.  I believe he genuinely wants to help the NFL help the environment and has dedicated the last 15 years doing so. And while he acknowledges that more can always done, efforts such as those taken this year in Arizona are a giant step in the right direction.

Naysayers will point to all of the places where energy leakage occurs as a result of the big game. This includes everything from the energy used when millions of American homes tune in, to the 400 plus chartered jets that ferried high-end travelers to and from Phoenix for the big game.

Grohl says that responsibility for preserving the environment lies with all of us and with all involved industries. It is not up to the NFL, for example, to convince airlines to use paperless ticketing, to require fans to carpool, to require FOX to air PSAs that talk about environmental protection or to persuade average Americas to recycle for that matter. Personal accountability can and should always play a role but I for one am thrilled to see the NFL taking such great pains to do its part.

Now that that is said and done, what did everyone think about the ads?

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