Patriots, Seahawks in Forefront of the Greening NFL

February 1, 2015

Can being Green help win Superbowls?
Well, judging by today’s contest, it certainly won’t keep you from getting there. Both the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots are among NFL teams credited with pioneering “green” initiatives and policies.

Surprisingly good video above – a year or two old, but, hey, narrated by Bob Redford.

Yale Climate Connections:

An organization known as the Green Sports Alliance is doing its darnedest to help all the major professional sports leagues and teams go green, including on issues related to climate change. And an independent report on the National Football League’s environmental and climate policies names several teams as early “pioneers,” that is the cream of the crop: The New York Giants and New York Jets, the Seattle Seahawks, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the New England Patriots.

Researcher Danyel Reiche of the American University of Beirut, spending the fall of 2014 on sabbatical at Harvard University, says those five teams were active in at least five of seven categories of activities analyzed. He pointed to “a unanimous agreement” among the many people he interviewed that “It all started with the Eagles.” As with the Seahawks and Patriots, “an internal top-down process occurred,” Reiche wrote. The innovations benefited from major collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, from which the Green Sports Alliance has recently been spawned.

The San Francisco 49ers’ ‘living roof’ at its new Levi Field. Credit:

Reiche’s report assesses the NFL teams’ various “green programs”; their motives for getting involved with combating climate change and addressing other environmental issues; and whether they are engaged because of what he calls “a real environmental concern, or is it a greenwashed billion-dollar business?” He assesses the roles of various public or private “actors” influencing and encouraging the teams and whether the NFL itself has relevant policies or, alternatively, the teams’ climate change actions are done “without such incentives.” (His answer is the latter, and he said in a recent phone interview that the NFL as a whole does little to provide top-down organizational drive to the greening effort.)

Factors Giving Impetus to ‘Green Sports’

Among factors driving the teams’ environmental and climate change efforts, according to Reiche, are:

  • Ecological motives — Wanting to be responsible corporate citizens and wanting to improve the quality of life in their home communities, where support from their fan base is critical. He says the 80 20-foot spiral shaped wind turbines on the Eagles’ stadium roof are meant to be seen by “every car that drives by…on the main highway of the United States’ East Coast, Interstate 95.”
  • Economic motives — Renewable energy installations and energy efficiency policies are seen as “effective cost-saving measures,” particularly given the frequent ups and downs of energy prices. He points to several teams’ claiming cost savings as a result of their initial expenditures in clean energy sources, and points also to sponsorship of clubs’ clean energy programs as another “possibly more important” driver.
  • Political incentives — Grants from the Obama administration’s economic recovery program, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also proved a key factor. After having considered solar energy for its stadium for many years and concluding that it “was simply not economical,” a Seattle Seahawks representative said “our view changed” with the availability of that federal assistance: “We could not have built our solar plant” without that funding, the official said.
  • Local environment — “Professional sports clubs have to respond to their local environment,” Reiche wrote, noting that stadiums generally are full with fans from the home team local communities. “If a club is based in an area with green consumers, it will likely adopt a green program to satisfy the local environment.” He singled out San Francisco — “home of the green consumer movement” as a case in point — with its solar panels and green roof. In addition to providing a lot of local momentum, that loyal fan base, Reiche notes, buys a lot of T-shirts, caps, and other rah-rah paraphernalia. Another factor: new stadiums often involve approval by public referendums, with overall costs frequently at the heart of how much public money will be allotted. “Promises of an environmentally friendly sports venue can present convincing arguments,” says Reiche.
  • Public relations — Of course. “Good for their public image,” many of Reiche’s interviews told him, leading to public recognition and various awards in several cases and “a positive image” for teams and owners.

Green Sports Alliance:

Over the winter, Safeco Field in Seattle was retrofitted with new state-of-the-art GigaTera light fixtures from KMW Inc., making the ballpark the first in Major League Baseball to illuminate its field of play with LED technology. The Seattle Mariners collaborated with Planled over the offseason to replace the metal halide fixtures at Safeco Field with the new LED fixtures. The new lights are designed to last more than 30 times as long as traditional metal halide bulbs and will reduce the costs of lighting the Safeco Field playing surface by 60 to 70 percent.

The new lighting will also provide more uniform light on the playing surface, reducing glare and shadows for both players and spectators. Improved lighting will also improve the color rendering for television viewers. “The benefits of converting to LED lighting are across the board from the play on the field to supporting the Mariners long-established sustainability goals,” said Mariners’ vice president of ballpark operations Joe Myhra.

10 Responses to “Patriots, Seahawks in Forefront of the Greening NFL”

  1. “He says the 80 20-foot spiral shaped wind turbines on the Eagles’ stadium roof are meant to be seen by “every car that drives by…on the main highway of the United States’ East Coast, Interstate 95.”

    For about six months in 2008 I live in El Paso, Texas, and was friends with a management guy working at El Paso Electric (EPE) company. At that time, EPE was doing a big green campaign, with TV adverts showing these two spinning wind towers, letting us know how environmentally correct they were. Anyway, when I asked my friend how much wind power the company was actually producing, he said virtually none, those two wind towers were all they had, and they had no plans to add any more. They were strictly for public relations. I just checked the EPE web site and see no mention of wind power in their “history” blurb:

    Here in Taiwan, our former president ordered our public utility, Taipower, to start using wind power. That president was a true believer in green energy, but he’s out of office now and the 130 wind towers that were erected have fallen into disuse. Some were taken down, but others remain, spinning in the wind when it blows, but are not actually producing any power. They are simply free-spinning blades, great for public relations but not much else. Occasionally pictures of the wind towers appear printed on the designer envelopes Taipower uses when they mail our electric bill to us, though that changes (this month’s bill features Chinese New Year art).

    Just checked the Taipower web site. Ah, I see they’ve got wind mills right there in their graphic at the very top of their home page…

    …despite the fact that wind produces 0% of our power needs.

  2. redskylite Says:

    As someone who has always had an interest in motor sports and a keen follower of the Formula F1 season, I am excited to see that Formula E (E for electric) is taking shape and attracted some really good drivers.

    Future generations will still be able to enjoy the thrill of motor-racing, with clean energy powered cars.

  3. redskylite Says:

    Also in Australia the Climate Institute has recently released a paper highlighting the need for Australian Sports to to tackle the challenge of climate change.

    Short Version:

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    It’s a good thing that the NFL and “sports” is paying some attention to AGW, just as they are slowly paying attention to spousal abuse, concussions, and maltreatment of the sacrificial gladiators (er, I mean “players”). But again, it’s just PR and window dressing to cover up the fact that “sports” is something that as a whole is not necessary for survival and is a huge source of pollution. I resent the fact that we are bright-sidedly touting the small good while ignoring that large bad. Another example:

    It matters little if a stadium has more energy efficient lighting or they recycle more trash when one stacks that up against the huge carbon footprint of 60 to 100 thousand fans driving to the stadium, buying all that made in China sports apparel and whatnot, and driving to and hanging out in “sports bars” if they can’t make the stadium.

    I think also of situations like the Washington Deadskins, Philadelphia Eagles, and NY Giant rivalry here in the NFC East. Only about 275 miles separate DC and NYC, and Philadelphia is almost in the middle. Large numbers of fans zip up and down I-95 by car or bus, or fly, or take the train to away games to “support THEIR team”, and no one tries to match the waste of energy there with the “savings” from better light bulbs. The hypocrisy and willful ignorance there is amazing,

    Redsky’s link about AGW and athletes/sports in AUS is illuminating. It’s ironic that people there are worried about “cooking” their athletes but support a government that wants to mine and sell all the coal it can.

  5. […] OO Can being green help win Superbowls? Both teams this year are pioneering green initiatives and policies. […]

  6. […] OO Can being green help win Superbowls? Both teams this year are pioneering green initiatives and policies. […]

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