Sunday, February 2, 2020

Greening Football: 10 Tips to Make Professional Football More Sustainable

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In February of 2018, I wrote a piece called 5 Tips to Make Professional Football More Sustainable. I decided to edit it and expand it to 10 tips and republish it here given that it is Super Bowl weekend.  Can you think of any other ways you would improve the sustainability of professional football?
I have written quite a bit about sustainability and professional sports over the years. My research has shown that baseball is one of the greenest sports while surprisingly soccer tends to lag. Unfortunately, American football is rarely engaged on the issue. Given that it is   Super Bowl weekend, here are my 10 tips to make professional football more sustainable.

1. Engage with the community on sustainability. Professional football tends to focus on youth education and sports for community outreach. Given the many sustainability issues in football communities (such as climate change in Miami), sustainability initiatives would be welcome. Baseball teams around the country take on topics like water conservation, climate change, and environmental justice. For example, the Minnesota Twins baseball team works on a variety of community sustainability issues in the Twin Cities. Professional football should get in the game. They have a big audience and could do more. It is great that education is a big component of Professional football's community mission. They would score a field goal by focusing on environmental education.

2. Green the stadiums. Many new stadiums are LEED certified green buildings, including some football stadiums. As long-time readers of this blog know, the greenest buildings are the ones that are not built. Many stadiums could go for green retrofits or improved green infrastructure instead of a demolition. You don't need to build a new stadium to score a green touchdown.

3. Cut parking and enhance mass transit. Professional football stadiums and their giant parking lots can be wastelands except for the few days of the year when teams play. The land use does little to enhance the local community. Teams should focus on finding ways to improve their zone offense and use mass transit to bring attendees to their stadium. 

4. Make the stadium footprint multi-use. What I mean by this is that parking lots and the stadium itself offers little benefit to a community. Stadiums should be integrated into multi-use facilities that offer housing, commercial activities, and even office space for businesses. The more housing and commercial activities that huddle near stadiums, the better it will be for local communities. 

5. Provide organic and local food options. Many baseball stadiums now offer local and organic food to provide healthier and greener options. Some football vendors do the same, but it is really a hit and miss situation. It would not be a bad idea for football owners to tackle this issue.

6. Go carbon neutral. Many organizations have committed to going carbon free. Considering the travel of players and attendees, lighting, and a number of other carbon intensive activities associated with professional football, there is great gain to be made if teams commit to going carbon neutral. This could be done by buying carbon credits, enhancing solar power, and energy conservation. Since football teams are in the public eye, they could serve as an example to other organizations on best practices. The current federal government is really fumbling on climate change. State and local governments in partnership with industry are in full on blitz mode to get us into the carbon reduction zone. Professional football should join the team.

7. Make rings, trophies, and other awards out or recycled materials. The awards at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be made out of metals recycled from electronic waste. The symbology of this choice is important. Professional football tends to focus on over the top glitz and glam with mega rings and giant awards. I would make the NFL a green MVP if they would choose recycled materials for its awards.

8. Be part of the electric car revolution. Many stadiums now provide electric car charging stations. However, the electric car market is growing rapidly. Teams should commit to greatly expanding the electric car infrastructure in their parking facilities to help our country make a major play for the future.

9. Zero plastic. Stadium vendors sell lots of great food and drink. However, much of it is sold using plastic vessels. There are no-plastic alternatives for these vessels and teams should make it a requirement that their vendors go plastic free if they want to get into the end zone.

10. Cut the airplane flyovers. I know they are exciting, but they are also incredibly carbon intensive. Be creative and find another exciting pre-game activity that captures the attention of the audience. Teams can avoid the carbon penalties through creativity.

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