Are my favorite sports teams hurting the environment?
-Dane L., Cranford, NJ
Consider the things about sporting events that make them so environmentally intensive: electronic equipment (such as lighting, scoreboards, and video monitors) plus a lot of people at one place at the same time. These factors require a lot of energy for lighting, equipment, cooling and heating, and transportation, not to mention waste from concessions, print-outs, and fan gear.
For example, the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium made headlines last fall after an energy analyst determined that it uses more power at peak game times than the entire country of Liberia has the capacity to pump through its national grid. If that sounds outlandish, consider that the stadium houses thousands of square feet of video screens (which are surely running during events) and the 3-million-square-foot space is air conditioned!
Even events that don’t necessarily use lots of energy can produce mountains of waste. After the 2011 New York City Marathon, the New York City Department of Sanitation picked up 95 tons of litter and debris, and projected that 2 million paper cups would be recycled. With more than 45,000 runners participating and over 2.5 million spectators watching, a heavy environmental impact is inevitable.
But even if a sporting event will necessarily have a large environmental impact, organizers can take steps to reduce the impact. Many teams, stadiums, and events have adopted green measures on some level. For example:
- The Philadelphia Eagles’ Go Green program includes measures to increase recycling rates, use green cleaning products, and generate renewable energy. and over 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines on the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field produce 4 megawatts per year.
- The Minnesota Twins’ Target Field boasts a LEED Silver certification, and its rainwater recycle system captured and reused more than 1.8 million gallons of rainwater in 2011 and 2012.
- The U.S. Open, which is organized by the U.S. Tennis Association, recycles over 12,000 gallons of kitchen oil, employs mass transit, and uses paper made of post-consumer waste and recycled material.
- Starting in 2011, NASCAR racecars started using E15, a blend of gasoline and ethanol that has lower emissions.
As a sports fan, you can encourage your team or sports organization to take green measures requesting green options at games (mass transit or napkins made of recycled material, for instance). You might also contact your sport’s public affairs person to let them know that you’re a fan of green measures. If enough fans champion sustainability, sports organizers will prioritize it.