Greening the Super Bowl
Jan 21, 2014


Do not underestimate the power of professional sports to promote positive social and cultural change.

In a few days from now, the Seattle Seahawks will face off against the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl XLVIII. (For the Roman-Numerically Challenged, that’s #48.) Seahawks fans are excited for the chance at winning their very 1st Lombardi Trophy, while Broncos fans may be wringing their hands in anticipation of winning their 3rd. If ever we could see what really happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, it would be at this particular Super Bowl game. It promises to be an excellent contest.

So, if you’re one of the many millions of football fans who are excited about watching this game, you might be surprised to learn all about the amazing things that the Super Bowl and the NFL are doing to ‘green-up’ and promote sustainability.

It seems that greening has taken the entire professional and collegiate-level sports world by storm. With over 92 teams across 7 leagues in 116 venues voluntarily becoming part of the Green Sports Alliance, fans of every sport have more reasons to cheer than ever.

Who’s the Most Valuable Player at this Year’s Super Bowl?

It’s less of a ‘who’ and more of a ‘what’. You see, the Super Bowl wouldn’t be nearly as green without its star player, MetLife Stadium. Making MetLife Stadium ‘green’ was clearly a primary goal well before construction even began. It was built on a former brownfield using some 40,000 tons of recycled steel.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the Stadium’s exterior are the thousands of LED lights powered by 1,350 solar PV panels above the catwalk. In addition to the LED lights the panels produce enough electricity to provide 10% of the Stadium’s power needs on game days.

Super Bowl XLVIII going green thanks to MetLife Stadium. Read how...

If you visit any one of its 200 Green Restaurant Certified restaurants and concession stands, you’ll take comfort in knowing that all of the used frying oil is collected and converted into biodiesel, which will be used to heat the Super Bowl party tents outside the Stadium. All of the left-over kitchen scraps are composted. You won’t find a single polystyrene foam container and each restaurant uses energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR equipment, too. These restaurants serve over 100,000 people per day making MetLife Stadium the largest food-service operation ever to receive Green Restaurant Certification. Now if only someone would develop an organic hotdog served on a gluten-free bun… Um, does that even sound appetizing?

MetLife Stadium also uses waterless urinals, touchless sensor faucets, 1/2-gallon faucet aerators and low water landscaping to reduce water usage. Their aggressive waste and recycling program makes sure all cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum and paper are kept out of the landfill. The Stadium was named the “Greenest Stadium” in the NFL in 2009 by the EPA.

Powered by Renewable Wind and Solar

For every megawatt hour of electricity used to power the event, PSEG will purchase and retire one Renewable Energy Certificate on behalf of Super Bowl XLVIII. This includes the electricity used at MetLife Stadium, the AFC and NFC hotels and Super Bowl Boulevard – the largest public event associated with the Super Bowl – located in Times Square in New York City. The RECs will be solar or wind.

Electronic Waste Recycling

If you have any electronics you need to get rid of, you can do it for free thanks to the electronic waste recycling program set up by NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL. They partnered with Verizon and Broadway Green Alliance to collect and safely recycle electronic waste in New York and New Jersey. In addition to e-waste recycling, Verizon restores used cell phones and donates them to shelters in New York and New Jersey as part of its HopeLine program, which provides support for domestic violence prevention organizations nationwide.

Planting New Trees

Thanks to the NFL Environmental Program, several urban forestry projects have been implemented in New York and New Jersey as part of Super Bowl XLVIII. In fact, several thousand trees are planted each year in the Super Bowl host community. Then, through a partnership with US Forest Service/USDA, the NFL annually tracks the environmental benefits of the trees it has planted.

Public Transportation

Imagine the entire population of the city of Miami (about 400,000 people) coming to your town all at once. Well, that’s exactly what’s going to happen to New Jersey thanks to the Super Bowl. And shuffling all of those people to and from the various events surrounding the Super Bowl presents a massive logistical challenge. But increased reliance on public transportation should significantly reduce traffic jams and their resulting vehicle exhaust emissions, while providing the most-efficient way to move hundreds of thousands of people from place to place.

Super Bowl XLVIII is going to be the first-ever “Mass Transit Super Bowl.” It will be an experiment on a massive scale. It is expected that about 70% of game attendees will need to arrive by mass transportation. Thanks to security structures and media trucks on game day, only 13,000 of the 28,500 parking spaces will be available. Dropping fans off via taxi or limousine at the stadium is prohibited and patrons will not be allowed to walk to the game. Instead, to get access to the property, fans will need to use one of the many public transportation options available.

The NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee is operating a temporary bus fleet called the Fan Express which will carry ticket-holders to and from the nine Super Bowl sites across Manhattan and New Jersey. And to make sure this operation runs smoothly, a single lane of the Lincoln Tunnel will be reserved for the buses.

NJ Transit has created a special pass for Super Bowl week called SUPER PASS. For $51, it allows for unlimited roundtrip travel on all NJ Transit rail, bus, light rail and Access Link services throughout New Jersey, including travel to and from Newark Liberty International Airport and New York City. Rail service will be extended and trains will consist of 10 multilevel cars to provide additional capacity. Bus services will also be expanded.

Sports as an Agent of Change

I’m really excited about professional sports taking the initiative to go green. Looking back at history, one can’t help but see that athletics have played a pivotal role in changing attitudes in America. Athletics has a way of putting a human face on particular social or political issues. A great example of this is the American Civil Rights movement. Do a modicum of digging into the subject and you’ll eventually come across the names of Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.

Another reason sports may be one of the best ways to change attitudes quickly is that sports fans come from all different cultural, ethnic, socio-economic and political backgrounds. And in the context of sports, all of those barriers are immediately broken down.

Today, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that while about 13% of Americans follow science, 61% of Americans follow professional sports. The NRDC states, “…The sports industry’s growing embrace of energy efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, water conservation, safer chemicals and healthier food is educating millions of fans about the importance of protecting the environment and natural resources on which we all depend. Through their leadership on the field, court or rink, professional and collegiate sports—and their sponsors—are showing their many fans practical, cost-effective solutions to some of our planet’s most dire ecological issues.”

Now that you’re aware of what the NFL is doing to green itself, what will you do to green up your Super Bowl party this year? 


The following is an opinion post by David Johnson. David blogs and creates content for several companies on topics related to energy, green building, sustainability and the environment.

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