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How Sustainable Is the Super Bowl?

How sustainable is the Super Bowl? The NFL is working on making Super Bowl LVI its most planet-friendly game yet. Here's what you should know.

Written by
Brightly Staff

With thousands of fans packing themselves into a giant stadium every year, it can be hard to imagine how the Super Bowl is sustainable.

The annual event is more than just a football game. It's all about the big stadium, the trophy, the commercials, and even the parties. But believe it or not, the Super Bowl is more sustainable than most people realize. And the NFL is mindful of the Super Bowl's carbon footprint.

Environmental Impact of Sporting Events as a Whole

Studies show millions of Americans tune into football games, whether they're viewing casually or are major fans. Specifically, in 2020, the television viewership of a regular-season NFL game was about 14.9 million.

With a massive audience, organizations need to pay close attention to the environmental impact of these sporting events. And big-time sports leagues like the NFL and the MBA can have a major influence on the people watching.

Some of the world’s largest sporting events cause what are often unforeseen environmental consequences. Whether cities need to build new infrastructure to handle the mass crowds, upgrade the sanitation capabilities, increase energy capabilities, or find ways to manage food and waste, it all has a major impact on the environment. Not to mention, many viewers host watch parties, creating more waste and transportation emissions on a national level.

According to Waste Management, the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL create roughly 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year—and that figure only represents waste generated by fans.

Now think about how much electricity it takes to power just one sports stadium, how much water and resources it takes to maintain fields, and how much food, alcohol, and merchandise are sold at games. America's beloved sporting events have a massive impact on the environment.

NFL’s Efforts to Increase Sustainability Efforts

The NFL has one of the largest commitments to making the Super Bowl as sustainable as possible. To reach sustainability goals, the NFL has implemented NFL Green, an initiative to mitigate the environmental impact of the NFL's major events.

Specifically, this initiative works with stadiums and facilities to combat waste. NFL Green enhances waste management and recycling efforts, decreasing the waste entering the landfills. And not only is NFL Green decreasing material waste, but it's also working with food recovery systems to send unused food to local organizations.

NFL Green also hosts community efforts to restore ecosystems and habitats. Projects can include planting trees, creating green spaces and community gardens, restoring wildlife habitats, and engaging in reforestation projects to plant thousands of trees.

Green energy is also a major component of NFL Green's initiative. Each year, the NFL purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) equivalent to the total energy used at events. This is how the NFL mitigates the energy usage and greenhouse gas impact of its major sporting events.

Super Bowl LVI (2022) Sustainability

This year, the NFL, the Los Angeles Super Bowl LVI Host Committee, and Verizon have worked together to make Super Bowl LVI—which is between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals—greener.

Specifically, the initiative details goals to improve air quality, build community gardens, increase food security, and restore a California kelp forest.

In total, 5,600 trees—100 trees for each Super Bowl—will be planted in the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests to reestablish native ecosystems and recover land damaged by wildfires.

Additionally, NFL Green collaborated with numerous organizations for a kelp restoration project and beach clean-up at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, Los Angeles. The restoration plots created are roughly the size of a football field.

Also part of NFL Green's sustainability initiatives is a project called Green and Win. To encourage recycling, fans who are caught recycling can win a Super Bowl hat and have their photos posted on NFL social media.

To combat food waste, prepared, unserved food from Super Bowl events will be "recovered and distributed to shelters and feeding programs in partnership with the Los Angeles Food Bank and Los Angeles Mission."

Finally, "green" energy will be used at SoFi Stadium, the AFC and NFC team hotels, and the NFL headquarters hotel to decrease the impact of energy emissions.

How to Contribute to a Smaller Footprint at the Super Bowl

While the NFL has taken major steps toward sustainability, it's true that the Super Bowl—and most sporting events—still come with a massive environmental impact. Fortunately, there are ways you can help make an impact.

1. Travel Sustainably

Traveling comes with increased emissions. Wherever you plan on going on Super Bowl Sunday, be sure to travel with the planet in mind.

Simply taking public transportation can decrease your carbon footprint—especially if you chose to travel during peak times. You can also consider flights that offset carbon emissions. And remember: the most eco-friendly thing to do is stay home.

Watching the Super Bowl in your living room may even be more fun than watching it at a crowded restaurant or stadium! Plus, you can make all the plant-based appetizers you want.

2. Be Mindful of Waste

Your at-home Super Bowl Sunday viewing may include lots of snacks. Whether you prefer homemade queso and chips or ordering takeout, your snack-filled day may generate a lot of waste, in terms of food, plastic, paper, and more.

Be sure to compost organic food waste when you can or save leftovers in reusable containers. Also, remember to recycle what you can.

If you attend sporting events in person, the same rules apply. Throw away waste in the appropriate bins: Most stadiums use a three-bin collection system for trash, recycling, and composting.

3. Host a Viewing Party

Hosting a watch party can conserve electricity usage. Instead of numerous households watching the game, just one is watching. Plus, you get bonus points if your guests can walk or take public transportation to get to you. Staying home also gives you total control over how much waste you produce.

The Super Bowl keeps getting greener, thanks to the NFL’s dedication to the environment and collaboration efforts with local organizations. With conscious efforts, we can all do our part to limit our carbon footprints, all while still enjoying our favorite sporting events.