With more than 70,000 fans packing themselves into Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and hundreds of millions tuning their televisions to the event (the 2019 game brought in over 90 million listeners), it’s no wonder that sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Believe it or not, though, the Super Bowl is more sustainable than most realize. Yes, it’s all about the game, the hype, the commercials, and the trophies, but it’s also about the NFL caring about the carbon footprint such a large event causes.
Environmental Impact of Sporting Events as a Whole
With more than 70 percent of Americans tuning into the largest sporting events, it makes sense that organizations need to pay close attention to the environmental impact these events have. Even further, though, is the inspiration organizations, such as the NFL and MBA can have on Americans, with such a large percentage following them religiously.
Some of the world’s largest sporting events cause what is 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 effect on the environment.
A Cardiff University study found that just one attendee at a major sporting event increases his or her carbon footprint by 7 times that of the average person doing ‘average things.’ While a majority of the carbon footprint originates from the increased number of people traveling to the area and the mass increase in the use of resources, the stadiums themselves also play a role; however, their carbon footprint is amortized over its lifespan, which in the US, is around 31 years.
NFL’s Efforts to Increase Sustainability Efforts
The NFL has one of the largest commitments to making the Super Bowl as sustainable as possible. Jack Groh, NFL Environmental Director, stated ‘The NFL strives to leave a positive legacy in each of the Super Bowl cities it visits. As a part of this legacy, they strive to create sustainability.’
The NFL strives to provide sustainability by implementing the Super Bowl Environmental Program which includes:
- Enhanced waste management and recycling efforts, decreasing the waste entering the landfills
- Food recovery systems that send all unused food to local organizations
- Donation of all unused or gently used materials, decorations, and office supplies to local non-profits
- The Super Kids-Super Sharing Sports Equipment and Book Donation project that encourages kids in the area to donate gently used items to their school, which then distributes the items to local kids in need.
- The use of renewable energy credits that helps offset the increased energy used during the Super Bowl. A large part of this program is the planting of thousands of tree seedlings in the Super Bowl Host community.
Super Bowl LIV (2020)
Each year, the Super Bowl has a philanthropic focus that helps decrease the event’s carbon footprint. This year, the Miami-Dade venue and the NFL chose to focus on the environment, which created the Ocean to Everglades initiative. The initiative aims to:
- Increase beach cleanups
- Utilize mangrove planting
- Create coral restoration
The initiative aims to bring awareness to the environment’s deep need for more awareness and focus on sustainability. The project’s main goal is to educate the millions of people tuning in on ways they too can contribute to sustainability in small ways. The initiative includes:
- No use of plastic
- Minimizing food waste
- Recycling building materials
Not only is the NFL doing its part to reduce its environmental footprint, but it’s also using this opportunity to connect with football fans everywhere, teaching them about the need to preserve the environment. The goal is to create long-lasting education that helps fans everywhere do their part long after the Super Bowl’s final minutes.
In addition, the Miami Super Bowl committee is using innovative packaging by teaming up with Footprint, a company that utilizes unique ways to decrease the carbon footprint with food packaging made with sustainable materials that eliminates the need for single-use plastic. Each of Footprint’s products are biodegradable, PFA-free, compostable, and recyclable.
In addition, Super Bowl 54 fans will drink out of recyclable aluminum cups rather than plastic, reduce waste, use renewable energy, and continually educate fans on ways that they too can do their part.
How You Can Contribute to a Smaller Footprint at the Super Bowl or Other Sporting Events
Has all of this opened your eyes to your increased carbon footprint at sporting events? Fortunately, there are ways you can decrease your impact.
- Travel plays a large role in the impact on the environment. Simply taking public transportation can lessen your individual impact while traveling. If a majority of fans did this at every game, it would greatly reduce the negative effect on the environment.
- Properly recycling and composting products when given the choice. Many stadiums use a three-bin collection system that has a bin for trash, recycle, and composting. Simply paying attention to which bin you should be using can have a major impact.
- Choose compostable products when faced with a choice. Many stadiums are turning to compostable service ware, cups, bowls, and plates. If given the choice, opt for the compostable products. This helps eliminate food waste and the amount of trash landing up in the landfills.
If you’re staying home, you can make a difference, too.
Host a watch party and contribute to a day where electricity usage actually goes down due to all of us coming together to watch on TV sets rather than in our own homes (bonus points if you can walk or take public transportation to your destination! Make sure to re-use your leftovers responsibly, and if you don’t want to host, find a local bar with ethical business practices and support their business!
This year’s Super Bowl is set to be one of the most sustainable yet, thanks to the NFL’s dedication to the environment as well as the dedication of the Hard Rock Stadium’s directors. The hope is that the efforts are much longer-lasting than the four-hour game. With conscious efforts, we can all do our part to limit our carbon footprint, helping to make the world a better place while still enjoying your favorite sporting events.