Can the Super Bowl Really ‘Go Green’? Football Teams Say Yes

Over the weekend, more than 60,000 people crammed into Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas to watch the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Energy in the arena was high—in all senses of the word. The entire 1.8-million-square foot stadium is climate-controlled and boasts more than 2,200 screens for fans who don’t have a front-row seat to the action. Overall, Super Bowl Sunday festivities were projected to use up around 28 megawatt-hours of electricity, which is equivalent to the power required for about 46,000 households to watch the game at home, according to environmental consulting firm NZero.

However, this year, all of the electricity powering Allegiant Stadium was supplied by renewable energy, says the firm, which the Las Vegas Raiders hired to monitor the structure’s emissions. More specifically, the Raiders say the energy largely came from their contract partnership with NV Energy, which runs a 621,000-panel solar farm in the desert outside of Las Vegas. 

“This achievement marks a new era for sustainability in sports,” said Sandra Douglass Morgan, president of The Las Vegas Raiders, in a statement.

It’s difficult to confirm whether all of the electricity feeding into the stadium was drawn from that solar source rather than other energy sources that power Las Vegas’ grid, Jonathan Casper, who studies sports and sustainability at North Carolina State University, told Grist. But it does seem that the amount of energy used during the game was at least roughly equal to the capacity generated by the solar farm, he added.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing push for teams in the National Football League (NFL) to shrink their environmental footprint. Allegiant Stadium is one of seven NFL stadiums to achieve LEED certification, which means they are equipped with a series of sustainable upgrades—from water-saving toilets to energy-efficient LED lighting. Last year, the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium became the first sports stadium to earn a “zero waste certification” by diverting at least 90 percent of its refuse from entering landfills. In September, the Philadelphia Eagles unveiled a new green hydrogen fueling station at Lincoln Financial Field to power fuel cell vehicles and pieces of equipment using only water and solar power.

At a league level, the NFL Green program was launched 30 years ago to create “a ‘green’ legacy” in each community that hosts major league-wide events through activities like donating leftover foods or diverting and recycling waste from local landfills, according to its website.

“In Las Vegas, which is experiencing [a] decades-long drought and heavy impact from the urban heat island effect, trees have been the top request,” NFL Green director Susan Groh told Forbes

Other sports have also joined in on this climate action push. For example, soccer clubs in the UK are hosting vegan matchdays, and some golf courses are working to cut back their water intake by switching to more drought-tolerant grasses

While climate change may be helping baseball players hit more homeruns, people playing outdoor sports are particularly vulnerable to health risks associated with warming temperatures, according to a 2022 study. So initiatives to reduce carbon emissions from sports could be crucial to their long-term survival, reports suggest

The bad news? The majority of sports-related emissions are coming from outside the arena. The New York Times projected around 1,000 private jets were likely to touch down in airports across Las Vegas during the Super Bowl, carrying celebrity attendees, including Taylor Swift. (The singer has received backlash for her jetsetting habits in the past, and recently threatened to sue an individual who tracks her flights and their related emissions using public data, reported The Washington Post.)  

“The emissions levels of a mega-event like this from air traffic, and the energy use is at least double in a day than it would be on average,” Benjamin Leffel, an assistant professor of public policy sustainability at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told The New York Times. On top of this, cars clogged the roads before and after the game, with some idling for hours, which can release more emissions than stopping and starting a vehicle. And we haven’t factored in the emissions associated with the more than 123 million people who watched the game on energy-sucking televisions in home and in bars across the country. 

It’s clear that there’s still a ways to go before sporting events like the Super Bowl can truly “Go Green.” But the most important climate benefit of this renewable-powered Super Bowl push may not be in actual emissions reductions from the game itself, but rather the meaning behind this athletic embrace of clean energy, experts say. 

“With the polarization of sustainability and climate change, having events such as the Super Bowl show how they are being pro-environmental might help those who are so dead set against it realize that it’s not that bad of a thing,” Casper, the sports and sustainability expert at N.C. State, told Inside Climate News in an email. 

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The EU Is Taking Lab-Grown Meat Off the Menu: The European Union recently released proposed plans for its 2040 climate goal, which notably lacked any mention of plant-based or lab-grown meats. An earlier draft of the plan included mention of making “diversified protein intake [a] more affordable choice for consumers,” but these references were removed, marking a win for livestock farmers, Bartosz Brzezinski and Karl Mathiesen report for Politico

Today’s Indicator

1.7 million

That’s how many additional properties are projected to face 10 or more poor air quality days a year by 2054, mostly due to smoke from wildfires, a new report said. That trend is becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.

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