Sports Fields Go Green with Renewable Energy

Earth Day 2014 has come and gone, as has some people’s attention to the environment. But it’s encouraging to see sports facilities managers jumping on the “green” bandwagon.

Stadium seatsMore and more sports stadiums are trying to become more sustainable, according to articles published by Energy Digital and USA Today.

For example, in 2004 Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, contacted Allen Hershkowitz, a scientist at the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to ask for help making his team and the stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, more sustainable, according to Energy Digital.

First, Hershkowitz directed the Eagles to switch to using 100% post-consumer recycled toilet paper (previously the team’s toilet paper came from a place that was cutting down eagle habitats to produce paper products).

As Lincoln Financial Field’s environmental advisor, Hershkowitz developed the first stadium greening initiative where he addressed other green issues such as carbon emissions, water, waste and chemicals. Lincoln Financial Field has 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines, making it the first professional stadium in the United States to generate all of its electricity needs onsite.

Other stadiums have followed suit by incorporating environmentally friendly features. The San Francisco 49ers recently opened Levi’s Stadium has a green roof, photovoltaic panels, public transit access, bicycle parking, water-conserving plumbing fixtures and it uses recycled materials.

The Boston Red Sox installed 28 solar panels on the dugout at Fenway Park, and the team has also reduced water usage since installing water-efficient fixtures. CenturyLink Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders) has 3,750 solar panels on the roof of its events center.

The Minnesota Twins’ Target Field in Minneapolis collects and uses rainwater to wash down seats. And NASCAR’s “NASCAR Green” program includes tire recycling and use of a fuel that the organization claims produces fewer carbon emissions.

According to the NDRC report, “Game Changer . . . How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment:”

  • Thirty-eight of the 126 pro teams from five major sports are using renewable energy and 68 have energy efficiency programs in place
  • Eighteen venues have solar panels
  • Almost all have or plan to develop recycling and composting programs
  • Fifteen venues are certified as green under the LEED rating system

There is no single practice that can fix climate change easily. “It’s not only that small changes lead to big results, but there is no one big thing we could do to deal with global warming,” says Hershkowitz. “That means carefully choosing what kind of paper you buy, what kind of food you serve, what kind of energy you use. Where are you getting your water? How are you managing your waste? What’s the supply chain of your textiles?”

As a $450 billion industry and one that is so culturally influential in the US, the sports industry has a great opportunity to lead the way for other industries to institute green practices.

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